The Right Opinion

Smearing Our Troops

By Arnold Ahlert · Mar. 25, 2012

The Left uses the killing of civilians in Afghanistan to attack the military and U.S.

Sergeant Robert Bales stands accused of murdering 16 Afghans, including 9 children. Many top American military officials, including Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, have intimated that even the death penalty “could be a consideration” should Bales be found guilty of the crime. On cue, the Left has used this tragic incident as an opportunity to impugn the entire military and the nation, claiming the killing is on par with My Lai and is representative of our servicemen and women generally.

CNN blogger Stephen Prothero exemplified this dementia perfectly in a recent piece titled “My Take: It takes a nation to make a massacre” in which he spells out who is really at fault. “It takes a country to make a man do these things, and we were his country,” writes Prothero. “We U.S. citizens voted for the presidents who sent him into combat and for the Congress that appropriated the money for our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” If Bales is found guilty? Prothero suggests that “each of the rest of us should spend a day sitting in front of our local jail. There we should confess to our respective gods ‘our sins, known and unknown, things done and left undone’ (as the Book of Common Prayer puts it). Then we should write a letter to the wife and children of Sgt. Bales asking for their forgiveness too.”

Prothero then reflexively descends into one of the prevailing themes that inevitably emerges when an American soldier is accused war crimes: comparisons to Lieutenant William Calley and the massacre at My Lai that occurred during the Vietnam War. Calley’s crimes were indeed horrific, but Counterpunch writer Jeff Sparrow uses them, along with Neil Shea writing for Democracy Now, not merely to condemn Bales, but soldiers in general, who need “a protective layer of hatred to perform what [is] asked of them.” He then takes on America itself, which has ostensibly normalized “torture against (mostly Muslim) detainees; the construction of secret prisons to detain Muslim prisoners indefinitely without charges or trial; the routinisation of assassinations and other extrajudicial killings of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen; and, most of all, deaths of (by the most conservative reckoning) hundreds of thousands of people, most of them Muslim, in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere.”

His conclusion is that the war against Islamic terror has “created a new audience who wants to never leave the gun, an audience no longer shocked by atrocity but increasingly prepared to celebrate it.” Completely missing from Sparrow’s article, however, is a single word on the far greater – and continuing – atrocities committed by the Taliban and other jihadists across the world, which our military has sacrificed enormously to prevent.

Shea himself continues with another trope made popular during the Vietnam war: American soldiers straddle the border between sanity and psychosis. “I met up with a group of soldiers who were the first I had ever come across who made me feel pretty nervous about what I was going to see while I was with them,” he writes. “And I spent a few days with them and came to just really understand that they had gotten to the edge of violence, as we understand it, in Afghanistan, and they seemed ready and capable of doing some pretty bad things. I didn’t actually witness them do anything too terrible, but the way that they talked and the way that they acted toward Afghan civilians and animals and property in the country was sort of stunning to me…Many of these guys seemed like they had reached the end of their rope in terms of stability and controlling their aggression.” That’s a rather remarkable conclusion for a man who “didn’t actually witness” our troops doing anything wrong.

At least Shea was somewhat restrained. Benjamin Busch's Daily Beast article on the issue warns that the murders allegedly committed by Bales allow “for the possibility that any one of us could go insane at any time, and that every veteran poisoned by their combat experience could be on edge for life.” He too takes Americans as a whole to task, noting that our “national disinterest” in “distant events” is unsurprising because “we are a people known more and more for our selfish distractions than for our awareness.”

In the New York Times, psychiatrist and retired brigadier general Dr. Stephen Xenakis employs both themes, and asserts that Sgt. Bales is “emblematic” of bigger problems within the military. “This is equivalent to what My Lai did to reveal all the problems with the conduct of the Vietnam War,” contends Xenakis. “The Army will want to say that soldiers who commit crimes are rogues, that they are individual, isolated cases. But they are not." The Tucson Sentinel’s Charles M. Sennott echoes those thoughts. "Overnight, Bales has for many around the world become the face of what is wrong with America’s war in Afghanistan,” he contends. “Just as 44 years ago in the ides of March of 1968, the My Lai massacre and Lt. William Calley became synonymous with all that was wrong with the war in Vietnam.”

Much of what was “wrong” with the Vietnam war was the same kind of leftist campaign to smear American soldiers as barbarians, animals and baby killers in order to demoralize the nation and the military. This effort was led by people like Jane Fonda, who, in 1972, visited Hanoi and was photographed sitting atop a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) enemy anti-aircraft battery. She called American POWs “military careerists and professional killers” and claimed they were lying about their mistreatment. She also participated in ten radio broadcasts during which she denounced American political and military leaders as “war criminals.”

In 1971, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, who had joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), testified that his fellow American soldiers “raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war…” It was later revealed that the so-called Winter Soldier investigation was a lie based “eyewitness” testimony from people later revealed to be frauds.

As for the “widespread atrocities” committed by American troops, between 1965 and 1973, a grand total of 201 soldiers and 77 Marines were convicted of serious crimes against the Vietnamese. This was out of over two million military personnel, including 1.6 million who served in combat. How many people died at the hands of the “benevolent” Communists after Americans withdrew from the Southeast Asian Peninsula? A genocidal total of more than three million in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia – one for which the American left steadfastly refuses to accept an iota of responsibility, despite their whole-hearted effort to turn Americans against the war.

Nothing has changed. LA Times writer David Horsey, in an article titled “Blame for killings in Afghanistan is shared by us all,” reiterates the psycho-soldier bit, claiming that “incidences of post traumatic stress disorder among returning soldiers are so common they seem almost the norm” before he takes the entire nation to task. “A volunteer Army lets us off the hook. Even worse, it makes it too easy for the politicians,” he writes. “They speak with bravado about standing up to tyrants and bearing any burden for the sake of liberty. And then, to make good on their bold words, they find another place to take the nation into war.”

The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald takes it one step further calling America an empire “subject to no laws or accountability other than its own, even when it comes to crimes committed on other nations' soil and against its people.”

Such odious characterizations of our nation and our soldiers are malicious nonsense. That so many detractors use William Calley as a basis of comparison to Robert Bales inadvertently reveals the overwhelming integrity of America’s fighting forces: one must reach 41 years into the past to find a soldier to whom Bales can be compared. As for the larger context, the “widespread” atrocities attributed to Vietnam troops by the left actually totaled slightly more than one-hundredth of one percent of the number of soldiers who served there.

Furthermore, the psycho-soldier meme, or the claim that virtually every American soldier suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (PSTD), or simply teeters on the edge of psychosis, is also undone by the reality that out of the more than one-half million soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan only one has committed an alleged massacre in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

What about the idea that multiple tours caused Bales to commit the atrocity? While it is likely his defense lawyer may employ that reasoning in an effort to get Bales acquitted, there are 51,270 soldiers, active duty, reserve and retired, who, like Bales, have been on four or more deployments, and another 81,000 with three deployments. All of them have somehow managed to avoid committing mass murder, no doubt to the consternation of those so quick to paint an isolated incident with the broadest of broad brushes.

As long as threats to America’s national security exist, America’s fighting forces will be called upon to defend the nation. And as the American left’s long history of smearing American soldiers indicates, they will spare no effort to portray those fighting forces a horde of bloodthirsty barbarians, barely clinging to sanity, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority our troops have performed with courage and valor. Their current poster boy is Sergeant Robert Bales, one of the precious few bad apples among literally millions of men and women who have served our nation with honor. That the American left chooses to focus on the exception rather than the rule reveals far more about them and their pernicious agenda than it does the American military.

9 Comments

MikeEcho said:

I believe SSgt. Bales is one of the few people who get terribly violent after drinking. His history of drunkenness will confirm my theory. But that's beside the point. Where did you read lately the trial and imprisonment or execution of the murderer of Ft. Hood? The Army Major who killed all his fellow soldiers. We have not read about it because it is still kept very quiet. When my son was in Iraq his platoon would give their rations to the hungry kids. They also collected money from each other and purchased food for these same kids from the local market. That is the other side of the American soldier we don't hear about. His regiment was also responsible for kicking butt in Mosul when the local police were throwing their rifles on the ground. The left leaning press is very good at manufacturing news and smearing our military. Shame on them!

Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 12:44 AM

PDK said:

A week or two before Bale, American GIs correctly burn Korans being used to pass secret messages. Islam goes on a rampage murdering dozens. POTUS Obama apologizes to Islam for the soldiers having correctly done their duty by burning Korans. Islam then murders six American GIs. The liberal MSM glosses over this. Undoutedly tormented by this phenomenon Bale loses controll and goes on a rampage himself. The liberal MSM suddenly finds its passion and has a field day besmirching all GIs and America as well. John Kerry and Jane Fonda are dispicable Americans and human beings. I never met a Veitnam vet who did not hate both of them with vehemence. Not only did Wlliam Calley eventually apologize for his part in Mai La, there were extenuating circumstances from the battle field that created an atmosphere that ignited that horrible tradigy. Liberals fail to acknowledge this but otherwise have no problem exercising their American right to free speech protected by these very same GIs. Liberals are immature. Immaturity denies reality and subplants reality with a prefered illusion. Liberals besmirching our military are simply, though inadvertently, betreying their own cowardice. Thank you.

Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 2:33 AM

Captain America said:

Plus even when you factor in Robert Bales murders at 17 and throw in Fort Lewis buddy Robert Yates murders with his 16 women and children, that only works out to about 10 percent of Mai Lai.Let's not forget that soldier at Mai Lai who blew a load in a young woman's mouth before blowing her head off. Just how it go's, you'd have to be psychopath to get it. Can't be explained with words and all of that.

Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 5:30 AM

MarkVan said:

Over 500,000 estimated civilians killed in Iraq. That's not including the ones in the countless places we bomb. So yeah, the Military should be painted in a negative light if they're that dumb to serve in something so immoral.

Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 1:04 PM

Cowboy in San Antonio said:

No one will ever know what thought processes were going through Bales' mind when he decided to start killing Afghan civilians. If he was drunk, then his ability to reason was impaired. Perhaps he had seen and heard of too many of his friends being shot in the back, plans betrayed to the enemy by so-called allies, never a word of gratitude for our sacrifices over there, etc. While we post for public view such anomalies of behavior, the rest of the world purposely ignores thousands of other acts of murder by bad actors all over the world. Are they condemned? Never by our liberal press. How about our "allies" who betray our plans and shoot our soldiers in the back; are they condemned? No. Is there ever a consequence for those bad actors? I've never heard of one. The bad guys are often released by their own governments. If anyone bothers to research My Lai they will find a totally stressed out group of soldiers afraid that every kid, adult, and dog in every village was hostile and ready to toss grenades, betray positions, feed the enemy, and take our gratuities without so much as a nod. The number of Americans cycled through Vietnam compared to theincidence of bad behavior is statistically off the charts. In short, despite huge stress and difficult circumstances, our soldiers performed professionally mercifully, competently, and with restraint. We have an even higher quality of servicemen now, compelled to serve several tours of duty, in circumstances where once again the friendlies and the enemies all speak the same language and look alike. It is surprising that there have not been vastly higher numbers of massacres of civilians.

Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 11:04 PM

Dioneikes in Colorado said:

To all those who would set themselves up to pass judgement upon this man, until you've walked a mile in his boots, dealt with the stresses and terrors he's had to deal with in combat, watched your brothers in arms die in a firefight or by an IED, put up with the hateful stares and not know if it was your day to die - Shut the **** UP! Its amazing how soooooo many want to set themselves up as holier than thou. The liberal left, the cold storage hippies ... they always look for any slightest pretext to disparage those who go in harms' way to defend their right to disparage. I guess its true when you have a POTUS with no sack, you end up having to watch your back at home and abroad.John Milton said it best - No person is sadder than the man who thinks that nothing is worth fighting for, there is no cause worth defending, and is only kept free by the exertions of better men than himself. (Rough recitation I think but you get the idea). It doesn't mean I idolize this SSgt, I served for 20 years and understand some of how it can be overseas and believe the guy should be heard out by those who have that combat experience. Not REMF's and armchair Generals.

Monday, March 26, 2012 at 8:34 AM

SFJ said:

I’m retired military with a combat tour in Vietnam in the Army (RTO for the artillery forward observer) and have seen my share of combat and yes, I remember how people looked at us at the airport as we were leaving Fort Lewis. I remember how I was treated when I re-entered college. I remember the despicable Jane Fonda and to this day gag when I see this piece of trash. I also remember the liar Walter Cronkite, the “most respected man in journalism” – what a bunch of BS. After discharge from the Army, I would watch the “most respected man in journalism” as he broadcast his version of the news. I could not believe what this moron was telling his audience – all a pack of half-truths and outright lies. I can see where Dan Rather got his training.It’s easy to sit behind a keyboard and trash soldiers in combat. Why not join the military (Army combat arm) and get first-hand experience then maybe you will know what you are writing about.BTW, why the silence on Islamic terrorist masquerading as a Major in the Army? Is the death penalty on the table in this mass murder? If not why?

Monday, March 26, 2012 at 9:09 AM

Dioneikes in Colorado said:

Sorry about messing up the quote on my last posting. It wasn't Milton but Mill who said it. The correct quote goes like this - "War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." - John Stuart MillWhich sums up my whole feeling about Leftists, and Liberal Losers!

Monday, March 26, 2012 at 10:10 AM

wjm in Colorado said:

It comes as no surprise to me that the marxist statists hate America, our Military, and actively support and encourage our enemies. They commit treason daily, in word and deed, and anyone who supports the Democrats, in ignorance or active hate for our founders' principles, is a traitor.

Monday, March 26, 2012 at 10:22 AM