Afghanistan attacks should not delay planned U.S. troop drawdown
The sergeant from Joint Base Lewis McChord accused of terrorizing rural Afghan villages in an overnight shooting rampage is a shocking tragedy and embarrassment to our country. It should not stall the anticipated drawdown of American troops.
Seattle Times Editorial
THE vast majority of men and women in the American military admirably put their lives on the line to promote U.S. interests across the globe. But one seriously disturbed soldier can stymie the country's military goals and image for a long time.
The sergeant from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, accused of terrorizing two rural Afghan villages in an overnight shooting rampage on civilians, is a shocking embarrassment to our country. This horrific act, however, should not stall the planned drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan.
There are no quick fixes after the house-to-house slaughter of innocent Afghans, including nine children. In all, 16 civilians were shot; some bodies were burned.
The U.S. government must make good on promises to fully investigate this heinous act and the circumstances that led to it. Condolences from President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta are sensible. But in reality, no amount of explaining or apologizing will ease raw feelings.
America's reputation has already been harmed by troops burning Muslim holy books and Marines urinating on Taliban corpses.
Despite these odious acts, the planned drawdown should not change.
The U.S. has much to do to better identify soldiers at the breaking point. There is no doubt that the country does not know enough about — nor does a sufficient job of — identifying those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Reports say the soldier involved suffered a brain injury from a rollover accident or other mishap. This apparently was his fourth tour of duty.
One can reasonably argue the country does not have a good handle on civilians who shoot fellow citizens, though, obviously, concerns are different when the individual represents the military.
This is a horrific moment in Afghanistan and for all of us who consider soldiers and their families at Lewis-McChord our neighbors.
But as U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, put it: "We need to draw down as quickly as we can in Afghanistan ... . This (incident) points up the necessity to get out as soon as we responsibly can."
Smith emphasized the destabilizing nature of a continued presence of outside occupiers.
Americans are deeply troubled by what happened. But the urgency to get out of Afghanistan has not changed.