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Thu Mar 22, 2012, 10:20 AM

War Crimes and the Mythology of 'Bad Apples'


Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, shown in this senior photograph from the Norwood High School 1991 yearbook, is the US soldier accused of murdering 16 Afghan villagers

War Crimes and the Mythology of 'Bad Apples'
by Robert C. Koehler
Published on Thursday, March 22, 2012 by Common Dreams


The media obsession with Bales’ individuality — flawed, perhaps, but heart-breakingly all-American as well (“At Home, Asking How ‘Our Bobby’ Became War Crime Suspect,” ran the New York Times headline) — ignores basic systems psychology, which understands that nobody exists in a vacuum. One person’s aberrant behavior releases the pressure building up in the whole system. In this case, the system is the Army. Could there be something for the media to explore here that would be even more productive than talking to Robert Bales’ childhood neighbor or former principal?

Could there be, for instance, something in the dehumanization of the enemy — a process that makes it possible for soldiers to go against their own nature and take human lives — that results in their own dehumanization as well?

In the midst of the outpouring of news about the Afghan massacre, I started thinking about the extraordinary Winter Soldier hearings held outside Washington, D.C., four years ago. There were four days of testimony on the cruelly dysfunctional war on terror. Two panels were devoted to the topic “Racism and War: the Dehumanization of the Enemy.” The panelists talked about how they learned contempt and disgust for all Iraqis and how it manifested on the ground in Iraq, where Robert Bales served three tours.


The time has come to challenge the military at the level of its reason for being. The time has come to add up its suicides, its war crimes and the rest of its horrific legacy. How long can it survive and honest accounting?

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Reply War Crimes and the Mythology of 'Bad Apples' (Original post)
unhappycamper Mar 2012 OP
Robb Mar 2012 #1

Response to unhappycamper (Original post)

Thu Mar 22, 2012, 10:28 AM

1. Relevant article from 1988 on mass killings:

Experts Say Mass Murders Are Rare but on Rise


In 75 percent of the cases studied by Mr. Fox and Mr. Levin, the victims knew their killer, who was almost always a white male.

They cite four other common threads running through most mass slayings:

* The killer was familiar with firearms.

* There usually was some precipitating event, like the loss of a job or divorce or separation from a spouse.

* The killer led a life of frustration filled with menial jobs and real or imagined slights.

* The killer had few outside contacts with friends or neighbors who might help vent the growing rage.

Mr. Levin said societal trends are creating more opportunity for these conditions....

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/1988/01/03/us/experts-say-mass-murders-are-rare-but-on-rise.html?pagewanted=2&src=pm

I'd put that last sentence in today's context. All four of those starred points are indicators that can be affected by a decade of "being at war" -- not necessarily just being in the army.

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