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Glenn Greenwald: When killer is one of us, we find excuses

21 March 2012 General 14 Comments Email This Post Email This Post
In this Aug. 23, 2011 Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System photo, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 1st platoon sergeant, Blackhorse Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division participates in an exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. A senior U.S. official, Friday March 16, 2012 identified Bales as the man accused of killing 16 civilians in an attack on Afghan villagers five days ago. (AP Photo/DVIDS, Spc. Ryan Hallock)

In this Aug. 23, 2011 Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System photo, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 1st platoon sergeant, Blackhorse Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division participates in an exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. A senior U.S. official, Friday March 16, 2012 identified Bales as the man accused of killing 16 civilians in an attack on Afghan villagers five days ago. (AP Photo/DVIDS, Spc. Ryan Hallock)

BY Glenn Greenwald, Chicago Sun-Times March 20, 2012 10:18PM

Here’s a summary of the Western media discussion of what motivated U.S. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales on March 11 to allegedly kill 16 Afghans, including nine children:

† He was drunk.

† He was experiencing financial stress.

† He was passed over for a promotion.

† He had a traumatic brain injury.

† He had marital problems.

† He suffered from the stresses of four tours of duty.

† He saw his buddy’s leg blown off the day before the massacre.

Et cetera.

“A diverging portrait is emerging as records and interviews reveal a man appreciated by friends and family who won military commendations, yet one who faced professional disappointment, financial trouble and brushes with the law,” reports the Associated Press, summarizing it all. “The more complex picture included details on how Robert Bales was bypassed for promotion, struggled to pay for his house and eyed a way out of his job at a Washington state military base months before he was accused of the horrific nighttime slaughter.”

Here’s a summary of the Western media discussion of what motivates Muslims to kill Americans: They are primitive, fanatically religious, hateful Terrorists.

Even when Muslims who engage in such acts toward Americans clearly and repeatedly explain that they did it in response to American acts of domination, aggression, violence and civilian-killing in their countries, and even when the violence is confined to soldiers who are part of a foreign army that has invaded and occupied their country, the only cognizable motive is one of primitive, hateful evil. It is an act of Evil Terrorism, and that is all there is to say about it.

Note, too, that in the case of Bales (or any other cases of American violence against Muslims), people have little difficulty understanding the distinction between (a) discussing and trying to understand the underlying motives of the act (causation) and (b) defending the act (justification).

But that same distinction completely evaporates when it comes to Muslim violence against Americans. Those who attempt to understand or explain the act — they’re responding to American violence in their country; they’re traumatized and angry at the continuous deaths of Muslim children and innocent adults; they’ve calculated that striking at Americans is the only way to deter further U.S. aggression — are immediately accused of mitigating, justifying or even defending terrorism.

There is, quite obviously, a desperate need to believe that when an American engages in acts of violence of this type, there must be some underlying mental or emotional cause that makes it sensible, something other than an act of pure hatred or evil.

When a Muslim engages in acts of violence against Americans, there is an equally desperate need to believe the opposite: that this is yet another manifestation of inscrutable hatred and evil, and any discussion of any other causes must be prohibited and ignored.

Glenn Greenwald is a columnist and blogger for Salon, where this was posted.

Original post: When killer is one of us, we find excuses

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14 Comments »

  1. I think that the things going on in muslim places, even without the stress caused by US is quite enough to make large numbers of people go beserk. Been that way for a long time.

  2. well i don’t remember anyone making excuses for mcveigh. i do remember the times square bomber was said to have financal problems. i think most people belive the unabomber was unstable mentally. i remember people making excuses for the 9/11 hyjackers, at least trying to say they come from economically disadvantaged countries and the have lost all hope. how about the fort hood shooter, his tour of duty (which he hadn’t even deployed yet) came up as a reason for his action.

    “Those who attempt to understand or explain the act — they’re responding to American violence in their country;” ok, so what american violence was the root cause of 9/11. 15 of the 19 were saudis. when did we invade saudi arabia. i must have been asleep. so the blind sheik was egyptian, when did we invade egypt? when muslim blow each other up in pakistan, nigeria, etc. etc. mr greenwald seems to think muslims had been living in some sort of utopian oneness with the world until we invaded afgahnistan and iraq. guess he never herad of lockerbie, munich, terry anderson and the scores of people kidnaped in lebonon. or all the hyjackings throughout the 70s and 80s?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Stethem

    is mr greenwald only 10 years old? or is he simply blinded to the facts by his ideology? kind of like what he is accusing others of being. funny.

  3. obviously any generalization is going to have flaws in it. However, if you compare the trials and tribulations of the average American soldier with those of people living in corrupt, poverty stricken developing countries, I think you’ll still fine an immense disparity. there are real reasons for people to risk their lives, reputations, and futures on acts of terror. Sometimes it is blind hatred, but often it is because of poverty, limited access to information, solidarity with other nations that HAVE been victimized (Hamas isn’t launching rockets at us, so why do we oppose them? Because they’re attacking Israel, our Judeo-Christian ally). And it isn’t just the west that these people target. Terrorist organizations most often target the corrupt regimes in Middle Eastern countries (Often propped up by European and/or American support) that are also responsible for the poor condition the region is in right now. It isn’t always blind, irrational murder. It is still murder, but the people doing it dod so because they see it as the only way to combat the factors that make the middle east such a cruddy place to live in. The article is not saying that we should defend all terrorists and persecute all rogue American soldiers. It is fighting such double standards. If we are to look into the motives of an American soldier’s atrocities, we should also consider those of our enemies as well. we don’t need sympathy for terrorists, but we do need empathy.

  4. Blowing up a mosque just because it is Amadi is not going to improve the country. Nor is driving tourists away, or murdering the minorities.

    Intelligent, educated, wealthy people have contributed and participated in terror activities.

    The survivor of the Mumbai attackers said something like it’s not right to hate us, we are the poor victims,,,sorry. Won’t fly.

    The people who burned the Godhra train were angry at Hindus, so they burned a trainful of mostly women and children. People who do this sort of thing seem unable to predict what will happen next.

    After Beslan, thousands of people changed their official identity to Christian. Maybe it was too dangerous to remain muslim. Muslims’ applications to work for one Florida school system were being turned down because there was a rumor that “they want to do a Beslan thing”.

    There have been several groups in US, such as Koresh in Waco, that have driven themselves into crazed paranoid transports just by constantly reading and misinterpreting the Bible. .

  5. best to stay away from generalization then? don’t you think. as for the average american soldier, you’re probably right. maybe not the average combat soldier. at least i hope that most of the islamic world can treat it’s citizens better than combat conditions. but i don’t know. that would be a sad statement as to the state of the islamic world. makes you wonder why their god has forsaken them?

    “Hamas isn’t launching rockets at us, so why do we oppose them?” because they are terrorist. yes we are allied to isreal as well. but we opposed the shining path, don’t remember them ever lauching rockets at us. we were against the tamil tigers, no rockets, not allied to sri lanka (that i know of). we have labeled the iranians MEK as terrorist even though they attack a regime we don’t support. of course the islamic terrorist attack more muslims than americans. that’s what makes it so strange when greenwald and pape argue that it is our invasion of afhganistan and iraq that is causing all the terror in the islamic world. causality is extremely important to understand. and it is often very complex, again that’s why it’s funny when they boil it down to just occupation. you think islam plays no role. don’t you think the hadiths that claim the greatest reward is for the martyr could have something to do with a person being willing to blow themselves up?

    “we should also consider those of our enemies as well” don’t we do that all the time?

  6. Soooooooo, what about all the violence extremist Islam was dishing out to the world before 9/11??? I’ve spent 3 years worth of my life in Islamic countries, not a month, not a week or so, 3 years each time 365 days of continous interaction with Islamic communities. In some places I’ve been in 16 dead muslims is nothing. The gang violence of religious extremists in these nations is disgusting to say the least. On the same day the American killed the Afghan civilians, how many Muslims, were murdering their own people because of a differnce in their own religion???? Iraq just had how many bombings and killed how many people?? The French school that got shot up??? That wasn’t evil. Interesting thoughts there from a best seller writer, this dude is fucking clueless.

  7. Why am I not surprized that Americans will blame the victims by further demonizing them. This culture of shifting all blame, on those who have suffered horrendous atrocities, started with the massacres on the Amerindians, who were dehumanized by being described as godless savages.The same approach was applied to the Mexicans and the Filipinos, the Vietnamese etc. It’s long become a reflex with the American leaders and sheeple.

  8. The article is basically meaningless. It simply points out an aspect of human nature. When strangers attack you or loved ones there is very little empathy shown towards the attackers and evil may be used to describe the event. If your family member or close friend attacks someone then your mind rationalizes the event by trying to figure out what is going on within the mind of that person in an attempt to rationalize or make sense of the behavior, rarely does one contemplate that the person is evil.

    Regardless of the press the American People and the peoples of other nations do not fully understand the acts of violence being perpetrated world wide. When an event takes place the term evil, terrorist, or whatever makes the behavior easy to understand and gives the person the ability to categorize the individual(s) that committed the acts. Thus there is little empathy and immediate condemnation. If one were able to break down the life of the person that committed the act and make that life known then one would possibly find some understanding and empathy toward the perpetrator. The act would still be condemned but understanding may in some way provoke the empathy and understanding the author of this article seems to be looking for.

    When an American soldier does something we as a nation separate that individual from the term terrorist or evil. We seek to know the person more and attempt to come to terms with why he or she committed an act of such pure evil. We keep the person and the act separate. We then try to enter the live of the individual in an attempt to understand and usually concede that mental illness had to be involved in some way once we find the soldier has not pledged his life to some fanatical cause.

    All sides of a conflict do the same thing. Look at the Koran burnings, the people involved were trying to get rid of texts that for some reason the army admin did not want used any more. The solders did not look at themselves as; evil committing a deed under the direction of Satan himself, but the Muslims who heard what happened saw the act as evil and inexcusable. For the soldiers it was Thursday. We assign labels as what our experience and belief system deems appropriate and normal.
    Then again I could be wrong and these thoughts could be my own way of rationalizing things.

  9. Goran Bockman,

    who blamed the victims? you forgot to bring up the crusades, dude. you have to expand your horizons beyond just american atrocities. don’t forget to throw the nazi in once or twice too.

    “who were dehumanized by being described as godless savages” sounds kind of like when a muslim on this site, who shall remian nameless told me i was below the animals, because even they subconsciously worship god. it still causes me to cry myself to sleep every night.

    little tiger,

    jk it still makes me laugh.

    ccc,

    what? were you a pshyc major? you think you can help kids with that kind of pshycobabble. just tell them jesus loves them and judgement day is coming, so they better be good or it’s an eternity of the lake of fire for them. don’t be bring any sort of reason or science into this. jk. there is no eternity.

  10. Mike, I just want to tell you that God Loves you but if you do not reform you will be sent to the lake of fire for all eternity. So repent and be prepared for Judgement day.

  11. News says Bales faces 17 murder counts. You can murder piles of Christians in some places and face no charges at all.

  12. ccc,

    strange way to show love. but don’t worry about me. if there is an afterlife, it will be paradise for me. i maybe one of the most moral people you know. no way, if there is a god, it would be so insecure as to damn people just for not bowing down to him/her. nor would the action of the god of abraham be considered godly. perhaps it is you who should repent. your god is clearly false and responsible for much of the suffering on earth.

    anyways i do think your comment was quite insightful.

    Where the bad folks go when they die
    They don’t go to Heaven where the angels fly
    Go to a lake of fire and fry
    See em’ again ’til the 4th of July

    I knew a lady who came from Duluth
    Bitten by a dog with a rabbit tooth
    She went to her grave just a little too soon
    Flew away howling on the yellow moon

    Where do bad folks go when they die
    They don’t go to Heaven where the angels fly
    Go to a lake of fire and fry
    See em’ again ’til the 4th of July

    People cry, people moan
    Look for a dry place to call their home
    Try to find some place to rest their bones
    While the angels and the devils try to make them their own

    Where do bad folks go when they die
    They don’t go to Heaven where the angels fly
    Go to a lake of fire and fry
    See em’ again ’til the 4th of July

  13. And people in Hell want ice water, too! That was the comback yrs ago when someone said they wanted something.

    What I have read about Afg. is that besides the tragic stuff, people, soldiers as well as aids workers are making headway talking to the conglomeration of tribes and acheiving some unity which might one day form a country

    However, the US should not be spending any more gobs of money and energies of its people doing so.

  14. ahh Mike I was just repeating back what you said. I try not to make judgements that are not within my paygrade.

    Anon, that just goes to show that Ice Water is a great refresher drink no matter where you are.

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