Friday, March 16, 2012

Afghanistan shooting fallout

I guess spring break means even the biggest stories get passed over on the DS blog, so nothing has been posted about last week's tragedy in Afghanistan, but it's too important for nothing to be said. The reactions have been predictable. Earnestness and sincerity from US officials and incredible anger from Afghan officials and citizens. An important question raised by the shooting spree has been where the unnamed US Army staff sergeant will be put on trial.

Locals as well as members of Afghanistan's parliament have demanded that the soldier stand trial in Afghanistan. Regardless of nationality, anyone who killed Americans on US soil would certainly be prosecuted domestically. Afghans rightfully feel like their judicial system should be allowed the same jurisdiction. Furthermore, building the local rule of law is constantly preached to countries like Afghanistan that the US is trying to integrate into the Western liberalized system.

As of Wednesday March 14th, US officials had made no official decision on where to hold the trial. However, I doubt that this soldier stands trial outside of the US. He has already been returned to the US military prison in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Even if trying the soldier in Afghanistan would be doing right by the Afghan people, the US military could simply not allow it to happen. Setting a precedent for trying US personnel locally would seriously breech the trust between military officials and soldiers who engage in combat. Even though the soldier committed an obviously heinous crime well removed from combat duty, US officials would not risk him getting sentenced to a bloody execution in Afghanistan. This would cause great dissension in the ranks of the US military.

This is a messy case, and many questions need to be asked of his commanding officers and the psychological evaluation process, especially for a soldier who was begrudgingly on his fourth tour of duty. There should also be an investigation into the culture of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State, from where not only the staff sergeant in question but soldiers involved in the 2010 Afghanistan "thrill killings" hailed.

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