Two-Week-Old Kittens and Staff Sgt. Bales
I had just finished reading a short article about an eleven-year-old who bragged at school of killing three two-week old kittens with a baseball bat -- when I finally plunged into reading a second article about Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, accused of slaughter in Afghanistan. On the surface the two stories have next to nothing in common ... until I kept thinking about it.
We have often read that mass murderers and serial killers begin showing symptoms of their illness as juveniles, taking out their frustrations, or lack of sensory feedback, by killing small animals. I have no reason to doubt that this hypothesis is true. Whatever causes individuals to turn homicidal usually does fit into a classic profile -- not always -- but usually.
Bales' killing spree (if true) is an ugly act just by itself, but it also has wide implications in our overall coalition with the Afghans. The murders plus the burning of the Korans has sent the Afghans into a frenzy.
Thus, once again, we have lost the respect and trust that is essential in fighting guerrilla warfare. If the local war lords hate your guts, they aren't going to be pointing out known Taliban members (even in exchange for bundles of US cash). Without sufficient back up, the clan could easily slip a knife into your back.
Then it becomes a mirror of the old Vietnam story of being unable to distinguish your friends from your enemies. The US has no choice but to put on a poker face and not allow a single act (however atrocious) to dictate our national policy. But, behind closed doors one can imagine the discussions about the earliest withdrawal date (without looking like a dog with its tail between legs).
There isn't much the Army can do to identify and root out the Robert Bales from its ranks. The guy acted normal enough until something inside him simply snapped. Is it a case of temporary insanity? Questions like this will be gone over with a magnifying glass at his trial. It's amazing what one man with a gun can accomplish. Single-handedly Bale created a nationwide fervor and a boiling hot rage at the US (who were supposed to be the good guys). This is all assuming the man is guilty of the charges brought before him -- and it's kind of hard to imagine that the Army would make a flub up of identifying the right killer -- not when it is this magnitude.
Again the term PTS (post-traumatic stress) is appearing in print and our Net screens. We will all have to patiently wait until all the facts are unraveled before we can pass judgment. If Bales is guilty, and his attorney can make the stress-thing stick, he will still face life imprisonment in a guarded mental facility -- not a happy ending for a man with a small family, and (who as far as we know), never murdered anyone in his previous 32 years.
I've never quite understood why there aren't more mass murders (serial killers are in a class by themselves). I don't understand why more people haven't "snapped," given the mounting stresses and pressures placed upon them in this increasingly indifferent, dehumanizing world.
Considering that we are a nation of millions, it's amazing to me that a few hundred or a few thousand individuals lose their top screws. With the statistics being so low, I tend to think that the vast majority of our population abhors violence (outside the movie theaters).
People give themselves heart attacks and strokes suppressing the desire to go ape shit. Whatever deterrent represses the populace from releasing its frustration and anger seems to be working rather well.
In dealing with matters of the human psyche, it is extremely difficult to diagnose how/when/why the impulse to kill overrides the usual safeguards and safety systems. The key seems for parents, peers, teachers, and other professionals to watch our children extremely closely. If you find dead kittens in the dumpster, you have to take action as early as possible.
Even a child who pulls the wings off flies needs some reprogramming.
The actions of the accused have international repercussions (whether he intended that outcome or not). The Afghans are now talking about restricting our military personnel to bases. That would defeat the entire strategy laid out by the Pentagon. The military cannot do much if it is shackled to its bedpost. The US will not allow itself to be humiliated in such a fashion, so an even earlier pull-out may be placed on the table. Supposedly, if we are kicked out of Afghanistan, the terrorists will fill the void with their usual brand of religious-based totalitarianism.
We may have little choice but to sit back and watch the country return to the 12th Century, along with all of his barbarity and potential threats to nations living in the modern world. Maybe if Bales had access to a box of kittens, we might not find ourselves in this awkward predicament. I'm not suggesting anyone take their hatred out on animals, but kittens don't make car bombs.
The blood that the suspect spilled is on all of our hands, and it doesn't wash off.