“The United States takes this as seriously as if it was our own citizens, and our children, who were murdered,” President Obama said today, referring to the 16 Afghan citizens who were apparently killed by a single American soldier before dawn on Sunday morning. “We’re heartbroken over the loss of innocent life.”
Yet more than two days after the shooting, the Pentagon has still not named the suspect.
Contrast this with the 2011 Tuscon shooting in which six people died and Jared Lee Loughner’s name and photo were being published by every mainstream media outlet within hours.
The unnamed soldier responsible for Sunday’s massacre will likely become the only American soldier whose name the people of Afghanistan never forget.
As much as the White House and the Pentagon work to present this turn of events as an aberration, it will for most Afghans and much of the world come to symbolize America’s involvement in a country few Americans knew anything about before 9/11 and just as few care much about now.
Once this soldier’s name is eventually made public it seems likely that whatever motivated him to go on a brutal yet systematic rampage, his actions will be portrayed as the product of the singular workings of his own mind or damaged brain. The Pentagon will present this as the story of soldier X — not the closing chapter in an ill-conceived war.
But there might be another reason the suspect has not already been named.
Two of the villagers who lost relatives insist that at least two soldiers took part in the shootings, according to the Associated Press.
One Afghan guard saw a U.S. soldier leave the base at 1.30am. This guard’s replacement also saw a soldier leave at 2.30am. It has yet to be determined whether this was the same soldier.
In the event that there was indeed more than one soldier involved in the shooting, the narrative of an aberrant possibly brain-damaged individual, falls apart.
This would not only be a mass murder but also a conspiracy and it could no longer be attributed to the cognitive or moral degeneration of one mind.
The more slowly the facts emerge, the more one has to wonder whether it is because they are so hard to determine or because there is looming fear about where the facts might lead.