Staff Sgt. Robert Bales sits in Leavenworth awaiting what will most likely be a conviction and death sentence for killing innocent Afghani women and children. What he did is unforgivable, and goes against everything the United States military stands for. I have seen the effects of multiple deployments on military members and their families. The high rates of suicide, domestic violence, and PTSD are evidence that there are limits to how much stress a human being can endure. Limits the military leadership has chosen to ignore. Sgt Bales is not alone in his guilt. There are many who have facilitated his transformation from an average man into a monster.
The unofficial military mission statement of “doing more with less”, the Secretaries of Defense that pushed it and the commanders who bought into it all share the blame. The dream of a “Lean Mean Fighting Machine” would only be possible if the military were staffed with robots, but it is not. It is staffed with men and women who think, feel, love and fear. Who have families and lives back home. It is their humanity that makes them vulnerable to the horrors of war, but it is also their humanity that gives them a reason to preserve the dream of liberty anywhere in the world. It gives them the courage to willingly accept that the cost of freedom could be their very lives. This courage should not be taken for granted. Every military doctor who has proclaimed a troop “fit for combat” when he should have been sent home, every commander who has proclaimed his unit ready when deep down he knew they weren’t, shares in the guilt. Every officer who has ever put his career ahead of his troops, every military leader who lacked the courage to tell his superiors the truth, that his unit was undermanned and stretched to the breaking point, shares the guilt. Every Secretary of Defense who failed to make unpopular decisions on how to increase manning, every Commander-in-Chief who was told what he wanted to hear and bought it, shares the guilt.
After all the investigations, reports and hearings, are concluded and “band-aid” recommendations are put in place we will still be left with a military that is undermanned and weary. We ask our military men and women to carry an unimaginable burden. Our military leadership owes the Afghanis and Sgt Bales’ family, who is now left without a husband and father, more than an apology. They are owed and honest assessment of what went wrong, and real solutions to prevent it from happening again. Until the people at the Pentagon find a way to bring more men and women in and retain the well-trained troops already in place, the stress of repeated deployments will create more Sgt Bales’.