In the aftermath of the cold-blooded murder of 16 Afghans by a US soldier, we have been treated to a flood of details about the soldier and his family, all seeking to understand why he might have done such an appalling thing. This process tends to arouse greater understanding for his motivations and even some sympathy for his plight. This is not unreasonable. It is always useful to learn what drives people to commit horrific acts.
But Glenn Greenwald points out that this is in sharp contrast to what happens when the victims of such killings are Americans, when it is simply taken as a given that “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… There is, quite obviously, a desperate need to believe that when an American engages in acts of violence of this type (meaning: as a deviation from formal American policy), 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.”
In the reporting of this massacre, all we knew about the victims was their number, 16. In order to provide partial balance, one reporter has given us at least the names of the victims. Nine of them were children. Three were women. It is funny how the mere act of listing their names and their relationship to one another humanizes them and lifts them from a statistic to real people whose lives were tragically ended.