When victims become statistics

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.


  1. noastronomer says

    “In the reporting of this massacre, all we knew about the victims was their number, 16.”

    I agree with your sentiment in writing the article. However the real number of victims is a lot higher than 16. That’s just the number of murdered victims.

  2. NancyNew says

    There was an interview with someone strongly affected this morning on NPR’s Morning Edition–a village farmer, who had been travelling with his youngest child, a four year old boy. Eleven–ELEVEN of the murdered villagers were members of his family–his mother, his wife, 4 daughters, brothers, sons… You could hear the four year old crying on the phone behind his voice.

    Yeah, so I was tearing up on the way in to work.

  3. slc1 says

    Of course, Mr. Greenwald, self hating Jew that he is, had nothing to say about the recent killing in Toulouse. To the Greenwalds, such acts are deserved by the victims because of, what he considers, beastly behavior of the Government of Israel toward the terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

  4. slc1 says

    I would respond to Mr. under with a cutting remark except that when one cuts manure, it fuses back together again.

  5. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Comment by slc1 blocked. [unkill]​[show comment]

    The easy way to deal with trolls.

  6. Mano Singham says


    When you impute such a horrific sentiment to Greenwald, that he would actually approve of the murder of ordinary people in France because he disapproves of some aspects of the behavior of the Israeli government, and do not provide any evidence whatsoever in support of such a serious charge, you surely know that you are merely discrediting yourself as someone whose words on such issues should not be taken seriously, right?

  7. kantalope says

    Mr Greenwald also didn’t have anything to say about the fourteen children killed in a bus crash in India.

    or the earthquake in Mexico…
    or flooding in Australia…
    Alien abductions in Wyoming…
    Strange lights in France Russia and elsewhere…
    What about those ghosts on Cable television?

    Why won’t Mr Greenwald speak up about these events? What is he hiding?

  8. kraut says

    Why is it that despite the evidence collected by the Afghan Government there is still talk about one single killer in the US media?
    Does anybody think that the US DOD and the US media is any more trustworthy than the investigators of the Afghan authorities?
    Who benefits most from the single killer hypothesis?

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