I hesitated on writing about this particular little nugget of tragedy because I really wanted to make sure I had something to say about it, so here it goes.
As folks like NPR have noted, this came at an awful time. I am in no way suggesting that this guy did anything representative of the military as a whole, but you have to look at things in perspective. Coming on the heels of the Quran burning, it’s hard to imagine a worse one-two punch of American image tarnishing. Presenting an image is less important when the war is something like WWII when we were actually at war with the country itself, but in a war ostensibly attempting to root an evil element out of a country of otherwise peaceful people, attacking both their religion and their children feeds straight into the hands of those extremists.
Close your eyes and imagine for a moment if, for example, we had India helping us root terrorists out of USA and they were burning Bibles and shooting up playgrounds. You can bet your ass the Tea Party and 2nd Amendment fellaters would be making pipe bombs before you can say “fuck off, Apu”.
What should happen to the guy? Well that’s a damn hard question. The US obviously wants to try him in military court, where the smart money is on him being found mentally unstable and getting a perfunctory sentence (if any) followed by a fair amount of time in psychiatric help. The Afghanis want him tried in their court where he’ll almost certainly be executed.
Now, there is a bit of inherent hypocrisy in the US always insisting that they be the judicial body in cases regarding anyone involved in this conflict be they Americans or Arabs. Similarly, you can bet dollars to donuts if some extremist ran into a civilian area and fired on a bunch of kids he’d either be killed on the spot or dumped in a hole and have a car battery hooked up to his nutsack before the kids’ bullet holes stopped steaming.
So on one hand, I can see why the Afghanis would want to try them in their own courts. Aside from being skeptical that he’ll see actual “justice” if he goes to a military court, they clearly would want to actually take control in their affairs rather than sending him away for it. After all, it was their citizenry being murdered. But do I, a generally anti-death-sentence guy, support executing a man purely on symbolic principles?
No, I don’t. However, what I do support is letting the Afghani courts take control in these situations. He may or may not be put to death for what he’s done, but that should be their call. Not ours. I’ve said before that I don’t weep for insurgents and extremists killed in the field, but the crux of this is who should be allowed to decide the matter: the US military or the country bereaved. Would a German soldier in the United States who blew up a day care center expect to get shipped back to Germany so their army could deal with it internally?
However, to play devil’s advocate to myself, we are in a military action. He wasn’t vacationing there and looking to get extradited to the United States. If the Afghanis decide his fate, what happens to every other situation wherein an American soldier did something wrong? Should they all go to Afghani courts? Spend time in Afghani jails? No, that’s insanity. And where does the line go?
So, for the time being, I’d almost suggest a “joint court” of sorts. Send him to the American military courts with Afghan judges weighing in on the situation. Make it fair. He almost certainly won’t get executed, but he also won’t just get a slap on the wrists. Figure something out.