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Wed., March 21, 2012, 4:27 a.m.

Take one for all of us?

David Horsey, Los Angeles Times
David Horsey, Los Angeles Times

Good morning, Netizens...


Sgt. Robert Bales is accused of murdering 16 civilian villagers, including 9 children. This atrocity appears to be the work of one man, but according to cartoonist David Horsey, we all should share the blame.


Our all-volunteer Army has been fighting for a decade in Afghanistan, and in Iraq as well, for most of that time. The burden of battle has fallen mainly on a tiny number of Americans -- men like Bales, who was on his fourth combat deployment. Multiple journeys into the hell of war have taken a terrible toll. The number of suicides among service members has skyrocketed, and incidences of post traumatic stress disorder among returning soldiers are so common they seem almost the norm. We try to ignore those grim statistics, attributing them as the price of war, and we praise our returning soldiers as heroes.


Yet all the adulation and public praise aside, as a nation we have chosen to ignore the bitter truth. They are not necessarily better than those who do not don a uniform. Excluding singular exceptions -- the Navy SEALs, for example -- our soldiers are people not all that different from any of us. War does subvert the mind and sears the human soul with every battle fought, every person killed in the line of duty.


According to everything we know about Bales, he was a good soldier, one of our best. However, if one of our best soldiers can snap and commit such a terrible crime, we should all ask ourselves if the soldiers who come from among us are being pushed to sacrifice far too much while the rest of us sacrifice nothing at all. Our volunteer Army lets us all conveniently off the hook. The politicians, who it seems cannot even balance our own national budget, speak with glowing terms about how we are standing up to tyrants and bearing obscene burdens in the name of liberty. Then they sign us all up for yet another war fought on the verge of Hell.


Yet it is not the Sgt. Bales in our midst that goes to war. We have all those yellow ribbons on the backs of our pick uptrucks to help us forget all the horrors he has seen, all the horrors of war that reminds him of what he has done. We need to stop war before it claim another soldiers' life who simply snapped after fighting a war we all helped create.



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Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.