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The Afghanistan quagmire just gets uglier and uglier:

“Stalking from home to home, a United States Army sergeant methodically killed at least 16 civilians, 9 of them children, in a rural stretch of southern Afghanistan early on Sunday, igniting fears of a new wave of anti-American hostility, Afghan and American officials said.

Residents of three villages in the Panjwai district of Kandahar Province described a terrifying string of attacks in which the soldier, who had walked more than a mile from his base, tried door after door, eventually breaking in to kill within three separate houses. The man gathered 11 bodies, including those of 4 girls younger than 6, and set fire to them, villagers said.


The officials said the suspect was an Army staff sergeant who acted alone and then surrendered…A senior American military official said Sunday evening that the sergeant was attached to a unit based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a major Army and Air Force installation near Tacoma, Wash., and that he had been part of what is called a village stabilization operation in Afghanistan…Another senior military official said the sergeant was 38 and married with two children. He had served three tours of duty in Iraq, this official said, and had been deployed to Afghanistan for the first time in December.”

Republican hawk and supporter of starting yet another war in Iran, Lindsey Graham, shrugged it off as ‘oh well, shit happens’:

“While this is tragic and will be investigated that soldier will be held accountable for his actions under the military justice system, unfortunately these things happen in war,” Graham said on ABC’s “This Week.” “You just have to push through these things.”

“The surge of forces have really put the Taliban on the defensive. The Afghan Army is better equipped and better trained than ever….I hope that the strategy partnership agreement between the United States and Afghanistan will stop the narrative we’re leaving,” Graham said on ABC. “We can win this thing. We can get it right.”

Yes, the Afghan armed forces are well equipped and trained, and are turning that equipment and that training on NATO forces at an increasing rate:

“Afghan security personnel have killed “around 70 members of the NATO force … in 42 insider attacks from May 2007 through January 2012,” Reuters reported, based on statistics provided by the US Department of Defense. Fifteen of the ISAF soldiers, or more than 20 percent, have been killed in the last seven weeks, according to press releases issued by ISAF.”

John McCain, advocate for military intervention in Syria, called the shootings just “one of those things”:

“It’s one of those things that you cannot explain except to extend your deepest sympathy to those victims and see that justice is done,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Cannot explain? Not to in any way excuse the actions of this sergeant, but this is the result of decade long wars requiring repeated deployments by an all-volunteer military. We seem to lose sight of the fact that our men and women in uniform are human beings, not robots. They are subject to human failings, like the psychological toll war takes on those who face death day after day after day, tour after tour after tour, and the actions that can result from that kind of constant stress.

Very few of us know because the burden of war is borne by a very small percentage of our population. Which explains things like this recent Pew poll showing 58% of Americans favor military action in Iran. Of course they do. It doesn’t cost the vast majority of them one dollar or one sleepless night worrying about the well-being of a loved one.
Two points. First, we need to get out of Afghanistan ASAP. Two more years or ten more years there won’t matter. Al-Qaeda is gone, bin Laden is dead. Mission accomplished, time to bring our soldiers home.

Second, a proposal for Sens. Graham, McCain and the 58% polled by Pew. Any US military intervention in any country from this point forward will be accompanied by a draft and a 10% income tax surcharge to pay for it. Let’s see how hot they are to go to war then.