This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
Too many cheap explanations are being tossed around for the March 11 massacre of what appears to be 17 innocent villagers in Afghanistan. As a result, untold thousands of combat veterans risk getting indirectly smeared.
Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a Lake Tapps man who’d been deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, has been charged with the killings. The public knows very little about the crimes and very little about him; the Army has not been particularly forthcoming.
Into the vacuum of information has blown a whirlwind of speculation. Plus, in this case, artful comments from Bales’ defense attorney.
Much of the speculation concerns post-traumatic stress syndrome. Specifically, whether the slaughter was triggered by PTSD.
There are several problems with this notion. For starters, the Army has said nothing about whether Bales actually suffered from PTSD. His wife has said she saw no signs of it.
The estimates of soldiers who return from war with the disorder runs as high as 30 percent. That leaves a minimum of 70 percent who don’t come back with PTSD. Was Bales among the minority who do? We simply don’t know.
More to the point, soldiers and veterans who’ve had PTSD aren’t known for mass murder. The disorder can cause anguish, nightmares and flashbacks; it can trigger domestic abuse and even suicide.
But it doesn’t connect any dots for violence of the March 11 magnitude. The attempts to turn it into an explanation imply that other soldiers with the same condition are also at risk of becoming bloodthirsty berserkers.
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