Panetta Mens Rea
Sgt. Robert Bales
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has appealed to members of the military to stop embarrassing the nation by committing war crimes. He wants an end to acts that destroy our relationship with people we ostensibly are trying to help.
It may be the clearest sign yet the Obama Administration doesn’t understand that the all-volunteer armed forces are breaking down under the strain of a decade of war.
The return of thousands of soldiers with PTSD, brain damage, or other symptoms of too much combat duty should be a clue. Even the National Football League has been forced to pay attention to the cost of head injuries
As early as 1944, military doctors advised the constant deployment of soldiers would result in some of them breaking down.
And at that time there was a constant supply of fresh troops because of the draft.
It is not uncommon for soldiers to have been deployed repeatedly, in some cases six times, in Iraq and/or Afghanistan.
The military and some helpful journalists have sought to distract attention from parallels with the Vietnam War by creating new terms. Guerilla wars are called asymmetrical. If the motive of attackers isn’t entirely clear call them militants instead of guerrillas, insurgents or even fighters.
No matter what it is called, it is too much even for the best of the best.
Legally, it is questionable whether Sgt. Robert Bales can be held fully responsible for the murder of at least 17 Afghan villagers.
Panetta and President Obama were both trained as lawyers.
They know that inherited from Roman law is the concept of “mens rea,” which means for a person to be guilty of a crime he must have had a “guilty mind” or what is called criminal intent.
What is happening in Afghanistan might be better described as a blood feud or vendetta, in which law is little consequence.
Telling soldiers to stop it is somewhat akin to telling your dog to stop barking when another dog walks by.