No easy answers for Afghan killings

March 15, 2012

While I watched March Madness basketball action, a madness of a different sort played out near the farmland of Panjwai, Afghanistan ("Killings of 16 appall Afghans," March 12). According to news reports, 60-year-old Abdul Samad returned to his home on Saturday to find 11 of his relatives had been massacred, most killed with a single shot to the head, their bodies burned. Mr. Samad lost a wife, four daughters younger than 7, four sons, ages 8-12, and two relatives. AU.S. Army staff sergeant is in custody. And whatever faith I had in my elected leaders' ability to implement a sensible and just foreign policy is in ruins, regardless of how unilateral this serviceman's actions may prove to be.

I am the father of three young boys. I am also the son of a U.S. Navyveteran whose flag presented to my mother upon his passing in 1999 remains among my most treasured possessions. His brother, my Uncle Leonard, carried wounds and a Purple Heart earned in combat in Korea with him until he too passed, a decade ago. I won't dishonor their courage and patriotism by claiming to speak for either. Perhaps my father or uncle would remain steadfast in our country's mission in Afghanistan if presented with the full picture of our involvement there since Sept. 11. But, of course, that wasn't the beginning of our involvement there, nor the sole reason we remain there. To explain the details of that history would require me to review for my own sons hundreds of years of colonial expansion by multiple world powers, religious extremism, failed "nation-building" and shifting geopolitical sands that even Rudyard Kipling couldn't comprehend.

Which brings us back to the madness. What, most fundamentally, should Mr. Samad now ask of us — of our government, of me, or of my family? Whatever his questions, I'm not sure I'd have any answers for him. I'm also not sure anyone responsible for our military involvement in and around his village will have any answers for him either.

Brian Dulay, Baltimore

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