It need not take one US soldier to attack and kill 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children, to remind us that war is horrible. The killings have unleashed a steady stream of analysis about why we are still in Afghanistan. But that may be assigning too much importance to one lone soldier. Unfortunately, the Afghan war is bigger, and in some respects more disheartening, than these brutal killings. But just as it is too easy to define the Afghan war by the killings in the Kandahar province, it is too myopic to view the rampage as the inevitable consequence of too much combat. There have always been shocking massacres, from My Lai in Vietnam to Biscari, Italy, in World War II, when US troops killed Italian prisoners of war. Today, in an age of instantaneous communication, these incidents take on tremendous global impact, making it still harder for a government to make amends. After all, almost 18 months passed between the My Lai murders in 1968 and the first news reports from journalist Seymour Hersh in late 1969.
Kayyem, Juliette. "The Links to Violence." Boston Globe, March 14, 2012.