Vigil held at UC Berkeley for Afghan victims

March 12, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Monday, President Obama said the weekend massacre in Afghanistan has increased his determination to withdraw U.S. troops as soon as possible, but he said there won't be, in his words, "a rush to the exits."

Also, an unidentified U.S. official said the sergeant accused of going on that rampage that killed 16 villagers suffered a traumatic brain injury while on duty in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the as yet un-named soldier could face the death penalty under the U.S. Military justice system.

Monday night at UC Berkeley a vigil took place for the victims. Opinions at the vigil, held by the Afghan Students Association were mixed, but the feeling was definitely anti-war at a rally in Oakland.

"We need to tell Obama, we need to tell everyone that we need to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan and end the wars and end the killing," said Aaron Hinde from the group Iraq War Vets Against The War.

About 40 protesters disrupted the Obama campaign office in Oakland, including several members of Iraq War Vets Against the War. Hinde said he was with the 101st Airborne and he understands how a U.S. soldier could kill 16 Afghan civilians.

"They're subjected to indoctrination and learn to dehumanize people. I remember, I was in the military actually when 9/11 happened and I remember when the words 'Haji' and 'towel head' started being introduced into our lexicon," said Hinde. "I think that the effects of these wars on the soldiers show you that they're wrong, that they're suffering and that they become inhuman themselves and commit these inhuman acts."

Members of the of UC Berkeley Afghan Students Association say this makes a bad situation worse. Many are torn on what to do.

"I actually was in Afghanistan last summer and I just feel the morale and also the opinion of the U.S. having a presence in Afghanistan is just negative," said Yusuf Hanif, a UC Berkeley student.

The Taliban had actually agreed to negotiate directly with the U.S., but now, all hope seems to have vanished.

"That was the most significant milestone in the history of this decade-long war in Afghanistan," said Abobaker Mojadidi, an Afghan community leader.

Mojadidi said relations were already shaky after the emergence of video showing U.S. soldiers urinating on dead Taliban fighters and the burning of hundreds of Qurans by U.S. soldiers. Still, U.S. Military leaders say the massacre will not sway its objectives.

"I hope that it can be repaired. I pray that it can be repaired, but I'm very pessimistic that it will," said Mojadidi.

Some Afghan students at UC Berkeley say the explanation that the soldier may have suffered from PTSD is still inexcusable.

The Bay Area Afghan community is determined keep this in the headlines and their planning a rally this Saturday, at Bill Ball Plaza in Fremont at 2 p.m.

NATO said the killings were an isolated incident and will not affect plans to turn over security to the Afghans by the end of 2014.


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