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Of Robert Bales and Dennis Weichel

[ by Charles Cameron — one shooting spree (or two?) — one act of self-sacrifice ]

The question is: who gets top billing — Specialist Dennis Welch Weichel (upper image above), who saved the life of a young Afghan girl boy, Zaiullah, throwing her him out of the path of an oncoming MWRAP, at the cost of his own life — or Staff Sergeant Robert Bales (lower image), who is alleged to have killed a dozen or more Afghans, men, women and children, in a shooting spree (or two)?

El Snarkistani gives us one answer at It’s Always Sunny in Kabul:

I do know that Good Morning America has already spent quite a bit of airtime on the Bales’ case, from his financial past, to his injuries, to more unfounded speculation about his mental health. Over several days.

Weichel? 34. Seconds.


Here’s a pop-psych rough cut on why that might be:

Media studies show that bad news far outweighs good news by as much as seventeen negative news reports for every one good news report. Why? The answer may lie in the work of evolutionary psychologists and neuroscientists. Humans seek out news of dramatic, negative events. These experts say that our brains evolved in a hunter-gatherer environment where anything novel or dramatic had to be attended to immediately for survival. So while we no longer defend ourselves against saber-toothed tigers, our brains have not caught up.


Look, I’m afraid I cannot judge SSG Bales, though my heart goes out to his victims, their families, his comrades, their families, and him and his family. That whole incident leaves me sad.

And I cannot judge SPC Welch Weichel, either. I can and do admire him, and am grateful to him — and my heart goes out to his family, his comrades, the young girl boy whose life he saved, and her his family and friends.

In both men I see the human condition under pressure — its breaking points and possibilities.


You can read El Snarkistani’s piece, The Madness of SPC Weichel in full for more of the possibilities…

8 Responses to “Of Robert Bales and Dennis Weichel”

  1. amspirnational Says:

    actually, majority Afhanis have polled as not wanting US troops there, and as regarding US troops presence as more objectionable than the Taliban.

    majority Iraqis also polled similarly by 2005-6.

    so the question of billing as you put it could only be asked by a presumptive overweening meddler.
    US heroism and terrorism, neither are wanted.

    Ron Paul has it right.

  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    I’m not arguing the pros and cons of our presence in Afghanistan — I’m saying I prefer courage and generosity to rage and rampage.

  3. Charles Cameron Says:

    Nice piece about this in the NYT — from which I learned the child Welch saved was a boy, not a girl.  Not sure where I got the girl idea from.

  4. amspirnational Says:


    “Anti-war protesters want to march on May 20 and frustrated by the city’s refusal to allow a march that day. Activists have warned there could be a confrontation such as that during the anti-Vietnam War protests at the Democratic convention in 1968, which has marred Chicago’s image ever since.”

    No problem with that. It will take courage also to rein in the Empire’s interventions, often cast as rampage by those occupied.

  5. seydlitz89 Says:

    His name was Weichel, not Welch, a father of three.  It all just indicates the absurdity of this war.  What is a member of the Rhode Island National Guard doing in Afghanistan, as part of “Operation Enduring Freedom”?  Weichel was killed by one of our own vehicles that was unable? to stop from killing a child on a road?  How many children – or any Afghanis – are killed on their own roads by our vehicles operating under similar conditions?  And then of course there are the drones . . .
    Dennis Weichel’s spontaneous act of bravery was his own.  It doesn’t transmit.  Rather what we as Americans share in this context is something quite different . . . 

  6. Charles Cameron Says:

    Thanks for pointing out my error regarding Dennis Weichel’s last name, Seydlitz.  I have corrected the title of the post (which doesn’t allow me to use a strike-out) and also the body of the post (where I’ve used strike-outs to replace Welch with Weichel).  I appreciate your pointing out the error, particularly as I wished to honor the man.  I also got the Afghan child’s gender wrong originally as noted above — so this whole post appears to have been clumsily and very likely hastily written.  My apologies to our readers.

  7. Charles Cameron Says:

    I’d argue that Dennis Weichel’s spontaneous act of bravery does in fact transmit, if it is held in esteem.  
    As to the war in Afghanistan.. I have affection for that country based on a slight acquaintance with it gained during a month there many years back, including one memorable visit to the great Buddha of Bamiyan.  I have been reading the poetry of an Afghan-born Sufi poet for almost fifty years now.  I spent one miserable Christmas as sick as a dog in Kandahar.  I remember one small white-walled mosque way out on a dry stretch of road between Herat and Kandahar and its small, lush, green garden, all these years later: whatever it was to the inhabitants of that small village, to me it was “oasis” and “paradise” in perfect miniature, and it remains so in memory — even though I know neither its name, nor whether it still exists.
    I pray for peace.


  8. seydlitz89 Says:


    Transmit?  What?  Guilt?  Why not guilt?
    To a soldier such a death is an ideal, perhaps a nudge above dying for one’s buddies.  Nobody wishes to die, but military service can be a bloody business, and nobody emerges from combat unstained, which is what I’ve seen.  But thankfully nothing I’ve experienced, Cold War and all that.  There’s that soldierly ideal and the basic human understanding of what Dennis Weichel did, which was honorable.  But transmit?  

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