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Good Guys Kill Better, or How to Outwit the Bad Beast of Our Nature
Scott Atran
Scott Atran
is Adjunct Research Scientist, Research Center for Group Dynamics; Adjunct Professor, Psychology Department; Visiting Professor, Ford School of Public Policy; Presidential Scholar, John Jay College of Criminal Justice Senior; Research Fellow, Harris Manchester College, Oxford University; Directeur de Recherche, Anthropologie, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris

“Good guy” — the description of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales by neighbors that is headlining in the American media — is pretty much the way ordinary Germans saw other Germans who brutalized people in extermination camps in WW2 (See Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust). “Good guy” is how most family, friends and neighbors in the USA described John Demjanjuk, the Ukranian-born Nazi extermination camp guard who was deported to Germany for war crimes and who died Saturday, convicted of his crimes but living free in a German nursing home. And “good guy” is how family, friends and neighbors described Ander Behring Breivik, judged by his countrymen to be “mentally unfit” when he massacred dozens of young people in Norway because his government tolerated Muslim immigrants.

Imagine an Afghan who came to the USA and murdered 16 people, mostly women and children, and burned their bodies. Then the Afghan government whisked the guy away and said, “Trust us, we’ll take care of the matter,” and the Afghan press was full of reports saying that neighbors in Afghanistan liked the guy. An American president who allowed this to happen would likely be impeached. And would Americans really care if some foreign terrorist who had just shot or blown up a bunch of kids sitting at a family diner had done it because he had snapped, or was drinking, or was under stress, or for any of a dozen possible motives our press has proffered for Bales’ actions?

Read more at Huffington Post

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