Sgt Robert Bales will plead guilty to murdering Afghanistan civilians. The equally deranged Woolwich beheaders are no doubt as “broken” and “crazed” as he was judged to be. Yet he received at least some compassion.
But if Bales was “broken” and “crazed” but not technically insane, capable of carrying out acts of deliberate terror but deserving of at least some of our compassion for the hardships he had endured that brought him to the decision to perpetrate those acts then for universal justice to prevail we have to be prepared to offer the same amount of nuance to others. What then of those we glibly write off as “terrorists” and consign to the rubbish bin of memory, like those who carried out the horrific attack in London recently? What of common murderers who have been pushed beyond some limit by the circumstances of their lives, yet not so far as to be legally “insane” – do they get the same compassion that was lavished on Bales?
Instead of going medieval on the Woolwich killers maybe we should at least try to understand why they did it. Maybe it’ll help stop the spiral of violence.