Whitewashing a U.S. War Crime in Afghanistan: The Trial of Don Ayala, “Human Terrain” Mercenary

A court hearing is underway to determine the sentence for Don Michael Ayala, the U.S. mercenary who was employed by the Human Terrain System, the program that also hired the army reservist and anthropologist, Paula Loyd, set on fire by Abdul Salam in Chehel Gazi, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan on 04 November 2008, and dying from her wounds on 07 January 2009. Ayala has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of “voluntary manslaughter” for having executed Salam (see here, and here).

Don Ayala and Paula Loyd
Don Ayala and Paula Loyd

Emotional pleas from friends, colleagues, and even members of Paula Loyd’s family, including her military fiancé, have poured in to defend Ayala, seeking a light sentence that would exclude any time in prison. Ayala served nine years in the military as a decorated member of the Army Rangers and worked six years as a mercenary in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet, his defense claims, he was not prepared for the “horror” of what happened to Loyd. To be absolutely clear: Ayala executed a subdued detainee, in clear violation of the human rights conventions to which the U.S. is a signatory.

Nonetheless, this has not stopped those who would support Ayala’s heroism in illegally executing an unarmed detainee who could not fight back, having failed in his job of protecting Paula Loyd in the first place. A local “news” service, Nola.com, has gone as far as producing a “documentary” in defense of Don Ayala, shown below. That same source has Ayala rescuing “U.S. hostages from Granada” — they likely meant Grenada, during the 1983 U.S. invasion, also unprovoked, and where there were no U.S. hostages. It’s not the only self-serving and self-glorifying myth presented in this story, and many stemming from this case have already been rubbished on this blog.

Ayala’s legal defense “described” the actions of Abdul Salam as “a violent and incomprehensible attack upon an unarmed, vulnerable American woman who was actively working to improve the lives of all Afghans, including her assailant.” Leaving aside that kind of puffery and the low grade sentimentality, Salam was a member of a vulnerable population under the domination of the U.S. military occupation, who fought back and chose as his target a member of a U.S. military program. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Ayala’s defense claims, as the ultimate challenge to credulity, that the U.S. military is in Afghanistan to improve the lives of the Taliban. The attack on Loyd is only incomprehensible to those who have been nurtured in the propaganda that stipulates that not only is God on America’s side, America is God, and therefore any attack on an American, even one in military uniform and part of an invading force, is an attack on all that is good and holy. Let it be noted that all of this is forthcoming in the same week as news of another indiscriminate massacre of Afghan civilians by the U.S. Air Force, with the deaths of at least 120.

The following article by John Stanton, and the attached court document, were sent to me by John with permission to reproduce it here. John Stanton’s earlier articles on the Human Terrain System are also available here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 1415, and 16.

A warning to readers: some of the photographs that follow show graphic violence.

Before anyone disingenuously protests that Paula Loyd is being used as a “weapon” by opponents of the Human Terrain System, let us keep the facts crystal clear: the only agencies that come anywhere close to having used Loyd almost literally as a weapon are the U.S. Government, the U.S. military, and the Human Terrain System specifically. No longer able to use her as an instrument of war, HTS has found one more use for Loyd: cheesy propaganda that almost has Loyd jumping up, saluting, and winking, following her attack. Americans can be wonderful, can do! types in such familiar renditions of retro-style military propaganda.

Finally, I will respectfully disagree with John on the final section of his article, not necessarily on a factual basis, but for reinforcing the one-sided attention to women’s rights that has become the standard for the war in Afghanistan, as if violence and discrimination against women, including the many reports of violent sexual assaults within the U.S. military itself, not to mention gay bashing (both literal and otherwise), were somehow alien to the U.S. Paula Loyd did not need to travel to Afghanistan to encounter gender discrimination. Paula Loyd did not need to travel to Afghanistan to “help improve people’s lives.” And the U.S. will not be teaching lawfulness and gender equality through illegal executions.

Regardless of the sentence, the case is a farce to begin with. It is another in-house show trial for which the U.S. has become notorious in pursuing its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

ADDENDUM:

While it is highly unlikely that we will ever know the exact details of the event, especially as absolutely no Afghan eyewitnesses have ever been heard in any report, as if the entire village was absent, one can see from the photographs alone that some details of the official story are suspicious at best. For example, there is no evidence in the photos of any market or bazaar, unless Afghans like to set up their goods in the village drainage ditch. Yet HTS claims Paula Loyd was interviewing Abdul Salam in a market. Also, given the depth of the scorching of the ground, and the details presented by John below, the notion that the flames were quickly or even immediately extinguished is hardly credible. In addition, that ditch does not appear to be a “stream.” One may suspect that by piling dirt on her open wounds, then dragging her on the ground, and then rolling her into what may be sewer water, that Loyd’s injuries were significantly exacerbated.

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USA v Don Ayala:
HTS Management, Army Leadership on Trial Too

06 May 2009

by John Stanton

“This example also provides a glimpse into the type of person that is needed to operate in this environment and the training that must take place in order to effectively work with foreign nationals. Not just anyone can do this kind of work, and there is a need for a set of inherent personality traits needed by operators in order to achieve the desired end state no matter the obstacle. A degree of moral flexibility and an understanding the political and strategic significance of handling delicate cultural issues are just a few of the characteristic needed in order to function in this environment.”–Major Kevin Burke, USA

On May 8, 2009 at 9:00AM Eastern (USA) Don Ayala, a member of a Human Terrain Team (HTT) operating in Afghanistan, will be sentenced by Judge Claude Hilton in the Eastern District Court of Virginia. On February 3, 2009, Ayala pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter of Abdul Salam, an Afghan national who doused Paula Loyd, a fellow HTT member, with a lit container of flammable liquid and set her alight. Loyd suffered burns on 60 percent of her body and ultimately succumbed to her wounds dying on January 7, 2008.

According to court filings, she was “engulfed in a ball of flame large enough to force those near her to involuntarily back away to a distance of 3 to 5 meters”. Loyd screamed in agony as flesh and clothing burned. A US platoon medic tried to put the fire out by using dirt but ultimately dragged her by her foot to a nearby drainage ditch where “helmetfuls” of water were applied to put out the flames. All her clothing burned off leaving only her helmet and body armor intact.

According to court documents, Salam “fled immediately from the scene and ran 50 meters towards Ayala. Ayala drew his sidearm but did not fire and instead pinned Salam on the ground on a commonly traveled path. Salam resisted violently but was eventually flex-cuffed and restrained with the assistance of members of the accompanying platoon. Ayala kept his sidearm “trained at Salam’s head”. Moments later, a US soldier and interpreter approached Ayala and Salam.

The interpreter “yelled at Salam, punched and kicked him and dragged him into an adjacent creek. Ayala retrieved Salam from the creek and put him back on the path,” pinning him down with knee to chest. According to court documents, Ayala was advised of Loyd’s status and subsequently shot Salam in the head killing him instantly. Ayala agreed to the factual nature of these events and entered a plea of voluntary manslaughter.

A photographic packet contained within court filings [see exhibits below] shows US Army’s Criminal Investigative Division (CID) personnel examining the scene and reenacting portions of the crime. The same photographic packet contains an unsettling picture depicting the narrow pathway and the scorched earth where Loyd lay burning. A picture of Salam’s corpse is also included. Tragic events like this one have followed every conquering force that has attempted to pacify Afghanistan. Now it’s the USA’s turn. The Ayala-Loyd-Salam tragedy could very well have been pulled from The Wasted Vigil by Nadem Salem, a novel of war and tragedy in Afghanistan. The Wasted Vigil should be read by anyone deploying to Afghanistan.

Ayala’s defense team has, as expected, argued that the act of manslaughter by Ayala can’t be decoupled from Salam’s assault and, ultimately, murder of Loyd. As such, the defense team argued that “a sentence of three years of supervised probation is sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to comply with the sentencing set forth in 18 USC 3553 (a) [Imposition of a Sentence, Factors, etc.]. Any imprisonment of Mr. Ayala would violate the stricture of 3553(a) and further compound the tragedy…”

According to court documents, Ayala, already suffering from prior “dormant combat stress injuries” described the thoughts he felt upon learning of Loyd’s status that would ultimately determine Salam’s fate.

“I was overcome with the horror of what had been done to her, knowing that she was suffering and that she would never be the same, even if she lived. Immediately after the incident I was allowed to go see Paula. I will never forget hearing Paula cry “I’m cold” over and over as the medic tried to treat her wounds.”

Court filings reveal 54 letters of support have been written on behalf of Ayala. The Times-Picayune of Louisiana has also posted a documentary video in support of Ayala here http://www.nola.com/news/?/base/news-1/124158792126600.xml&coll=1.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

HTS, COIN, Involvement in Afghan-Pak on Trial

“In this situation, all sense of fairness is shattered and the rules of combat broken. This is not a scenario that anyone is trained for, prepared for…” said LTC David Thomas, USA (Ret.) in a court filing supporting Ayala.

Rules of combat in Afghanistan? Fairness? Why not prepare? Why is this scenario not rehearsed for a country where “western values” do not apply to women?

What the hell is going on with HTS and US Army leadership, training and recruitment!? Does anyone involved (contractors/government) with US Army cultural, human, counterinsurgency efforts actually know what they are doing? Do they really know the environment to which they are sending warfighters and contractors? What’s the end-game in Afghan-Pak?

It is common knowledge that women who are unlucky enough to be born into various tribes in Afghanistan are generally treated horribly. Women have few rights in Afghanistan save the right to be silent, and only speak when spoken to. Beatings are common. Being doused with acid is not uncommon. Women are cautious about reporting crimes committed against them by their male counterparts. “In many parts of the country, a majority of women report being assaulted by their husbands. Global Rights, a Washington, D.C.-based human rights organization, surveyed 5,700 households in 16 of the country’s 32 provinces. Fully 87.2 percent of respondents reported they had experienced at least one form of abuse, which included psychological, physical and sexual acts of violence as well as forced marriages. Fifty-two percent of respondents reported physical violence; many described being regularly punched, kicked, hit with sticks, cut with sharp objects, or having their hair pulled and clothes torn. One child bride, for example, reported that she had been woken up one day by her in-laws pouring a kettle of scalding hot water over her body (http://www.herizons.ca/node/263).

And it seems not much better for young males in Afghanistan. According to Major Kevin Burke writing in Civil Reconnaissance:  Separating the Insurgent from the Population, “…incidents of homosexual rape and bestiality among the Afghans has become an excepted [sic] fact in working with the Afghan nationals and other predominately Islamic countries. The act is not isolated within their military, but is practiced among the rural Afghan nationals and witness by most who spend any significant amount of time living among them. This example also provides a glimpse into the type of person that is needed to operate in this environment and the training that must take place in order to effectively work with foreign nationals. Not just anyone can do this kind of work, and there is a need for a set of inherent personality traits needed by operators in order to achieve the desired end state no matter the obstacle. A degree of moral flexibility and an understanding the political and strategic significance of handling delicate cultural issues are just a few of the characteristic needed in order to function in this environment.”

The Ayala-Loyd-Salam case is a portent for the larger tragedy that is sure to follow as America’s attempt to Westernize Afghanistan and Pakistan gains momentum.

John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in political and national security matters. Reach him at cioran123@yahoo.com.

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The following photographs were taken by the U.S. military both on the day of the attack, 04 November 2008, and the day after. The rest of the photos can be seen here.

Abdul Salam, lying where he was after shot in the head by Don Ayala, with his hands cuffed behind his back.
Abdul Salam, lying where he was after shot in the head by Don Ayala, with his hands cuffed behind his back.
Flash burns to Salam's arm
Flash burns to Salam’s arm
Salam's body in place after the zip-cuffs were cut off. A body bag is in the background. View is from the south end of the alley facing north.
Salam’s body in place after the zip-cuffs were cut off. A body bag is in the background. View is from the south end of the alley facing north.
The scorched ground where Paula Loyd lay burning alive after being attacked by Salam.
The scorched ground where Paula Loyd lay burning alive after being attacked by Salam.
1LT Pathak demonstrating how Ayala knelt on top of Salam, who was subdued and handcuffed when shot in the head by Ayala.
1LT Pathak demonstrating how Ayala knelt on top of Salam, who was subdued and handcuffed when shot in the head by Ayala.
1LT Pathak demonstrating how Ayala knelt on top of Salam before shooting him in the head.
1LT Pathak demonstrating how Ayala knelt on top of Salam before shooting him in the head.

37 thoughts on “Whitewashing a U.S. War Crime in Afghanistan: The Trial of Don Ayala, “Human Terrain” Mercenary

  1. While I appreciate your opinion, I can point to MANY things written in this article that are just that… “opinion”, and not fact, such as saying “there were no hostages” in Grenada KNOWING FULL WELL that the military doesn’t always release every bit of information in military actions, and that “it is highly unlikely that we will ever know the exact details of the event,” pointing to the lack of Afghan citizens and “a market” missing in the photos when you fail to show ONE photo of HTS Paula Loyd’s wounds. YOU seem to be “whitewashing” just as you accuse the US of doing.

    But honestly, what it comes down to is this… NO ONE, and I mean, NO ONE, not me, not you, and not even another soldier who has been through war who hasn’t gone through what Ayala went through, what he was told, what he was feeling, or what may have taken hold of him at the time, knows what it’s like to be him and has the right to judge him. To pass judgement on him, or any other person who is in his shoes is wrong and just insane!!!

    We send our young men and women into situations which are unfathomable, and expect for them to come out unscathed. It’s ridiculous. These are people, not machines, and when they react, as human beings do, we call them criminals instead of looking at the real issue.

    Instead of condemning him, why not look at the cause, and look inside of yourself and ask what you might do? If it’s so easy, why aren’t you there doing his job instead of him? And why didn’t the USAF see that he was such a risk, if that’s what people are thinking? It’s not as simple as your article would like to make it.

    EVERYONE needs to sit back and think about how they would feel if they were Paula, Don, the man who burned Paula, knew any of the three, has judged any of them, and/or what can be done to change things, because that is what will change things… NOT bad mouthing them and passing judgements!!!

  2. War is not a dinner party. Regardless of all the experience and training a person may have, when faced with an incident like the terrorist attack against an unarmed woman conducting an interview. The interview was as always started with a process to obtain informed consent for the interview. The sight of a female co-worker, a friend, a member of a close team of like individuals engulfed in flames was well out of the ordinary and a new experience for Don Ayala, despite his prior military experience.

    The HTS program failed to provide specific training on the particulars of the Geneva Conventions, and relied only on the limited on-line training provided as part of the deployment process at CRS at Ft. Benning. Yes all the information was part of the on-line training re to the treatment of prisoners of war. Had Don Ayala simply fired and killed the fleeing attacker that would have been allowed under international conventions. What Don Ayala did was technically wrong, but he has received overwhelming support from the American population that has read reports about what happened and most commentary from the masses who have not been trained on the Geneva Convention seem to endorse placing Don in the hero category and awarded some form of recognition for doing “the right thing.”

    Let’s face it, the left wing that is critical of the war in Afghanistan and of the Human Terrain program would have taken the same position against Don even if the attacker had engaged in a gun duel with him and had been shot dead in a replay of the OK corral. Terrorists like the perpetrator of this attack had been attacking school age girls with acid attacks to disfigure their faces or blind them simply because they were walking to and from school. These insurgents are throwbacks to the Stone Age with very different ideas and convictions than we have. The same insurgents would probably place on the first lineup to be stoned to death the left-wingers who are critical of the HTS program. After all, their ideas and convictions are further away from theirs than those of more conservative right wingers. Want to talk to them about gay rights, women’s rights, democracy, live and let live, respect for the rights of others, etc. with these insurgents? Go ahead!

    Bottom line, HTS program managers are at fault for poorly preparing people to take part in a very dangerous program. Paula was as much a victim of these improvised managers as she was of the creep that attacked her. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing right. I fully support the HTS concept, but it needs serious reform under new management. Don will have to live with what he witnessed and his own reaction to the incident, which led him to do something that he would never have done under normal conditions. He is also a victim. We are a country of laws, and we cannot have a cafeteria style legal system, where we pick and choose which laws we follow and/or apply. Judges and prosecutors under our system are granted the power to evaluate objective conditions and render appropriate judgment. Remember 9/11? We did not start this war, and at the end one side of the other will win. This is not a basketball game where you play and win or loose, you shake hands and go have a beer with the other team after the game. The end game is very ugly if we loose… and the left wing should understand that they will be the first to be plowed under if we loose… Paula, the real victim in this incident was a nice and caring person who was one of the missionaries taking part in the HTS program due to idealism and convictions… she was not a mercenary warmonger… she was far from that.

    Rafael Fermoselle, Ph.D.
    Former member of the HTS program and fellow class member of Paula Loyd

  3. That there were no U.S. hostages in Grenada, is a fact, not an opinion. I cannot be whitewashing anything about Paula Loyd — you do that when you obscure information, not when you seek access to it. If there were photos of Loyd’s injuries, I probably would have posted them right next to Salam’s. They are not provided however.

    I don’t care what Ayala was feeling. A war crime is a war crime. If this had been an African-American, inner city member of Gang X who killed the member of another gang, Gang Y, in reaction to the horrific murder of a fellow member of Gang X…nobody would be listening to the pleas of family, friends and colleagues of this man. But Ayala, supposedly, gets away with the murder, because the victim is a foreigner, an opponent, and a lot of middle class white people plead his case. It’s racism, classism, and imperialism combined.

    “If it’s so easy, why aren’t you there doing his job instead of him?” Because I don’t entertain ambitions of ruling the world? Because I don’t go stomping around in other societies as if they were my private real estate? Because I don’t want to cash in on war? Any number of reasons, that’s why.

  4. Sorry, you lost me: what “terrorist” that attacked which “unarmed woman”? Were you referring to the US Air Force bombing dozens of villagers to death the other day?

    Perhaps you meant Salam when you said the following?
    “Terrorists like the perpetrator of this attack had been attacking school age girls with acid attacks to disfigure their faces or blind them simply because they were walking to and from school.”

    Terrorists like the perpetrator of the attack — careful with the loaded terms there Dr. Fermoselle, because there is no definition of terrorism that says it involves an attack on people in military uniform who are part of a military occupation. What is abundantly clear is that this was a military patrol, and that HTS members were tagging along.

    Also, you know that Salam attacked school girls, do you? Amazing. What is your source? What if I told you that Salam was a very disturbed young man. Could you deny it? Of course not. Having been murdered while subdued and detained, he will never get to speak, and none of his friends and families get to make a sloppy sentimental video on his behalf, like we have with Ayala.

    Where was Loyd conducting this “interview”? In the ditch? There is no market. I suspect that some have been eager to beautify and cleanse her death by inventing fictions.

    You call Salam a “creep”. What exactly do you know about this man that makes you feel so comfortable in making such assertions? Do HTS members regularly recycle and offer for resale cultural bigotry and prejudice?

    “Remember 9/11? We did not start this war.”

    Sure we remember 9/11, do you? If you did, you would remember that you started this war long ago, and 9/11 was a very small counter attack.

    Your assumptions of what the Taliban would do with “the left” are mistaken on a number of levels.

    First, you seem to be assuming that “the left” has sympathy for the Taliban — you are wrong. My pointing out that a war crime is a war crime, and that Salam has the right to resist foreign military occupation, both a moral right, and a right under international law…is not to say I like him.

    Second, “the left” would not be exposed to whatever evils the Taliban are accused of, because we would have been smarter not to plant ourselves in their society, claim effective ownership over it, seek to rewire their heads and reengineer their culture to suit our imperial agenda.

    “These insurgents are throwbacks to the Stone Age with very different ideas and convictions than we have.”

    Dr. Fermoselle, cultural evolutionism attracts about as much respect as scientific racism, and there are shades of both in that statement, which as surprising as it is should be, is not. I am not aware of complex social organization, agriculture, the written word, patriarchy and monotheism being the hallmarks of any “Stone Age”, except perhaps our own, the one we live in now.

    One of the things achieved by the new imperialism is an ideological expansion: the high civilizations and monotheistic religions, such as those of Islam, were the focus of Orientalism in the 1800s and much of the 1900s. So called “primitive tribes” were a concern of the kind of Savagism at the heart of early anthropology. What statements like yours do is to combine/confuse the two, and that is novel. Now there are no other civilizations, no competing ideas of complex society, it’s just “us” and the rest are “savages.” It’s the kind of ultra-orthodox thinking that marks a degeneration of empire. So, in a way, it’s good news.

    What is bad news is that this is the kind of formulation that you, a social scientist with a PhD, brought to HTS? May I say that I can now see better why HTS is mostly an expensive propaganda program that routinely failed to live up to its own promises?

    But at least you end on a humorous note, and I appreciated that: “Paula, the real victim in this incident was a nice and caring person who was one of the missionaries taking part in the HTS program due to idealism and convictions… she was not a mercenary warmonger… she was far from that.”

    You could have added Saint and Martyr. Yes, she was in a war zone by accident, without any intention or ambition of cashing in on a military program.

    She certainly was a victim.

  5. First let me respond to this statement, so I make sure I understand you correctly:

    “If this had been an African-American, inner city member of Gang X who killed the member of another gang, Gang Y, in reaction to the horrific murder of a fellow member of Gang X…nobody would be listening to the pleas of family, friends and colleagues of this man.”

    Basically, what you’re saying is that because YOU BELIEVE EVERY African-American, inner city member a Gang has been denied his rights as a US citizen to pursue a fair trial, Don Ayala, who is CLEARLY of minority heritage, should be denied the same rights our Constitution guarantees us? You believe two rights make a wrong!!! That’s nice, because I don’t, and I also don’t believe ANY US CITIZEN should be denied the rights given to us by our justice system. I don’t know how often you have been to gang trials, but unless you have attended them in person, and attended A LOT of them… hundreds of them, I can only believe that YOU are whitewashing that this happens all the time. I have, in fact, seen the justice system in the United States of America work for African-America, low income, inner city people more times than I can count, and they ALWAYS have the chance to have their family, friends and colleagues make pleas for them. Whether or not anyone does, is an altogether different story. However, I find it surprising that you chose gang members, who make a choice to join a gang, although it’s much more complicated than that, just as war is, to compare to Don Ayala.

    Grenada: My point was this: If the US is “whitewashing” the Ayala/Loyd/Salam case, what makes you believe they weren’t whitewashing when they said there were NO HOSTAGES in Grenada. You can’t say they are to believed 100% about one thing, and not about another. There’s no fact in that. It’s called picking and choosing, and why would we believe that?

    “I don’t care what Ayala was feeling.” That’s my point, exactly… YOU SHOULD!!! Especially if you call yourself an anthropologist and expect people to understand what you’re trying to say about Salam.

    “If there were photos of Loyd’s injuries, I probably would have posted them right next to Salam’s.” Probably??? What do you mean, “probably???” I guess I should be happy that, at the very least, you’re honest about it. Of course, that statement shows me that you would contemplate not telling the WHOLE story if you had it.

    “Because I don’t entertain ambitions of ruling the world? Because I don’t go stomping around in other societies as if they were my private real estate? Because I don’t want to cash in on war?” This response to my question, “If it’s so easy, why aren’t you there doing his job instead of him?” not only shows that you misunderstood what I was asking, but it also shows the stereotypical, ignorant, small, closed-minded view of the American soldier AND Americans. For the thought to even cross your mind that soldiers like war, want to be occupying another country away from their families, enjoy risking their lives is absolutely ABSURD!!! To believe that they “have ambitions of ruling the world,” is asinine. George W Bush may have had that in mind, but soldiers DO NOT, and if you do some research and look at his approval ratings and what our country looks like right now, you’ll see what the majority of Americans think of him. Better yet, wait 20-30 years, and see what is said about him then, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t going to be favorable… in the least. And as for cashing in on war… if we weren’t talking about people’s lives, that statement would be laughable. NO ONE who’s there fighting on the front lines, or who was part of the HTS with Paula and Dan is cashing in on any war. In case you haven’t heard, the US economy is in the crapper, and A LOT of it has to do with Afghanistan and Iraq, so please don’t try to throw “cashing in on war” into why people are soldiers and WANT to fight there. NO ONE in their right mind LIKES war.

    The question was rhetorical, and I was basically trying to say what Dr Fermoselle said, “War isn’t a dinner party,” and the way you write, you make it sound like Don Ayala was doing something as simple as going to Blockbuster to rent a movie, and shot a woman and her children for no apparent reason. And then you are making it sound like the US is holding a secret trial where they won’t let anyone see or hear anything going on, including the woman’s family, and there’s a foregone conclusion that Ayala will be set free and given an assault rifle on his way out with a marching band playing “God Bless America” as he walks out on a red carpet. And no, those weren’t your words, but that is what you make is sound like, and it couldn’t be farther from the truth. That is why I asked the question. You can’t judge someone until you have walked in their shoes, especially in this case.

    As for the photos: I remember when I first heard about this, and I remember hearing that Salam was REMOVED from the market area. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that you don’t want to keep him in an area where he’s surrounded by people who might try to defend him. Did it ever occur to you that may be the reason you can’t see a market? Do you know what’s on the other side of that wall? I don’t see Paula anywhere around there, either, and according to HER FAMILY, there was a water source nearby, and one of the people she was with put the fire out with it. I don’t see water either. Again, I point out, MAYBE Salam was moved to a more secluded area for the protection of the people who were holding him. That makes A LOT of sense, if you ask me.

    After reading your page, “The Blogger” I wonder if #1 you would care much about this had Salam lived and Loyd still died, had #2 Salam just been prosecuted by the US, or would that be your motive for writing, … to blast the way the US tried him or #3 if Afghanistan would have done whatever it is they do to people who kill Afghan citizens? Capital punishment? By Taliban law, if you even convert from Islam to another religion it’s punishable by death, so what is the punishment for killing a member of the Taliban, if in fact, he was? And what punishment do you think Ayala should face? Give the guy some credit. He plead guilty to manslaughter. He didn’t try to plead not-guilty by reason of insanity or any other reason which may have been possible. He’s at least taking some responsibility for what he did. How many gang members do you know of who would do that, other than to look like the “Big Sh*t” for their homies? What is your goal in writing about all of this? You say it isn’t necessarily about being an anthropologist, so it just to blast anything any democratic nation does? Or to blast anything you’re against?

    And finally, do you EVER take anything anyone else says into account, or do you already know everything, and that’s all there is to it, plain and simple? If so, you’d better rename yourself to “god” instead of “an anthropologist”, because the anthropologists I know are ALWAYS learning, and from everything I’ve read on your blog since Nov 4, 2008, you have learned NOTHING from anyone. When you get to that place in your life you become a very very unhappy person, and no one wants to be around you.

  6. Let me add one more thing to something I just re-read, Max, since I have some expertice in this.

    You say “Loyd’s injuries were significantly exacerbated,” which is pure speculation on your part, NOT FACT!!! But, in the event it were true & her colleagues did use “sewer water & dirt” to put out the fire on her open wounds, given the opportunity to go back in time & NOT know what we know now, what do you think you would do? Loyd was screaming from the pain & they had the opportunity to put the fire out with whatever was around, KNOWING in the back of their minds that antibiotics will be available to her IF they can get her out alive (bc the military teaches that piece of information) or they could let her die while listening to her cries from pain. What would you do? Have you looked at it from that angle?

    And before you ask, no, I am not a member of the military, BUT I was trained by & with many Army medics who would say, as if it were a code, not to worry about dirt & infections if you can save life, “that’s what antibiotics are for.”

    So, again, I just want to point out that it isn’t as simple as looking at a situations “top layer” & forming an opinion. This isn’t black & white, and contrary to what you might think I’m not a fan of war or military occupations, but I also realize that they are sometimes neccessary.

  7. Steph, your responses are overwrought, and frequently seem to completely reinvent what I said, and then you address your reinvention. Really, it might take less time if you stopped pretending that you can read between my lines.

    Somewhere along the line, you mistook anthropologists for wet nurses. We are not. Saying I do not care what Ayala was feeling is to say that I am looking at things more objectively than you are. His feelings do not matter — everyone on that patrol has “feelings,” alright? But it was Ayala who carried out the execution. In your mind, was everyone else on that patrol somewhat less than human, for not reacting like Ayala?

    My comments on Loyd’s injuries were indeed speculation. Did I pretend otherwise?

    Do I take other people’s opinions into account? I would not have anything to write about if I didn’t.

    “so please don’t try to throw “cashing in on war” into why people are soldiers and WANT to fight there. NO ONE in their right mind LIKES war.” — They volunteered, they were not drafted. In the case of HTS people, they made upwards of $300,000 while in the field. Please, stop all the bullshit that this was just about altruism and charity work, it’s not credible and it renders your intervention here even more foolish.

    Speaking of foolish and confused twisting of arguments, from someone who moans about their view not being “taken into account” (just because I do not agree with it): I never said that gang members were denied fair trials. What I did say was: why should they not be excused their revenge killings if Ayala is excused his? You can’t answer that, not without ultimately resorting to racist, classist or imperialist arguments. So, what you instead did is made up words I never said, and then responded to them, dishonestly.

    As for the photos, look again: the scorched earth where Loyd lay burning is in the same alley as where Salam was shot. What market? Look again, the water is right there: in that ditch. That some chose to call it a stream may make it sound prettier, but that’s where the water is and it is quite clear.

    Salam was not moved, he was shot where he was subdued. Please, don’t invent new “facts” to suit some make believe story.

    “For the thought to even cross your mind that soldiers like war, want to be occupying another country away from their families, enjoy risking their lives is absolutely ABSURD!!!” Ah, except it is not. Did you watch the video in the post above? Loyd and her fiance had plans to spend most of the rest of their lives in Afghanistan, presumably making that place their little pet project, a kind of Australian Dream of a hardy couple on their outback station I suppose. Yes, it is absurd, but now you have fallen into agreement with me, that these are absurd people who don’t know when to stay home instead of tangling themselves up in other people’s affairs.

    When I said I would “probably” post the photos of Loyd if the court made them available, I mean I don’t guarantee anything I might do without first seeing the photos. It’s called being prudent, grow up now or at least calm down.

    Finally, your point about Grenada is garbled beyond comprehension. The “U.S. hostages in Grenada” lie was, like the lie about WMDs in Iraq, a pretext for an unprovoked act, another act of naked aggression against another nation. That Ayala may be telling people he rescued U.S. hostages there would make him a liar. But that’s alright with you, as long as the “good guys” are the ones telling the lies you want to hear.

  8. First of all, I am calm, but it seems you are not. Second of all, I don’t know who is saying “Ayala rescued hostages in Grenada.” Do you know, for a fact, that it is Ayala?

    “your responses are overwrought, and frequently seem to completely reinvent what I said, and then you address your reinvention”. In my last post, I did it ON PURPOSE, to make a point, because you do the EXACT same thing, but try to say you’re writing a factual analysis when what you’re really doing is writing YOUR OPINION.

    Anthropologists vs Wet Nurses – I don’t have the two confused at all, but if we were talking about 9/11 invading the US, how sympathetic would you be to Americans? Not much, because it’s become blatantly obvious you have disdane for this country and it’s armed services, and have lost site that THREE people’s lives were directly affected, instead of just an Afghans. You haven’t written OBJECTIVELY about ANYTHING. It’s all about how YOU feel about the situation, not about how EVERYONE feels. And yes, you have that right, but don’t try to pass it off as objective journalism when it’s not. The mere fact that YOU call Ayala a “mercenary” says enough to show you’re not objective.

    “Do I take other people’s opinions into account?” You only take the people’s opinions into account that either agree with you, or whom you can twist enough to fit your agenda. What about the people who matter? The ones who are actually involved in the situation? I find it hard to believe that you have tried to contact every single person on the “In Memory of Paula Loyd” Facebook group to get a comment, and NO ONE was willing to speak to you, or that NO ONE having to do with Ayala was willing to speak to you. And, if you were really so concerned that Salam had no one to speak for him, why not seek someone out who could? You make it sound like Afghanistan is such an easy way of life. Why aren’t you there trying to help his family?

    Back to the photos: I may have spoken too soon in my former post, but did you ever think that MAYBE you have a negative thought process and are thinking negatively FIRST. There may be other reasons you don’t see a market. As someone who does photography as a hobby, you never know what you may be missing by being one angle off. Besides, didn’t it say Salam ran 50 yards before he was “captured”, and that Loyd was “dragged” to the water source by her foot? 50 yards is 1/2 an American football field, not exactly a short distance. Also, do you know what an Afghan market looks like, because I don’t. That very well may be what a market looks like. And I didn’t say he was moved AFTER being shot. I said moved after being arrested, although I admit I had the story confused at the time, so that part I concede.

    As for the part about soldiers not enjoying war, and you believing that two people wanting to make a home in Afghanistan means “Soldiers like war, want to be occupying another country away from their families, and enjoy risking their lives” is again… ABSURD!!! Two people is not every US Soldier. In case you didn’t know, because you have done ABSOLUTELY NO RESEARCH into the kind of person Paula was, she had a devine love for the Afghan people, and was able to share that with her fiance. Perhaps that’s something you can’t comprehend, but she wasn’t there trying to hurt anyone. She was trying to help and her life was stolen from her while she was trying to do it, and YOU are crucifying her again. Just because she and her fiance wanted to live the rest of their lives there doesn’t mean that they wanted it to be in conflict. They fell in love with the culture and country, and YES, it is absurd for you to make the assumption that because 2 people wanted to live there that soldiers like war.

    How many soldiers have you interviewed? How many times have you been to Walter Reed? Brooke Army Medical Center? Fischer House? Or any other facility with soldiers coming back from war, for their families or are you basing your opinions on things you’ve read while you sit comfortably back at home in Canada? Because guess what? I happen to live in one of the largest military cities in the US and close to an Army base, and I have daily contact with soldiers. I have yet to speak to one who likes war and has come back unscathed.

    If it makes you feel better to insult me, because you’re a better writer than I am, and act as if you are of higher intelligence, fine, but it doesn’t change the facts. You are not writing the facts. You are writing your opinion, the whole story isn’t being told, three people have lost their lives, even though one is still walking around & breathing, and Don Ayala got 5 years probation, but at least he feels sorry for what he did and would take it back if he could, which is a lot more than IT SEEMS you are willing to do. And what’s even more sad, is that Paula would probably be a lot more tolerant of your close mindedness than I am, while you’re making her out to be the villian, but after awhile, I just can’t take it when someone is absolutely unwilling to admit any wrongdoings.

  9. “But that’s alright with you, as long as the “good guys” are the ones telling the lies you want to hear.”

    There are no “good guys”, and no lie is OK.

  10. If you were calm, you would not write with multiple exclamation points and all capitals, which is what those who are deeply agitated tend to do. I have been calm throughout, and I remain so.

    You seem to have a very extreme comprehension disorder. You seem to think that if someone has an opinion, you are entitled to rewrite it and make it into another, different, opinion, and then hold that person accountable to the words you invented. Sorry, that is plain nonsense.

    I am certainly free to interpret the facts as I see best. In your case, you choose to either ignore the facts altogether, or invent completely new ones.

    Ayala is a mercenary, that is an objective statement of fact: he was a gun for hire. He was not a regular member of the armed forces. You seem to have great disdain toward the facts, and you react to them in a hysterical manner, and then accuse everyone else of being emotional. I find such behaviour to be rather pathetic, quite frankly.

    First you accused me of not taking other people’s opinions into account — when I clearly do, as I am now doing with you, because criticizing them means taking them into account. Then you accuse me of not checking some Facebook group. I have heard absolutely enough about the Loyd angle…it is the Salam angle that is absolutely silent. So much for your interest in the facts.

    As for Saint Loyd, I just find that kind of martyr poetry laughable, sorry, but I am really laughing out loud when I read such tripe. It sounds like the kind of sentimentality-on-cue rehearsed by third graders.

    Finally, as for admitting wrongdoing and wanting the facts, then try to take your own medicine if you have the guts — here are the facts:

    1. Abdul Salam was subdued.
    2. Abdul Salam had his hands cuffed behind his back, remained on the ground unarmed, and had no capacity to fight back.
    3. Abdul Salam was fully a detainee, and protected by international laws governing the detention of enemies.
    4. Don Ayala was a former soldier, now working for a private firm, as a gun for hire, a mercenary by most contemporary definitions of the term.
    5. Ayala executed a detainee.
    6. Ayala was released on bail. Murderers usually are not.
    7. Ayala has now been freed on probation and with a minor fine.

    Those are facts. You seem to be all angry that someone should be aware of them, and come to the appropriate conclusion. Too bad for you.

  11. “There are no “good guys”, and no lie is OK.”

    Then you are forced to go back and revise everything you have written, about the lovely saint that was Loyd, and about the excuses for murdering a detainee, a war crime as a matter of fact, not opinion.

  12. You’re right about one thing… A war crime is a crime, but I’m glad you finally came out with YOUR TRUTH!!! No matter what the outcome, or the facts, you would have been angry, because you hate the US and everything about it. There is no solution for you.

    All of this is your opinion, and you know what they say about those… Everyone has one, just like they have an…

  13. Asshole. (Just completing your sentence.)

    Again, you feel the need to completely invent whatever you think I am saying, when you fail to address what I actually say.

    Do you know anything about me that you can pretend to assume so much about what I feel?

  14. OMG, I was totally going to reply to EVERY obsurd statement you made in your last post such as, “he was a gun for hire” but realized it’s useless.

    It is, however, good to know that you are also a psychologist and sociologist. The fact that I use multiple !!! is to show signifcance/importance. I do it when I sent text messages, too. Like when I say “hahaha”, does that mean I’m “aggitated” when I’m laughing? I think not. Anyone who spends any length of time online knows that it’s hard to interpret ANYTHING anyone TYPES online, especially when you don’t know them. EVERYONE has their own quirks and special “usage” of punctuation to show different emotion. Multiple exclamation marks hardle show aggitation when it comes to me.

    The ONLY thing that aggitates me about you is when you villify Ms Loyd when you haven’t taken the opportunity to get to REALLY know her, and pass judgement on something/someone you know NOTHING about, and this is hardly something that is reserved for you. The ENTIRE world would be A LOT better place if EVERYONE took a step back and tried to understand everyone else’s differences for a minute, instead of condemning or persecuting them. And if someone doesn’t know what they’re talking about, they should keep their mouth shut!!!

    “As for Saint Loyd, I just find that kind of martyr poetry laughable, sorry, but I am really laughing out loud when I read such tripe. It sounds like the kind of sentimentality-on-cue rehearsed by third graders.” Perhaps it’s true in the case. Are you so bitter and jaded that you don’t wanted to see anything positive about ANYTHING anymore? What is wrong with seeing the Loyd side? She is, after all, the FIRST victim. She did die, too, for NO REASON, other than asking a man a question, and whether or not you agree with whether or not she should have been there, she did NOTHING to provoke him. And you can’t pass judgement against her until you do look into the FACTS about her. That’s how you find out the truth.

    And yes, I do have the guts to look into the “facts” as you call them. In case you haven’t realized it, I have not once condemned Salam. Why? Because I don’t know WHY he did what he did, or what he may have had going on in his mind, or in his past. It was reported that the Taliban took responsibility for this attack. Personally, I don’t know if that is true, or not. If so, I don’t know if 1/2 of what the Taliban says they are responsible for, is something they really did, or not, but let’s just say it is. I think we can ALL AGREE that Osama bin Laden is NOT someone we would like to pal around with, or want our daughters to marry. Just like what happens in some inner city neighborhoods, there is no telling what Salam MAY HAVE BEEN THREATENED with to have him “join” the Taliban. Maybe, he was having to protect his family, home, or his own life. We don’t know, and unfortunately, we never will, but the same compassion I feel for him is the same compassion I feel for Ms Loyd AND for Mr Ayala, because I don’t know the things they went through, the things they saw, heard, or are living with. I know what it’s like to hear someone with burns being cleaned, and I am still haunted today by that, and I know what it’s like to have second degree burns on my arm, so I have NO CLUE, what it was like to be at the scene of that incident. I know they are ALL PEOPLE, and sometimes you have to take that into account, as well as every single part of what happened.

    Mr Ayala will be paying for his crime for the rest of his life. You may not see it, but the fact that he has to life with what he did is more punishment that any jail time, and sometimes that’s worse. Sometimes it’s harder to stay “clean”, if you will, in society for five years than it would be to serve jail time.

    I know exactly what he did, but again, I know he’s a human, and to say that I wouldn’t do the same thing if I were in that situation, honestly, “I DON’T KNOW,” especially if it were my son, daughter, loved one, or close friend, and I don’t believe anyone can say they know what they would do, either. Unless you have been there, you just can’t know. It’s easy to sit back here in North America with our AC, TV, broadband internet, blackberries, iPhones, Starbucks, WalMarts, McDonalds, toilets, hot water and other comforts of home, but after being in a country that we can’t even comprehend… we really have no idea.

    To say that “most” murderers don’t get bail, is not true. I don’t know where you got that information. I’d say it’s about 50%. As for “gun for hire”, again, pure opinion and samantics.

    And that’s all I have to say anymore.

  15. I am so happy for Don and Paula family. Screw the c-sucker who flamed her and all you commie fairy, limp wristed dick heads.

  16. “Gun for hire” is a fact. Unfortunately your narrow opinion compels you to evade confronting your own semantic game, and thus I note that you fail to provide your own label of choice. You also say you don’t know where I get my information, and then go on to say that half of all murderers are released on bail. Alright then, what is your source of information? I suspect that, once again, it will be pure faith and belief.

    Listen, if it is so very comfortable here in North America, then what is stopping the Loyds and Ayalas of your country from remaining right where they were? Nobody forced them to involve themselves in an unprovoked war, and to engage themselves in trying to annex Afghanistan and remake it into some copy of Minnesota.

    Loyd’s fate is no different and no more important than what has befallen many individual colonialists in the past, and many more to come since too many people refuse to learn some basic lessons. You can emote, flail, and throw as many false accusations as you like, in your ongoing tantrum here, but it won’t change any of these facts, nor any of my opinions.

  17. I realize this is not what Paula was doing, certainly not in your eyes, but let’s just say you were to go to Jordan on vacation. If a Jordanian were to take your life, should we all stand up & cheer for him when there’s outrage over your murder using the excuse, “he shouldn’t have put himself in a position where he knows he could be killed?”. Or, if you went on a peace keeping mission to Afghanistan & an Afghan did to you what was done to Paula, should we speak poorly of you, or not even consider what you were doing bc of the color of your skin & nationality? That’s racism, just as if we were to ignore “an African-American, inner city gang member” as you pointed out before.
    You seem to forget that Paula was there as an embedded CIVILIAN, not as a soldier. She wasn’t fighting anyone & had you looked into what she was trying to do, you would know that, instead of labeling her before knowing. For the record, working on basic womens rights is hardly Minnesota.

    You saying ANYTHING about her & what she was trying to do would be like me trying to “play” curling when I don’t even like sweeping.

    As for the comment about bail… It was a guestimation based on a conversation I had w/a good friend who’s an attorney & 2 family friends; 1 who’s a local judge & another who’s a private investigator in town. So, there was a bit of research put into it, and I did say “about 50%”. I didn’t give an exact number.

    With that, I wish you a beautiful Sunday & hope you have the pleasure of spending it with your mother.

  18. Steph, Lloyd was not on vacation, she was at war…

    The whole discussion avoids the point of the original post, which was to argue against a brutal double standard.

    Omar Khadr may (for nothing has been proven) have thrown a grenade in self-defense (soldiers were actively killing anyone around, so there’s no doubt he was under attack). He was then shot 5 times in the back, carried back to jail, given medical treatment, then sent to be tortured, pissed on, and humiliated. He was 15 at the time.

    For this, he has been in jail ever since – in solitary confinement, and he has developed issues with his eye sight. He has been dragged through urine. He has been waterboarded hundreds of times, and denied sleep regularly.

    Remember he was 15, and soldiers were shooting and attacking his home.

    Now this soldier Ayala murders someone out of rage – of which no one denies. He was angry, terribly angry. He was also put into a difficult position based on U.S. (and Canadian, etc) civilians support of a war that should not have happened.

    If U.S. civilians didn’t support the war, it would not have happened. Soldiers depend on civilians to pressure gov’t to do the right thing. They sign up believing civilians will vote for the right people and the right causes… Every single person who screamed “support the troops” is also responsible for putting Ayala into this position where he had to invade a country, and witness a very normal reaction of people defending themselves. For this, we can only blame voters who knew damn well George Bush wanted blood.

    So who knows how Ayala feels about the murder – but regardless, it was murder.

    Now I hope we can see the double standard. Omar Khadr a 15 year old kid is still in jail. Ayala is set free. Omar Khadr had no choice, he was being attacked. Ayala had a choice, he wasn’t being attacked.

    You should scream out inside when you think about this. It should run against everything you believe in.

  19. (edit – sometimes in solitary confinement… didn’t mean to suggest Omar was always held in solitary…)

    not a big difference either way.

  20. Thanks Steph, you don’t know the wonderful barb you threw in at the end, if you knew it would make it a classic: my mother is dead.

    “For the record, working on basic womens rights is hardly Minnesota.”

    No, it is not, because Minnesotans can work on this for themselves…but presumably Afghans, being an inferior species, need Americans to show them the way (at gunpoint no less).

    Paula Loyd worked for the Pentagon. She wore a military uniform, and was accompanying a military patrol. You can say “embedded civilian” all you like, but clearly, from an Afghan point of view, your convenient justifications, rationalizations, and arbitrary classifications (that whitewash reality)…have no consequence. She was not working on a civilian mission, she was not a humanitarian worker, and if she had even half the brain people said she had, she herself would understand very well why she would be targeted.

    I don’t get your Jordanian point at all…and to liken tourism to a war mission is…possibly a good argument after all.

  21. You’re just a critic, Max. You’ll never know reality, only theories, and abstract notions of what is good and what is moral. You’re just typing empty words, because there will never be deeds that come with those words. May you live forever, meaningless.

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

  22. Dear Max,

    In response to my comment about today & being able to spend it w/ ur mother:

    I honestly feel for you that you no longer have your mother to share life’s many joys & I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to lose a parent. I’m sure days like this are hard no matter how long ago the loss was. And just as I say you don’t know me, I have never claimed to know you. When I made the comment at the end of my post yesterday it was made with the most intent possible. I meant nothing other than what I said. If you weren’t able to enjoy today WITH your mother, I hope you found another way to enjoy it, because I do, in fact, KNOW, you are also a person, like everyone else we speak of.

  23. I may be just a critic, but how “never knowing reality” follows from that is beyond me, and you. Aside from being another silly little spurious comment from someone who knows nothing about me — and therefore you become the best evidence for your own argument — it has absolutely nothing to do with this post. Clearly, you resent me for writing it, and rather than address the issues, you target the writer — which makes no sense because the writer is meaningless and never (you hope and pray) takes action. It makes you look like a fool. I say that only as a critic who has known many fools, in reality, and whose meaningless and empty words rope them in by the dozens.

    P.S.: I love your action heroes in Afghanistan, like Paula Loyd: they die, and they die for absolutely nothing. Words will always outlive, and have far more meaning, than any charred corpse lying in a ditch full of sewage…don’t you think? (Rhetorical question.)

  24. No problem Steph, many thanks for your words, but as I said, I could not have expected you to know this. But had you known it, it would have been one sharp and witty way to tell me to “drop dead,” and I actually enjoyed it for that.

  25. If there is any other adolescent fool out there who just can’t stand that there is this one place where their opinions do not get repeated, people who cannot stand that anyone would dare to hold a different view, and wishes to post obscene idiocy and threats…then please go right ahead and post your bigotry and obscenity. Get added to the freakshow, and get reported to the police.

    That’s right: you too can be a “Smart dude”!

    No matter what, Paula Loyd remains dead, and you’re still an idiot.

  26. I have good news, and bad news for you Chas:

    The good news is that kind of statement, and that kind of thinking, ensures that you continue to lose this war. When you can’t think like the other, you’re certain not to win any hearts and minds, especially when you can’t understand perspective.

    The bad news for you is that the argument is fully reversible, and becomes a justification for killing Loyd. Enter with an invading military force — man or woman, it doesn’t matter — you get burned.

    Cheers.

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