Some may say that what happened in Afghanistan recently, the massacre of innocents in the middle of the night by an American soldier, is, unfortunately, what can happen in any war. But such thinking renders the tragedy no less a tragedy and offers no justification for it. While the story becomes clearer over time, the dead remain dead, their lives wasted by a soldier’s madness.

The media give the feeling, along with brewing a heavy dose of anger, that the politics of the situation warrant more concern than the lives taken and those left with unredeemable loss and outrage toward the American beasts. All the right words are being said by those in high places, none of which can undo what has been done. The soldier, himself collaterally damaged by war, is in custody, and assurances are being given of consequences to fit the rampage, as well as serious considerations about its cause. Meanwhile, bodies have been buried and the war rages on.

“Sixteen Dead” the first headlines reported, in ink black as a fleet of hearses. Barely budding lives ripped from the soil and sun of hope and undreamt dreams; families shredded by a soldier’s insanity; a people keening with hate, blaming another people alien to their ways – all from a midnight hour’s nightmare.

War’s inhumanity is all too human. There can be no guarantees to protect the innocent, but there is always the expectation that military minds will work overtime to do so. In this instance they seem to have come up more than a few hours short. The questions being asked are uncovering answers that point to mismanagement of personnel, battle fatigue and military-base security as well as other factors.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, 16 strangers, all dead, remain just that – strangers. It is as if their anonymity allows the media to treat them merely as collateral damage and nothing else. Just hours before the rampage, nine children were probably fussing about going to bed, getting tickles and hugs of persuasion – only to wake to a very real nightmare. Eight others could do nothing to save them, or themselves.

It has happened before (Remember My Lai?) and it will happen again – as long as war is a language spoken in place of sanity. Such tragedies may “come with the territory,” but why does that territory have to be part of our humanness? A world without war is not in anyone’s foreseeable future, but can what happened in Afghanistan widen eyes to the possibility, if not the necessity of making any war in some distant millennium at least an endangered species?