This photograph didn’t get much play. In fact, it is hard to find on Google—I found it through the Washington Post, but not until I’d seen it on http://www.stern.de/, Germany’s online version of "der Stern”, a photo magazine, like the Look and Life magazines many of us grew up with. Unfortunately, American corporate media doesn’t show the world as completely as our European counterparts. (The picture was taken in Afghanistan on Nov. 4, 2008, and released to the public on May 8, 2009.)
The story behind the picture…
On May 9th, a contractor for BAE Systems and former Army Ranger, Don Ayala (shown in desert fatigues) was given probation and a fine for his plea of voluntary manslaughter in the execution of a bound Afghani named Abdul Salam. Salam had minutes earlier doused Paula Loyd, another BAE Systems employee with a pitcher of gasoline at set her ablaze. Ayala and Loyd were travelling with an Army platoon in the village of Chehel Gazi. After helping subdue the man and learning of the seriousness of Loyd’s burns, Ayala told an interpreter to tell Salam he was the devil and then shot Salam in the temple with his 9mm weapon. Loyd, who had second and third degree burns over 60 percent of her body, died of her injuries at the famed burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio in January.
Federal sentencing guidelines called for a minimum sentence of over six years, but Judge Hilton of the Second District Court in Virginia gave Ayala probation and a $12,500 fine. He said given the horrific circumstances, and that while the incident didn’t occur on the battlefield, it did happen in the middle of a war, his not following sentencing guidelines was appropriate. In their reports, the headliners at Fox, Cox, and the other corporate media outlets framed the second degree murder as “justifiable rage.”
Ironically, Abdul Salam and the Taliban would have used the same argument had Salam made it to trial. They would have said the violent and horrific attack by Abdul Salam was simply a case of justifiable rage. This political party and now citizen army, the Taliban, took credit for the attack on Loyd. From their perspective, as devout Muslims and proud Afghanis, it is an abomination for foreign troops to be in their country attacking their citizens, religion and culture. It was also an affront to their beliefs for this woman to be in a uniform, doing business and speaking as an equal to Afghani men.
Because of Abdul Salam’s attack killing the infidel and his execution Salam is now both hero and martyr to the Afghani people. According to the papers, Don Ayala is considered a hero by family and friends of Loyd. Seeing only their moment in time, like a photograph, they fail to see the big picture. Justifying rage only continues a cycle of death.