It was reasonable to expect that troops, who knew the errand they were sent upon, would treat the people whom they were to subjugate, with a cruelty and haughtiness which too often buries the honorable character of a soldier in the disgraceful name of an unfeeling ruffian.
There are several reasons why the Boston Massacre is not analogous to the recent massacre of 17 Afghan civilians by Staff Sgt. Robert Bales (& Co.). But this Hancock quote holds an irony I couldn’t ignore. I wrote about a similar theme here.
The Boston Massacre helped unify Bostonians against the military occupation by British troops, which began in earnest in 1768. Murray Rothbard, in Conceived in Liberty Vol. III, wrote that it “was the final straw that sent this most sensitive spot in the American colonies once again to the brink of revolution.” The Kandahar massacre may be helping to unify Americans against the military occupation of Afghanistan. Support for the war has hit an all time low, and more than 70% of Americans believe it isn’t worth it.
The analogy also highlights the correlation between the American revolutionaries and the insurgents in Afghanistan. The U.S. has tightened security following the massacre in Kandahar, fearing revenge attacks. Incidentally, Samuel Adams threatened British troops with an armed insurgency one day after the Boston Massacre. In a town meeting, the governor offered to withdraw one of the two regiments. To which Adams replied: “If you, or Colonel Dalrymple under you, have the power to remove one regiment you have the power to remove both. It is at your peril if you refuse. The meeting is composed of three thousand people. They have become impatient. A thousand men are already arrived from the neighborhood, and the whole country is in motion. Night is approaching. An immediate answer is expected. Both regiments or none!” Adams warned that “unless there was a total evacuation,” Rothbard recounts, “the troops would be destroyed.” Terrorism, in modern-day parlance.
It was around this time that King George decreed that crimes committed by disobedient colonists would be heard in British courts, not American ones. Afghan “terrorists” have met a similar fate in U.S.-controlled Bagram prison or even Guantanamo. Likewise, the King commanded, occupying British forces, if charged with a crime, would be brought to England to be tried, presumably under less threat of due justice. The British troops who killed 5 Bostonians served trial, justly, where the crime was committed. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who killed 17 civilians, was flown out of Afghanistan before his victims’ blood was dry.