There's a man from the Panjwai district of Afghanistan who could swap stories with Job of the Old Testament and possibly come out on top.
When Nazim Shah returned home from a trip to nearby Kandahar, he found his entire family dead -- they had been murdered by an American soldier.
On Sunday, the unidentified Army staff sergeant, a veteran of deployments in Iraq, left his base without permission and wandered into a nearby village shortly before dawn. The 38-year-old father of two then allegedly entered several homes with his high-powered guns blazing.
The soldier shot 16 unarmed civilians still rubbing sleep from their eyes as they awoke to a nightmare beyond their comprehension. Even by the slippery definitions of modern warfare, it was a massacre.
"All my family is dead," Mr. Shah told a reporter from The Independent of London. "We will get revenge on those who killed my family. We won't let this rest easily." It was a cry of the heart as old as the scriptures of several religions. It was a tragedy that would have been as intolerable in Job's time as it is in ours.
Because nine of the 16 victims were children ranging in age from 6 to 9, the indignation, horror and outrage in Afghanistan is boiling over. The children were treated like enemy combatants in the seconds the staff sergeant allegedly took to kill them. The women were shot in the head as callously as the unarmed men.
In addition to 16 murdered civilians, there are five survivors currently being treated for their wounds by American trauma units. If they live, they'll provide valuable testimony to what happened when an American soldier with unknown motives fired upon Afghans like he had been issued unlimited rounds of ammo at a video arcade.
A day doesn't go by in Afghanistan without a reminder of philosopher Thomas Hobbes' observation that life is "nasty, brutish and short" -- it has been vindicated millions of times since he wrote those words more than 300 years ago.
The Macedonian military under Alexander the Great was among the first to attempt occupying a land that resists foreign occupation with a ferocity that never abates. Afghanistan has always been a land mass that could be invaded, even overrun, but never truly conquered.
The British and more recently the Soviets were humiliated by insurgents who would not have been out of place in the seventh century, even with advanced weapons supplied by American intelligence. Now it is our turn to admit to a ridiculously detached public that we can never win enough hearts and minds in Afghanistan to make the last decade of war and occupation worth it.
Our ostensible reason for being in that country has been removed with the death of Osama bin Laden. The mental health of American soldiers during this never-ending war is not optimal. The suicide rate among those burdened with too many deployments to Afghanistan is at historic levels.
According to the latest ABC/Washington Post poll, 60 percent of Americans are solidly against the war. No sane American wants to kill or die to prop up the Karzai regime, one of the most corrupt governments in the world, yet no one can give a coherent answer as to why we're still there. National pride doesn't count as "coherent."
In recent weeks, young Americans have responded to a slick, if simplistic, campaign aimed at raising awareness about a murderous African warlord named Joseph Kony, the leader of a band of butchers known as the Lord's Resistance Army. Mr. Kony and the LRA have been terrorizing Central Africa for a decade. If anyone deserves to be demonized, Mr. Kony does.
Still, I can't help but wonder why the imagination of American youth hasn't been similarly engaged with the American war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq -- two wars that are responsible for bankrupting much of their future.
It wouldn't shock me if a clever Afghan filmmaker parodied the "Kony 2012" campaign by drawing parallels between President Barack Obama and the fugitive warlord. From the perspective of the Afghan civilians who suffer the brunt of collateral damage from "rogue" soldiers, drone strikes, terrorist blowback and soldiers simply doing their jobs with brutal efficiency, the distinction between Western benevolence and Kony-style terror is purely academic.
Life is nasty, brutal and short in either case.
Tony Norman: email@example.com ; 412-263-1631; Twitter@TonyNormanPG.