Murderous American Soldiers: Reason To Quit?

WARNING: The following post contains a disturbing photograph.

Syndicated columnist Dan Thomasson wrote in Sunday’s Joplin Globe that it is time to get out of Afghanistan. 

He makes the point that historically speaking the mission is hopeless. He touches on the cost. He mentions that, until the unwise Iraq invasion, early in the Afghanistan war there was a narrow window to get bin Laden and accomplish a “limited engagement there.”  But the time has long passed.

Notwithstanding those legitimate points, Thomasson’s biggest reason to get out seems to be the indisputable fact that the war is not popular with the American people.  He cited that fact twice.

Now, if the war in Afghanistan-Pakistan is strategically important and crucial to our national defense, then it follows that it shouldn’t matter much what the American people think, nor should cost play a major role in deciding to continue.  A leader leads on such matters. 

So, I don’t think the fact that the war has grown unpopular or that our finances are hurting should have an effect on our leaders’ decision to continue the war policy, if it can be demonstrated that the war is vital to our interests.

The question, as always, is how strategically necessary is the war and can we accomplish our goals there?

I submit that a Rolling Stone article published yesterday tells us more about why we may need to get out of Afghanistan than any poll or balance sheet.  The article, “The Kill Team,” featured this subtitle:

How U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan murdered innocent civilians and mutilated their corpses – and how their officers failed to stop them.

You can read the horrific details for yourself and look at the disgusting pictures, but the article begins with introducing us to the unbelievable story of American infantrymen in Kandahar Province discussing among themselves “the notion of killing an Afghan civilian,” essentially for the hell of it:

The poppy plants were still low to the ground at that time of year. The two soldiers, Cpl. Jeremy Morlock and Pfc. Andrew Holmes, saw a young farmer who was working by himself among the spiky shoots. Off in the distance, a few other soldiers stood sentry. But the farmer was the only Afghan in sight. With no one around to witness, the timing was right. And just like that, they picked him for execution.

That young farmer was a 15-year-old kid.  Cpl. Morlock admitted the boy was “not a threat.” The boy, Gul Mudin, followed the soldiers’ instructions. Then,

The soldiers knelt down behind a mud-brick wall. Then Morlock tossed a grenade toward Mudin, using the wall as cover. As the grenade exploded, he and Holmes opened fire, shooting the boy repeatedly at close range with an M4 carbine and a machine gun.

Mudin buckled, went down face first onto the ground. His cap toppled off. A pool of blood congealed by his head.

The top officer present, Capt. Patrick Mitchell, didn’t buy the soldiers’ story that the boy was about to attack them with a grenade, but instead of offering to help the kid, “whom he believed might still be alive,” he instead ordered another soldier to make sure he was dead.  He fired two more shots into his body.

A “local elder,” working in the poppy field, witnessed the murder and immediately accused Morlock and Holmes. They ignored him.  It turned out the elder was the father of the murdered boy.

After every battlefield death, the story continues, there is a routine Army procedure involving stripping the corpse and checking for tatoos that might identify him.  They “scanned his iris and fingerprints.”  The horror continues:

Then, in a break with protocol, the soldiers began taking photographs of themselves celebrating their kill. Holding a cigarette rakishly in one hand, Holmes posed for the camera with Mudin’s bloody and half-naked corpse, grabbing the boy’s head by the hair as if it were a trophy deer. Morlock made sure to get a similar memento.

No one seemed more pleased by the kill than Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, the platoon’s popular and hard-charging squad leader. “It was like another day at the office for him,” one soldier recalls. Gibbs started “messing around with the kid,” moving his arms and mouth and “acting like the kid was talking.” Then, using a pair of razor-sharp medic’s shears, he reportedly sliced off the dead boy’s pinky finger and gave it to Holmes, as a trophy for killing his first Afghan.

According to his fellow soldiers, Holmes took to carrying the finger with him in a zip-lock bag. “He wanted to keep the finger forever and wanted to dry it out,” one of his friends would later report. “He was proud of his finger.”

Failing to be punished for that killing, “the platoon went on a shooting spree over the next four months that claimed the lives of at least three more innocent civilians.”

The story doesn’t end there, including the sad fact that it appears “senior Army leadership” was aware of “the questionable nature of the killings,” but you get the idea.

I recommend you read the rest of the article on an empty stomach.

Something is wrong people.  Something is very wrong.  Is it any wonder that we seem to be making more enemies than friends in Afghanistan-Pakistan? 

Given that, how can we continue?

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