Hearts, Minds, and Fingers

I guess my viewing of the excellent Barak Goodman’s American Experience: My Lai documentary was rather timely:

Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret “kill team” that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies.

Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering three Afghan men who were allegedly killed for sport in separate attacks this year. Seven others are accused of covering up the killings and assaulting a recruit who exposed the murders when he reported other abuses, including members of the unit smoking hashish stolen from civilians.

In one of the most serious accusations of war crimes to emerge from the Afghan conflict, the killings are alleged to have been carried out by members of a Stryker infantry brigade based in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan.

According to investigators and legal documents, discussion of killing Afghan civilians began after the arrival of Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs at forward operating base Ramrod last November. Other soldiers told the army’s criminal investigation command that Gibbs boasted of the things he got away with while serving in Iraq and said how easy it would be to “toss a grenade at someone and kill them”.

What were they thinking?

With any organization as large as the military, you are going to have some bad eggs. As my drill sergeant was fond of saying when he stressed the importance of securing your wall locker, “There was a thief in your Sunday school class.” And I understand the extraordinary stress these soldiers are under, and don’t know if I would have been able to survive.

Having said that, what I don’t understand is how so many go along with it. We’re not talking about one bad egg here- we’re talking about a group of 12 that is accused of some horrible, heinous crimes. And again, the thing we need to keep in mind is that we are just learning about this, but the Afghan civilians have known about this for a while. Again, the secret war in Laos was not a secret to Lao.

And it goes without saying that even though it is the Army that is making these charges, the 101st Chairborne will spend the next few months claiming liberals are smearing the troops for talking about this.






89 replies
  1. 1
    danimal says:

    Will we ever regain our international stature after Abu Ghraib and this? Why can’t the 101st Chairborne understand that this stuff HURTS our national security?

  2. 2
    Thunderlizard says:

    Abject failure of leadership by whoever had 3 stripes or any bars or rockers in that group…

    PS Afghani is a currency. An Afghan is a person.

  3. 3
    WereBear says:

    I recall the armed forces dropped their requirements severely during these conflicts.

    Scooping up the sociopaths was part of the plan.

  4. 4
    cleek says:

    what are we doing there ? someone remind me.

  5. 5
    cleek says:

    @Thunderlizard:

    An Afghan is a person.

    and a blanket

  6. 6
    Hugin & Munin says:

    Milgram.

    PS: FYWP.

  7. 7
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    The UCMJ is a great idea, in the same way that the Constitution is a great idea. There are some great ideals in it, that most people cannot follow because it requires higher level abstract thought. Take the one about not following an unlawful command, which is what should have applied here. From my experience in the Navy under non-combat conditions, peer pressure and lack of understanding easily overrides that command. When is a command unlawful?

    Most people cannot look at a situation and see it not only as a participant, but as an observer. Because of this, most cannot make the choices necessary to override the instinct to go along.

  8. 8

    I firmly believe that most “Secret” information is kept secret only against US civilians. Every intelligence organization in the world already knows all this stuff. The enemy sure as heck knows it. And the folks who are actually performing the deeds know it.

    Philosophical discussion of the day:

    If it is okay to kill Vietnamese because they were living under a dictatorship and it is okay to kill Iraqis because they were living under a dictatorship and it is okay to kill Afghans because they were living under a very repressive government, would it be okay to kill Americans because we live under a government that allows this stuff to be done and keeps it from us?

    I know that you and I did not commit these horrible crimes. That is beside the point. How many the people in Iraq killed in the recent years were actually guilty of the crimes Hussein was accused of?

  9. 9
    Face says:

    Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret “kill team” that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies.

    Where do I go to bet on “innocent of all charges” or “dismissed due to state’s secrets privledges”?

  10. 10
    Mike in NC says:

    In my district there’s a guy named Pantano running for Congress. He used to work on Wall Street but went on active duty with the Marines after 9/11 and served in Iraq, where he was eventually accused of killing unarmed prisoners. The USMC decided not to court martial him, and Pantano went on to write a book called “Warlord” about his adventures.

    During the primary even his fellow Republicans denounced him as a probable war criminal, but apparently in America today that’s a feature, not a bug. I imagine he stands a good shot at getting elected.

  11. 11
    Punchy says:

    That’s a BRITISH rag! Like anyone in the US will even hear about this. A nothingburger.

  12. 12
    peach flavored shampoo says:

    forward operating base Ramrod

    Is this a joke? Naming bases after characters in Super Troopers?

  13. 13
    jon says:

    Having said that, what I don’t understand is how so many go along with it.

    People who shoot people for sport are not the kind of people you just report to the supervisors. I’d probably wait until I was far away from the war zone, the base, the military, and any one of the perpetrators’ families before even considering dropping a dime on those kind of people. The witnesses are probably in undisclosed locations, which will make it all the easier for the Neocon-fluffing Chairborne to dismiss their claims.

  14. 14
    JohnR says:

    Hey, that would make a great movie! How about calling it something like Magnum Force, Afghan-style!
    (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose)

  15. 15
    Punchy says:

    At least they didn’t unleash the Willy Pete. Cuz that would have been 10 times worse.

  16. 16
    Zifnab says:

    With any organization as large as the military, you are going to have some bad eggs. As my drill sergeant was fond of saying when he stressed the importance of securing your wall locker, “There was a thief in your Sunday school class.” And I understand the extraordinary stress these soldiers are under, and don’t know if I would have been able to survive.

    Blah blah blah.

    You know, if this was petty theft (or even grand larceny) I could be more forgiving. But you’re talking about a group of men that “killed for sport”.

    Killed. For sport.

    That’s not stealing from the locker room. That’s serial killer style shit.

    It’s not entirely shocking. You’re taking young men, sometimes teenagers, and putting them in a very rigid command structure that regularly orders them to go out and kill people. Killing people wins you praise. Killing the wrong people can STILL win you praise if you play it right. Then folks act shocked when some of these people start liking it.

    The military is, functionally, evil. That’s the bottom line. It’s a restrained and rationalized and apologized evil. But it’s still an organization dedicated to tyrannizing and murdering people en mass.

    When an evil organization produces evil people, why do we all stand around in shock?

  17. 17
  18. 18
    John S. says:

    the 101st Chairborne will spend the next few months claiming liberals are smearing the troops for talking about this

    Even while the same assholes nod their heads in approval at the clowns burning the Koran who actually may harm the troops.

    I guess it’s Michelle Malkin’s word vs. General Petraeus’.

  19. 19
    Ramiah Ariya says:

    And I understand the extraordinary stress these soldiers are under, and don’t know if I would have been able to survive.

    You know, it would be nice if people would issue these qualifications, and thus humanize criminals even outside their tribe.
    For example,

    And I understand the extraordinary stress the Al-Qaeda miltants were under, in Iraq, and don’t know if I would have been able to survive

    I think if you qualified every Al-Qaeda bombing in Iraq with the above words, it would reflect some, what is the word, balance.

    Seriously, why do you feel the need to qualify the US Army atrocities with phrases such “a few bad eggs” and ” the stress they are under” and so on? Why can’t you just call a war criminal a criminal?

  20. 20
    uila says:

    From the department of ridiculous journalistic details…

    … recruit who exposed the murders when he reported other abuses, including members of the unit smoking hashish stolen from civilians.

    Recruit: Colonel, these guys are killing civilians for sport!

    Colonel: [murmurs]

    Recruit: and cutting off their fingers as trophies…

    Colonel: [disinterested sigh]

    Recruit: and they’re always taping my ass cheeks together…

    Colonel: [snore]

    Recruit: and they’re smoking stolen hashish…

    Colonel: [jumps up, bangs desk] Goddamit Gump, why didn’t you say something! These dope fiends are a foul stain upon the US Military!

  21. 21
    Larry Signor says:

    These men killed gratuitously in my name, in your name, in our name. It really is time to go home.

  22. 22
    balconesfault says:

    When you have a bunch of 19-23 year olds pumped up with adrenaline from shooting and being shot at every day, it’s very easy to conceive of the wrong leader making them march to the wrong drumbeat. Jesus H. Christ – not to go all all Godwin here, but the Germans had no problem getting guys to machine gun down unarmed Jews for breaking from the line to the gas chamber.

    So the fact that a Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs could not only exist, but could get transferred from a leadership role in Iraq to one in Afghanistan, means that there are some serious chain of command issues. I can’t believe that this guy went through Iraq without tripping any bells or whistles, and sending him back out into the field with a role in guiding a bunch of youngsters is just indicative of a massive breakdown that some people should be getting their asses kicked over.

    Plug time – go see Restrepo if you want to have a feel for what these guys are going through every day in the field. It must take tremendous leadership to keep civilian killings from regularly occurring.

  23. 23
    John Cole says:

    @Zifnab: I’m seriously confused what you are ranting about. Murders happen every day, all across the country. There are murderers who work for IBM, murderers who work at your local university. Murderers in an organization the size of the army.

    Jeebus. I wasn’t trying to excuse anything.

    Did everyone decide that in September, reading comprehension no longer mattered, and I just wasn’t informed?

  24. 24
    John Cole says:

    @Ramiah Ariya: See my comment to Zifnab.

    I pretty clearly said I understand the stress they are under, but it is no excuse.

    I give up. From now on, I am just going to post links to articles and you all can make up what I said. That is what you are doing anyway.

  25. 25
    Martin says:

    Far more people are willing to yield to authoritarianism than most realize, and the military draws somewhat disproportionately from that pool. 99% of the time it’s not a problem – but if you get an authoritarian leader who is adept at finding followers and who happens to be something of a sociopath, then you get shit like this.

    The military is actually pretty good at providing checks and balances to ensure this kind of thing doesn’t happen because they are perfectly aware of the possible consequences, but during active military duty it’s much harder for them to do it.

    The bad eggs aren’t really the ones you need to keep your eye on so much as without followers to validate their ideas they’re usually not that big of a problem. It’s when that group forms – like the stereotyped clique of HS mean girls from movies, that’s when everyone’s moral compass is at risk and the bad shit happens.

  26. 26
    Larry Signor says:

    @John Cole: Your point is well made. You did bring this to our attention not condone it.

  27. 27
  28. 28
    TomG says:

    If we didn’t have any troops in Afghanistan, these alleged atrocities wouldn’t be happening there. Same thing with the servicemen in Japan who are accused (and sometimes convicted) of raping young women there.
    I don’t understand this nonsense of why “our national interest” or “our national security” requires us to be in all these countries. That’s a total crock.
    Our military needs to be smaller, and restricted to defending this country against attack – not spread around a dozen or more countries that we are not even at war with.

  29. 29
    Rosalita says:

    @peach flavored shampoo:

    could be Springsteen fans…

  30. 30
    lacp says:

    So they hate us for our freedom to murder them and cut their fingers off?

  31. 31

    It is way too early in the day for this stuff.

  32. 32
    Dracula says:

    Why trophy fingers? Easy to hide? Do they have a good supply of formaldehyde in which to store these?

  33. 33
    danimal says:

    @John Cole:

    From now on, I am just going to post links to articles and you all can make up what I said.

    Good idea. It’s easy, Cole. Just add a “heh.” Or an “indeed” and you have an insta-blogpost.

  34. 34
    Guster says:

    That’s one brave recruit.

    I wouldn’t have been one of the five perpetrators, but between being one of the seven guys who did nothing and the lone recruit who did the right thing? I just don’t know.

  35. 35
    Shane in Utah says:

    I’m glad someone’s talking about this Heart of Darkness bullshit. There’s not a word about it on the pages of the New York fucking Times or CNN…

  36. 36
    rickstersherpa says:

    I expect a great many of the 101st Chairborne will respond by saying “slander” or even by saying “I don’t see the problem.” See the war criminals who the Republican/Tea Party will be electing to Congress like Pantano. They have long since kissed off any sense of honor, which is what is suppose to distinguish a soldier from thug.

    Malkin, Limbaugh, Hannity, Ailes, etc. could not give a rat’s fart about the troops or America’s safety and honor. It all about “hits,” audience numbers, and “chah-ching” for their bank accounts.

  37. 37
    Alice Blue says:

    Will any of these guys be court-martialed or punished in any way? I’m not betting on it.

  38. 38
    ruemara says:

    Not enough time in the day to shout what is wrong with this situation. I think I’d rather we just up and left and take the international sting of losing-because they all know we didn’t win a damn thing-than attempt to stay put a bit longer so we can craft some cover with failure of a corrupt puppet government. We just need to go and then we need to spend some time kicking some ass within ranks of sociopaths and evil asses that snuck in.

  39. 39
    Roger Moore says:

    @Face:

    Where do I go to bet on “innocent of all charges” or “dismissed due to state’s secrets privledges”?

    I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t bet that way. The people involved here are a bunch of peons, so it’s OK to leave them out to dry. What’s not going to happen is any kind of investigation of their unit as a whole to see if any higher-ups knew about it and didn’t do anything. They’re just a few bad apples, and there’s definitely no systemic problem with our military.

  40. 40
    Thlayli says:

    the secret war in Laos was not a secret to Laotians.

    “Look, Martha, here come the bombs.”

  41. 41
    Nutella says:

    What we really need to prevent this is universal conscription. Then the people in the military will include many who are there just to do their time as a civic duty and get out. Those will be much more likely to report criminal behavior than the volunteer army which will have a much higher percentage of people who either are focused on professional advancement in the army or who joined because they like violence.

    The other advantage of universal conscription is that it might slow down people like GWB from starting wars if he knew that the twins would be drafted. That’s why it won’t happen though. War is so important to the ruling class that they make sure they and their families don’t have to participate in it.

  42. 42
    burnspbesq says:

    @Ramiah Ariya:

    Seriously, why do you feel the need to qualify the US Army atrocities with phrases such “a few bad eggs” and ” the stress they are under” and so on? Why can’t you just call a war criminal a criminal?

    Umm, because not every member of the US military is a war criminal? Or can your mind not process that concept? And if not, why not?

  43. 43
    Violet says:

    One of the accused, Jeremy Morlock, is a family friend of the Palins. He played hockey in the same league as Track Palin. Also, the house that Willow Palin vandalized (that whole story made the National Enquirer, but was mostly ignored by the media), was supposedly owned by the Morlocks.

  44. 44
    Guster says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Umm, because not every member of the US military is a war criminal? Or can your mind not process that concept? And if not, why not?

    Yeah, but shouldn’t that be kinda, you know, assumed? Do we really need to issue qualifications?

  45. 45
    GVG says:

    I don’t see this as really a military problem. Its a socipath problem which can and does happen in all kinds of organizations including some that were conceived to do much nicer things. These men did the killing for kicks, not in the heat of battle nor the fog of war. They also knew it had to be covered up meaning they knew superiors would arrest them if it was found out. They didn’t beat up the new guy because he disobeyed orders. They intimidated others (I think its implied) to keep it covered up. They did NOT get orders from above to randomly kill civilians, and take trophy fingers-not even Cheney lackies would see any point.
    The military caught on and investigated and is now prosecuting. If the evidence and trial supports the gist of this article, then they’ll get death of life in jail which is all we can do.
    This is not precisely like Mai Lai in that there is no reason to think what really happened is that higher ups ordered these killings on the idea it would accomplish something and these guys aren’t just lower level people who are allowed to take all the blame (which is what I think is the significance of Calley and IMSuspicions about Abu Gaihab). this is more like various nasty murders you’ve read of.
    Of course sometimes more info comes out later and its better or worse than it sounded at first. This is the first story. I could change my opinion drastically if the story changes.

  46. 46
    cmorenc says:

    Informing on a psychopath with weapons who seemingly has the support of several malleable sociopaths with weapons takes a formidable amount of personal courage, especially when you either: a) might have to go out on patrol with this group again after you’ve informed on them to higher-ups; b) even if you get immediately transferred, can’t be sure you won’t be harassed and put in jeopardy by other sociopaths who know why you transferred and who mistrust and resent you for being a known rat-fuck snitch, rather than respecting you for doing the right, and difficult thing.

  47. 47
    KevinNYC says:

    I’ve read a lot of books on the Iraq/Afghan wars, but one recent book really showed how bad combat got there. Black Hearts is a book ostensibly about a group of soldiers committed a war crime, but as the author looked into, it’s a story of how poor leadership affects a group, how constant threat of death can change a group of men. These soldiers were stationed in the “Triangle of Death,” right near where Al Qaeda in Iraq had a munitions dump that US intel didn’t learn about for a while, they were understaffed and routinely got hit by IED’s multiple times a day. Their Lt. Colonel asked them to guard outposts with as few as 3-5 men and do it for days at a time. Which meant even when you were not on guard, you slept in an extremely insecure little house and thus never really had any respite from combat. It’s a story about how bad Iraq was in 2005 and 2006, but the book came out this year. The crime the four soldiers committed was horrific, but the book really lets you see how these soldiers got to that point.

  48. 48
  49. 49
    Violet says:

    BTW, this has been in the news for awhile. Here’s a link from June 8th to a Yahoo News story about Jeremy Morlock, who is the first soldier charged.

    I think the “saving fingers as trophies” angle is only just making the news, though, so perhaps that grotesqueness will get this story more attention.

  50. 50
    elm says:

    @cmorenc: According to Violet’s link the soldier who reported this was severely beaten for reporting illegal drug use in his unit. He reported the murders while hospitalized for that beating.

  51. 51
    D. Mason says:

    @Alice Blue:

    These are soldiers we’re talking about, not cops. Someone will be hanged high for what happened here but not the someones truly responsible.

  52. 52
    Stillwater says:

    @burnspbesq: Umm, because not every member of the US military is a war criminal? Or can your mind not process that concept? And if not, why not?

    I’m also sick of the apologetics, qualifications, excessive nuance, etc. used when talking about our military. No one thinks that the kids that sign up are sociopaths. But the institution itself is sociopathic. The current functional purpose of the US military has nothing to do with defense, in any non-Orwellian meaning of that term. It’s pretty clear that the use of military force by the US follows a couple basic core principles, which trade lives and cultures for either resource attainment, the scoring of cheap political points for the home-team fans, or a perpetuation of US MIC/hegemonic dreams of ruling the world by force alone.

  53. 53
    Catsy says:

    One of the accused, Jeremy Morlock

    Are you fucking shitting me?

    Now I know the universe has a rich sense of irony.

  54. 54
    elmo says:

    @D. Mason:

    Yeah. If they were cops, they also would have taken the victims’ belongings, sold them at auction, and used the proceeds to benefit the unit.

  55. 55
    burnspbesq says:

    @GVG:

    I could change my opinion drastically if the story changes.

    Open-mindedness makes you a DFH, dontcha know? You may get punched in the neck some day.

  56. 56
    Silver says:

    Paid killers kill.

    News at 11.

  57. 57
    burnspbesq says:

    @Stillwater:

    I’m not able to tease out the logic of your comment. Is there a point buried in there somewhere, or is it pure rant?

  58. 58
    Stefan says:

    Plug time – go see Restrepo if you want to have a feel for what these guys are going through every day in the field. It must take tremendous leadership to keep civilian killings from regularly occurring.

    Also go see Restrepo if you want to have a feel for what the Taliban are going through every day in the field. It must take tremendous leadership to keep civilian nose cuttings and stoning of adulterers from regularly occurring…..

  59. 59
    cyntax says:

    @Stillwater:

    It’s pretty clear that the use of military force by the US follows a couple basic core principles, which trade lives and cultures for either resource attainment, the scoring of cheap political points for the home-team fans, or a perpetuation of US MIC/hegemonic dreams of ruling the world by force alone.

    I think you’re right that the US military is often used to accomplish these ends, but the military doesn’t draw up its marching orders.

    Numerous generals said we shouldn’t invade Iraq. General Shinseki had his career effectively ended for contradicting the Bush/Cheney line when he told Congress we’d need at least 400-500,000 troops and that even then we might not “win,” and certainly not in the time frame the admin was claiming. The military is an extension of the policy this country makes, so ulitmately its actions are our responsibility. When we go to war with bad assumptions and for the wrong reasons, we get exactly these sorts of results.

    Having said all that, these guys deserve to spend the rest of their lives in Leavenworth and I’m nearly certain they will.

  60. 60
    rf80412 says:

    @Nutella: That is exactly why universal conscription will never come back. The military wants professionals who will fully embrace the identity and the mission, and not bring anything of themselves … especially a moral compass; the military wants professionals who won’t want to go home, who do “love the smell of napalm in the morning” as it were; the military wants professionals who see themselves as separate from and above civilians and therefore no longer care about them, either at home or abroad. That was the lesson they learned from Vietnam.

  61. 61
    cyntax says:

    @rf80412:

    The military wants professionals who will fully embrace the identity and the mission, and not bring anything of themselves … especially a moral compass; the military wants professionals who won’t want to go home, who do “love the smell of napalm in the morning” as it were; the military wants professionals who see themselves as separate from and above civilians and therefore no longer care about them, either at home or abroad. That was the lesson they learned from Vietnam.

    Really? What experience of yours leads you to this conclusion?

  62. 62
    rf80412 says:

    @cyntax: This assumes the the military would draw up different and more peaceful orders for itself. That’s unlikely, because it’d be like asking any other employed person to deliberately idle themselves. Junior officers want promotions; grunts want to fuck shit up; and mercs want to make money. Our military will never be content to be massively downsized and the remainder absorbed into the National Guard, especially the bulk of soldiers who have no real skills other than shooting. In other countries where organized militaries have experienced permanent large-scale demobilization, soldiers turn to those skills to put food on the table, and an explosion of gang violence and organized crime usually follows, often metastasizing into warlordism that brings down the entire society. Arguing that the military is the helpless pawn of power-mad civilians masturbating to war porn is a gross oversimplification; these guys joined for a reason.

  63. 63
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    Maybe Time can do a cover with fingerless corpses and the caption “What happens if America stays in Afghanistan.”

  64. 64
    cyntax says:

    @rf80412:

    Arguing that the military is the helpless pawn of power-mad civilians masturbating to war porn is a gross oversimplification; these guys joined for a reason.

    Well that is a gross-oversimplification of what I said. So you’ve got that going for you. But the idea that soldiers are going to return to the US and become warlords and gangsters sounds like you’ve been reading too much apocalyptic fiction. And I stand by what I actually said which is that many within the military did not want to fight in Iraq; which is a fact that your over-simplified reading of the military can’t account for.

    But hey, people like conspiracy theories and strawmen to beat up on, so I don’t see much point in trying to convince you otherwise.

  65. 65
    rf80412 says:

    @cyntax: Seems like common knowledge to me. In general, conscripts are never as well trained or conditioned physically and mentally as professionals, plus they have a life to go back to. They see military service as a break from that life, and as something they’d prefer would end sooner rather than later.

    After Vietnam, the military establishment was shocked by the breakdown of discipline and morale that occurred there. Fragging, drug use, malingering, as well as the ripple effects across the entire culture that cast military service in a bad light for a generation. They were determined to avoid that, and abandoning conscription in favor of a professional all-volunteer military that ate, slept, and breathed “warfighting” was their answer.

    As far as personal experience, I’ve lived in San Diego for 26 years. The maps say we’re surrounded by Marines – Camp Pendleton, the Marine Corp Recruitment Depot (equivalent to Ferris Island), MCAS Miramar, not to mention the Naval Air Station you can see from Downtown San Diego – and retired Marines, but they have no presence here. Any poised and athletic young men you’re likely to encounter are almost guaranteed to be not Marines but gay instead. I’ve been on the bases more than once, and I can tell you that they’re just like the lavish megabases you hear about in Iraq: I would argue obviously designed so that the Marines would have no reason to leave except to patronize a bar or a strip club. When I was in school, I didn’t know of a single kid who had a Marine for a parent; I think they just don’t send their kids to civilian schools. You only see these guys standing guard at the airport after a security alert.

  66. 66
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    @Catsy:

    And he’s from Wasilla, for what it’s worth.

  67. 67
    patrick II says:

    The experiences I had in military led me to understand how easy it would be to create a Nazi Germany. I saw what isolation, and deference to the authority and I can only describe as submission to a kind of close-knit peer pressure could do to people under pressure.
    For those in the comments above who think what has happened was due to an unusual grouping of sociopaths, I sadly disagree. Believe it or not, all too many people are capable of doing some pretty horrible things given wrong circumstances. It is why I am so alarmed at the glorification of military and use of fear as basic themes that drive the politics of this country.
    We are not a city on a shining hill. We are a country that has been built and mostly lived by important principles which if we abandon will leave us at the mercy of the worst of us and in us.
    Sorry to be so preachy, but it is just that this type of abomination is not a surprise or shock to me. It seems more like being in a country driven to follow a doomed course and instances like this are the eddies that flow off of the edge of the ship of state as it plunges.
    Damn, I need to watch the comedy channel or have a stiff drink or something.

  68. 68
    D-Chance. says:

    According to investigators and legal documents, discussion of killing Afghan civilians began after the arrival of Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs at forward operating base Ramrod last November.

    Last November… hmmm… who was the commander-in-chief and bearer of ultimate responsibility last November? Oh, yeah, the O’ster. But, he’s on the Blue Team, so IOKIYAD. Besides, what’s a little war criminaling when your guy is in power?

  69. 69
    rf80412 says:

    @cyntax: I’m just going by what has happened historically after the downsizing of large military establishments, most notably in Iraq itself after the Iraqi Military was abolished. When you take large numbers of young men with no skills or experience beyond fighting and drop them into the unemployment offices, with all the emotional damage that war can cause, you find that civilian society simply has no place for them. Especially in the Third World, they fall back on what they know.

    Even if you thought that the US Military would consent to being downsized – beyond outsourcing everything except shooting, which they have wholeheartedly embraced – do you think there’d be a second GI Bill passed along with the downsizing? I don’t. These guys would be dumped on the streets just like after Vietnam. We’re also in the middle of a major recession – unemployment hasn’t been this bad since the Great Depresssion. Putting not only several hundred thousand soldiers out of work, but also a couple million at least civilians who support them as well, would only make things worse, and they’d be extremely unlikely to find meaningful employment especially now.

  70. 70
    burnspbesq says:

    @rf80412:

    If you think the Marines are invisible in San Diego County, I’d like to know in which part of the county you live. They certainly weren’t invisible in OC before the two MCASs up here closed. And they’re certainly not invisible in the parts of San Diego County I visit on an occasional basis.

  71. 71
    justin says:

    @GVG:
    A bunch of soldiers forming a death squad, killing civilians, and collecting body parts is not really a military problem, but a psycopath problem that can generalize to any organization, even ones that do nice things? Really? If that isn’t a military problem, then I have no idea what a military problem could possibly be. I think I’ll have to assume that you wrote stupidly, it happens in comment threads. But I should at least call this out for the dumb.

  72. 72
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    @Catsy:

    Oh, and the soldier who reported hashish smoking was Pfc. Stoner. Here’s a link.

  73. 73
    Meg says:

    @Bruce (formerly Steve S.): It seems to be the case that lots of troubled teens from Wasilla ended up joining the army. It is either jail time or fight for your country and become a hero. Track Palin, Jeremy Morlock(a Palin friend) and the Prom date of Bristol Palin from 2005 are a few examples. And then you wonder what they might do in a place where they have great power over helpless people.

  74. 74
    elmo says:

    @rf80412:

    With respect, if you aren’t seeing the Marines, it’s because you aren’t looking in the right places. Did you have occasion to visit Oceanside during the first Gulf War? It was a damn ghost town. Bodie has more people in it.

    Granted, if your main frame of reference is Mission Valley and its environs, or North Park or Hillcrest, then you probably aren’t seeing them. If you’re living in one of the Eastern North County developments that sprung up in the 80’s, maybe not there either. But bang around the less well-off East County, South Bay, and western North County neighborhoods — especially the ones that were built before Pete Wilson was mayor — and you’ll see plenty of Navy, Marines, and lots and lots and lots of retirees.

    (Navy brat here — moved to Santee as a toddler in 1969, grew up there, went to USD law school, and finally left California in 2003.)

  75. 75
    burnspbesq says:

    @justin:

    GVG is certainly able to speak for him or herself, but I took his or her point to be that this behavior is neither systemic nor endemic to the US military. That seems to be to be absolutely true, and if you believe otherwise, I’d like to know why.

  76. 76
    John Cole says:

    @D-Chance.: My god you are a moron.

  77. 77
    Stillwater says:

    @burnspbesq: Mostly rant. I was responding to your statement that most US military members are not war criminals, which I agree with about. (I got sloppy and deleted some stuff that would have made that clear.) But the upshot is that the initial invasions of both countries were, in my view, criminal acts, and so, while everyone there may not be a war criminal, they are, in my view, violating UN and Nuremberg provisions against military aggression and acts of war, as well as possibly being war criminals insofar as they took part in carpet bombings, destruction of water and electric plants, invasion of homes and communities, etc. That does not constitute a necessary use of military force, even in a just war.

    The rest was rant.

  78. 78
    Paul in KY says:

    rf80412, IMO the reason the draft was stopped was because the political leaders saw the ruckus people made when there was a finite chance they would end up in the military & being shot at & changed it so that only volunteers would be subject to the unpleasant possibilities of being a member of the armed forces.

    The reasons you mentioned are only ancilliary (IMO) to the main reason I outlined above.

  79. 79
    the pair says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Or in other words: “I vas just followink orDERS! I saw nuthINK!”

    Taking part in an illegal war = War Criminal. Period.

    Also, last time I checked, there is no draft. Like it not, many soldiers sign up for the ability to kill and get away with it. Remember how Iraq was “payback for 9/11”? If you join the military in this age of widely available information on what that military is doing, you’re either complicit or willfully ignorant. Abu Ghraib wasn’t last week. Fallujah wasn’t last month. The dead pregnant women made to look like “honor killings” aren’t a State Secret.

    If you feel some fraternity with soldiers, fine. Whatever. But don’t pretend they’re a bunch of Peace Corp angels that happen to carry automatic weapons and that these assholes are the exception. In Vietnam it’s a safe bet many of the atrocities were committed by guys that didn’t want to be there and were responding badly to a bad situation. For Iraq and Afghanistan that doesn’t hold water. Don’t want to be called a War Criminal? Then don’t go to war.

  80. 80
    Stillwater says:

    @cyntax: I think you’re right that the US military is often used to accomplish these ends, but the military doesn’t draw up its marching orders.

    But see, that’s precisely the kind of nuance and qualification that I’m referring to. You’re right (for the most part) that the military doesn’t draw up its marching orders. But those are the orders nonetheless: missions to kill or destroy in order to get a president re-elected, to distract the public, to get the oil, etc. That’s the culture soldiers and airmen live in: killing for pretty trivial reasons. So, naturally, since that isn’t tolerable for most people, they come up with a grander reason: defending freedom throughout the world. And then there’s the corollary of that: how dare you criticize soldiers who are defending freedom throughout the world?!

    The problem is that the institution and its purpose, as it is currently exists, is inherently based on compromised morality. And it fosters further moral compromises in people. It’s amazing to me that any kids can come back from Iraq – knowing what they know and seeing what they’ve seen – and still lead normal lives. (I know a few. I’m always amazed by them.)

  81. 81
    justin says:

    @justin:
    It’s a military problem because…

    There are a couple of explanations for what happened here. These are not the only explanations, just some off the top of my head.

    1. This particular squad won the psychopath lottery, but an organization like the NAACP could have just as easily won the psychopath lottery. This is still a military problem given that a group of 12 psychopathic NAACP lawyers are not likely to be able to start murdering people and collecting their fingers as trophies.

    2. These are not psychopaths, but relatively normal young men in horrifying circumstances of war. Perhaps the leadership or authority of one sociopath influenced the rest. It is still a military problem in that no other organization, like say, Oxfam, is going to create a context in which one loose cannon is going to turn those around him into killing machines that murder people and collect body trophies.

  82. 82
    burnspbesq says:

    @the pair:

    Or in other words: “I vas just followink orDERS! I saw nuthINK!”

    Show me on the doll where I said that.

    Taking part in an illegal war = War Criminal. Period

    That may be the law in some parallel universe, but it isn’t the law in the one in which we live. In U.S. v. Keenan, a Vietnam War case, the Court of Military Appeals said,

    the justification for acts done pursuant to orders does not exist if the order was of such a nature that a man of ordinary sense and understanding would know it to be illegal

    Conversely, military personnel who obey an order that they reasonably, but mistakenly, believe to be a lawful order should not be subject to criminal liability for following that order.

  83. 83
    Jason In the Peg says:

    Might I suggest the following excellent book:

    http://www.amazon.com/Ordinary.....038;sr=1-1

    “the sad-sack German draftees who perpetrated much of the Holocaust were not expressing some uniquely Germanic evil, but that they were average men comparable to the run of humanity, twisted by historical forces into inhuman shapes.”

    (Sorry about the URL)

  84. 84
    elm says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Conversely, military personnel who obey an order that they reasonably, but mistakenly, believe to be a lawful order should not be subject to criminal liability for following that order.

    Logic doesn’t work that way. Also, too ignorance of the law isn’t a defense.

  85. 85
    burnspbesq says:

    @elm:

    Show me I’m wrong about what the law is. With citations.

    You may wish it to be otherwise. I don’t much care about what you wish.

  86. 86
    DonkeyKong says:

    Movement from the ditch indicated to Thompson that there were still people alive in there. Thompson landed his helicopter and dismounted. David Mitchell, a sergeant and squad leader in 1st Platoon, C Company, walked over to him. When asked by Thompson whether any help could be provided to the people in the ditch, the sergeant replied that the only way to help them was to put them out of their misery. Second Lieutenant William Calley (CO, 1st Platoon, C Company) then came up, and the two had the following conversation.

    Thompson: What’s going on here, Lieutenant?
    Calley: This is my business.
    Thompson: What is this? Who are these people?
    Calley: Just following orders.
    Thompson: Orders? Whose orders?
    Calley: Just following…
    Thompson: But, these are human beings, unarmed civilians, sir.
    Calley: Look Thompson, this is my show. I’m in charge here. It ain’t your concern.
    Thompson: Yeah, great job.
    Calley: You better get back in that chopper and mind your own business.
    Thompson: You ain’t heard the last of this!

    What’s old is new again.

  87. 87
    sparky says:

    @John Cole: Excellency, methinks this situation arose from your making more than one observation in the same post. You need a Palin Salad generator: it takes your sentences and shreds them into just collections of letters in seconds! That way no one has to read anything all the way through any longer! You’ll amaze your friends and confound your enemies! Not to mention giving commenters the option of playing blog roulette with everything you write!

    Act now and we’ll throw in our perennial best-selling non-sequitur generator!

  88. 88
    sparky says:

    “your comment is awaiting moderation”= commenter, heal thyself ;)

  89. 89
    Stefan says:

    It is still a military problem in that no other organization, like say, Oxfam, is going to create a context in which one loose cannon is going to turn those around him into killing machines that murder people and collect body trophies.

    You’ve never worked at Oxfam, I see.

Comments are closed.