Sunday, September 19, 2010

Disaster in the Making for US Presence in Afghanistan

The WaPo reports that members of a Stryker Brigade platoon in Afghanistan have been charged with killing Afghans for, essentially, the fun of it.  Well, when the theater commander - Marine general James Mattis - exhorts his marines with neanderthalish stuff about how much fun it is to shoot people . . . I mean, golly, what's the problem?  And note the apparent ring-leader:

According to statements given to investigators, members of the unit - 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment - began talking about forming a "kill team" in December, shortly after the arrival of a new member, Staff Sgt. Calvin R. Gibbs, 25, of Billings, Mont.

Gibbs, whom some defendants have described as the ringleader, confided to his new mates that it had been easy for him to get away with "stuff" when he served in Iraq in 2004, according to the statements. It was his second tour in Afghanistan, having served there from January 2006 until May 2007. [my emphasis]

 And evidently, when one of their buddies reported it, he was treated to a brutal beating, topped off when one of the accused soldiers "menacingly waved finger bones he had collected from Afghan corpses."  Another member of the gang "has also been charged with possessing "a skull taken from an Afghan person's corpse." He allegedly took the head sometime during January or February 2010, but court documents do not specify whether it belonged to the Afghan he is charged with killing."

The US was already making little headway in winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan.  Word of this will spread, rapidly, and will  more or less put paid to any more progress on that score, at least for the time being, I should think.  And if the US military hopes to retain any claims to moral and ethical decency in how it wages war, it will respond, not by trying to dampen down the impact by attributing this to a few bad apples, but by combing the evidence for more such atrocities and coming clean about them.

Perhaps Julian Assange could be of help?

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