Early last week, when the German magazine Der Spiegel published three graphic photographs of dead Afghan civilians killed for sport by drug-addled soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord's 5th Stryker Brigade, there was a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop. It was only three photographs out of what are supposedly thousands, after all. But now another solid clunk has sounded, courtesy of new photos, videos, and reporting by Rolling Stone that implicates even more soldiers and points to a wide-ranging conspiracy to suppress information by military leaders. Something suggests, however, that there may be many more shoes left to hit the ground.
Photos of dead Afghans were shared among soldiers like horny teens sharing torn-out porn-magazine pages, and videos of air strikes and shootings were given rock-and-roll soundtracks and titles like "Death Zone" and "Motorcycle Kill."
Here are some of the photos.
Gul Mudin, a 15-year-old Afghan boy, was the first of several unarmed Afghans who met their death via a "Kill Team" hit squad. A soldier tells Rolling Stone that these civilians were killed by soldiers not yet implicated in the current "Kill Team" charges. Spc. Jeremy Morlock holds a small pistol. He was apparently fond of using small weapons like these to plant on dead Afghan civilians after the team had executed them. A severed head being maneuvered with a stick. Even if the photo is of a dead enemy combatant, taking and sharing such photos are in gross violation of U.S. military rules. Photos of Afghan children were common in the death-pics collections. The soldiers had supposedly talked about throwing candy from passing vehicles, then shooting the children who came to pick it up.
The videos published in the story are not embeddable on this site, and must be viewed at the Rolling Stone page.
As for how far knowledge of the killings went up the chain of command, Boal reports:
. . . a review of internal Army records and investigative files obtained by Rolling Stone, including dozens of interviews with members of Bravo Company compiled by military investigators, indicates that the dozen infantrymen being portrayed as members of a secretive "kill team" were operating out in the open, in plain view of the rest of the company. Far from being clandestine, as the Pentagon has implied, the murders of civilians were common knowledge among the unit and understood to be illegal by "pretty much the whole platoon," according to one soldier who complained about them. Staged killings were an open topic of conversation, and at least one soldier from another battalion in the 3,800-man Stryker Brigade participated in attacks on unarmed civilians. "The platoon has a reputation," a whistle-blower named Pfc. Justin Stoner told the Army Criminal Investigation Command. "They have had a lot of practice staging killings and getting away with it."
All told, it's the deepest look we've had into the most serious war-crimes scandal to come out of the Afghanistan War so far.
Rightfully so, it's hard to look at.