On March 27, Rolling Stone magazine published a feature on their website called "The Kill Team," which told in great detail the story of the soldiers in the Third Platoon of the Army’s Bravo Company. The feature was an expose on a group of soldiers, referred to as a "kill team," which would go around and shoot civilians in Afghanistan, and then stage the incidents to make the victims look like armed insurgents. The soldiers then would just say they acted in self-defense.
It was only this past year that the government caught wind of these atrocities and started punishing the responsible soldiers.
The only things more infuriating than the feature itself were the pictures Rolling Stone posted with it. They are extremely graphic and depict members of the platoon posing with civilians, some as young as 15 years old, that they had killed. The platoon would cut off fingers and keep them as trophies, and give them discarded weapons to make it look like the soldiers were fired upon. Other pictures depict maimed, mutilated bodies that are not for the faint of heart and show just how monstrous these soldiers were.
One would think that this story would become the most important story in the country, and that everyone would know about it and express their outrage. Unfortunately, that has not happened. It is disappointing that the reaction has been muted, because the soldiers involved should feel the shame from their country and their fellow soldiers. It was a very small group that committed these atrocities, but it is a stain on the entire Army. There are thousands of men and women in Afghanistan who are heroes, and this platoon undermines both their work and what America is trying to do in the Middle East.
But there are people in this country who do not feel outraged. There are numerous comments from people posted on the Rolling Stone site that say the Third Platoon controversy is not a big deal. One commenter said everyone in Afghanistan is America’s enemy and that the soldiers did nothing wrong by shooting unarmed civilians. Others have said these actions are a part of war and, therefore, they are justified.
These comments are one of the most disturbing parts of this whole story. America, sadly, lives in an age of extremism, where patriotism has devolved into xenophobia. The people who think there is nothing wrong with soldiers killing innocent children and teenagers for fun are far more than misguided, they are morally adrift. Their minds have been warped by this idea that America is the holy protector of freedom and that anyone and everyone who doesn’t fall in line with the American ideal must be put down. Just because someone has brown skin and is a Muslim does not make them anyone’s enemy. Surely if these were American civilians that were murdered for no good reason by a group of soldiers, these commenters would not be feeling the same way.
The main reason there are even soldiers in Afghanistan is to stop the spread of terrorism. But actions like this will only strengthen terrorism. Many terrorist groups have said they commit their actions of terrorism because of supposed atrocities committed by America and the military. By killing innocent civilians, only more terror will spread. Some people in Afghanistan will see the actions committed by the platoon as proof that all of the anti-American sentiment promoted by al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups is true.
The commenters defending the platoon’s actions need to realize that if America wants to remove the stigma placed upon it by terrorist propaganda, then reinforcing the stereotype that American soldiers are evil and that the country hates Arabs and Muslim is counter-productive. Not every person in the Middle East is an America-hating terrorist. They deserve to be treated like people. The actions of the platoon are not slowing terrorism; they are terrorism.
Finally, the powers that be in the U.S. Military have to do something to keep incidents like this from happening. Many will be reminded of the Abu Ghraib incident from 2004, where another small group of soldiers tortured and killed Iraqi prisoners. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously referred to these soldiers as "a few bad apples." He also said last week that the "kill team" story was even worse than Abu Ghraib.
The military has to do something to keep all of these "bad apples" from infecting the whole tree. The government is always going on about improving America’s reputation around the world.
If any other incidents like this occur, this country’s image might become unsalvageable. Corporal Jeremy Morlock, one of the soldiers in the unit, explained their mindset by saying "none of us in the platoon…the platoon leader…the platoon sergeant…no one gives a f*** about these people." As long as there are soldiers with that mindset, this conflict will never end. War prolonged by the horrific actions of a few despicable soldiers will not be won by anyone.