I am so, so sorry.

There is just nothing right about this. In a detailed essay on Truthout, Henry Giroux explores our culture’s spiral away from compassion and consideration for the humanity of others and into a collision of violence and gratification that can’t seem to bottom out. We take prurient, pornographic delight in media depictions — whether in news or media — of violence, death and mayhem. That surely has some relationship to the dehumanization necessary to create a Kill Team in the “real” world. Giroux writes:

More recently, a number of photographs have once again surfaced which display grotesque acts of violence and murder by a select group of American soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. The images released by Rolling Stone magazine in the United States focused on the murderous actions of 12 US soldiers, who decided to kill Afghan civilians allegedly for sport. They used the moniker “The Kill Team” to refer to themselves, aptly registering both the group’s motivation and its monstrous actions. In the five months during which these soldiers went on a murderous rampage in Kandahar Province, writes one reporter, “they engaged in routine substance abuse and brutality toward Afghan locals that led to four premeditated murders of innocent civilians, the ritual mutilation of corpses (some of the soldiers reportedly severed fingers from their victims to keep as trophies) and the snapping of celebratory photographs alongside the deceased as if they were bagged deer.”

In one particularly disturbing photo celebrating a kill, one of the soldiers, Jeremy Morlock, is shown posing with the body of Gul Mudin, a 15-year-old Afghan boy. With a grin on his face and a thumbs-up sign, Morlock is kneeling on the ground next to Mudin’s bloody and half-naked corpse, grabbing a handful of hair to lift up his bloodied face.*

I can’t share the picture that accompanied this article. I don’t have the stomach to expose it more widely. But I will never forget the soldier’s grin as he holds up the dead face of an unarmed Afghan teenager.

I know there are soldiers who take a higher road, who want their work to bring about greater peace. I know there are people I love who love the United States more than I do, and have higher expectations and respect for it than I do. And, I know I am complicit in everything my nation does, even as I grow increasingly sure my vote and voice are meaningless in the larger scheme of things. I know I make my own life easier by believing there is microscopically little I can do.

But I can — and must — do this. I will witness to this child’s death. And I will say the only thing I can say. This is wrong. This is too far gone. I am sorry for what I must acknowledge as my part in it. I am so, so sorry.

* Jim Frederick, “Anatomy of a War Crime: Behind the Enabling of the ‘Kill Team,'” Time (March 29, 2011). Online here.

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3 Responses to I am so, so sorry.

  1. sparks1943 says:

    I have seen a similar story elsewhere. Loving my country passionately does not make me love it blindly. These acts, if true as depicted, are despicable and deserve the strongest kind of punishment. Similar behavior happened in Vietnam and in Korea and in Germany and in Italy and in Japan. You get my point. The violence and explicit license to kill (in war) can and do breed, in some, a pathology that has been dormant. Men AND women who would not otherwise give in to their inner demons , see, taste, feel, smell, and feed on blood…..theirs, their comrades, their hole buddies and their enemy’s. Blood lust becomes insatiable, inexcusable, and horrible. This is the essence of war crime.
    I love my country. I hate this. Am I sorry? that’s another matter and, for me, another story. I suppose I would have to know the WHOLE story in the lives of the soldiers involved. For example, did any of the men murder somebody immediately after they watched their hole buddy’s head get blown up and sprayed over them? Did any of these acts involve men who were in units where more than half of their comrades had been slaughtered and strung up on poles? Just posing these questions because I think knowing what went on before and around the time of these crimes helps us better UNDERSTAND, NOT DEFEND what happened. Perhaps every single one of these horrible acts was completely isolated, involving no act of apparent revenge, and done purely for so-called “blood sport”. Perhaps not. Did the fifteen year old boy murder an American soldier or two prior to being murdered? Don’t know…..and perhaps many would say, they don’t care. I do want to know ALL the circumstances because I do want to understand more about how the violence in war breeds and unleashes this awful core corruption in some soldiers.
    It is useful to remember the Nuremberg trials and the trials of Japanese rank/file/and officers after WWII. Many said they tortured and slaughtered civilians and soldiers because they were told to so by their superiors. Some, few, admitted they felt completely justified in their actions. A handful actually said it was “fun” and brought them “pleasure”. Regardless of their explanations, almost all were convicted and…..most….received the ultimate punishment. I hope justice comes fairly, swiftly and surely for those who are found guilty of these terrible acts.

    • tam121 says:

      I have questions, too, about what surrounds these reports. I don’t think people up and decide to commit atrocities; there are other moments and actions — years of moments and actions — leading up to this. And yes, on both/all sides. Children are taught to hate and kill. That breaks my heart, too. I just have to notice this, to witness in some way. Thanks for writing, as always.

  2. mj kaska says:

    Tam and Sparks, thank you for being willing to go to the place of ethical reflection on violence.

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