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.