Monday, September 20, 2010

U.S. troops in Afghanistan formed "kill team" against civilians

This isn't good -- but it is instructive:

The U.S. soldiers hatched a plan as simple as it was savage: to randomly target and kill an Afghan civilian, and to get away with it.

For weeks, according to Army charging documents, rogue members of a platoon from the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, floated the idea. Then, one day last winter, a solitary Afghan man approached them in the village of La Mohammed Kalay. The "kill team" activated the plan.

One soldier created a ruse that they were under attack, tossing a fragmentary grenade on the ground. Then others opened fire.

According to charging documents, the unprovoked, fatal attack on Jan. 15 was the start of a months-long shooting spree against Afghan civilians that resulted in some of the grisliest allegations against American soldiers since the U.S. invasion in 2001. Members of the platoon have been charged with dismembering and photographing corpses, as well as hoarding a skull and other human bones. 

Needless to say, this is awful, and, if true, which it likely is, it will further weaken America's credibility and moral standing both in Afghanistan and around the world.

Now, of course, these are rogue soldiers who are not necessarily representative of the U.S. military generally. I suspect that the vast majority of soldiers, whether in Afghanistan or elsewhere, perform their duties nobly and courageously.

And yet, next time you see one of those "Support Our Troops" bumper stickers, or next time some flag-waving jingoist tells you that you're either with the troops or a traitor, you might want to think a bit more clearly about just what supporting the troops really means -- and that goes for Canadian troops, my country's troops, as well as for American troops or any other troops.

Do I support the troops? Of course I do. But I don't necessarily support the mission, and, to me, supporting the troops means opposing the Afghan War. Why would you support keeping the troops in a war that makes no sense? Why would you want them to keep risking their lives, and dying, for a war without purpose?

And I certainly don't support everything the troops do, including, of course, what these "kill team" troops did -- and yet, they're troops, aren't they? Aren't we told we have to support them, or else?

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