Oct 25, 2010
The first trials are underway for twelve U.S. soldiers accused of being part of a “Thrill Kill platoon” in Afghanistan that killed Afghan civilians for sport.
The military pretends that these murders were carried out by a rogue platoon under the direction of a psychopathic leader, Sergeant Calvin Gibbs.
Was Gibbs a psychopath? Maybe. But what about all the others who may do horrible things in a war, but are hardly psychopaths going in. What does it do to a person who is sent to a war zone for 2, 3 or even 4 tours, particularly when much of the duty involves attacks on civilians?
Physical and mental destruction is the price many soldiers pay for being sent to a war for the occupation of a poorer country, like Iraq or Afghanistan. But the biggest price is the one paid by the populations of those countries.
In any case, the higher-ups in the Army were okay with the actions of the “Thrill Kill” team. Last February, a soldier in the unit, Adam Winfield, let his parents know that some platoon members were killing civilians for sport, collecting body parts of the victims for trophies, and having their pictures taken with the victims. He said he did not feel safe reporting it and that he had been told “this stuff happens all the time and that when we get back there is always someone that spills the beans so normally it works out.”
The soldier’s father, Christopher Winfield, immediately tried to warn officials about the situation. He called the Army Inspector General’s hotline and a Senator from his home state of Florida, but received no response.
Finally, he spoke to a staff sergeant at his son’s home base, but was told his son should avoid his sergeant, keep his head down, and report it when he came home.
When the military higher-ups take a “look-the-other-way” approach on such gross conduct, it means the military accepts it.
Just as in Iraq, and just as in Vietnam, this is war carried out against the population of a country. In such a situation, of course civilians are not only victims, but targets. In Afghanistan, the U.S. is carrying out record numbers of drone attacks, including against neighboring Pakistan, wiping out whole villages. Units like the “Thrill Kill Team” are not so rogue. Like much else in the war, their actions help “pacify” the population.