March 29, 2011
A shameful descent into evil
It's hard not to read the Rolling Stone piece on the Maiwand murders without thinking dark thoughts indeed about the entire Afghan adventure.
The thing that struck me the most here was that the one single criminal act that by itself led to a major court martial in the Canadian military... the shooting of an either dead or dying Afghan by a member of my old Afghan unit... is just one of at least three dozen violations of military law, rules of engagement or moral law by the "Kill Team" of 5 Stryker Brigade in this article that I counted, and one of the minor ones at that. The only difference between the acts described in this article and the My Lai atrocity lies in the body count.
The trials continue. But what is unquestioned is that from January to May of 2010, a group of American soldiers were basically shooting indiscriminately at civilians in Kandahar City and in Zhari District, places Canadians worked for years without the remotest claim of abuse of a similar nature, and singling out old men and young boys in Maiwand District who were open-minded enough to trust them for a minute, for thrill-seeking and memento-gathering executions. This occurred despite multiple warnings to their chain of command, none of whom are facing any consequences for allowing this to go on.
I never thought that Afghans would have to pay that high a price for our departure from those districts. I'm frankly just appalled what we abandoned them to here. It's hard after reading this article to think of a good reason why we should be allowed to consider ourselves still on the good side of this fight, or somehow deserving of the win.
One more thing, that the article doesn't say explicitly enough for my taste. Like the vast majority of soldiers in the theatre, these sick little f__ks had as little contact as possible throughout their tour with local nationals, who were about as real to them as sprites in a video game. This was a predictable consequence of all the distance we have put in this military context between Us and Them, the "Them" in this case being the people we were sent to protect. Our whole approach to force protection, with all of its interacting with the host nation only across razor wire or through gunsights, is a concomitant cause of these atrocities. Read in the story how impossible it was for the Afghan friends and relatives of the murdered to even get their case heard, let alone believed, and imagine what you would want done to the organization that protected these evil men. See also Pat Lang.
"endearingly macho" -- Mark Steyn
"wonderfully detailed analysis" -- John Allemang, Globe and Mail
"unusually candid" -- Tom Ricks, Foreignpolicy.com
Bill & Bob
Ghosts of Alex