Slate reports today that the German magazine Der Spiegel has published photos of grinning U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan posing with victims they have killed. A dozen guys in the Fifth Stryker Brigade--don't you just love the hip hop spelling?--are being investigated for murder of three unarmed Afghans. Five of them are also implicated in a scheme to cover up the crimes by making it look like self-defense. The Guardian reports that they're "also being charged with abusing drugs, mutilating corpses, and possessing images of human casualties*." Der Spiegel has about 4,000 photos that it got from another member of the brigade, who, one supposes can be arrested and charged with treason for blowing the whistle on a gaggle of cold-blooded killers posing in their camis and behind the "hero" label that no attaches to any U.S. soldier these days, no matter what they do. Would it surprise you to know that these guys also took "trophies" such as teeth and fingers from their victims. Along with the thousands of photos documenting all this. Including one of a couple of our heroes holding up the head of an Afghan they killed.
Should any of us be surprised that this protracted and completely senseless war in Afghanistan has brutalized American soldiers? You could argue that the years of fighting in that forsaken country has hardened men to brutality and callous disregard for human decency and morality. But then you would have to explain things like Abu Ghraib, which took place much, much earlier in the wars. No, it's not the length of time these troops have been there that causes this disgusting and debased behavior. It is the nature of war itself. It turns men into animals. It always has. It always will. Some of the animals get caught and become the scapegoats for the rest.
This doesn't excuse anything. But don't think these sorts of crimes are isolated events. They aren't.
*probably an offense under the UCMJ