“The kill team”

The WaPo has a chilling story from Afghanistan about a platoon that decided to engage in a little bit of recreational murder and trophy-hunting.

It seems as if one platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan decided that a war zone was a good place to engage in a little bit of recreational murder. As far as the story shows, this wasn’t panic or revenge; they weren’t especially scared or angry. They just decided to kill some Afghans and keep some trophies, including a skull.

The fact that this sort of thing happens in war is always a good argument against going to war, but the fact that it it happened once – at least – in Afghanistan doesn’t seem to me to tell us much we didn’t already know about this particular war.

It does appear that the Army was pretty damned un-interested in following up when one soldier told his father what was going on and the father tried to stir up an investigation. The case broke because the same unit was being investigated for – wait for it – hashish use.

Now we get to see whether Wingnuttia makes the accused heroes, like Lt. Calley, or whether the fact that they were drug users as well as – allegedly – murderers puts them in the “bad guy” category.

In a sensible world, the recruiting files of all the men involved would be pulled, and searched for hints of trouble that the recruiters should have picked up. I’m not sure we live in that world.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

9 thoughts on ““The kill team””

  1. In an ideal world, or even in a merely decent one, unnecessary war would be seen as the ultimate crime. In our world, sensible people expend many words to avoid saying that.

  2. "The fact that this sort of thing happens in war is always a good argument against going to war…"

    It's horrible and we must do everything we can both to prevent and punish it. But I don't think it's a good argument against war. If a war is unnecessary than all the death and destruction that would follow, even without such crimes, is a sufficient argument against it. If it's necessary, then the fact that such behavior will probably take place isn't a good argument against it.

  3. Larry, how do you decide if a war is the right policy without considering the amount of death and destruction that it will cause?

  4. Michael, you're right. I guess my point is more that in number they are likely to be a small fraction of those who will die as a direct result of deliberate military action. I acknowledge that they place a particularly heavy moral burden on us.

  5. O irony of ironies: One of the soldiers involved is named "Morlock", the name HG Wells gave to his future civilization's under-people, brutal semi-humans toiling in the dark for the benefit of the above ground Eloi. Whom they then ate.

  6. What's really exciting about all this is that these are the same people who will return to civilian life as police officers and such. Sheriff Joe would love to have them! Oh, joy!

  7. Nothing unexpected in any of this…

    .. it's been in the headlines that I read for years..

    .. and it's easy to predict the future..

    not pretty…

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