We already know enough from the Wikileaks Afghan archives to conclude that the news of the so-called “Kill Team” in Afghanistan – twelve US Army soldiers wantonly murdering and mutilating Afghan civilians – is no news at all. It is the norm of empire. It is the monstrous quotidian. Certainly there are many more instances like it that will never come to light.
The soldier who first revealed the predations of the Kill Team, in a post to his parents on Facebook, writes of Afghanistan that “There are no good men left here. It eats away at my conscience every day.” Would that it ate at his fellow Americans. The Team’s work, after all, is ours, paid for by us, abetted by our silence and our receivables, sanctioned by our standing up nowhere to be seen in opposition to a government that renders barbarism as statesmanship. The work, to be sure, consisted of that for which the Team was well-trained, their minds at ease for the labor, the empire having asked of them only to oil their muscles and derange their hearts enough to put into action the deranged policy programmed by the higher-ups behind the laptops and in the lounge chairs. That all war creates victims of soldiers, victimized by their own governments, is forgotten, yet it should be the axiom of the age.
If the Kill Team is guilty of what we’re told, then how judge them? The twelve soldiers now charged with premeditated murder, conspiracy, and “possessing human body parts” were said to have slaughtered innocent men, exploding their bodies with grenades or gunning them down, then laying into the dead flesh with knives. They collected as keepsakes the fingerbones, leg bones, teeth; one soldier carried off an Afghan skull as thanks for the memories.
They are guilty only of bringing the policy to its logical conclusion. The policy is lunatic. It has no purpose beyond its own justification, which is that it must succeed because it is our policy. It cannot succeed because it entails the subjugation of a fractious tribal people who have shown to history again and again that they will not be subjugated. The lunacy of the policy has its predictable effect on the troops who are meant to enforce it. Leaping on corpses to take scalps seems the natural course, the meaningful act in a meaningless affair, the occupation of Afghanistan finally making a twisted sense, freed of the hypocrisies of the political class. We are there with guns to kill other human beings, the corpses as totems of victory – the people subjugated at last! – an accomplishment where there is no victory to be had.
Godspeed, and more please. Or so we are to interpret the message from Congress, whose members, our very own representative kill team, year after year vote the appropriations for the continuing of the lunacy. The real kill team, of course, is in the White House, under the leadership of a Democratic president who, it’s clear by now, is covertly serving out George W. Bush’s third term in office. The kill team is an executive and its minions asserting the right of assassination of any person deemed fit, the Joint Chiefs of Staff drawing up “hit lists” that include American citizens, the Obama Administration expressly authorizing the CIA to bring down the death sentence on its select targets in the manner of a thunderbolt from the skies – no arrest, no charges, no trial, no defense, no prosecution, no process.
The same day the story of our centurions collecting fingerbones in Afghanistan hit the pages of the press, we might have looked to find the Ninth Circuit court, in its own way, educating the faithful soldiers in what is right and what is wrong. The circuit had ruled that the Obama Administration shall be free to continue the torture of human beings under cover of law. The case, Binyam Mohamed vs. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. – the defendant, a subsidiary of Boeing, contracts to provide the critical flight planning and logistical support for the CIA’s “extraordinary renditions” – was brought by the ACLU on behalf of five victims of torture. The victims, innocents all, attested that under the watch of the CIA and their other “extraordinary” handlers, they were beaten, their bones broken, their penises cut open, a “hot stinging liquid” poured into the open wounds, bottles pushed into their anuses, their arms shackled as they were hung from ceilings. At least one of them was placed for a month in a room with open sewage.
Barack Obama, following the lead of his predecessor, saw nothing wrong here, no need for truth or reconciliation or, god forbid, an apology, instead intervening in the case to prevent whatever “state secrets” the full hearing of the matter might reveal. And the Ninth Circuit dutifully decided in favor of the secrets to be kept. The court’s work is also, needless to say, part of the kill team. “There are no good men left here.”
CHRISTOPHER KETCHAM, a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY, is writing a book about secession movements. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.