The kill team

If the U.S. news media had worked less hard to shield readers from the photographs of the Kill Team, the military unit in Afghanistan that killed innocent people for sport, would there be more discussion about it? Rolling Stone, as Germany’s Der Spiegel did earlier, published some of the images the unit along with the story of the unit’s depravity this week. Yet, it hardly registered for public discussion.

Jim Frederick, who authored a book on the brutality of war, thinks that maybe that will change with Rolling Stone’s publication…


I was struck by an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu. I recently spent three years researching and writing the tale of the breakdown of one platoon from the 101st Airborne Division during its 2005-06 deployment to South Baghdad. Suffering from horrific losses, near daily combat and a breakdown in leadership, the platoon I chronicle in Black Hearts: One Platoon’s Descent into Madness in Iraq’s Triangle of Death descended into a tailspin of poor discipline, brutality and substance abuse that culminated in a heinous war crime: four members of the platoon raped a 14-year-old girl, then killed her, her parents and her 6-year-old sister.

The similarities are striking. Both tales describe a war-torn platoon that included members who, not long after their deployment began, turned against the locals and the mission and gave into some of their basest instincts and hatreds. Both units operated in a dramatic leadership vacuum during which the chain of command tragically malfunctioned. Both crime sprees had at their center a soldier who was known by his peers to be particularly bloodthirsty. And so far, disciplinary actions have been taken only against the enlisted men who committed the crimes; neither episode has resulted in any known punitive measures against the commanding officers who allowed a climate to exist in which it was possible for such crimes to take place.

Earlier today, Rolling Stone’s Eric Bates, the magazine’s executive editor, appeared with Kerri Miller on MPR’s Midmorning. He said the idea that this was a case of “isolated sociopaths,” misses the larger point of the story…

Today, Afghanistan’s president spoke out against the Kill Team because, he said, “the world has to finally wake up.”

The original article in Der Spiegel will be published i English online on Thursday.

  • Jim Shapiro

    War enables and creates psychopaths who kill innocent people for pleasure.

    Any denial of that fact is ignorance at best, and disingenuous at worst.

    The best way to “support our troops” is to provide adequate education and jobs, so that young people are not so ignorant or desperate to the point that they dedicate themselves to a career that primarily involves killing or that directly supports killing.

  • Josh

    I read the article after you posted it in 5×8 a couple days ago. From the sounds of the article, these people probably would have been in jail by now and not in the armed forces, if the military wasn’t desperate for people to fight two wars.

  • @asandford

    This is heartbreaking on so many levels. What have we done to/brought out in the soldiers to make them act so heinously? What have we done to the poor innocent people in these war-torn countries who just want to stay alive? What have we done to our own citizens by blocking the information? Why haven’t we learned? Tragic.

  • Noelle

    I think Josh has it on the nose – some of these individuals might not have been drafted if they weren’t so desperate for soldiers.