Sunday, August 24, 2014

"The Kill Team": In the military, like in real life, sometimes we have to pay for the crimes of others

The Kill Team”, directed by Dan Krauss, tells the story of an US Army infantry unit deployed in Southern Iraq, which started, under the leadership of a rogue NCO named Gibbs, committing war crimes against individual Afghan males, for “sport”.  The story is told through the eyes of one soldier, Adam Winfield, raised by a loving family in Florida.  Winfield objected to what was going on, and started communicating by email with his father, Christopher Winfield, back home. 

The father’s attempts to communicate with Army brass, mostly at Ft. Lewis, WA, came to naught. Eventually the NCO, after making various threats about snitches, set up a situation where Winfield, along with other unit members, could not avoid being implicated in a kill.

Several members of the unit were charged with murder.  The Army plea bargained with Winfield.  First, it tried to offer a plea of cowardice, because he did not do what was legally required (stop the murder) out of fear.  Eventually it was plead as manslaughter.  Winfield got three years in prison and a bad conduct discharge.

The documentary is quite riveting. Various other soldiers are interviewed.  Only one, Justin Stoner, was not charged.  But Justin is shown as having been tortured by his own men, his hairless chest battered, his back tattooed.  Stoner says that the men are trained to kill, “so why do you get mad when we do it?”

The film shows the corpses of the Afghani victims, and that is quite graphic.

Technically, the idea that Winfield shares responsibility for the crimes is correct according to military law.  It does sound like the Army is blaming its soldiers for the failure of leadership.  There is, in war, the idea that a person has to share the responsibility for the wrongdoing of others in his unit.   If you think about it, that happens in life in general.  Without grace and salvation, we pay for each other’s crimes, no matter how right we are.

It's disturbing to consider the cowardice argument when you remember that we had a male-only draft until 1973, during the Vietnam era.  There were some incidents in Vietnam, like the Lt. Calley massacre.
The crimes (which happened in 2009  -- as part of "Obama's War", with court martial in 2010) do have the potential to provide fodder for radical Islam, claiming that America is murdering its people and must pay with its own civilians.  That is very serious now given the recent attention to ISIS (or ISIL) and its vengeful savagery.

The official site is here, distributed by Oscilloscope.  I saw the film at Landmark E Street cinema early Sunday evening before a small audience.

Wikipedia attribution link infantry training at Ft. Lewis.

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