The Kill Team


a drop in the bucket of 4,000 images

(click to see enlarged photos at Der Speigel)

In 2010, there operated in the southern province of Kandahar, Afghanistan, a US Stryker tank unit that called itself a “Kill Team”. Twelve members of that team are now currently on trail in Seattle for their role in the killing of three civilians. In one incident in May 2010, when the team arrested a mullah who was merely standing by the road, they took him into a ditch and ordered him to kneel down. The group’s leader, Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, threw a grenade at the mullah, ordered his men to shoot him, and then cut off the mullah’s fingers and a tooth. Then, he reported to his superiors that the team had no choice but to shoot the mullah because he threatened them with a grenade.

Now, Gibbs and his men are being charged for this incident, and other crimes, which included drug abuse, and possession of images of human casualties (I didn’t know that was a crime). The U.S. military had tried hard to prevent these images reaching into the public domain, but Der Speigel had obtained nearly 4000 photos and videos taken by the men; last Sunday, it has decided to publish three, editorializing that since there are collections of pictures which pointed to other heinous crimes committed, in addition to the crimes these men were on trial for, it would only be fair for a news outlet to draw attention to them.

I agree. While publishing all 4000 images will be repugnant and unnecessary, reproducing a small number of photos is informational. Like shocking images from Vietnam, these photos will spur the conversation on all too real human casualties of wars we fight, collaterals we often forget. I believe the perpetrators of these acts are merely rogue agents and bad apples, but sometimes it is healthy to examine, like in the aftermath of Abu Ghraib, whether the systemic failures of the barrel prompted these apples to go bad.

One of the nice things about writing for a blog, as opposed to writing for a newspaper, is that I don’t really have to care much about censors. (But, I have decided to link them because they are too brutal to be depicted on my homepage). But I don’t deny that these photos won’t have any consequences; they do — in Afghanistan and elsewhere.


28 thoughts on “The Kill Team”

  1. Good, please always make sure to highlight and link to any pictures or video which will harm America the most.

    It is very important to ignore all the positives and focus relentlessly on the negatives. That is really the only way to go.

    -Fellow Traveller

      1. Really? That work in your marriage? That work at work? It work with your kids? Does it work with the Palestinian Authority? (Well, that last has never been tried. Sorry.)

        So, sorry, that is a poor answer.


      2. Completely irrelevant three examples and one somewhat related. I am not sure what you meant by “the Palestinian Authority” but anyway are you seriously saying we should cover the negatives up and focus on the positives and that will work out in the end?

    1. The sooner you war cheerleaders learn that America is no different than any other country, that its soldiers aren’t anointed angels of justice, just regular men who make good and bad decisions, the better.

      You should get mad at the soldiers, not the messenger. And imagine if this kind of thing happened with roles reversed in the USA. You’d be a spluttering, shrieking vigilante. This is what is happening now in Afghanistan.

      1. That is what happens in Afghanistan. Only it’s the other side and it’s their fellow Muslim civilians.

        Of course US troops commit atrocities (I’m from the South, we’re still talking about Sherman) – but if you only looked at the media, you’d have the ratio backwards.

        Did you see the great news coverage of the “freedom fighters” who killed half a village last month near the Pakistan border? No? Really? Shocking.

        I’m not a war cheerleader, I’m a pro-US, pro-military, pro-family American. What are you?


      2. I’m sorry, I really am going to seem like I am just picking on you, but believe me that is not the case. Simply answer me this, what does being “pro-US, pro-military, pro-family” mean in this context?

        These are photos of some atrocities that were committed, so do you feel being pro-military means defending them or somehow make them less serious? And does being pro-US mean US is right, and US military and servicemen as an extension are also right?

        I have no idea what being pro-family has to do with anything right now, but anyway I am pretty sure those dead people you see in the photos had families as well.

      3. I saw let us stop baby sitting the world bring our troops home.

    2. Thank you.
      There is no talking sense with self-hating pacifists. They cry their idiotic mantra “the war is ugly” and have no concept of differentiating between sides.
      Spiegel has already convicted those soldiers – no due process required. And so do our own domestic do-gooders. They are anti-American, no matter how many phony patriotic poses they strike: they reject fundamental American principle of Rule of Law.

      “Focus on the negatives” – that’s the only focus they know! But only if the negatives (or perceived negatives) can hurt their own country.
      Cowardly nincompoops.

    3. Harm america? The wars Bush started are harming america.

      Reporting what actually happens does not harm america.

  2. these soldiers are worse than animals and they should absolutely be convicted. They must have a death penalty for murdering ordinary people. I feel sick of seeing these pictures and feel a deep sorrow.
    U.S. has not fought for democracy or freedom in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Americans are fighting and playing war to have fun and to use their weapons.
    I hope that this “killing team” (unless they get the death penalty) is utilized sexually and physically in the prisons they end up in. And I hope somebody cut their body parts so they can feel how it feels.

  3. I haven’t had the opportunity to read much about the Kill Team. If they are guilty, it’s sickening that someone would even contemplate employing their creativity in such a morbid fashion.

    My only comment is that if they haven’t yet been convicted or admitted to any of that, I think that you need to change the language to reflect that these currently are accusations, not proven facts. That’s disingenuous of you at best. No, I’m not defending their actions. If they’re guilty, they’re guilty and committed a heinous crime for which they should be punished severely.

    However, my limited understanding of the situation is that they haven’t admitted to anything, and as you said, they’re still on trial, meaning they haven’t been convicted of anything yet.

  4. One can look at the photos and draw one’s own conclusions.

    The United States is now engaged in 3 wars against people who are “different” then the majority of Americans. This is going to happen and the more wars we get in the more it is going to happen. Not to give these guys a pass, but if they weren’t there it wouldn’t be happening, now would it?

    1. hey, it’s your guy who get us engaged in the “third war with people who are different from majority of Americans”! and he continues the other two!
      One – with a smidgen of logic, which apparently you don’t possess – might conclude that Obama hates brown people!

  5. It just reminded me of the My Lai Massacre when I read this ….war is ugly and we have three wars on and in my view no chance of winning anyone of them …..

  6. Well as I write this one of the soldiers has plead guilty.

    And that, apparently, proves that he is?

    Anyone passingly familiar with out so called justice system and its institute of “settlement” knows the value of such statements

    1. No Not necessarily, nor for that matter is a guilty finding after a trial. Ask the guys on death row who keep getting pardoned when it is proven that they didn’t do it. Nor is a not guilty verdict necessarily proff of innocence. But it is certainly an indication.

      You may have reason to believe none of these guys are guilty. Do You?

      1. I don’t believe either way – except due [legal] process and presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
        do you have proof they are guilty? any actual evidence besides easily-manipulated photographs?

  7. A little late, but the confession of at least one of them indicates to me that he, at least, is guilty, with all the caviets mentioned before, of course.

  8. are the photo’s of Danny Pearls execution to accuse every person of his killers country, animals? how about the attempt on the life of that girl recently? how about the recent executions of those officers in the news, and every other non American atrocity? i guess we American’s are kill obsessed right, but the world is not? everyday the paper lies to me, the tv does too, and tells me that those that got bombed, suicide vested,head chopped, and so on, are just a hallucination?

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