By S. M. Hali

The latest issue of German daily Der Spiegel and US journal Rolling Stone disclose an abominable and grotesque specter of psychopaths in the United States Army, who murder Afghans in cold blood and brandish their victims’ severed heads like hunting trophies. TheDer Spiegel story is aptly titled: ‘Das zweitte Abu Ghuraib’; while the Rolling Stone Op-Ed ‘The Kill Team: How U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan Murdered Innocent Civiliantells the same story.

The grisly description pertains to a group of US soldiers from Bravo Company of the 3rd Platoon—part of the 5th Stryker Brigade, deployed in Afghanistan, who took it upon themselves to eliminate innocent Afghans only for their perverted pleasure. One of the culprits, Corporal Jeremy Morlock even severed the little finger of his first victim Gul Mudin, an unarmed 15 year old Afghan youth of La Mohammad Kalay and has carried it around as a souvenir. The mental depravity of the group has reached the stage that appalling photos of the dead have been treated like a war memento and passed from man to man on thumb and hard drives. The collection also includes several videos shot by US troops.

In a shaky, 30-minute clip titled "Motorcycle Kill," soldiers believed to be with another battalion in the Stryker Brigade gun down two Afghans on a motorcycle who may have been armed. One of the most chilling files shows two Afghans suspected of planting an IED being blown up in an airstrike. Shot through thermal imaging, the grainy footage has been edited into a music video, complete with a rock soundtrack and a title card that reads 'death zone.'

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Even before the war crimes became public, the Pentagon went to extraordinary measures to suppress the photos—an effort that reached the highest levels of both governments. General Stanley McChrystal and President Hamid Karzai were reportedly briefed on the photos as early as May 2010, and the military launched a massive effort to find every file and pull the pictures out of circulation before they could touch off a scandal on the scale of Abu Ghuraib. 

The sad part is that the US, the champion of human rights is not a signatory to International Human Rights Commission Acts. In the 21st century, the US actively attempted to undermine the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The United States government has been criticized for human rights violations both domestically and overseas, particularly in the criminal justice system and in national security issues. International and US law prohibits torture and other ill-treatment of any person in custody in all circumstances. 

However, the United States Government has categorized a large number of people as unlawful combatants, a US classification, which denies the privileges of prisoner of war (POW) designation of the Geneva Conventions.

Certain practices of the United States military and Central Intelligence Agency have been condemned by some sources domestically and internationally as torture. A fierce debate regarding non-standard interrogation techniques exists within the US civilian and military intelligence community, with no general consensus as to what practices under what conditions are acceptable. Abuse of prisoners is considered a crime in the United States Uniform Code of Military Justice, yet Abu Ghuraib prison abuse, enhanced interrogation, torture of Guantanamo inmates; extraordinary rendition, water boarding and now the advent of the kill team in Afghanistan have brought a major stigma upon the US.

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The US demurs on signing or ratifying various international human rights accords for fear of the persecution of its armed forces personnel engaged in activities mentioned above. The hard fact is that the US armed forces are suffering from battle fatigue, having been engaged in needless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have taken a toll of 4,765 US military personnel in Iraq, 2,403 in Afghanistan and having slaughtered 1,421,933 Iraqis and over 30,000 Afghanis at a cost of US $ 1,180,653,714,792, was bound to have an adverse effect on the US combatants and turn them into “Kill Teams”.

Rolling Stone talks of US combatants, who for the sheer gory pleasure of killing Afghans, throw sweets and candies out of Stryker vehicles and when hungry and destitute Afghan children rush to pick them up, they are sprayed with bullets.

So far the Pentagon is suppressing these scandals by stating that there are rogue teams in the military, which will be caught, tried and punished. However the malady appears to be much more serious and necessitates close and immediate attention, before even worse human rights abuse scandals emerge.