Many, including the US Army, have objected to Rolling Stone publishing the photos they obtained from an unnamed source. Though these images are extremely graphic and publishing them might be in bad taste, in some opinions, there is nothing illegal or anything that might pose a direct threat to US forces. Some might say it will enrage the Afghan people, I'm not sure how many Afghan local nationals subscribe to Rolling Stone or have access to reports on this article and even if they had, our reputation in the Middle East and Southwest Asia is what you might call cordial, I do not believe that this would suddenly push the local populace over the edge, they have many other reasons to feel anger and bitterness towards our nation's policy.
That being said, one quote from the article really sets the tone for the rest of it, "The photos, obtained by Rolling Stone, portray a front-line culture among U.S. troops in which killing Afghan civilians is less a reason for concern than a cause for celebration." The fact that the author of this piece maintains that this incident represents the "front-line" culture of all deployed service members is appalling. What these men did was an atrocity, no doubt about it, but to label all combat arms as psychopathic killers is an atrocity in its own right. There are thousands of courageous and professional men and women currently serving on the front lines in Iraq, Afghanistan and many other places that would turn the toughest of the tough into crying toddlers.
All of this points to a very real dilemma our nation has shut its eyes to, why do men, seemingly ordinary, do the things they do in combat. How are these men and women able to handle the stress and incalculable mental trauma that is associated with real combat? Training and desensitization. From the beginning of every military man or woman's career, all the way back to Basic Training, it is engrained in our head, to dehumanize the enemy. It makes it easier to kill, it takes away the humanity and detaches the soldier from what this nation and her citizens are asking its military men and women to do, kill in the name of _______ (add freedom cliché here). We all remember the chant we are all taught, combat arms or not, "What makes the green grass grow?! Blood, Blood, Bright Red Blood!!" Seems harmless enough, right? No real purpose for it, but to motivate, right? Is it?
Think about it. When we join the Army, our primary MOS is always what? Rifleman. We are trained killers, some more intensely than others and in order to ensure those who are combat arms, those who’s primary and secondary MOS is killing, they, for lack of a better word, brain wash these men to desensitize the enemy, to look at them as targets, as pop-ups on the range. Then, after engraining this in their heads, deploying them multiple times and putting some questionable barely out of adolescence men in unimaginable situations, the brass at the Pentagon is stumped when a few of their trained killer pit-bulls break the chain and start killing those who they have been trained to consider less than human. There is nothing strange about it except that there are not MORE of these scenarios playing out on the world stage that America polices.
This, by no means, is an excuse for their behavior, but more of an explanation. They are trained to kill, many of them are seriously unstable as it is, and then they are given weapons, faulty leadership and these "killers" do what has now become natural for them, they kill. For a conventional war, this was not such an issue, but we are no longer soldiers, we are policy ambassadors and training a man to kill and then placing him in a position to where he must use his mind to further the policy of the State Department and expecting favorable results is madness. They are not trained embassy workers, professional ambassadors, their training is to find the enemy, kill the enemy, go home. In other words, why would you put the Pitbulls you have trained to kill inside the chicken coop? Furthermore, you then question their behavior when they act on their instincts? Innocents or not, they are trained to kill not to police, don't put pitbulls in with the chickens.
We need to be asking different questions to different people. We need to ask ourselves whether we could put ourselves in their shoes before we judge these men. We need to question the authority behind these men, all the way up to Washington. Our nation, our civilization will be judged by the way we treat our warfighters. How will we be judged now?
Jaeson "Doc" Parsons