Friday, March 25, 2011

The essential evil of war

by César Chelala,, March 23, 201
Every evening, at the end of the PBS News Hour, one of the most respected news programs in the U.S., one can see the images of the U.S. soldiers killed the previous day. They usually are young men, generally between 20 and 25 years of age. Even the most hardened person cannot but feel a pang of anguish looking at these young people whose lives were cut short by an irrational war. And one can imagine how many vibrant lives were lost and will be lost until the war in Afghanistan ends.

Awful as these losses are, another reality should be considered –the photos of these same soldiers degrading Afghan prisoners. Through these photos we can see that these soldiers’ lives have been compromised by war but, equally terrifying, that war has changed them, has made them lose that essential humanity that makes us respect other people at their most basic level. And thus we suddenly have a vision of the essential evilness of war.

These thoughts are brought to mind after looking at three photographs recently released by the German newspaper Der Spiegel, part of 4,000 photos and videos taken by the soldiers. The photos are among a number seized by U.S. Army investigators investigating the deaths of three unarmed Afghan civilians during 2010.

Twelve soldiers from the Bravo company unit of the Fifth Stryker Combat Brigade in Kandahar province are accused of serious crimes against Afghan civilians. Those accused include Special Sergeant Jeremy Morlock, 22, and three other men who were allegedly following orders from Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, 25.  These soldiers are accused of killing Afghan civilians for sport and collecting their body parts –including a human skull- as trophies.

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