“Ask them, ‘Do they understand why we shot this dude?’ ” the lieutenant told his interpreter. During their last patrol to Qualaday, soldiers in the platoon had attacked Mullah Allah Dad with rifles and a fragmentation grenade that blew off the lower halves of his legs and badly disfigured his face. The soldiers claimed that Allah Dad was trying to throw a grenade at them. Two days after the killing, however, a company commander attended a council during which the district leader announced that people believed the incident had been staged and that the Americans had planted the grenade in order to justify a murder.
“Tell them it’s important that not only the people in this village know, but the people in surrounding villages know, that this guy was shot because he took an aggressive action against coalition forces,” the lieutenant told his interpreter. “We didn’t just [expletive] come over and just shoot him randomly. We don’t do that.”
Last month, in a military courtroom at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash., 22-year-old Jeremy Morlock confessed to participating in the premeditated murder of Mullah Allah Dad, as well as the murders of two other Afghan civilians.
One of the earliest investigations into U.S. war crimes took place in 1902, when a Senate committee agreed to examine mounting allegations of misconduct in the Philippine-American War. The conflict cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians, and though many of these deaths were from disease, veterans testified at Congressional hearings about rampant brutality by American soldiers. Years later, the ongoing violence in the Philippines would inspire a young George C. Marshall, on his first assignment fresh out of military school, to tell a fellow officer: “Once an army is involved in war, there is a beast in every fighting man which begins tugging at its chains. And a good officer must learn early on how to keep the beast under control, both in his men and himself.”
Luke Mogelson. A beast in the heart of every fighting man. The New York Times.