One of the most enduring themes of the Viet Nam era was that of the badly damaged Vietnam vet who came home and created mayhem – all because of his experiences and training. It was a myth that died hard only because the war was so unpopular and so many people wanted to believe it.
BG Burkett in his book Stolen Valor, completely takes all the underlying premises that supported that myth apart with facts and statistics. I don’t have time to relate them all but I cannot recommend that book highly enough.
The case against American soldiers accused of murdering Afghan civilians turns on the idea of a rogue unit. But what if the killings are a symptom of a deeper problem?
Instead of telling the story of the now infamous “kill squad” from the 5th Stryker Brigade out of Ft. Lewis WA, and the reasons for their actions and activities, Mogelson does what many hacks do and tries to conflate what happened in a single platoon out in the middle of nowhere in Afghanistan with a problem that infects the entire military.
Granted – no, stipulated – war is hell, it changes people, it is something which anyone who has ever experienced it up close and personal would never wish on another person. And yes, there are stresses that come from multiple deployments, leaving your family behind and watching men you think more of than anyone in the world die in action. But those stresses aren’t unique to these wars. Yes, multiple deployments are fairly unique. But then the alternative is the duration – which my parents did in WWII – 4 years of war, from beginning to end.
But that’s not the point of the article. Mogelson does a credible job of telling the “kill squad” story. It’s a horrible story in which a deviant but charismatic junior leader, in an isolated outpost, talks some impressionable squad members into doing the unthinkable all while the weak leadership in charge of the platoon failed in their roles.
Had he left it here, I could actually find myself saying nice things about it. It is a story that must be told.
But he didn’t leave it there. He started to veer in that old and predictable lane in which the military is indicted for making robot killers out of their charges and becoming so good at it that things like this happen.