As a young soldier, I remember wearing the patch of the 2nd Infantry Division on my shoulder with a sense of pride and honor; even today it takes considerable space on a plaque in my home that displays the military awards and insignia that I have earned and worn over the years.
These days, I also see the same patch in the pictures of U.S. soldiers proudly displaying the bloodied bodies of the innocent and unarmed Afghani civilians that they maliciously slaughtered. Part of the self-dubbed "Kill Team," a platoon of young infantry men devised countless strategies to murder civilians and set it up as a legitimate attack. They were proud of having killed so many out in the open and with impunity.
Soldiers throughout the 4,000 strong, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, knew of their behavior, and it is apparent that a few followed in their footsteps, or helped them in obtaining weapons to cover their crimes. A couple of the soldiers even took to collecting body parts of their victims as souvenirs.
For several months this went on, and despite outcry by local eyewitnesses and village leaders, the unit's chain of command ignored their pleas, and turned a blind eye to the atrocities of their soldiers. The father of one of the platoon's soldiers —himself seriously disturbed by his fellow servicemen— even tried contacting the chain of command at Fort Lewis, Washington to report the situation, but was turned away.
The commanders—by military regulation—are responsible for the climate and character of their unit, and it is our democratically elected civilian officials who are responsible for ensuring that our armed forces meet the ideals and ethical guidelines that our nation both trumpets and holds dear. We must show the world that such behavior will not be tolerated, that we will hold our military accountable, and that the American people will know what our government will do to prevent such atrocities in the future.
Former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, likened the recent crimes by the soldiers of B Co 5th Stryker BCT in La Mohammad Kalay, as being "much worse" than those committed at Abu Ghraib in 2004, yet the Senate and House Armed Services Committees have been deafeningly silent on the matter.
Please sign the petition asking Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees to conduct inquiries and hold hearings in order to hold all those responsible to account.
As you are aware, the international community learned of the horrific war crimes committed against unarmed and innocent civilians in Afghanistan by our very own troops. Almost a year since the news first broke more disturbing details are still becoming known. While some individuals have been tried for their crimes, there has been a shocking lack of accountability for officers who allowed to these crimes to occur and continue.
There is clear cause to believe that the actions by soldiers of the "Kill Team," assigned to Bravo Company, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, were well known among the 4,000 soldiers that served in the brigade, and that they even encouraged or assisted similar behavior among other units within the brigade.
We must show the world that such behavior will not be tolerated, that we will hold our military accountable, and that the American people will know what our government will do to prevent such atrocities in the future.
The commanders—by law—are responsible for the climate and character of their unit, and our democratically elected civilian officials are responsible for ensuring that every unit within our armed forces meet the ideals and ethical guidelines that our nation both trumpets and holds dear.
I strongly urge you to initiate an official hearing and inquiry by the Armed Services Committee, which will seek out the truth in these matters and begin the dialogue on how such widespread criminality within our military can be prevented in the future.
I look forward to your reply at the responses email below.