Not far from me, a dozen or so miles away in Tecumseh, Michigan, a terrorist lives. He’s blended into the population for years. Family, a job. No one suspected this was a man capable of evil.
Joseph Newel, a Special Forces soldier, is going to be court-martialed; charged with murder and desecration of a body after he shot an Afghan civilian then cut off his ear as a souvenir last March, showing it to his buddies and grinning. The Master Sergeant kept the ear on display placing it on a shelf at his unit’s forward operating base in Helmand province.
Special Forces soldiers were notorious in Vietnam for just such souvenir hunting; the butchery being a terror message for both the civilians and militants of the area. The dehumanization necessary for these kinds of acts – how does one slice off the ears, nose, genitals of a fellow human being? – was taught many years before the man even entered the military from racist movies, racist news, racist politicans.
Recent reports from Afghanistan point to a major increase in deaths among civilians as well as combatants this year. Hundreds of Afghanis have been killed in US bombing runs. Reliance on air power in an anti-insurgency campaign is a sign you are losing.
The war’s supporters, including Barack Obama, have said that to avoid these kinds of deaths we need many more boots on the ground and the use of “surgical” units like the above mentioned Special Forces.
I am sure the Afghanis feel safer already.