After slaying of 16 Afghan civilians, American Army sergeant held for investigation

An elderly Afghan man sits next to the covered bodies of civilians killed by an American soldier in Kandahar province, March 11, 2012. REUTERS/ Ahmad Nadeem

An American soldier is reported to have "stalked from home to home" before dawn, then methodically killed at least 16 civilians including 9 children, and 3 women. One of the dead appears to be a girl of toddler age.

The incident took place in a rural community in southern Afghanistan on Sunday morning. Eleven of the victims were members of one family. Photographs of the bodies circulating online show bullet wounds to the head, execution-style. Five or more additional civilians are reported to have been seriously injured.

"It is not the first time US soldiers have intentionally killed Afghan civilians but the death toll is unprecedented for a single soldier."

Quentin Sommerville, BBC correspondent in Kabul, tweeted a series of observations this morning as news spread:

A tiny girl in a red and green dress, is she 2 or 3 years old? There's a single gunshot in the middle of her temple. She almost looks asleep.

The killer in Kandahar is described as a "conventional US soldier" by ISAF sources, i.e., not Special Forces. Reuters and locals saying more than one solider involved, but ISAF insisting that this was an "individual acting alone".

From ex-US diplomat,"If you're an Afghan, you've seen a Florida pastor try to burn a Koran, then Marines urinate on dead Taliban soldiers, then burning of the Koran, and now this... all within 10 months. We don't have the benefit of the doubt. Time for us to get out of there."

Is the international mission here in danger of losing its most important supporter... the Afghan people?

More: NYT, CSM, CNN, Reuters, AFP, AP, Guardian.


  1. This soldier is fully deserving of having his pay docked if not even having a rank reduction. Yes, it’s that serious.

          1.  If an Afghan soldier killed 16 American’s including numerous children while in Los Angeles, I am pretty sure the US would not be happy with him being court marshalled by the Afghan army.  I say give him to the Afghan people so that they can ensure justice is achieved. 

  2. Let’s watch and see how much rioting is caused by this incident.  And, of course, let’s be thankful that no Korans were damaged by the shooting.

    1. Honestly, if people rioted over these killings, I’m not sure I’d blame them. 

      And I still don’t buy that if a Middle Eastern army came over here and burned a few bibles there wouldn’t be people out fighting in the streets. 

  3. We really need to just go.  Just walk away.  We cannot fix this.  All we can do now is stop doing worse harm.

    This particular soldier should stay, however, and face local justice.  

  4. Thank you for your service!

    The punishment for this american hero is probably a slap on the wrist and a pay cut. Standard punishment for war crimes in the US military (re: Haditha, My Lai). ’cause they fight for freedom and liberty.

  5. If an Afghan had done this to U.S. troops, he’d have been shot on the spot. Not that I think this soldier deserves that same standard. On the contrary, I would think it better that the Afghan were taken prisoner and put on trial. However, the discrepancy is not likely to be lost on the Afghan people.

    1. I feel compelled to point out that the corollary shouldn’t ask “If an Afghan had done this to U.S. troops…” but rather “If an Afghan had done this to U.S. children…”.

  6. Soooo…correct me if I’m wrong here, because I really don’t know, and it’s probably the posterchild of biased reporting, but…when was the last time a non-US soldier was involved in the slaying of civilians? Added difficulty, when was the last time a non-English speaking coalition soldier was involved in this sort of thing?

    I mean, maybe I’m not reading the right reports, but I’m hard pressed to remember an instant of, say, an Australian or Dutch soldier playing “murder the bystander”. Can someone help me out here? Because the picture I’m getting from these reports is that this seems to be a problem inherent with or more likely to manifest with US soldiers, and that can’t be quite right now, can it?

    1. I think the most scandalous offense of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan thus far was the incident where they were handing over Afghan detainees to American forces knowing that they’d be tortured. But then that still doesn’t look good on the American forces, does it?

    2. Germany:

      Some special forces posing with old skulls (100+yrs old, they found them somewhere in the desert). 

      One officer ordered an US airstrike with 100+ (mostly civilian) casualties. The officer lied to authorize the attack, the whole thing was not covered by the rules of engagement.

  7. I would dearly like to see every white-house level press conference commence with:  “What are the exact current goals of our military in Afghanistan?”  (al qaeda? not there anymore.  taliban? we’re negotiating with them. stable goverment? not with the current puppet.  “democracy”? “humane treatment of women”? …great goals – ain’t gonna happen in this century.)

      1. ([sotto-voce] sure… plus some semi-rare mineral sources.  but y’see the goal is to force them to admit that there is no goal that they can admit to)

    1. The goal of our military in Afghanistan is to fight a delaying action with as little controversy as possible until the day after Obama is re-elected. 

      Once that’s accomplished, it’s Saigon 1975 redux (which is not in my view the worst possible outcome, although it’s not a good one).

    2.  The goal of the US Military in Afghanistan, as with Iraq, is to enable US business interests supplying contractor services and supplies to the US Government there to maximize their profits before the forces have to be withdrawn due to the pressure of public opinion. Yes, there was a side issue of finding OBL, but that mission should have been in Pakistan apparently, and that is now over. Unfortunately this has a heavy cost in US personnel who are over there thinking they are doing the right thing, both those killed and injured and those who suffer from PTSD afterwards – but hey, Haliburton and Blackwater made good money there and that is whats truly important. :(

  8. Oh…my…god.  It gets worse:

    Quoting: “Neighbours said they awoke to crackling gunfire from American soldiers, whom they described as laughing and drunk.”Soldiers, plural.   Laughing.  Drunk.If this is true (and I can think of no reason for all of the neighbors to indulge in an elaborate conspiracy of fabrication), then these American soldiers did much more than murder civilians in cold blood (and that in itself is enough to merit the most severe consequences); they also provided a clinching argument for everyone recruiting fighters for the Taliban, for al Queda, for any and every organization that opposes the US.

    1. Yes, this is bad because it makes us look bad in comparison to our enemies and thus hinders our imperial goals in the region. Not because it’s, you know, bad to shoot children in the fucking face.

      1. I think it’s legitimate to point out that there’s both stupidity and malice at work here. They’re both fatal in the long run.

    2. Hi rsk, 

      Things aren’t exactly as black and white as you might wish to portray them. For example, you say that the wanton murder of Afghani innocents by our demented Christian crusade crazies might be a recruiting tool for “al Qaeda”. Well, it would behoove all of us to understand that Hillary Clinton and the putative leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al Zawahiri are in total lockstep on regime change in Syria. Furthermore, keep in mind that during the 1980s the U.S. CIA and the royal house of Saud contributed in equal measure to the recruitment and provisioning of mujahideen fighters in the Soviet-Afghan War. Al Qaeda was the evil spawn of the mujahideen proxy war. 

      We’ve always been allied with al Qaeda. They are our necessary foil for the rapacious profiteering done by the imperialist frauds who run America (into the ditch, financially speaking). 

    3. Yes, because if you wanted to strike back at those who kill Afghan civilians, you’d join the Taliban.

      Oh wait – the Taliban was responsible for 76% of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2009, according to the UN*.  Yes, let’s all just pack up and go home and let them get back to dispensing ‘local justice’, like hanging children, shooting women in the head in public squares, and cutting people’s noses off.


  9. I’m so dreadfully tired of hearing about shit like this. It is an inevitability though, give a young person a gun and put them in a place where everyone looks like the people shooting at him, and for some, it doesn’t take much to put them over the edge. This kind of thing is the result. If this dude really was acting on his own and not with his unit, he will spend the rest of his life in a military prison, and that is as it should be. It’s not surprising that the locals, whose country we invaded, hate our guts. Does anyone think we’re actually accomplishing anything in Afghanistan anymore, and is what we’re doing worth more of these kinds of incidents? IMO, It is well past time for our military to leave.

  10. Yep, there seems to be some discrepancy between what you lot in the US are being spun..

    Sky and the BBC are showing charred remains and corpse burning areas (indoors), which would seem very odd for a single soldier to stop and take the time to do. Not the actions of an impulsive nervous breakdown.

    1. I just checked Al Jazeera’s coverage.   The military command is saying “soldier”, the villagers are saying “soldiers”.    I’m getting the distinct sense that we’re going to be told that this was the usual One Lone Rogue Guy, and that the story will be framed around that.

      Dammit, there are a bunch of dead civilians and the spin machine is already revved up to full-on.  The chance of anything resembling “justice” emerging from this is zero.  All there is…is pain, and loss, and death, and grief.  DAMMIT.

      1. Another eyewitness, 20-year-old Jan Agha, told Reuters he had been woken by gunfire along with his father, who peeped nervously outside through a curtain. Suddenly more shots were fired and his father fell dead, hit in the throat and face. Also killed were Jan’s mother, brother and sister. The young man said he had survived by lying on the floor, pretending to be dead. He also believes that more than one US soldier entered his house. “The Americans stayed in our house for a while,” he said. “I was very scared.”

        1. Fuck. I mean what are you going to do if you´re this guy? If it´s not some kind of retaliation attempt he´s a saint.

      2. What ‘usual One Lone Rogue Guy’ are you talking about?  The US has had no problem whatsoever laying charges against multiple individuals alleged to have committed atrocities in the past.

  11. Is the international mission here in danger of losing its most important supporter… the Afghan people?

    Say, what? In danger of losing the support of the Afghan people? Did we ever have it in the first place? Because everyone loves violent, bomb-dropping assholes who come in, install a frightening, repressive quisling government, kill indiscriminately, with soldiers and unmanned drones, maintain a base where people are detained indefinitely and tortured in a prison out of a horror movie without any kind of due process or regard for the population’s humanity, routinely display their contempt for the locals, PISS on the corpses of their countrymen, kill their children and, oh, burn their religious books. Jesus Christ, we might be in danger of losing their support!

    People who manage to have faith in us despite all of that are likely to be deeply disturbed or bought. In a war movie, that type would be the treasonous asshole (perhaps played by William Atherton) who everyone cheers the death of.

    1. The West does blatant, reality refuting propaganda too you know.

      “Mission Accomplished” isn’t that old is it?

  12. Hearts and minds, indeed!
    A Saudi fundamentalist leading a group of fundamentalists operating from Afghanistan wanted a war to be about Islam, and all the Muslims. 

    A group of really dumb Americans and Europeans actually went and made it all about Islam, and about Muslims, all Muslims, including those living peacefully, even in Europe and the U.S. They harassed people because of religion and started wars. Thus realizing the Saudi’s dreams in a roundabout manner. The Saudi had hoped for Muslims to rally around him, and it did not happen.

    Because most Muslims and non-Muslims were smart and realistic enough, they were more interested in living their lives than in letting these creeps provoke and dictate to them. Even when offended or appalled, they chose not to do awful things to the others.

    Now we understand why am I not surprised. That this Saudi fundamentalist-inspired policy produces such wonderful results.

  13. It never ceases to amaze me that it is all about the USA. Maybe instead of making jokes about how bad are policies are, and even about how bad our government is, we should be taking time to reflect that some families lost multiple members including very young children to this tragedy. Maybe if our first impulse was with them instead of the political implications, we might do better as individuals and as a nation. 

    The grief, shock, and horror in these communities I can’t even imagine, and it sounds inane to even suggest that we actually grieve with them, but maybe in this case, instead of bitter jokes, that would be a more empathetic choice. 

    1.  It is, of course, not “all about the USA”, and for the Afghanis this entire “adventure” the US is on there this must be much like an endless nightmare. There is nothing funny here, and even the jokes are more dark sarcastic commentary than an attempt to get a chuckle. This is horrendous and we must get out.

  14. I expect to hear a thousand mainstream media comments in the near future about PTSD, and not one about why we’re fucking giving people PTSD at all.

    And that’s assuming that this was actually an action of rogue soldiers.

  15. Also, the thought of these civilians (allegedly) murdered for no reason really makes me sick to my stomach. Just another reason out of the millions of reasons why war should be avoided at all costs.

  16. ‎This journalistic video presents the following sentence without even a wink: 

    “Weeks of violence set off by the burning of Koran holy books on the US base had just started to die down . . .”  

    Let’s try to get our heads around that one.  So, the ‘violence’ in the WAR in Afghanistan was not set off by, you know, the WAR happening there, but actually all that was quite normal, but then there was some ‘violence’, (’cause, ya’ know, the locals there did it) which was set off by the US burning some Korans, and such a pity because things were just getting back to normal when this is going to cause some ‘violence’ again.

  17. The only reason this is news is because no one is claiming the shooter(s) was targeting suspected members of the Taliban. We kill innocent men, women, and children on a fairly regular basis with drones (not a “huge” number says the President, who’s probably never had a loved one blown to pieces or burned alive).

    This is news because this particular massacre wasn’t authorized.

  18. Some report that the soldier is from Fort Lewis-McChord, the same base as a group of soldiers that conducted thrill killings of Afghans and mutilation of corpses, and over the past five years saw 300 cases of PTSD reversed by Army psychiatrists possibly because of cost.

    More details will eventually come out, but I wonder if the reason for lone soldier/group inconsistency is because the lone soldier was the only one to turn himself in.

  19. if this happens again, and again, then the most basic wish of the American soldiers there will be realized:  they will go home.  Is it possible he thought he was making a sacrifice for his fellows?  

  20. It’s tragic for those that lost their lives. And tragic for all the good people trying to do a good job there which will now be in increased danger.

    It would be wonderful if the Afghani people could process that it was one rogue person – but one only has to look at recent events to know that won’t be the case. They’ll probably rampage, kill each other and up the death toll even more.

  21. Reuters is still sticking to their NON-lone Gunman on the scene reporting — contradicting CNN/BBC…

    ‘There were conflicting reports of how many shooters were involved, with U.S. officials asserting that a lone soldier was responsible, in contrast to witnesses’ accounts that several U.S. soldiers were present.
    Neighbors and relatives of the dead said they had seen a group of U.S. soldiers arrive at their village in Kandahar’s Panjwayi district at about 2 a.m., enter homes and open fire.
    An Afghan man who said his children were killed in the shooting spree accused soldiers of later burning the bodies.’

  22. Reminds me of some of the more dystopian bits of year zero. For those who don’t like clicking on links, just google the name, or Red Pills.
    Be The Hammer

  23. More bloody photographs of slaughtered children and mothers for the Taliban and worldwide Al Qaeda recruiting posters! The blood-feud revenge will be manifold the 16 innocents and for many generations of hatred!

  24. One of the iconic images of Nazi totalitarianism is of their book burnings. Now it is different, but maybe we should think about how we react to that before we judge how others react to other book-burnings.

    One reason it’s different is because the Nazis were conducting mass murders of their political opponents and would soon conduct extermination campaigns against countless minorities – including people with disabilities, people who were intersex and/or trans, gay men, Romani, Jews, and many Slavic groups…

    (Alas, many of the victims were further victimized by post-war governments which continued to imprison intersex, trans, and gay holocaust survivors and continued to enforce Nazi laws against these minorities.)

    Another reason it’s different is because the Nazis weren’t burning a few copies of widely-disseminated books, they were burning whole libraries, to destroy people’s history, literature, and scientific research, and there are no surviving copies of much of what was lost.

    Now someone on a desert island might not have any of that baggage. But someone who is planning to burn Korans and is supporting wars which have killed millions [see the Lancet studies] of, mostly Muslim, civilians might have a little of that kind of baggage.

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