By Bob Meola, Courage to Resist. June 10, 2011
“Allegedly, one soldier in 3rd platoon, Adam Winfield, attempted to be a whistle-blower after the first murder, by communicating to his father about it via facebook. He was afraid to say anything to the officers in his unit and chain of command in Afghanistan out of fear, with good cause, of being harmed.”
Courage to Resist supports the troops who refuse to fight. We also support the troops who refuse to participate in staged killings and other war crimes.
In March, Rolling Stone magazine featured a long article, “The Kill Team: How U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan Murdered Innocent Civilians.”
It chronicles the alleged actions of the 3rd Platoon of Bravo Company of the 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, U.S. Army based out of Tacoma, Washington while on duty in Afghanistan in early 2010. Some of the incidents described in the article had been kept secret. Some were more known. But the fact that certain soldiers contemplated, talked about, and had supposedly acted on their desire to murder innocent Afghan people was more generally known. It appears that if all the soldiers involved were to be charged in the most just and equitable way, officers up the chain of command, who had heard of the murders, would also be facing charges for tacitly accepting and approving of the killings or at the very least, ignoring and not investigating these killings and bringing charges earlier.
Allegedly, one soldier in 3rd platoon, Adam Winfield, attempted to be a whistle-blower after the first murder, by communicating to his father about it via facebook. He was afraid to say anything to the officers in his unit and chain of command in Afghanistan out of fear, with good cause, of being harmed. The Rolling Stone article details Winfield’s participation in the third murder. Both Winfield’s father and his lawyer dispute the Rolling Stone version. We don’t know the technicalities of the legal case. It is likely that Winfield reasonably feared for his life if he did not seem to go along with the plan to murder civilians. It is also likely that he aimed and fired above the victim so as not to hit him with bullets when he fired his weapon. And it is possible that his bullets then missed the victim. However, under international law, the Geneva Conventions, the Nuremberg Principles, the army’s rules of engagement, and according to his conscience, Winfield should not have been a participant in the third murder at all. A soldier has a duty to disobey an order when it is known to be an illegal order. The details of the events will unfold further and be argued at trial.
Our take away here is that a soldier has a duty to be a whistleblower when s/he becomes aware of war crimes and other wrongdoings. That soldier also has a duty to refuse illegal orders. It is unfortunate that the macho and bullying culture of the army breeds fear and intimidation throughout its ranks, creating an environment where injustices and atrocities can pervasively occur unchallenged. Yet, a soldier still has a duty to rise above that intimidation and fear of reprisal and to do the right thing, i.e. follow his or her conscience and honor the oath s/he took to defend the Constitution. The Constitution binds the United States to the treaties it signs and thereby prohibits complicity in war crimes. The best insurance, against finding oneself in Winfield’s situation, is to not join an army, especially one that wages illegal wars. At this juncture, Courage to Resist is not taking an official position on Adam Winfield’s case. We do not know enough about Adam’s actions as they relate to the circumstances surrounding Bravo company’s killings. What we do know is that this is not an isolated incident or a rogue group of soldiers. The needless killing of civilians is an everyday occurrence in Iraq and in Afghanistan. If we knew that Adam Winfield did, in fact, do everything in his power to blow the whistle and bring an end to his unit’s murder of civilians, we would support him. However, we cannot take that stance until the entire story unfolds and possibly gives us reason to do so.