The Trophy Shot

This image, published by Rolling Stone, shows the body of Gul Mudin, the son of a farmer, who was killed on Jan. 15, 2010. Pfc. Andrew Holmes, a member of the "kill team" is posing next to him.

This image, published by Rolling Stone, shows the body of Gul Mudin, the son of a farmer, who was killed on Jan. 15, 2010. Pfc. Andrew Holmes, a member of the "kill team" is posing next to him.

War crimes are as old as war, and thus as old as mankind itself. Homer’s Iliad—Western civilization’s first great work of literature—is about one, after all. It chronicles Achilles’ inexorable moral collapse during the last days of the Trojan War. His prolonged ethical erosion and self-debasement culminates in a vile transgression: the desecration and mutilation of Hector, Troy’s greatest hero, whom Achilles had just vanquished in battle.

But one variety of repugnant battlefield behavior—a twist on the timeless yet now morally unacceptable practice of plundering enemy corpses for keepsakes, whether equipment or flesh—is uniquely modern: the trophy shot. Allegations that a small band of U.S. soldiers had gone spectacularly and murderously rogue in Afghanistan in 2010 and killed up to four innocent civilians with depraved premeditation had barely caused a ripple of outrage even though news about what has come to be known as the “Kill Team” case started leaking out last May.

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