Yesterday, army specialist Jeremy Morlock was sentenced to 24 years for taking part in a “kill team” that would slaughter Afghan civilians for fun, and then take trophy photos with their victims. From Der Spiegel:

Jeremy Morlock, a 22-year-old army specialist, is part of a group of five soldiers accused of killing innocent civilians out of pure bloodlust. The unit was part of the 5th Stryker Brigade, which saw heavy fighting around Kandahar, including at the Forward Operating Base Ramrod. The soldiers carried out the crimes between January and May 2010 by using guns and grenades to make it appear they were under attack in order to justify killing civilians.

The soldiers then took photos of themselves grinning while standing over their victims as if posing with hunting trophies, as well as taking gruesome mementos including bones and severed fingers. SPIEGEL has obtained a significant number of photos and videos taken by the troops.

The actions of these American soldiers is evil in its purest form, and I doubt I could ever imagine how angry this story would make me if I were Afghani. Unfortunately, this incident shows what an impossible task it is to use military force to “win hearts and minds.”

This is not an attack on our armed forces. I believe the overwhelming majority of American soldiers are honest, moral and dedicated people. I think the Army does about as good a job as can possibly be done to prevent these types of incidents. It is actually because I believe our Army is so good, that I believe the task is so impossible.

Anytime you ever have hundreds of thousands of people in an extremely high-stress environment, you are going to get a few bad actors who end up committing terrible crimes. No matter how good a system you have to prevent problems, it can’t be 100 percent perfect.

Inevitability, because of pure statistics, huge efforts to “win hearts” will be undermined by the actions of a few.