Readings — From the December 2010 issue
SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
From a February 2010 Facebook chat between Christopher Winfield and his son Adam, an Army specialist with a Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Afghanistan. According to Army investigators, two more Afghan civilians were murdered by Spc. Winfield’s platoon after the chat took place. In September 2009, Winfield was arrested along with eleven other platoon members; he was later charged with murder in connection with the third civilian death. The conversation was obtained through Winfield’s lawyer.
adam winfield: Hey.
christopher winfield: What up?
a.w.: Did you read the message I sent?
c.w.: No. Just got home.
a.w.: Read it in private. I only want you and Mom to know about this right now.
c.w.: So are you in trouble now or is it over with?
a.w.: I’m not in trouble. I just lost all and any authority I had. I’m not concerned about my job right now or the promotion board. Did you not understand what I just told you what people did in my platoon?
a.w.: Yeah, an innocent dude. They planned and went through with it. I knew about it. Didn’t believe they were going to do it. Then it happened. Pretty much the whole platoon knows about it. It’s OK with all of them pretty much. Except me. I want to do something about it. The only problem is I don’t feel safe here telling anyone. The guy who did it is the golden boy in the company who can never do anything wrong and it’s my word against theirs.
c.w.: Was it an Afghan they killed?
a.w.: Yes. Some innocent guy about my age just farming. They made it look like the guy threw a grenade at them and mowed him down. I was on the Stryker and wasn’t on the ground when it took place. But I know they did it because they told me. Everyone pretty much knows it was staged. If I say anything it’s my word against everyone. There’s no one in this platoon that agrees this was wrong. They all don’t care.
c.w.: OK, wow, you are not in a position to say anything to anybody. You don’t know who to trust. I
think maybe I need to call a senator’s office and talk to them without mentioning names. I don’t want you to get hurt from this. Let me think this through, OK? Also, were you demoted? Or did you step down from your position?
a.w.: I stepped down. I cannot be a leader in a platoon that allows this to happen. I cannot work for my squad leader who punishes me for leaving a Stryker unlocked and gives high fives to the guy who kills innocent people and plans more with him. That’s why I quit my job. I think if I go to the chaplain I might be fine. But if I do this I want to be as far away from my platoon as I can. There’s a rumor going around that I’m going to talk and the threats are already coming my way.
c.w.: Do this. Tell them that you will not tell. Just ask for a transfer or something. Assure them you won’t tell. Let me do something.
a.w.: It doesn’t work that way. You can’t just ask to move. We are already shorthanded as it is. I’m on the shit list in my platoon for quitting, and my chain of command won’t move me if I ask.
c.w.: Just tell them you want nothing to do with what they do. Make them believe that it’s water past the bridge. I will talk to someone without mentioning our names and ask for help getting you out of there.
a.w.: I’m on the bottom of the totem pole again and the guy that did this has the platoon in his pocket, so he will catch wind of any sort of investigation before I would even know about it, and if I just start packing my stuff one day, that’s it. I’m caught.
c.w.: I know. Don’t do anything until I figure out what to do. You must make them believe you are on their side.
a.w.: Well, I think they think I won’t say anything. I was going to keep my mouth shut but they fucked with the wrong guy this time. I’ve about had it with this Army. Last night I was so mad I almost quit altogether
and told them I refuse to go on missions with them but they would really get me in trouble then.
c.w.: Four months left. You will make it through. We will work on this problem too.
a.w.: Well, if you talk to anyone on my behalf I have proof that they are planning another one in the form of an AK-47 they want to drop on a guy.
c.w.: How many are involved?
a.w.: Well, it was two guys who did it, actually killed the dude. But the whole platoon knew about it for the most part. I think our platoon leader doesn’t know and maybe like two dudes. Everyone just wants to kill people at any cost. They don’t care. The Army is full of a bunch of scumbags I realized.