Filmmaker Dan Krauss obtained unrivaled access to three Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers who in 2011 were convicted of murdering Afghan civilians during their deployment to Kandahar Province. His documentary looking at how the soldiers changed from patriotic troops to notorious members of a so-called “kill team last week won first place in its category at the Tribeca Film Festival.
I haven’t seen Krauss’ “Kill Team,” but its preview shows several convicted soldiers speaking on camera. It’s striking because these are people known around the world only in the gruesome photos they took of themselves posing with dead bodies, or in the grainy videos of their discussions with Army criminal investigators. The Army did not allow cameras in court for their trials.
Krauss recently told Rolling Stone he was drawn to the “kill team” story by Luke Moggelson’s take on the troubled group of soldiers in The New York Times Magazine, titled “A Beast in the Heart of Every Fighting Man.” Moggelson’s take stood out in 2011 among the many exposes on the “kill team” for the depth and analysis he wove into his cover story.
“These events are much bigger than just soldiers or the institution of the military. War crimes are not a new phenomenon – they’ve been occurring since the Greek wars. I just read the Odyssey and the Iliad and you see desecration and all kinds that are familiar to people who have studied similar cases from the Vietnam era. We don’t hold the licenses on war crimes. Part of the thesis of the film, part of the fundamental conflict of the film, has to do with this notion that clean war is a modern myth.”
His film centers on then-Spc. Adam Winfield, the soldier who once contacted his father to raise an alarm about the first unjustified killing his platoon mates carried out. Later, Winfield joined the group. He pleaded guilty to participating in a May 2011 killing, and he has been released from jail.
The clip above shows that Krauss also interviewed whistle blower Spc. Justin Stoner as well as three soldiers convicted in connection with the civilian murders: Winfield, Spc. Jeremy Morlock and Pfc. Andrew Holmes. Former Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, serving a life sentence for orchestrating the three killings, is not on camera.