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JBLM trial: Life imitating art?

Post by Brian O'Neill on Nov. 22, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
November 22, 2010 10:05 pm

The more details emerge in the ongoing courtmartial at JBLM, the more I am reminded of the epic Vietnam movie, “Platoon.”

The facts of this case are brutally reminiscent of the movie: the premeditated killing of innocent civilians in a war zone by soldiers abusing illegal drugs.

The alleged acts appeared to originate in the mind of the ranking non-commissioned officer, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs. In similar fashion, the fictional “Platoon” sergeant, Staff Sgt Barnes (played by Tom Berenger) used a mix of charisma and overt threats to mold his platoon into heartless killers of enemies and innocents alike.

The comparisons are a stark reminder of how real life might imitate Hollywood.

Peering further into the looking glass, the fictional platoon showed a severe lack of discipline, a result of the leadership vacuum that should have been filled by the platoon commander. This young lieutenant was easily swayed by Staff Sgt Gibbs’ movie counterpart, Barnes. The lack of leadership by the officer corps is similarly an issue in the alleged killings in Afghanistan. The Trib reported that the Army has already launched a separate investigation to determine how much responsibility the commanding officers of these real life soldiers bear.

Additional similarities exist, but in the end such direct comparison to Hollywood fiction may serve little purpose as we attempt to understand why real soldiers could have committed these alleged crimes.

But I still find the comparisons disturbing.

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