Trophies of War!
“I became a fucking animal. I started fucking putting fucking heads on poles. Leaving fucking notes for the motherfuckers. Digging up fucking graves. I didn’t give a fuck anymore. Y’know, I wanted—. They wanted a fucking hero, so I gave it to them. They wanted fucking body count, so I gave them body count.”
—unnamed Vietnam Veteran, quoted in Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character (New York, 1994). Reprinted in An Intimate History of Killing.
12 US soldiers have been charged with crimes in Afghanistan that range from the killing of civilians, to keeping body parts as war trophies. In one of the most serious accusations of war crimes to emerge from the Afghanistan, the killings are alleged to have been carried out by members of a Stryker infantry brigade based in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan. In ancient Greece and Rome, military victories were commemorated with a display of captured arms, and cultural objects, called war trophies. We’ve seen it in countless War movies; Dead Presidents comes to mind almost immediately, but then again so does the Prophecy with Christopher Walken. You know the part where they talk about that general who kept all those body parts from the Korean War underneath his bed! Yeah it sounds sick, almost inhuman to those of us who have never experienced the trauma of war first hand. There is an entire generation that has grown up with the Afghan and Iraq Wars and has become so desensitized that these atrocities are common place. These young men in Afghanistan thought they were doing something cool. They proudly took photos of their kills. As do may others. Search online and you can find G.I.’s trading gore pics on image boards and chat sites from all over. Its almost a sociopath’s badge of honor. All of a sudden Jeffrey Dahmer, doesn’t seem so odd. He was just a soldier without a war. Perhaps all serial killers are just in need of some true field combat. This may explain the drop in reported serial killer cases over the last ten years. Their all off getting paid for their work.
During World War II, some United States soldiers mutilated dead Japanese soldiers in the Pacific theater of operations. The mutilation of Japanese included the taking of body parts as “war souvenirs” and “war trophies”. Teeth and skulls were most commonly taken “trophies”, although other body parts were also collected. The phenomenon of “trophy-taking” was so widespread that discussion of it was featured prominently in magazines and newspapers. Franklin Roosevelt himself was reportedly gifted a letter-opener made of a man’s arm (Roosevelt rejected the gift and called for its proper burial). The behavior was then officially prohibited by the U.S. military, which issued additional guidance as early as 1942 condemning it specifically. Although the behavior continued throughout the war in the Pacific Theater, and has resulted in continued discoveries of “trophy skulls” of Japanese combatants in American possession to this day. 
To me this brings back old images we learned in Jr. High History of Native Americans scalping invading settlers, or of South American headhunters. These cultures however offered up their war trophies to their various gods as tribute, there was a certain spiritual ritual associated with these atrocities that I doubt is practiced by modern military forces. although these practices still exist in places like Africa, it is expected that American military personnel are supposed to be more civilized than this. There are strict laws and rules in place for removing anything from enemy combatants. There have been dozens of arrest of US soldiers from Iraq for taking simple things like medals and painting, money, gold, and other inanimate objects. Officially tools and instruments of war can be taken and kept, but that is all. The removal of personal effects can result in charges of larceny under military law. Yet as we see by this current case the practice is still in place amongst the soldiers. I mean these 12 didn’t come up with this on their own. And their commander who looked the other way even as one of them tried to blow the whistle on his platoon.
In WWII the desecration of Japanese soldiers was blamed on how the American propaganda machine had dehumanized the Japanese and portrayed them as less than human. There is something to that, the current American propaganda machine has dehumanized Muslims and portrayed them as cave dwelling subhumans whose murder is justified. The fact that Americas current enemy has been separated from a nationality to those who have a certain religious belief or geographic point of origin. We fight against a faceless enemy who could be anyone or anywhere that has sand and dark-skinned people praying to a false god that is not our own.
Yet this is not simply a product of this war or any other, this is a product of war itself. Spanish artist Francisco de Goya produced a series of pen sketches during Napoleons Peninsula War in (1807-1814) depicting the horrors of that war. The practice of removing human parts as trophies existed long before then. In 1258 Genghis Khan’s grandson Hulagu captured Baghdad and slaughtered most of the inhabitants, and according to Arab historians ordered the construction of a pyramid of human skulls. In the year 1300 BC, the Egyptian king Menephta defeated the Libyans. As proof of his triumph, he brought back thirteen thousand penises the soldiers chopped off of their opposition. Japanese samurai sliced off over 2000 noses of Korean men during the 1597 invasion of Korea. They were pickled and brought to the Emperor, 400 years later they were offered back to Korea as a goodwill gesture! Sure what these young men in Afghanistan cannot be placed along the same lines. In past wars this type of behavior was condoned from the top down. Now we have rules in place. If you want to collect War trophies like in the old days you’ll have to satisfy yourself with playing Call of Duty or Gods of War on your Play Station or XBox, where you can still collect them legally.
I couldn’t find the clip I was talking about but this will do!