War & Peace
U.S. Troops Posed for Photos With Bodies of Deliberately Murdered Afghan Civilians
The US Army has apologized for a series of photos of soldiers posing with the bodies of dead Afghan civilians they had deliberately murdered. The photos, which were leaked and appear in the current issue of the German news magazine Der Spiegel, show members of a rogue Army “kill team” that killed innocent Afghan civilians for sport, sometimes keeping body parts as souvenirs.
The photos show two soldiers posing next to a corpse, with one of the soldiers smiling.
Col. Thomas Collins released a statement on behalf of the Army apologizing for the suffering the photos have caused to the Afghan people. The apology said that the soldiers’ conduct depicted in the photos is “repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States.”
The “kill team” was the brainchild of US Army Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, who was deployed to a forward operating base in Kandahar province, Afghanistan after serving a tour in Iraq. Gibbs boasted about how easy it was to get away with “stuff” in Iraq, and convinced some of his fellow soldiers that they could do the same in Afghanistan. The “stuff” Gibbs had in mind was killing innocent Afghan civilians for sport. The “kill team” was born. The rogue soldiers went on a ghastly murder spree during the winter and spring of 2010, blowing up innocent civilians with grenades or shooting them to death. The murders were elaborately staged to appear as if the innocent victims had been attacking the Americans. The killers collected body parts of their kills as trophies; Gibbs was fond of fingers, while Specialist Michael Wagnon cut off a victim’s head and kept his skull. The father of one of the soldiers charged in the killings warned the Army of their murderous plans but nothing was done to stop them.
“Kill team” member Cpl. Jeremy Morlock, age 22, confessed to the murders three months ago. He is scheduled to face a court-martial later this week. Eleven other soldiers are expected to go on trial soon.
The US and NATO, which have been waging a war against al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Afghanistan since 2001, are worried about the potential for furious backlash against the photos. “The images have an enormous potential here in Afghanistan,” one NATO general told Der Spiegel. “Experience shows that it might take a couple of days, but then people’s anger will be vented.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has phoned her Afghan counterpart in an attempt to defuse the situation; US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon is also in touch with Afghan officials in Kabul. Vice President Joe Biden and General David Petraeus, commander of NATO’s war in Afghanistan, have spoke about the issue with Afghan President Hamid Karzai as well. But will the US apology and the involvement of the highest American officials be enough to avert deadly backlash against the sickening conduct of a few US troops?
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