Those US soldiers in Afghanistan accused of murdering Afghan civilians "for sport," which the Guardian first reported weeks ago? It took some time for US media to pick up on the story, but a leaked video confession has surfaced.
ABC News yesterday aired footage of 22-year-old Specialist Jeremy N. Morlock offering a confession to US Army investigators about the killing of an unarmed Afghan civilian in 2009. In the video, Morlock is very matter-of-fact about the event, in which he and four other soldiers stood an Afghan man up against a wall, tossed a live grenade to give the appearance of an attack on them, and "waxed" the man. Morlock said the man was unarmed, cooperating, and posed no threat to his comrades. He says the alleged ringleader of the crime, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, said to the other troops: "Hey, you guys wanna wax this guy or what?" Watch Morlock's confession:
War crimes like this have happened many times before in American theaters of war. Whether soldiers claim combat-related stress, or they are just cold-blooded killers, incidents like these only harden the views of insurgents and an already wary, and war-weary Afghan public.
Specialist Morlock appeared yesterday at an Article 32 hearing in the case. His lawyer says the taped confession should not be used because Morlock was heavily medicated at the time, according to The Seattle Times. Besides taking multiple prescription drugs, the soldiers accused in this case had all been smoking hash in Afghanistan at the time of the killings. He and four other soldiers are accused of killing three Afghan civilians and keeping body parts as mementos during their deployment. One of the accused soldiers' parents say they warned the Army and a US Senator about the unstable Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, but no action was taken.
The US Army has limited the use of pictures of dead and maimed civilians for the hearings in this case for obvious reasons. With an already bloody, and widely-condemned string of errant US airstrikes in the country, images of mutilated Afghan civilians splashed across the front pages of regional newspapers will only inflame anti-American sentiment there. Col. Barry F. Huggins, in a memo via the Times wrote, "I have determined that the risk of potential prejudice to the substantive rights of the accused, as well as negative impact on the reputation of the armed forces, associated with the potential public dissemination of these images outweighs minimal hardship upon the accused as a result of this order."
Morlock, if found guilty in a court-martial, could face the death penalty.