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Killing the Innocent

March 29, 2011

This article from Rolling Magazine called “The Kill Team” paints the chilling portrait of how US soldiers engaged in despicable activities towards Afghan civilians. I wrote here about how any violation of the Geneva Conventions is a war crime and should not go unpunished; in this case, the attacking of and killing of innocent civilians who pose no threat.

One of Kill Team’s victims was a 15-year-old boy tending to his farming duties:

He was a smooth-faced kid, about 15 years old. Not much younger than they were: Morlock was 21, Holmes was 19. His name, they would later learn, was Gul Mudin, a common name in Afghanistan. He was wearing a little cap and a Western-style green jacket. He held nothing in his hand that could be interpreted as a weapon, not even a shovel. The expression on his face was welcoming. “He was not a threat,” Morlock later confessed.

Morlock and Holmes called to him in Pashto as he walked toward them, ordering him to stop. The boy did as he was told. He stood still.

The soldiers knelt down behind a mud-brick wall. Then Morlock tossed a grenade toward Mudin, using the wall as cover. As the grenade exploded, he and Holmes opened fire, shooting the boy repeatedly at close range with an M4 carbine and a machine gun.

Mudin buckled, went down face first onto the ground. His cap toppled off. A pool of blood congealed by his head.

It turns out that throwing the grenade towards the boy was a staged assault, in order to prove justification for the soldiers to defend themselves because they “had come under attack.” To add further insult to this injustice, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, Bravo Company’s “popular and hard-charging squad leader” decided to cut “off the dead boy’s pinky finger and gave it to Holmes, as a trophy for killing his first Afghan.”

Young Gul Mudin would not be the only murder victim. There would be more including an unarmed, “deaf or mentally disabled” man and “a peaceful cleric named Mullah Allah Dad.”

The soldiers were able to get away with these murders because leadership let them get away with it. When military leadership didn’t really investigate killings, it gave the soldiers a green light to continue with attacks.

From the start, the questionable nature of the killings was on the radar of senior Army leadership. Within days of the first murder, Rolling Stone has learned, Mudin’s uncle descended on the gates of FOB Ramrod, along with 20 villagers from La Mohammad Kalay, to demand an investigation. “They were sitting at our front door,” recalls Lt. Col. David Abrahams, the battalion’s second in command. During a four-hour meeting with Mudin’s uncle, Abrahams was informed that several children in the village had seen Mudin killed by soldiers from 3rd Platoon. The battalion chief ordered the soldiers to be reinterviewed, but Abrahams found “no inconsistencies in their story,” and the matter was dropped. “It was cut and dry to us at the time,” Abrahams recalls.

Rather than address the murders, “the Pentagon went to extraordinary measures to suppress the photos [that the soldiers took with the victim’s corpses].” It wasn’t until after a German magazine Der Spiegel posted the graphic images that the “U.S. Army issued an apology.”

Another appalling aspect of the story is how the soldiers dehumanized Afghans–calling them “savages”–as a way of providing some type of moral ground in justifying the murders. Let’s be clear, these soldiers–Morlock, Gibbs–attacked human beings, not “savages”; these victims were someone’s father, someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s uncle.

Is it any wonder why the U.S. delayed issuing a traveling visa to Malalai Joya? Maybe the government didn’t want her talking about how billions of our tax dollars are going “into pocket[s] of the warlords, drug lords and criminals, and now negotiating with the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, these terrorists, as well.” My guess is the government didn’t want her also talking about how billions of our tax dollars were also being spent to kill innocence.

The soldiers involved in these murders should be tried and punished as per international law and under the guidelines set up by the Geneva Conventions.

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