September 10, 2010

American soldiers murdered civilians, collected body parts

POLITICS - Preliminary hearings in a gruesome case are expected to begin this Autumn.
The case centers around American soldiers who murdered Afghanistan civilians and then collected their body parts and other momentos as spoils of war. The United States military is taking the crimes very seriously.

Multiple troops in an unit were murdering Afghan civilians and planning more killings. Not everyone in the unit was happy about the murders but they were threatened to keep quiet.

One of the soldiers told his father about the murders and he in turn told the U.S. Army. By the time officials arrested 5 suspects in the unit 2 more Afghan civilians had been killed.

And the soldier, Adam Winfield, who had warned his father was likewise charged in the murders. He is one of 5 soldiers from Fort Lewis charged with conspiracy and premeditated murder, despite being the one who secretly tipped off the military police.

The elder Winfield says his son did not kill anyone and would never have been in the situation if the Army had investigated the warnings sooner. The Pentagon is denying they received any tips about the murders going on.

The U.S. Army's handling of the case is questionable. First they ignored the pleas to stop the murders, then they deny ever being tipped off in the first place. The system makes it very difficult for soldiers to make complaints and report misconduct by their colleagues.

The accused ringleaders include (in order of rank):

Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs
Cpl. Jeremy Morlock

They are accused of collecting fingers and other body parts from Afghan corpses as souvenirs, hoarding illicitly gained weapons as momentos and other spoils of war. They're also accused of dropping weapons beside corpses of unarmed civilians to make them appear to have been combatants, according to the charges filed by Army prosecutors and statements soldiers in the platoon made to investigators.

Pfc. Andrew Holmes and Spc. Michael Wagnon are also charged with murder.

Meanwhile Winfield claims he deliberately shot high and missed in the one murder he was involved with.

All 5 soldiers were in the 5th Stryker Brigade, deployed in July 2009 in Kandahar Province.

The ringleader Gibbs, 25, of Billings, Montana started the conspiracy when he joined the unit and soon began discussing how easy it would be to murder civilians, according to other members of the platoon. Gibbs and Morlock, 22, then planned “scenarios” in which they would murder Afghan civilians, says platoon members.

Gibbs denies plotting the murders at all, but his co-conspirator Morlock, of Wasilla, Alaska, gave investigators extensive statements describing their murder plots. Morlock’s lawyer however wants those statements suppressed because Morlock made the statements while using prescription pain medication used to treat brain injuries.

According to Morlock, he and Gibbs planned and initiated each murder and always enlisted one other soldier to participate.

Christopher Winfield's messages to his wife Emma and his parents over Facebook document what happened after the first killing on January 15th 2010. The Facebook messages will be valuable evidence in proving the guilt of the other soldiers. Winfield however could still be dishonourably discharged for being present at one of the murders and not trying to stop it.

“I’m not sure what to do about something that happened out here but I need to be secretive about this,” he wrote in one Facebook message.

In another message he wrote: “If you talk to anyone on my behalf, I have proof that they are planning another one in the form of an AK-47 they want to drop on a guy.”

Winfield says he didn’t know whom to trust and feared for his safety if his comrades learned he was talking to authorities.

“Should I do the right thing and put myself in danger for it. Or just shut up and deal with it,” he wrote to his parents. “There are no more good men left here. It eats away at my conscience everyday.”

He asked his parents to report the murder via the internet and call an army hotline for him because he couldn't risk other platoon members overhearing him on the phone. Phone records show his father called military officials 5 times that same day.

In one call, an official told the father that if his son wasn’t willing to come forward while deployed, there was nothing the base could do.

Three platoon members say Gibbs threatened Winfield multiple times to stay quiet. Morlock says that Gibbs even planned scenarios for killing Winfield, such as a weightlifting accident or accidental misfiring of a rifle.

One time Gibbs accosted Winfield on his way to speak with a chaplain and warned him to keep quiet, according to investigators. Soldiers are supposed to report misconduct to the army chaplain or military investigators, as per the chain of command.

Other soldiers in the platoon claim there was also drug use going on in the unit, especially hashish smoking. When Pfc. Justin A. Stoner reported the hashish smoking he was beaten by several platoon members. Gibbs and Morlock then paid him a visit, with Gibbs playing with a set of severed fingers, he says.

According to the soldier, Morlock told him “if I don’t want to end up like that guy ... shut the hell up.”

Military police say it was Pfc. Justin A. Stoner who actually tipped them off to the murders going on when he told investigators that Morlock “had three prior kills that none of which I believe were actually justified.”

Food for Thought: There are villains in this world and you have to stand up to them.

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