Taped interrogations of four soldiers charged in theatrically slaying numerous Afghan civilians were obtained by CNN and ABC. CNN’s report includes the soldiers’ rampant drug abuse and a before unreported case of staging the murder of an Afghan civilian (5:52):
Monday, U.S. Specialist Jeremy Morlock, 22, “one of five American soldiers accused by Army investigators of taking part in the murders of three Afghan civilians this year, appeared at a hearing to determine the formal charges against him”, Robert Mackey reported at his New York Times (NYT) blog, “The Lede”.
The 11 other soldiers “invoked their constitutional right not to testify in the case”, Reuters reported (via the NYT). Nine of them are among the 12 charged from the 5th Stryker Brigade, out of Washington state, charged with crimes relating to their activities while deployed to the Kandahar province of Afghanistan. Nicholas Riccardi of the Los Angeles Times reported from the base, “Of the 18 witnesses listed for Monday’s hearing, 14 invoked their 5th amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid testifying, including the lieutenant of the platoon.”
The CNN report as well as Mr. Mackey’s—and another at the NYT by William Yardley—point toward abuse of prescription drugs and hash as influencing the staged brutal murders and trophy-collecting. Mr. Yardley’s report adds of another story where the soldiers staged a murder by planting a grenade near a defenseless civilian:
Some of the soldiers have said in court documents that they were forced to participate in the killings by a supervisor, Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, who is also accused in the killings. All five defendants have said they are not guilty.
In one incident, Specialist Morlock recounted in the video, he described Sergeant Gibbs identifying for no apparent reason an Afghan civilian in a village, then directing Specialist Morlock and another soldier to fire on the man after Sergeant Gibbs lobbed a grenade in his direction.
“He kind of placed me and Winfield off over here so we had a clean line of sight for this guy and, you know, he pulled out one of his grenades, an American grenade, popped it, throws the grenade, and tells me and Winfield: ‘All right, wax this guy. Kill this guy, kill this guy,’ ” Specialist Morlock said in the video.
Referring to the Afghan, the investigator asked: “Did you see him present any weapons? Was he aggressive toward you at all?”
Specialist Morlock replied: “No, not at all. Nothing. He wasn’t a threat.”
As Monday’s hearing was getting under way, CNN and ABC News broadcast the video. In the CNN clip and the ABC clip, Specialist Morlock, speaking in a near monotone, looks like a teenager recounting a story to his parents.
Spc. Morlock’s attorney, Michael Waddington, is attempting to refute the confession because of his client’s drug use, Mr. Mackey added, citing Hal Berton at The Seattle Times.
Questioning Army investigators in Afghanistan, Mr. Yardley reported, “Mr. Waddington repeatedly asked whether they found Specialist Morlock to be under the influence of medication in the interviews.”
The taped interrogations were not intended to be publicized and access to the seized photographs are limited to the soldiers’ lawyers, his report added:
A memo circulated by a military defense lawyer the previous week described an inadvertent release of photographs, including three that show American soldiers holding up the heads of dead Afghans. It was unclear whether all of the pictures showed soldiers in the cases, though military prosecutors said Monday that Specialist Morlock was in at least one image, apparently with a dead Afghan.
Photographic evidence could play an important role in the Army’s case, as will statements from soldiers. No bodies have been recovered, and a military investigator testified on Monday that the nature of the areas where the crimes occurred, including religious views of residents and potential danger to American soldiers, prevented them from conducting crime scene investigations.
The dozen soldiers are charged with crimes relating to incidents in January, February, and May of this year.
Lawyers attributed the tragedies to Washington’s “failed policy” in the Afghan region.