Rolling Stone have today published a number of unedited, graphic photographs most of which were taken directly after the controversial killings of innocent civilians in Afghanistan. They also released two videos which have been passed around from soldier to soldier.
Warning -- the photos and videos in the links above are the most graphic images that I have seen coming out of a war zone in years, but it is my view that they should be seen by as many people as possible who have the stomach to do so. They are more than likely not safe for viewing at work. My heart aches after viewing them -- the images are quite simply unforgettable.
For some time now military officials have gone to extreme lengths to keep the photos and several videos from being published as they believe that their release would spark off a controversy as large as Abu Grahib. Many people question the release of the photos and videos because they claim that they will put soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan and other countries at risk. I think that the bigger questions are why are these terrible events still taking place and why is it that no one in authority is ever held accountable? After all this is the military -- they operate on a hierarchical structure with a chain of command and it is obvious from their own reports that a number of those in charge suspected that the deaths were questionable. Are they not, at the very least, derelict in carrying out their duties? Could lives have been saved if they acted sooner?
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.
Other officers were also in a position to question the murders. Neither 3rd Platoon's commander, Capt. Matthew Quiggle, nor 1st Lt. Roman Ligsay has been held accountable for their unit's actions, despite their repeated failure to report killings that they had ample reason to regard as suspicious. In fact, supervising the murderous platoon, or even having knowledge of the crimes, seems to have been no impediment to career advancement. Ligsay has actually been promoted to captain, and a sergeant who joined the platoon in April became a team leader even though he "found out about the murders from the beginning," according to a soldier who cooperated with the Army investigation.
The details in the Rolling Stone report are also disturbing. It is clear from testimonies and gathered intelligence that the killings were carried out on either young or older victims. In all cases they were vulnerable and which civilian wouldn't be when faced with soldiers armed with machine guns and M4 carbine assault rifles? Those civilians were chosen as easy targets. Rolling Stone also assert that the killings were out in the open and that they were not clandestine as has been suggested by the Pentagon.
Far from being clandestine, as the Pentagon has implied, the murders of civilians were common knowledge among the unit and understood to be illegal by "pretty much the whole platoon," according to one soldier who complained about them. Staged killings were an open topic of conversation, and at least one soldier from another battalion in the 3,800-man Stryker Brigade participated in attacks on unarmed civilians. "The platoon has a reputation," a whistle-blower named Pfc. Justin Stoner told the Army Criminal Investigation Command. "They have had a lot of practice staging killings and getting away with it."
The article also questions the background of Jeremy Morlock, who was sentenced to 24 years last week for his part in the killings. It reveals the fact that there were several violent incidents in his youth and that he assaulted his young wife. The implication is that he might never have been accepted by the army if it wasn't for the fact that the military was short of troops. It also mentions the Morlock family connection to the Palin family and his drug abuse.
Before the military found itself short of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, Morlock was the kind of bad-news kid whom the Army might have passed on. He grew up not far from Sarah Palin in Wasilla, Alaska; his sister hung out with Bristol, and Morlock played hockey against Track. In those days, he was constantly in trouble: getting drunk and into fights, driving without a license, leaving the scene of a serious car accident. Even after he joined the Army, Morlock continued to get into trouble. In 2009, a month before he deployed to Afghanistan, he was charged with disorderly conduct after burning his wife with a cigarette. After he arrived in Afghanistan, he did any drug he could get his hands on: opium, hash, Ambien, amitriptyline, flexeril, phenergan, codeine, trazodone
Jeremy Morlocks mother, Audrey Morlock, believes that her son has been unfairly treated by the military -- that those in charge should have intervened and also that her son was merely following orders. As I wrote earlier I too think that intervention may have saved some lives but I do not accept that Morlock was ordered to take part in the killing of Afghan civilians. He and his co-accused made those decisions on their own and Morlock admitted it in his own testimony.
I hope that Ms Morlock takes a good long hard look at the above photos of her son's victims. Especially the fifteen year old boy who trusted that he would be in the safe hands of his American liberators moments before his unnecessary and heart rendering death at their hands. Jeremy Morlock chose his course and now he has to pay. I hope that in this case 24 years will mean 24 years and that he will not be released earlier.
Please read this interview with Geoffrey Dunn about his new book, The Lies of Sarah Palin, which will be released at the beginning of May. You can pre-order it here.