Five soldiers face murder charges and seven others face charges associated with facilitating a cover-up "in what military authorities believe was a conspiracy to murder Afghan civilians and cover it up, along with charges they used hashish, mutilated corpses and kept grisly souvenirs."
All of the men were members of a 2nd Infantry Division brigade operating near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010.Five of the soldiers were charged in June, and the other seven in August, but details were not known until the release of related documents by the Army this week, which underlines how little we really know about what's going on over there, and how what we do know comes through the filter of a military that ferociously protects its reputation, in service of a government that ferociously defends the honor of its military endeavors.
According to the military documents, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs and four other soldiers were involved in throwing grenades at civilians and then shooting them in separate incidents. Three Afghan men died.
Authorities allege Gibbs kept finger bones, leg bones and a tooth from Afghan corpses. Another soldier, Spc. Michael Gagnon II, allegedly kept a skull from a corpse, according to charging documents. Several soldiers are charged with taking pictures of the corpses, and one - Spc. Corey Moore - with stabbing a corpse.
Staff Sgt. Robert Stevens is charged with lying to investigators about the deaths, saying the civilians posed a threat.
Other soldiers are charged with assaulting Afghan civilians by shooting at them, and several soldiers face charges of failing to properly account for and dispose of weapons.
Eight of the soldiers also are charged with using hashish and beating a junior soldier in an attempt to stop him from reporting them for misconduct, including hashish use.
I continue to be unthrilled, to put it politely, that the Obama administration decided to double down in Afghanistan.
[Previously: Today in Not News: The Afghanistan War Blows, When You Have a War, Part I, The Third Woman, Obama Orders Review of Alleged War Crimes, 110 Years for Rape/Murder in Iraq, New Details on Pat Tillman's Death, continuing coverage of the suspicious death of Pfc. LaVena Johnson.]