Ending abuse in Afghanistan

David Frederick
Journal Contributor

War is a thing of unimaginable power that can alter one’s mind to the point where he or she may not recognize himself or herself, or other people around. Never since the horror stories of Vietnam have I thought that U.S. soldiers could be so cruel and destructive. Then I heard the story of Specialist Jeremy N. Morlock and four other soldiers accused in the brutal slaying of innocent Afghan civilians. A leaked video showed Spc. Morlock talking to investigators about said killings with almost no emotion. He just explains what happened with a dead look in his eyes, almost as if he was indifferent to the entire incident. The soldiers are also accused of having severed body parts and photos of dead Afghan civilians. It’s sickening.

When I read this story, it just stuck with me because it is wrong on so many levels. When you are a child, you like to think that the military represents a reverential aspect of the “American Dream.” But with stories like these, all perceptions are shattered. I never thought my taxes paid for a rogue hit squad.

The soldiers are placing blame on their supervisor, Sgt. Calvin Gibbs. Morlock spoke of how calculating and sadistic Gibbs acted in ordering his unit. Apparently they placed a civilian (who was of no threat to them) in the distance and then threw a grenade and murdered him. If this story wasn’t already clustered, the soldiers are also accused of  drug abuse. So we have chemically altered soldiers slaying innocent civilians. Not exactly the kind of story that we want to sell to the rest of the world while trying to make our bonds stronger, but it must be addressed nonetheless. As for the corpses, I don’t even know if anyone outside of that unit knows where they are. It’s as though this violence is just everywhere and it’s only a matter of time until soldiers get swept up in it. These stories use to be few and far between but I guess the good old saying, “If it bleeds, it leads,” finally infected everything.  In one of the photographs,  Spc. Morlock is pictured with a dead Afghan.  At what point did anyone think any of this was acceptable?  Did these  soldiers really believe there would be no consequences to their actions?

The only member of the unit that I believe to be in the clear is  Private Winfield, who contacted his father through Facebook months ago to tell him what was going on. The army did get complaints on this unit before, but never addressed them. Apparently they thought that everything would just work itself out.

Gibbs probably played a big part in these killings, but why? Maybe he is suffering from PTSD or developed a drug dependence, but those potential reasons are no excuse for the fact that innocent people were murdered. The only thing I can say is that I hope justice is served.  I have mixed feelings about how it should be handled, but I guess all I can do is hope that it is handled the right way.

One can only hope that this slow downward spiral will eventually fade away. I am not saying that all soldiers are killers. In fact, there are quite a few heroes who have saved and bettered lives overseas. This is just a sad story for everyone involved; people have died and others have fates that will be left unknown.

The story of Gibbs and Morlock sounds like a movie. In fact, I would not be surprised if one of them ended writing a book about the whole incident that ends up becoming a film.

Does the retelling of their stories make them death profiteers, or does it raise awareness over the need for more attention  for our troops? After all, they are the ones protecting us in dangerous situations. Can we blame them and write this whole thing off as a few bad apples in the bunch, or is there something more  to this story than we’re let on?

We must take the good with the bad and acknowledge that this really happened. We must also acknowledge that it could have been completely preventable. In a nation that prides itself on virtue, is this really the price for freedom?