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Former Afghan lawmaker: "Kill team" reflects racism of U.S. soldiers

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Joya: We believe that the brutal actions of these 'kill teams' reveal the aggression and racism which is part and parcel of the entire military occupation.

By Adam Ashton, The News Tribune, March 4, 2011

Kill Team

Photos showing Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers posing with an Afghan corpse reveal a form of racism among some U.S. soldiers, a former Afghan lawmaker contends.

"I must report that Afghans do not believe this be a story of a few rogue soldiers," ex-parliamentarian Malalai Joya wrote in The Guardian last week. "We believe that the brutal actions of these 'kill teams' reveal the aggression and racism which is part and parcel of the entire military occupation. While these photos are new, the murder of innocents is not. Such crimes against civilians have sparked many protests in Afghanistan and have sharply raised anti-US sentiments among ordinary Afghans."

Joya, a human rights activist who was suspended from Parliament in 2007 for her criticism of Afghan warlords, is speaking in Seattle tonight at the Elliot Bay Book Company to promote her new book. She also spoke on KUOW this morning.

She wants American forces to withdraw from her country, arguing that too many innocents are dying in the war while American resources prop up corrupt officials.

Joya's remarks can be hard to hear for Americans who view the alleged civilian murders carried out by soldiers in Lewis-McChord's 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division as outrageous misconduct carried out be a few people in a war zone.

Five soldiers in the brigade are accused of murdering three civilians last year during patrols out of Forward Operating Base Ramrod. One, Spc. Jeremy Morlock, has pled guilty and agreed to testify against his codefendants. Some soldiers in his platoon also took gory photos of casualties they saw. Those images recently appeared in Rolling Stone and Der Spiegel magazines. Two of the photos show Morlock and another soldier posing over the bloodied body of an alleged murder victim.

Sworn statements from soldiers caught in the war crimes investigation show that at least one of the suspects allegedly expressed racist sentiments when he talked about Afghans.

Morlock said Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, the alleged ringleader of the "kill team," called Afghans "savages." He allegedly created scenarios that would enable soldiers in the platoon to kill civilians in combat-like situations.

"Initially, Gibbs told everyone about this scenario, by pitching it by saying that all these Afghans were savages, and we had just lost one of our squad leaders because his legs got blown off by an IED. Gibbs had pure hatred for all Afghans and constantly referred to them as savages," Morlock said told Army investigators.

Other soldiers in Morlock's platoon have testified in court that Gibbs called Afghans "savages," but meant it in a joking way. Gibbs denies the murder charges and maintains that the killings took place legitimate combat. He's awaiting a court martial at Lewis-McChord this summer.