Afghanistan : soldats américains accusés d’avoir tué trois civils afghan «pour s’amuser»
Etats-UNis / Afghanistan -
Article publié le : dimanche 17 octobre 2010 - Dernière modification le : dimanche 17 octobre 2010
Afghanistan : les soldats américains accusés d’avoir tué trois civils consommaient régulièrement de la drogue.
Les soldats accusés d’avoir tué trois civils afghans «pour s’amuser» auraient, selon le quotidien New York Times, consommé régulièrement de la drogue sans que cela apparemment alarme leurs supérieurs.
Avec notre correspondant à Washington, Jean-Louis Pourtet
Marijuana et hachisch ne manquaient pas dans la chambrée des soldats qui avait un petit air de salle de shoot. Le père de l’un des cinq accusés s’est étonné que leurs supérieurs ne s’en soient pas aperçus, d’autant que l’un des soldats, lors des auditions préliminaires, a déclaré que son baraquement était imprégné par l’odeur du cannabis. Selon ce témoignage, l’usage de la drogue aurait même commencé sur leur base militaire, dans l’Etat de Washington, avant leur déploiement en Afghanistan.
Normalement, tous les militaires sont régulièrement testés pour s’assurer qu’ils ne consomment pas de drogues. Or une fois affectés dans la région de Kandahar, les tests effectués sur les soldats auraient été encore plus limités. Le général Chiarelli, le numéro 2 de l’infanterie, a reconnu qu’il ne pouvait écarter la possibilité qu’une unité ait échappé au contrôle. Une semaine avant son départ pour le front, celui qui semble avoir été l’instigateur de ces crimes, le sergent Jeremy Morlock, âgé de 22 ans, avait disparu pendant une semaine pour éviter d’être testé.
Jusqu’à présent aucun officier n’a été accusé d’avoir toléré la consommation de drogues qui, pour le moment, n’a pas été liée à l’atrocité des meurtres commis par les cinq militaires. L’armée a décidé vendredi de traduire le sergent Morlock devant une cour militaire. Il risque une peine de prison à vie et incompressible. Le sort de ses quatre complices n’a pas encore été annoncé.
tags: Afghanistan - Drogue - Etats-Unis
WASHINGTON — Soldiers in an American Army platoon accused of murdering Afghan civilians for sport say they took orders from a ringleader who collected body parts as war trophies, were threatened with death if they spoke up and smoked hashish on their base almost daily.
Now family members and the military are asking a central question: How could their commanders not know what was going on?
“I just don’t understand how this went so far,” said Christopher Winfield, the father of Specialist Adam C. Winfield, one of the platoon members charged with murder. “I’ve been in management for 20 years; you know what your people are doing.”
But interviews in recent days and hundreds of pages of documents in the case offer a portrait of an isolated, out-of-control unit that operated in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan with limited supervision and little oversight from senior commanders.
There are indications of missed warnings among Army officers who saw trouble with some platoon leaders but did not dig deeper — let alone suspect the extent of the problem — until investigators began asking questions in early May, nearly four months after prosecutors say the first of three murders of Afghan civilians occurred.
The documents, which have not been made public, include sworn statements from soldiers and some of their officers. So far, neither the leaders of the 30-man platoon nor more senior officers in the Fifth Stryker Combat Brigade have been charged or disciplined in one of the most gruesome war crimes cases to come out of nearly a decade of conflict in Afghanistan. It is unclear whether action will be taken against them in the future.
Five platoon members of lower ranks have been charged with murder and all have said they are not guilty. Seven more were charged with lesser offenses.
Drug tests were conducted regularly on most of the platoon and its larger brigade before the group left Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Seattle, for the war, and 1,207 tests were done while the 3,800-member brigade was in Afghanistan. (Drug tests are required for entire units in the United States, but are conducted at commanders’ discretion during deployments.)
“I cannot totally discount the fact that a platoon someplace was never tested and was on drugs,” Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the vice chief of staff of the Army, acknowledged in an interview this week.
Soldiers in the platoon give no indication that illicit drug use was the reason for the alleged crimes. Lawyers interviewed said it was symptomatic of larger trouble.
Still, illicit drug use was already common in the platoon as it prepared to leave Lewis-McChord for Afghanistan in spring 2009, at least according to the sworn testimony from one of its members, Pfc. Justin A. Stoner. While at the base, “my platoon was not exactly straightforward with substance abuse,” Private Stoner told Army investigators.
He said members of the platoon “would blatantly smoke” what they said was marijuana and that another platoon member, Specialist Jeremy N. Morlock, had gone AWOL for a week to avoid a final drug test before deployment. Specialist Morlock, one of those charged with murder, was referred on Friday for court-martial proceedings.
In summer 2009 the platoon was sent to Forward Operating Base Ramrod, a military installation of about 1,600 people in the desert about 50 miles west of the city of Kandahar, the ideological home of the Taliban. Once at Ramrod they were separated from their company of 150 soldiers and attached to a separate cavalry troop — a move that Specialist Winfield told his father cut the men off from their regular chain of command.
“They were kind of the red-headed stepchild of the cavalry because they weren’t their guys and they were kind of left by themselves,” Mr. Winfield said. During a rough deployment with high brigade casualties and a daily fear of being killed by homemade bombs, Specialist Winfield told his father that the platoon’s leader, First Lt. Roman Ligsay, rarely checked on his soldiers and that they were even further removed from the Troop A commander, Capt. Matthew Quiggle.
Soldiers and their lawyers say the drug use continued among as many as 20 of the 30 platoon members at Ramrod, where the group and its leaders lived close to each other in small prefabricated housing units. They say they used the unit that Private Stoner shared with a roommate for drinking alcohol — they received it by mail — and for smoking hashish that they easily got from Afghan interpreters.
On May 3, Private Stoner told investigators, the hash-smoking in his room was “to the point where the smoke was lingering in the air and the smell was impossible to get rid of.”
Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of hashish, and Afghan Army troops smoke it on the outposts they share with American forces. So it is unclear whether commanders assumed that any odor was from the Afghans, did not notice it or looked the other way when soldiers used the drug, which, they told investigators, helped them to relax.
In an interview, Private Stoner was described by Specialist Winfield’s lawyer, Eric Montalvo, as the platoon’s effective drug dealer. Private Stoner told investigators that he had never used illegal substances himself, a claim investigators discarded. Private Stoner also told investigators that when he reported the hashish smoking to a superior on the base outside the platoon in May, the superior “assured me that he already had an idea about it.”
At that point, in early May, Army investigators say that members of the platoon, urged on by a ringleader, Staff Sgt. Calvin R. Gibbs, had already killed three Afghans for thrills in the surrounding farming villages, where insurgents were said to be active. The platoon traveled to the areas in troop carriers but also went on foot patrols.
Sergeant Gibbs, Specialist Morlock and Pfc. Andrew Holmes are accused of detonating a grenade near an Afghan civilian in January so that the man appeared to be a threat, then shooting him to death. Sergeant Gibbs, Specialist Morlock and Specialist Michael S. Wagnon II are accused of shooting an unarmed Afghan man in February without cause, then placing a Kalashnikov rifle next to the body to justify their action. Sergeant Gibbs is accused of detonating a grenade near an Afghan man in early May before ordering Specialist Morlock and Specialist Winfield to shoot him.
Even before the last death in May, in an indication of some concern among commanders, Lieutenant Ligsay was removed as the platoon’s leader because, an officer told investigators, the platoon had been regularly killing dogs and had discharged a weapon without reason. Although officers at Ramrod criticized Lieutenant Ligsay for allowing the episodes to happen, he was not relieved of duties “for cause,” which would be a damaging step in an officer’s career.
In sworn testimony, Specialist Morlock told investigators that Lieutenant Ligsay had also allowed his soldiers to plant a loaded Kalashnikov magazine near an unarmed Afghan whom the platoon had shot to death — this was a separate episode from the three other killings, and no charges have been filed — to make it appear as if the man had been a threat. Lieutenant Ligsay disputed the accusation in his own testimony.
But in an indication that another senior commander might have been worried about the platoon’s behavior, Lieutenant Ligsay also said in his statement that Captain Quiggle, the Troop A commander, was unhappy about that particular killing and told him the Afghan man “didn’t seem like a threat.”
Sergeant Gibbs’s motives were described by Specialist Morlock as “pure hatred” for Afghans, whom Sergeant Gibbs referred to as “savages.” Several soldiers say that Sergeant Gibbs tossed two severed fingers from dead Afghans in front of Private Stoner after Private Stoner reported the hashish use. Private Stoner told investigators that he feared being killed by the platoon the way the Afghans had been, as if his death had occurred in combat.
The soldiers are also accused of possessing a skull.
Army officials say that Lt. Col. Jeffrey French, the battalion commander and at the time of the killings the most senior officer at Ramrod, is not under investigation. Neither is Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV, the former brigade commander. Sergeant Gibbs was one of those assigned to his security detail for a few months in 2009, before the killings took place.