Gibbs was said to have hunted “innocent Afghans for sport”
To anyone who has watched the Hollywood cult series “Predator,” of a monstrous alien that slaughtered humans and then took their body parts as trophies, the actions of a rogue killer squad of United States soldiers in Afghanistan must have sounded familiar.
This week Calvin Gibbs (26), clearly a violent and possibly mentally unstable Staff Sergeant leading the U.S. Army's Fifth Stryker Brigade, was found guilty in a court martial on 15 charges including three counts of murder and conspiring to commit murder.
With his brutality echoing other recent war crimes committed by U.S. soldiers abroad, such as the Abu Ghraib episode of prisoner abuse in Iraq during 2004-05, prosecutors said Gibbs had recruited other soldiers to kill civilians and then mutilate them taking fingers, teeth and other body parts as trophies from people he called “savages”.
Leading the Brigade in Kandahar province in Afghanistan since November 2009, Gibbs was said to have hunted “innocent Afghans for sport,” and by his own admission considered the removal of their body parts as the equivalent of “collecting antlers from a deer”.
Despite the seriousness of the charges, many were stunned by the court martial's determination that instead of handing Gibbs life imprisonment without the possibility of parole he received a far more lenient imprisonment with 10-year parole eligibility.
However, the prosecution had pushed hard for a stronger sentence and spelled out in detail the violent nature of Gibbs' crimes. In his closing arguments, Prosecutor Major Robert Stelle had said, “Sergeant Gibbs had a charisma, he had a ‘follow me' personality... But it was all a bunch of [nonsense]. He had his own mission: murder and depravity.”
The judgment on Gibbs' came along with similar convictions for four other soldiers who acted similarly, to first kill their victims, then create the appearance of the victim being an armed enemy fighter, and finally posing for photographs alongside the victims and slicing off their body parts. In all, 12 soldiers were said to be charged in the case, of whom three pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the others.
The three cases of murder involved Afghans who were as young as 15 years of age, prosecutors noted in the unprecedented case. The boy in question, said to be Gul Mudin, was attacked by Gibbs and his associates even as he worked in a field.
“The platoon commander gave a grenade to one of the soldiers, Jeremy Morlock, who threw it at Mudin. A second soldier, Andrew Holmes, then shot the boy. Gibbs played with the corpse of the teenager ‘as if it was a puppet,'” The Guardian reported.
The second person killed was named Marach Agha, who was killed as he slept by the roadside. Following his murder, Gibbs and company were then said to have planted a Kalashnikov rifle besides the corpse to create the impression of Mr. Agha being an enemy fighter. Gibbs retained a part of the victim's skull as a trophy, reports said.
Third, Gibbs was found guilty of killing a Muslim cleric named Mullah Adahdad. After lobbing a grenade at the cleric, Gibbs and the other soldiers then shot him.
Adam Winfield, a member of Gibbs' team who admitted guilt for his roles in the killings of Gibbs, said “He likes to kill things. He is pretty much evil incarnate. I mean, I have never met a man who can go from one minute joking around, then mindless killings.”