A U.S. military court has convicted Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, leader of the notorious “kill team” of American soldiers from the 5th Stryker Brigade who killed civilians for sport in Afghanistan, of three counts of premeditated murder. Gibbs, 26, admitted to mutilating his “kills” and keeping fingers from corpses as war trophies. He faces life in prison. [BBC]
Gibbs is the highest-ranking “Kill Team” soldier to be convicted of murder (three co-defendants in the case pleaded guilty; two testified against him). Questions remain about how high up the chain of command responsibility goes, though, since, as Mark Boal reported for Rolling Stone earlier this year, there are signs that higher-ups knew what the soldiers were up to but failed to step in.
“‘The Army wants Gibbs,'” says one defense lawyer. ‘They want to throw him in jail and move on.’ Gibbs insists that all three killings he took part in were ‘legitimate combat engagements.’ Three other low-level soldiers facing murder charges … also maintain their innocence. As for the other men in Bravo Company, five have already been convicted of lesser crimes, including drug use, stabbing a corpse and [assault], and two more face related charges. …
“So far, though, no officers or senior officials have been charged in either the murders or the cover-up. Last October, the Army quietly launched a separate investigation, guided by Brig. Gen. Stephen Twitty, into the critical question of officer accountability. But the findings of that inquiry, which was concluded last month, have been kept secret – and the Army refuses to say whether it has disciplined or demoted any of the commanders responsible for 3rd Platoon. Even if the commanding officers were not co-conspirators or accomplices in the crimes, they repeatedly ignored clear warning signs and allowed a lethally racist attitude to pervade their unit.”