September 27th, 2010
10:57 AM ET

Tapes describe U.S. servicemen killing for sport in Afghanistan

From Drew Griffin, CNN Correspondent

Tapes obtained by CNN of interrogations of a group of U.S. servicemen charged with the unprovoked killings of Afghan civilians describe gruesome scenes of cold-blooded murder carried out under the influence of illegal drugs.

The following is a partial transcript of those tapes, between a military investigator and Cpl. Jeremy Morlock, one of the five U.S. soldier charged with the premeditated murder of three Afghan civilians.

"So we met this guy by his compound, so Gibbs walked him out, set him in place, was like standing here," said Morlock, detailing how, on patrol earlier this year and under the command of his sergeant, Calvin R. Gibbs, he and others took an Afghan man from his home, stood him up and killed him.

"So, he was fully cooperating?" the military investigator asks on the tapes.

"Yeah," Morlock responds.

Investigator: "Was he armed?"

Morlock: "No, not that we were aware of."

Investigator: "So, you pulled him out of his place?"

Morlock: "I don't think he was inside. He was by his little hut area ... and Gibbs sent in a couple of people. He sent Rodriguez off a little ways, far side security. As I said, I'm not even sure Rodriguez knew what was going on and them."

Investigator: "Where did they stand him, next to a wall?"

Morlock: "Yeah, he was kinda next to a wall, so where Gibbs could get behind a wall when the grenade went off and then he kind of placed me and Winfield off over here so we had a clean line of sight for this guy and, you know, he pulled out one of his grenades, an American grenade, popped it, throws the grenade and tells me and Winfield, 'Alright, wax this guy. Kill this guy, kill this guy.' "

Investigator: "Did you see him present any weapons? Was he aggressive toward you at all?"

Morlock: "No, not at all. Nothing, he wasn't a threat."

The Army alleges that three Afghan civilians were killed between January and May of this year.

Morlock's civilian attorney, Michael Waddington, did not deny that his client killed for sport. "That's what it sounds like," he told CNN.

Waddington said his 22-year-old client was brain-damaged from prior IED attacks, was using prescription drugs and smoking hashish and was under the influence of and in fear of his commanding officer, who is also charged.

A hearing is set for Monday for Morlock, the first of five soldiers charged with the premeditated murder of three Afghan civilians.  The hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington will determine whether the military has enough evidence against him to proceed with a court-martial.

Some background on the case:
Over this summer, 12 U.S. soldiers were charged for a variety of crimes in what military authorities believe was a conspiracy to murder Afghan civilians and cover it up, along with charges they used hashish, mutilated corpses and kept grisly souvenirs.

Five soldiers face murder charges, while seven others are charged with participating in a coverup. All of the men were members of a 2nd Infantry Division brigade operating near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010.

According to the military documents, Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs and four other soldiers were involved in throwing grenades at civilians and then shooting them in separate incidents. Three Afghan men died.

Authorities allege Gibbs kept finger bones, leg bones and a tooth from Afghan corpses. Another soldier, Spc. Michael Gagnon II, allegedly kept a skull from a corpse, according to charging documents. Several soldiers are charged with taking pictures of the corpses, and one – Spc. Corey Moore – with stabbing a corpse.

Five soldiers were originally arrested in June and seven others were charged last month.

The five facing murder charges are Gibbs, of Billings, Montana; Pfc. Andrew Holmes of Boise, Idaho; Winfield, of Cape Coral, Florida; Spc. Michael Wagnon, of Las Vegas, Nevada; and Spc. Jeremy Morlock of Wasilla, Alaska.

The five are from the 5th Stryker Brigade of the 2ID, based out of Fort Lewis, Washington.

In May, CNN reported that the Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade, known as the "5-2," had been the subject of controversy for months inside Army circles. The unit has suffered some of the highest casualty rates of the war. Several senior U.S. Army officials had told CNN there has been a growing belief inside Army circles the brigade was not embracing McChrystal's counter-insurgency strategy and was too heavily focused instead on combat operations.

In one of the most comprehensive analyses of the 5-2's troubled tour in southern Afghanistan, the Army Times reported in January that the brigade commander Col. Harry Tunnell replaced one of his company commanders whose group had suffered high casualties.

But the Army Times, a privately-published newspaper, quoted several soldiers who said that company commander was very popular with the troops, and that the unit's deep-set troubles and casualties resulted from a lack of training for the type of counter-insurgency warfare now being called for.

"What we're doing is not working, and we need to go on a different tack," the Army Times quoted one soldier as saying.

A senior U.S. Army official directly familiar with Stryker operations said the command of the 5-2 has been a concern to the Army for months.

• May 24, 2010: Sources: U.S. soldiers focus of criminal investigation
• June 16, 2010: Army charges 3 more in Afghan civilian killings
• August 26, 2010: U.S. soldiers charged with conspiracy in killings
• September 9, 2010: Army: 12 soldiers killed Afghans, mutiliated corpses

soundoff (1,099 Responses)
  1. Calos Navarro

    The predictiable, inevitable loss of moral compass of burnt-out soldiers caught in a mindless war,–as depicted in "The Valley of Elah," a must-see film for Americans who have been duped into believing that all our "boys" in Iraq and Afghanistan are there building schools and fighting for democracy. The time is long-overdue to bring them home.

    March 24, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ME

    as much as i dont like thes killings, this is war ..nothings pretty about it and when you throw a bunch of kids from this generation, kids that grew up on violent video games violent music and violent media its not going to be the same as other wars....also when you train and turn kids into killing machines in a war zone and throw them into a situation were you cant tell between a civilian or a coward taliban hiding among the civilians there is going to be a problem...but this is WAR and there is going to be war as long as there is people

    November 8, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  3. lcpl. palomar


    November 8, 2010 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  4. James

    I see but it's o.k. for the ragheads to be high on heroin & kill American servicemen for sport but God forgive if we do it. Bunch a B.S.

    November 2, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. cain

    America's finest

    October 24, 2010 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Moses

    @ CT MIKE I'm pretty sure I can do better Job than killing innocent people. I didn't do it when I was over there

    October 12, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bassdemon

    Yep, this folks is why war is hell. Our military is not lily white, they are warriors, capable of being just as bad as the bad guys, and some worse than others. We try to hold ourselves to higher standards than anyone else, but this sort of thing will still happen no matter where in the world it takes place. The main difference between us and them, is that we will hold the crazy ones accountable, if they are caught.

    October 11, 2010 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
  8. ben

    Hmm, makes me think of the "silent genocide"... look it up, you might learn something. (doubtful).

    October 6, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. philb

    you go to the military, you are taught to kill, trained in the most drastic situations,you are away from your family you are stressed, divorce death it all keeps happening here in the us and when someone here in the us gets killed< the offender did not mean too or he was drinking at the time, alittle prison time everything is ok,, a us solider fighting a war he may not even belive in may die anyday, or receive a dear john letter, or see his own friends die, and all this time he has been trained to kill,, follow orders, kill again, drugs ,orders to kill,fighting for freedom fighting for his life, then one day he looses it and we wonder why, when is the last time you thanked a solider for his or her service, its sad this country can not pray for all, all enemies, all in need , this could have been your son that lost it, do you have a friend or family member in the military, when was the last time you wrote them , talked to them, do you think this is the only time something like this has happpened,GOD BLESS THIS COUNTRY AND EVERYONE HERE AND GOD BLESS OUR SOLIDERS

    October 5, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. army

    This is why they should make Army Basic training and predeployment training harder. Or just send in the Marines, you cant go wrong with them they are made for this kind of stuff and we as soldiers know this.

    October 5, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. al

    I thought Obama's Rule was going to be different...the military keeps doing things that isnt right...guess obama is finding out it is easy to critisize abd hard to change. Another promise that hasnt been keeped!

    October 5, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ms. Martin

    Does it surprise you why other countries hate us? We go to war, and we kill innocent people, and then our own soldiers who worked hard at protecting us and there are these soldiers that make other countries hate us.

    October 5, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  13. old school soldier

    they shouldnt have never let them in they are a discrace to the uniform they think its some video game and they lack the unnderstanding of military operations

    October 4, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Paul

    War, indeed. What were we expecting? War is violence. War is negation of humanity. War brings destruction and death. War destroys principles, ethical values, anything that makes us human in the good sense. War is giving in to the worst humanity has to share with the animal kingdom. What were we expecting? Warrior glory? The 'enemy' bowing to our conquering feet in acknowledgment of our superiority? We are just as human as any enemy we choose to fight. The morally correct choice is not to choose war. We lost the moral upper hand. There is no US vs THEM. Every politician who uses the pronoun 'They' to refer to non-US people is morally corrupt (sometimes unawares).

    October 4, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Phyllis T

    Evil begets War begets Evil begets war ....... it is a vicious cycle! like the song says, "War, what is is good for? Absolutely nothing!" When will the leaders of the world regions realize this? War creates a killing mind set for all involved!

    October 4, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Patty

    As the wife of a service man who will be heading to Afghanistan soon, this is really upsetting. Lets pray for the hearts and minds of all of or servicemen and that they stay and come back healthy in mind and spirit.

    October 4, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  17. old school soldier

    these soldiers are a discrace to the uniform, and the professionalism. bring the disipline of the 80s back to the US army. teach these young ncos how to lead from the front all of them are a discrac,e and dont use the excuse of im stressed out theres plenty to do over there, the mwr is outstanding compared to the past. some of these soldiers just want to sit back in 100 plus degree weather and drink sodas .hell some of them thats all they do in garrison anyway is spend a weekend getting drunk. some soldiers want to represent and enhance there career, others want to just waste the armys time. the jigg is up discharge all the ragbags, ncos soldiers if you a ragbag your a ragbag.

    October 4, 2010 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  18. The Prophet Mohammed

    I blame Canada, this is all Canada's fault.

    October 4, 2010 at 3:26 am | Report abuse |
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