Military Atrocities and the Taking of Trophies

A recent New York Times article written by William Yardley addresses the human rights abuses that come from war. Unfortunately, in the United States war with Afghanistan, there are always going to be soldiers on both sides engaging in cruel and inhumane practices. The case of Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs and the rogue American brigade he unofficially lead are examples of when soldiers use war as means of means on hiding overly brutal and inhumane tactics. In this specific case, this rogue brigade engaged in actions such as assaulting fellow American soldiers and taking souvenirs from the dead including broken off fingers and torn out teeth. Specifically, this brigade is accused of killing innocent civilians on at least three confirmed occasions, though undoubtedly there are others, and then planting weapons to hide their games. Moreover, after killing their innocent victims, not only did they take body parts as trophies, but they also posed the bodies and took pictures with the dead to commemorate their sick games.

            During the forty-five day trial, the unit fought amongst themselves trying to implicate everyone but them self. Specifically Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs claims that he was only involved on a remote level and that the other soldiers are trying to implicate him in order to lessen their own sentences. Other members of the brigade admit to taking such trophies but claim those they killed were legitimate combatants and that they were just trying to look tough in front of the brigade. Nevertheless, the trial concluded with the Staff Sgt. being sentenced to life in prison, though he could be paroled in as little as ten years. As for other members of this brigade, many of them plead guilty, most of which to manslaughter, and as mentioned before each tried to blame other members of the brigade to take focus off them self.

            The international community needs to keep a close eye out for these types of barbaric killings hidden within the scope of warfare. In my opinion, there should be a zero tolerance policy and part of that policy should include harsh punishments. That being said, the real difficulty is not in punishing these people but in discovering them. Like the blue wall of silence typical among police officers, there is a similar wall of silence in place in the military when it comes to actions like these. So the question I pose to you is what steps can the international community take to break through this wall of silence and bring justice to those who suffer in the shadows?

One comment

  1. The acts of this American Brigade are terrible and should be punished severely. The international community already has many tribunals for war criminals who commit crimes against humanity. The United States itself is a party to treaties such as the Geneva Conventions, the Convention against Torture, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Unfortunately, however, the United States has not recognized the applicability of these treaties extraterritorially (especially the ICCPR), and has gone on to commit terrible crimes against humanity without recourse. Additionally the US has rejected international forums such as the ICC. That these US soldiers were tried and convicted shows progress in the right direction, but the United States as a whole needs to show a willingness to take human rights protections with them wherever it is their military goes.

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