(MintPress) – It is a witness account that the United States deems “flatly wrong,” however, sources are suggesting that several drunken U.S. troops were involved in the shootings of 16 civilians in Afghanistan, nine of which were children.
The weekend shootings were initially reported to be carried out by a lone U.S. soldier. U.S. officials are said to be investigating the matter and have not released further details of the shootings. One soldier, who remains unidentified, has been taken into custody.
In an interview with Reuters, Agha Lala, a villager in the Panjwayi district, said of the involved troops, “they were all drunk and shooting all over the place.”
Accounts of the incident say the troops then poured a chemical on the slain bodies and set them on fire. President Barack Obama has since then called the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, saying the U.S. will hold the responsible parties of the shootings “fully accountable.”
“The people in these villages are scared, and we don’t know what is going to happen next. … They saw nothing except the Americans going and killing them in their homes,” said Muhammad Wali, an area villager.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington has been thrust into the spotlight as a U.S. soldier from the base, for the second time in five months, has been responsible for crimes against civilians in Afghanistan. The base is also been home to troops who have committed crimes in America, as well.
Instances of violence and crime coming from the Joint Base Lewis-McChord since 2010 include:
- A former soldier from the base, Benjamin Colton Barnes, is alleged to be responsible for the shooting death of a Washington park ranger in late 2011. Authorities later found Barnes’ body face-down in a creek.
- In 2010, four soldiers from the base were convicted in a “kill team” that was responsible for killing Afghan civilians. Reports say the group shot and blew up Afghan civilians for sport, and then collected their fingers as trophies.
- Also in 2010, reports say three soldiers suffered mental breakdowns that resulted in the deaths of two of the soldiers after confrontations with police
Jorge Gonzalez operates a veteran-run nonprofit organization near the base. He told CNN the base is “a rogue base, with a severe leadership problem.”
“If Fort Lewis was a college campus, it would have been closed down years ago,” Gonzalez said.
A series of events
The death of 16 Afghan civilians adds to a growing list of incidents in which the U.S. has faced harsh criticism for its actions in Afghanistan. Groups have speculated and called for the immediate withdrawal of American troops, ahead of the 2014 withdrawal deadline posed by President Obama.
In response to the actions, the Taliban has vowed to “to take revenge from the invaders and the savage murderers for every single martyr.” The group also said the U.S. is “arming lunatics in Afghanistan who turn their weapons against the defenseless Afghans.”
The most recent issues in Afghanistan started after a video clip was released, showing a group of American soldiers urinating on the dead bodies of Afghans. The video received scrutiny with Afghan civilians as well as organizations within the U.S.
The Council on Islamic-American Relations, a Muslim American civil rights group, wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta saying that international laws were violated. The Daily Mail reports the letter as saying: “We condemn this apparent desecration of the dead as a violation of our nation’s military regulations and of international laws of war prohibiting such disgusting and immoral actions. … the video shows behavior that is totally unbecoming of American military personnel and that could ultimately endanger other soldiers and civilians.”
In late February, tensions were running high after military investigators concluded that five U.S. soldiers were responsible for burning a pile of Qurans, the Muslim holy book. The U.S. insisted the incident was accidental, but that five soldiers facing charges would still face serious consequences.
Afghanistan leaders and civilians called for the soldiers to be tried in an Islamic court, but one U.S. military official has said that will not happen.
“For the soldiers, it will be serious — they could lose rank. But you’re not going to see the kind of public trial that some here seem to want,” the official said.
Last summer, Gallup released a poll that showed 72 percent of adults in the U.S. were in favor of President Obama’s plan to withdrawal troops from Afghanistan year-by-year, culminating with complete troop withdrawal by 2014.
Another poll from last spring showed Americans are increasingly seeing the war in Afghanistan as a bad thing for America. 49 percent of poll respondents said the war was going badly for America and 42 percent said it was a mistake for the U.S. to engage in a war in Afghanistan.