Seven other soldiers from the Lewis-McChord platoon were accused of covering up war crimes, impeding an investigation, and beating up a fellow soldier who blew the whistle on their hashish use. Court martial proceedings for the dirty dozen began last year and are expected to run through 2011. The most recent hearing ended in a guilty plea by Morlock, who agreed to testify against Gibbs and others in return for a 24-year sentence with the possibility of parole within eight years. Asked by an Army judge last month if murdering civilians was an impulse, Morlock answered negative. "The plan," he said firmly, "was to kill people, sir." Widely published photos and videos of the Kill Team suggest the atrocities may be even more widespread; platoon members were known to shoot randomly at farmers working the low fields of Afghanistan, a country — dating back to Alexander the Great's arrival — accustomed to invasion and conquest.

Joe Kubistek, a Lewis-McChord spokesman, says the Army "is a reflection of society, in some ways," but makes no excuses for Gibbs and the others. He notes the murder suspects are five among 40,000 uniformed personnel at the base south of Tacoma, the overwhelming majority serving with honor. "We got calls from soldiers who wanted to know how this could happen," says Kubistek. "Everyone was upset. 'This wouldn't have gone on if that was my unit!' they said." The Army has apologized for the carnage shown in the killers' trophy photos — including a victim who appears to have been shot in the back — and is seeking hard time for the accused.

"We don't do this," says Lewis-McChord prosecutor Captain Andre Leblanc. "This is not how we're trained. These are the actions of a few misguided men."

Video footage of Barrett around the hotel he supposedly planned to ambush.
YouTube
Video footage of Barrett around the hotel he supposedly planned to ambush.
Video footage of Barrett around the hotel he supposedly planned to ambush.
Youtube
Video footage of Barrett around the hotel he supposedly planned to ambush.

The base was also in turmoil over claims that it mistreated members of an Oregon National Guard team that was demobilized at Lewis-McChord after returning from Iraq last year. McChord Hospital officials handled them as second-class soldiers, Guard members told reporters, citing a briefing held by Madigan staff to prepare for the unit's arrival. It included a PowerPoint presentation that showed a ball cap emblazoned with the words "Weekend Warrior," and a staff advisory that suggested Guard members might try to game the system to extend their active-duty pay. The soldiers say they didn't get necessary treatment, and were given the bum's rush in favor of regular Army troops. The Army said the PowerPoint slide was a poor attempt at humor and denied mistreating the unit, but hasn't released its final report on the incident. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who is probing the claims, has put a hold on Senate hearings over the nomination of a Deputy Secretary of Defense, a move he hopes will force the Army to release its report.

Adding to the dispute, one of the Guard members, Specialist Nikkolas W. Lookabill, 22, was shot to death by Vancouver (Washington) police outside his house four months after he was processed at Lewis-McChord. He was killed September 7 after refusing to put down his gun. Family members say he never got the mental-health help he required. A five-page report by the Clark County prosecutor said Lookabill was drunk and agitated that night. Earlier, he'd asked people on the street if they were a "friend or an enemy," and pointed a gun at one. In a confrontation with police, the report states, Lookabill "told officers that he was a veteran who had fought in Iraq, that he wanted to be a cop, that this was all his girlfriend's fault, that he wanted them to shoot him." A standoff ensued until Lookabill went for his .45, and was killed.

A day earlier, Army veteran Robert Quinones, 29, armed with four guns, held three hostages at gunpoint at a Fort Stewart, Georgia, hospital, threatening to kill them as well as President Obama and former President Clinton. He pleaded for mental-health treatment, then surrendered. Injured in Iraq and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Quinones had recently been medically discharged from Lewis-McChord. His family said he'd been wounded by a roadside bomb, and suffered from depression since his return home. He is now undergoing court-ordered psychiatric help.

Three weeks earlier, Specialist Dustin Knapp, 23, got into a fight with his uncle, stormed out of his Wisconsin home, and was struck and killed by a car as he walked down a two-lane road at 4:30 a.m. His August 16 death, two months after he returned to Lewis-McChord from Afghanistan, was ruled an accident, although there was speculation he'd jumped in front of the car. A member of the same troubled Stryker platoon that spawned the Kill Team, Knapp was distraught, family members said, over the ongoing courts-martial.

"Everyone is an enemy," Knapp had written on his Facebook page. "I must be my biggest one. All the alcohol I had. All the liquor mixed into one bottle as I'm freaking by myself. I have all my knives open and ready to go through separate arteries and main veins. Who'd miss me anyway?"

Knapp and the others shared some common demons: the stress of war and post-traumatic stress in peace, aggravated by breakdowns of the military bureaucracy and healthcare system. Brandon Barrett's case, in particular, uniquely illustrates what happens when the Army fails the soldier and the soldier fails himself.

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Usgovfail
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The federal government will pay for their war crimes some day. They send these ignorant young people to do their bidding, not so that citizens can be free, but so that politicians and war contractors can get rich. Its ridiculous the brainwashing that occurs in this nation. I hope china attacks the USA one day focusing on wiping out government installments. Fuck the US federal government, I hope you all die.

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The members of the VFW were truly exemplary of the good in man.My condolences to the Barrett family, and to all families touched by these horrific governmental mistakes abroad.

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Arizona Darkblade
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RIP Brandon. Angel wings of comfort to his family. The toll of war is tragic. All around a very sad series of events. Blessings to the Army, and all the soldiers serving in valor for our country. I believe in our Armed Forces despite the casualties that can't help but happen. Bless and comfort them all. Amen.

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