DOD Preparing to Admit Afghan Massacre Soldier Was Drunk

DOD appears to be preparing to admit one of two critical details Afghan witnesses to this weekend’s massacre have maintained from the start: that the shooter(s) was drunk (villager witnesses also said more than one soldier was involved). At least, that’s what I conclude by the anonymous leak to DOD’s favorite mouthpiece, Barbara Starr.

The military is investigating whether alcohol was a factor in the rampage , two senior military officials tell CNN.  One of the senior military officials said alcohol was found on the base in the area where the suspect lived.  It is not clear yet if the alcohol belonged to the soldier and a toxic screening was conducted but the results have not been returned, the official said.

Yet even as the story gets worse, I worry that DOD will aim to cover up the worst parts of it. Starr’s sources are already citing the burial of the bodies (as per Islamic custom) when addressing evidentiary issues).

A U.S. official familiar with some elements of the investigation says CID investigators have “recovered some initial evidence” from the scene, including shell casings.  [snip]

“Ballistics is not going to be a problem,” the official told CNN.

While officials are likely to be able to recover much of this material, all the victims have been buried and permission to exhume the bodies is unlikely the official said.

And they’re also talking about forwarding recommendations up the chain of command.

After the CID completes its investigation, investigators will forward their findings up the chain of command, and military officials “will then make judicial process decisions,” according to Kirby.

Starr does answer one question I’ve seen increasingly asked: why DOD hasn’t released the Staff Sergeant’s name. They won’t do so, apparently, until he is charged.

46 replies
  1. Phil Perspective says:

    Yet even as the story gets worse, I worry that DOD will aim to cover up the worst parts of it.

    Of course!! I’ve seen no one ask how, and why, this guy left the base alone when supposedly no one is supposed to do so.

  2. CTuttle says:

    Having been an Infantry Squad Leader, and worked alongside SF, I think that that wannabe Rambo, took his liquored-up squad on that hunting spree, to ‘prove’ the straight-leg Squad’s capability to their Green Beret buddies…! *gah*

  3. prostratedragon says:

    Vets I’ve known used to say that when the army (or whatever force) is working properly, those with a tendency to screw up this big get pulled to the side long before reaching a rank as high as staff sergeant, whatever excuse they might have. Assuming he’s Army, a staff sergeant has command of at least a squad.

    Is this the same area whose commander was too dumb to call an imam or a board of them and ask what to do with problematic religious materials?

  4. MadDog says:

    I too, just happened to catch this “news” on CNN and my eyes rolled.

    The “he might have been drunk” assertion makes more food for thought rather than less:

    1) As I questioned, how does a lone US soldier stroll out of a tightly secured base surrounded with razor wire, mines, automatic weapons emplacements with interlocking fields of fire and sentries standing watch in the middle of bandit country at 3 AM? Adding the “drunk” assertion makes that even more ludicrous. When watching MSNBC news this past weekend, even former Army General Barry McCaffrey and now MSNBC commentator, couldn’t understand how this US soldier could get off the base in the first place.

    2) And further, how does US soldier, now supposedly “drunk” manage to walk/stumble more than a mile from the base in the dark even with supposed night-vision googles (which might make it harder, not easier to walk/stumble while “drunk”)?

    As is much the case with Barbara Starr, she’s very good at spouting DOD-fed tidbits of nonsense that later turns out to be completely erroneous.

    I wouldn’t take her reporting with a grain of salt. Rather, I’d buy a salt mine!

  5. BeccaM says:

    “DOD Preparing to ASSERT Afghan Massacre Soldier Was Drunk.”

    There, fixed your title.

    I remain of the opinion they’re lying through their teeth. Remember the Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch stories that proved to be 100% false?

  6. JTM says:

    Entertaining piece on NPR a while ago. First, the host is very condescending towards a Taliban spokesperson. The Taliban member suggested that, if the US is going to claim that this was all done by one soldier, it would not be wise to say that he was insane, because that would be the same as admitting the US is sending insane people with guns to Afghanistan. The host was condescending in that he said this was a much more sophisticated argument that he’d expect from the Taliban. Second, the host went back to his interview with an ex-ambassador to Afghanistan and asserted directly that it was all done by one soldier. It was as if the NPR host has never heard of Pat Tilman and still believes everything that the US military tells him.

    Sadly, that was a typically unsophisticated argument from an NPR host.

  7. Clark Hilldale says:


    “how does a lone US soldier stroll out of a tightly secured base surrounded with razor wire, mines, automatic weapons emplacements with interlocking fields of fire and sentries standing watch in the middle of bandit country at 3 AM?”

    Perhaps he was on watch duty.

  8. JTM says:

    Lone gunman theory. Where have I heard that before?

    If your watch the CNN video you’ll note two things. First, assuming a decent translation, the witness says “they,” not “he.” Second, there were shells for both a rifle and a 45 right next to each other. Who the heck switches back and forth from his rifle to his 45 in that situation (especially if drunk)? Much more likely that two people using different guns but standing next to each other were shooting at the same time.

  9. MadDog says:

    @emptywheel: The fact that they have “persistent surveillance” video for perimeter security should add weight to whether this was a lone US soldier or whether it was a group.

    That said, of what value is a “persistent surveillance” video system for perimeter security if nobody is watching the take real-time? Or was someone watching/supposed to be watching and failed in the duty to raise the alarm?

    David Martin on CBS News just now reported that the initial report that the lone US soldier “turned himself in” upon returning to the FOB was not correct.

    Martin said that the when the Afghans guarding the FOB reported that a lone US soldier had left the FOB, the US organized a search party including the use of helicopters.

    In the process of searching for the lone US soldier, Martin reported they discovered him “crawling” through an orchard which they believe was an attempt to “sneak” back onto the FOB.

    Martin also repeated the “possible alcohol” rumor and embellished it with his own rumor that he didn’t know whether alcohol was smelled on the US soldier’s breath when apprehended or merely found on the FOB.

  10. jo6pac says:

    Well if he was drunk and admits he made a mistake and will seek treatment then everything is OK right.

    Something tell me all of you that asked great questions this well be the govt. normal of we can’t hear you please move along. Dog I loved it when ronnie ray gunn would cup his ear like he might be interested in what you had to say.

  11. MadDog says:

    @Clark Hilldale: One of the news reports this past weekend asserted that the suspect US soldier was a member of “force protection” for the FOB where Green Berets were doing village stability operations.

    If you read what the US Army means by “force protection” (9 page PDF), the question of how a lone US soldier could stroll out of a tightly secured base becomes easier to understand.

    It may be that this lone US soldier was in fact involved in the FOB’s security as part of his “force protection” responsibilities and therefore knew how to evade the sentries and systems in place guarding it.

  12. joanneleon says:

    It seems like a lot of activity for one soldier to pull off alone. The shootings in multiple villages, moving bodies, pouring chemicals, burning. Did he just happen to have chemicals with him? Did he find them in the village?

    The shootings themselves — some of them were execution style, one shot to the head. Does a guy who is in mad, drunken rage shoot victims once in the head or does he spray bullets?

    We know from the Reuters story that one or some witnesses say there was more than one soldier and that they seemed drunk, laughing. Other witness accounts I read today talked about helicopters. Then that was cleared up with more information saying that after they found out about the incident, troops from the base came to the village in helicopters. What did they do?

    I also read that one Afghan guard saw him leaving the base and reported it. But other accounts say that he was gone for hours. Would they not have sent a team out after him after he report was made?

    A lot of things don’t add up.

    We know that NATO is in the process of negotiating with the Afghan government about a security agreement. One of Karzai’s three demands was an end to the night raids. This massacre sounds something like a night raid, kicking doors in while people are sleeping. Karzai and the people demand an end to them. Our military brass insist that they are an integral part of our counterinsurgency strategy and cannot be given up. This, IMHO, makes me skeptical about the official statements (in addition to all the other details reported so far that seem odd).

  13. Bruce Miller says:

    Did none of the perpetrators superiors or fellow soldiers notice that his disciple was slipping? Did he voice no murderous fantasies before he went on his killing binge? Did no one notice problems he was having from his brain injury that some cowardly anonymous “U.S. official” told McClatchy that the suspect had incurred in Iraq? For that matter, if they knew he had incurred brain injuries, why did his officers send him back to a combat zone? Did no one on the base notice him getting up in the middle of the night, suiting up with his weapons and going out for a little stroll on his own? Or do they all just snooze at night in the base with no sentries or controls on who comes in or goes out? I’m sick of all the Pentagon’s excuses for this kind of incidents.

  14. MadDog says:

    @joanneleon: Excellent points! I particularly like your points about the chemicals used for burning, though that too may turn out to be initial impressions that were wrong. It may be simply that stuff like blankets were used to attempt to burn the victims.

  15. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: I wanted to expand on my thoughts about that “persistent surveillance” video system for perimeter security for that FOB.

    In order to be at all worthwhile, that FOB “persistent surveillance” video system for perimeter security would have to do the following:

    1) It would have to be watched 24×7 in real-time in order to provide its intended function.

    2) It would have to provide 360° visibility to all access to the FOB, and therefore by definition would have to have the same coverage for egress from the FOB.

    3) It would have to have a “night-vision” infrared capability to detect heat sources (like people) at night. Otherwise it would be useless for security at the FOB’s most vulnerable time; night-time.

    4) It would have to be manned “locally” in order to react immediately to security situations. Manning from a “remote” location such as another US base would increase the risk of failure to respond to immediate security situations at the FOB (e.g. communication from a remote location to the FOB by radio could be problematic with jamming or other types of typical interference).

    So the question is: Who wasn’t watching/paying attention to the “persistent surveillance” video system for perimeter security at the FOB when this purported lone US soldier left?

  16. Frank33 says:

    Alert Homeland Security and COINTELPRO. There is a new target who has gone rogue. Another defeatist is spreading anti-government rhetoric. This is undermining confidence in the war effort and the government and is helping Al Qaeda. This type of criticism suggests that the last ten years of war and blood have been wasted. Two words Mr Smarty Pants Jack Cafferty of CNN. Waterboarding Drones!

    “How much is enough? The United States has been in Afghanistan for more than ten years. And President Obama insists we will remain in Afghanistan until the end of 2014. Why? What will be accomplished by staying in that godforsaken hellhole for another 20 months that hasn’t been accomplished in 10 and a half years?”

    “Yet the Obama White House is out with a statement insisting that none of this will deter us from our mission, which is what exactly? I have no idea what the hell we’re doing there anymore. Isn’t Osama bin Laden dead?”

    “We have no voice in any of this stuff any more. They go into Iraq, they go into Afghanistan, they might go into Iran. We got nothing. We’re just kept in the dark and the government does whatever the hell it feels like doing, or preferably what it is being told to do by the people who pay the politicians’ bills. Remember that warning from Dwight Eisenhower about the military-industrial complex? It’s got this country by the throat.”

  17. CTuttle says:

    @MadDog: David Martin on CBS News just now reported that the initial report that the lone US soldier “turned himself in” upon returning to the FOB was not correct.

    Martin said that the when the Afghans guarding the FOB reported that a lone US soldier had left the FOB, the US organized a search party including the use of helicopters.

    This BBC timeline blows that ‘search party’ meme outta the water, MadDog…

    00:00 Aircraft heard by eyewitness over villages
    01:00-01:30 Helicopters heard, followed by gunfire
    02:00 Witness says she hears shooting in one of the villages
    03:00 Time at which soldier is said by Afghan officials to have left US base

  18. emptywheel says:

    @CTuttle: That’s what I was thinking about.

    But then maybe my original theory (a group killing, followed by his attempt to hide the evidenec) makes sense?

  19. emptywheel says:

    @CTuttle: Oh, actually, from the Beeb:

    An Afghan guard at the Nato base told the BBC that the soldier left the base twice. He returned at 00:30 local time (20:00 GMT) after the first trip out and was out between 02:00 and 04:00 for the second trip.

    So went out, maybe killed the first family (with a silencer?) then went back out to try to hide his tracks and killed 2 more families?

  20. Frank33 says:

    @P J Evans: Yes! Who could have anticipated. Ehh I love the Great White North.

    But Darth has apparently violated Canadian law, because Darth is a torturer. In America, you can torture but you cannot smoke a marijuana cigarette. In Canada, Darth might be arrested, for violating human rights. And Chimpie is also going to Canada.

    Former Vice President Dick Cheney, making his first book-selling foray outside the U.S., is speaking Monday night at an exclusive, sold-out, $500-a-ticket dinner at the Vancouver Club.

    But the immigration critic for Canada’s opposition New Democratic Party, Vancouver lawmaker Don Davies, is demanding that Cheney be denied entry to the Great White North.

    The appearance by Cheney before the Bon Mot Book Club (a previous author guest: Sarah Palin) may serve as a warmup to former President George W. Bush’s scheduled appearance next month in Surrey, British Columbia.

    Davies is citing Sections 35 and 36 of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (INPA), which declare that any foreign national who has violated human or international rights can be barred from Canada — or even held for investigation.

  21. MadDog says:

    @CTuttle: @emptywheel: I agree we have a lot of contradictory “first impression” information that later is going to either be substantiated or debunked.

    I don’t blame the MSM particularly for this since I’ve often found that the military (from the top of DOD to the bottom local soldiers) are often the primary sources for this contradictory information.

  22. MadDog says:

    @emptywheel: And how can one lone US soldier leave the fookin’ FOB twice without the officers in charge running around with their hair on fire?

    The smell just keeps getting smellier.

  23. CTuttle says:

    @MadDog: I’d suppose that the Green Berets had finally realized his major F*ckup, and tried to cover it up, what’s truly scary is that most of the KIAs had died from single shots to the foreheads…! The sheer lethality…! 8-(

  24. noble_serf says:

    This was not and FOB. They are like cities. It was a tiny outpost.

    Still. It is hard to get all the facts.

  25. MadDog says:

    @noble_serf: Actually, FOBs can be of any size:

    “…In its most basic form, an FOB consists of a ring of barbed wire around a position with a fortified entry control point, or ECP. More advanced FOBs would include an assembly of earthen dams, concrete barriers, gates, watchtowers, bunkers and other force protection infrastructure…”

    This place is called Camp Belambay.

  26. CTuttle says:

    @noble_serf:*heh* An FOB could literally be a foxhole…! ;-)

    I’d suppose that a squad or two of grunts was providing the ‘security’ for an ‘A Team’, so maybe max of a Platoon-sized FOB…!

  27. Bob Schacht says:

    I like your theory. It would be a lot easier to minimize the significance of this massacre if it was all done by a drunk lone wolf. But if it was done by a squad leader with some members of his squad, it will be much harder to explain away.

    Bob in AZ

  28. spanishinquisition says:

    @Bob Schacht: Do we know who was killed? I’m wondering if this was a US sanctioned night raid that went wrong – at multiple levels – and now the US is trying to disavow responsibility for it. Given the lack of concern over some US soldier leaving the base with night vision goggles in the middle of the night, it sounds like Camp Belamby was a staging ground for many night raids.

  29. CTuttle says:

    @spanishinquisition: One thing that I’d noticed very early on, was that ISAF was quick to say that nothing had been ‘scheduled’ that nite, it is/was an SF camp, so ‘night raids’ would most certainly have been a ‘staged’ from it, but, this certainly was ‘unsanctioned’, btw, any alcohol is banned in ‘theater’ too…!

  30. rugger9 says:

    @MadDog: #4
    Add to that the unrest over the Korans was still roiling along. No way they were that “asleep” unless it was intentional. I agree with the squad shoot-em-up theory. So, IF the lone soldier got out without detection, then we should also see CMs for the sentries, because if you can get out you can get in.

    Another aspect I would think argues against the currently official “lone wolf” narrative is that we are being asked to believe this ONE GUY was able to protect 360 around himself while simultaneously committing all of the killings without getting waxed himself by the locals who we know are armed and already prone to shoot, especially after the Koran burning became public.

    Hooch is a well-documented military tradition. Banned or not, they’ll get it if they want it.

  31. emptywheel says:

    Just saw a breaking news report saying that the US showed Afghans their surveillance footage to convince them this guy acted alone.

    Though I wonder whether they showed teh footage from both trips out. And I wonder how they convinced them the helicopters weren’t involved.

  32. MadDog says:

    @emptywheel: Via the AP:

    “Afghan official: Video shows soldier surrendering

    The U.S. soldier who allegedly shot 16 Afghan villagers was caught on surveillance video that showed him walking up to his base, laying down his weapon and raising his arms in surrender, according to an Afghan official who viewed the footage.

    The official said late Tuesday that U.S. authorities showed Afghan authorities the surveillance video to prove that only one perpetrator was involved in the Sunday shootings, which have further strained already shaky relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan…


    …The video, taken from an overhead blimp that films the area around the base, shows a soldier in a U.S. uniform approaching the south gate of the base with a traditional Afghan shawl hiding the weapon in his hand, the official said.

    He then removes the shawl as he lays his weapon on the ground and raises his arms in surrender.

    The official had not been shown any footage of the soldier leaving the base. The official spoke anonymously to discuss a private briefing…”

    This puts paid to the crap David Martin of CBS was spinning in my earlier comment about the lone US soldier crawling through an orchard to attempt to sneak back into the FOB.

    This also still leaves wide open the following:

    1) No video yet of just who left the FOB when.
    2) No answers as to whether other US folks were strolling back to the base in the middle of the night (which in case at least of a ground search party, you’d also expect to see).

    I also wonder whether the blimp was providing that “persistent surveillance” video system for perimeter security rather than some on base video system. If so, my question still remains:

    Who wasn’t watching/paying attention to the “persistent surveillance” video system for perimeter security at the FOB when this purported lone US soldier left?

  33. Bob Schacht says:


    Who wasn’t watching/paying attention to the “persistent surveillance” video system for perimeter security at the FOB when this purported lone US soldier left?

    Perhaps the purported lone US soldier gave perimeter security a sixpack to enjoy?

    Bob in AZ

  34. lysias says:

    Since when do they not release the name of an arrested soldier until he is charged? They didn’t wait with Bradley Manning, did they? Or with the soldiers at Abu Ghraib either, if memory serves.

  35. lysias says:

    If Green Berets were involved in this massacre, they’re never going to tell us that. Everything they do — and the identities of the individuals — are classified.

    That may be why they’re insisting on the lone nut shooter scenario.

  36. lysias says:

    That moment when the helicopters depart from Afghanistan is drawing ever closer: Panetta Is Safe After Breach Near His Plane at Afghan Base:

    KABUL, Afghanistan — A tense visit to Afghanistan by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta got off to an unscripted start when a stolen truck sped onto a runway ramp at the British military airfield as his plane was landing. Mr. Panetta was unhurt, but Pentagon officials said the Afghan driver emerged from the vehicle in flames.

  37. tjallen says:

    @Bruce Miller: Bruce reports about the soldier having a head injury seem to come and go. Yesterday I linked to an AP story mentioning the head injury, yet that paragraph of the story disappeared an hour later. Now the paragraph appears again in a different AP story, and I will quote it this time because it might disappear again:

    The U.S. Army staff sergeant accused of carrying out the shooting spree in Kandahar has been identified as a married, 38-year-old father of two who was trained as a sniper and had served three tours in Iraq, where he recently suffered a head injury.

    The story:

  38. tjallen says:

    This AP story gives more clues about the soldier’s identity:

    In this instance, military officials haven’t even officially confirmed that the soldier was based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Seattle. That information came from sources who spoke to The Associated Press and other media organizations and spoke only on condition of anonymity. Base spokesman Joe Piek referred any questions to military leaders in Afghanistan.

    Military leaders haven’t publicly discussed details about the suspect, though officials have anonymously described him as a 38-year-old father of two who has been in the military for 11 years. He’s served three tours in Iraq and began his first deployment to Afghanistan in December.

    The soldier is with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. He was attached to Camp Belambai, home to a village stability force that pairs special operations troops with villagers to help provide neighborhood security.

  39. Nell says:

    FWIW, the Afghan parliamentary committee investigating the massacre is convinced that more than one soldier is involved.

    Given reality of night raids as regular thing, and rank of alleged perp, the plausibility of ‘night raid gone even worse than usual’ increases.

    War is a crime.

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