In spite of delays in the process initially announced by the Afghan government last year, Taliban prisoners have been released in droves as part of peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban – including thousands of dangerous criminals and terrorists accused of murdering American, French, and Australian servicemembers and nationals – and Afghan civilians. As recently as September 2020, additional high-value prisoners were released despite them being accused of murder and heinous other war crimes.
Americans should not forget that American servicemembers – many who are either completely innocent or overzealously charged – are still in prison for far less severe crimes. Yet there has been no indication that our American Warriors will be included in any of the “peace talk” deals that only involve Taliban being exchanged for Afghan Security Forces.
Several of the 5,000 released terrorist prisoners have been known to return to the battlefield. According to an article from The Diplomat, they “…obtained a list of 50 released Taliban prisoners who had rejoined the fight and since have been killed by Afghan government forces. While this list is based on information from the Afghan government and could, therefore, be biased, civilians sympathizing with the Taliban on the ground have confirmed to The Diplomat at least two cases in which released Taliban were killed while fighting.”
As the U.S. justifiably seeks peace in Afghanistan and to bring all troops home by 2021, it will be a terrible injustice carried out at the expense of our Warriors if the Department of Defense and Congress do not review numerous well-known cases of our own servicemembers that are stuck in prison while terrorists go free.
One example of a Warrior being left in prison is U.S. Army Staff Sergeant (SSG) Calvin Gibbs.
On 10 November 2011 a military jury convicted SSG Gibbs of multiple charges including murder. The military jury sentenced SSG Gibbs to life in prison with eligibility for parole after 20 years. In March 2016, Gibbs’ attorney filed a request to consider new evidence that one of the killings was due to legitimate combat engagement. In June 2016, the military appeals court ordered a fresh look into the evidence.
When Staff Sergeant Gibbs arrived at a new assignment, it came to his attention that the platoon did not have the minimum combat load of grenades and bullets, a potentially fatal impairment in a war zone. He brought his concerns to the platoon sergeant and it was revealed that the “host” company commander and the “mother” company commander were engaged in a juvenile rivalry and couldn’t agree on who had to provide ammunition. A sergeant told SSG Gibbs that their platoon had been detached from infantry and attached to the Calvary.
The company commanders did not like this hybrid arrangement and Calvary wouldn’t release the ammunition out of spite. SSG Gibbs met with another infantry unit and informed them of the platoon’s vulnerability, and he was successful in getting them the supplies they needed. Internal conflicts like these set the stage for a climate of restlessness that tormented a young squad.
Unbeknownst to SSG Gibbs, a few of the soldiers had obtained hashish from an Afghan guardsman and were sneaking into Stryker vehicles to get high. These personnel carriers had fences attached to their perimeter, specifically designed to prevent rocket propelled grenades (RPG’s) from hurting the passengers inside and provided a perfect cover for their illicit misconduct.
A few years older and more experienced than the men in his unit, SSG Gibbs spent rare moments of downtime away from the frat boy-like antics that had begun to escalate into something more sinister. With a wife and young son back home, SSG Gibbs’ personal endeavors centered on advancing his military career and providing a bright future for his loved ones. As he penned letters to his family, a member of SSG Gibbs’ squad was conspiring to commit acts so heinous, they would be immediately thrust into the darkest annals of military history.
During an investigation into the rampant drug use that plagued the unit, one of the offending soldiers saw an opportunity to ward off felony charges of possession, use, and distribution of an illegal substance by romancing glory-hungry criminal investigative command agents (CID) with a shoddily crafted tale of premeditated murder and hubris that scandalized a nation. It was a total deflection tactic to take the spotlight off him and divert it onto SSG Gibbs, the senior man in the outfit.
As the soldiers in SSG Gibb’s unit cobbled together their fabricated tale, SSG Gibbs was isolated and immediately interrogated for what he naively believed was a simple drug investigation. With the knowledge that he would pass a drug test with flying colors tucked securely in his back pocket, SSG Gibbs readily complied when CID summoned him from the battlefield to the relative safety of headquarters in Kandahar Province.
After an amateurish good cop/bad cop routine that left SSG Gibbs bewildered, the agents begin to grill the staff sergeant about a string of murders disguised as legitimate “kills.” Thinking the agents were applying the Reid technique – an intense method of interrogation where a suspect is pressured into saying things that could be held against him – SSG Gibbs was surprised when the agent’s line of questioning switched to murder instead of focusing on the lesser drug offenses committed by his unit.
When he learned the grim truth – that soldiers in his unit were murdering innocent Afghan civilians and planting weapons to substantiate the crime – SSG Gibbs was shocked. But he believes that by holding steadfastly to the truth, he would surely be exonerated. Little did he know that the military and US government were moving swiftly to isolate the incident and distance themselves from their own shortcomings. They had found the perfect scapegoat to lay all the blame at Gibbs’ feet.
Presumed innocent under American law until proven guilty, months of isolation, mental, and emotional abuse followed, to include pretrial confinement in a cave!
Pre-trial and pre-conviction, SSG Gibbs was sent to Kuwait where he was forced to stand, cuffed, while facing a wall with dried blood on it in a room void of cameras or humane personnel. SSG Gibbs was told that if he made any movement at all, the correctional officers would slam his face into the concrete. The officers took turns screaming at SSG Gibbs and threatening him, a miserable song and dance that was repeated each time he was transferred to a different facility. Some of the guards refused to turn on his lights and SSG Gibbs was forced to sit days at time in a completely dark, windowless room.
As SSG Gibbs was subjected to unspeakable horrors, a vicious 24-hour news cycle consistently regurgitated the propaganda issued by the military. Soldiers who may have considered doing the right thing by admitting that SSG Gibbs had neither orchestrated nor taken part in the killings were implicated in a host of transgressions – crimes that would be buried if they agreed to assign blame to SSG Gibbs.
During a mass search, child pornography was found on an Army medic’s computer and he faced a court-martial that would destroy his life. One week before the medic’s trial, all charges were dropped in exchange for an inflammatory statement made against SSG Gibbs. One by one, each soldier’s story began to align with the prosecutor’s false narrative. SSG Gibbs had become a “get out of jail free” card for those who were dirty, and it became necessary for those who weren’t to say something against him to avoid being targeted.
In exchange for lighter sentences, the actual perpetrators of the war crimes testified against SSG Gibbs, claiming that the staff sergeant bullied them into shooting a fifteen-year-old repeatedly at close range. With unshakable honesty and conviction, SSG Gibbs recounted the missions leading up to the courts-martial. The prosecution tried to convince an ill-prepared jury that within two weeks, SSG Gibbs had successfully convinced a small group of impressionable young soldiers to commit three murders. The premise was faulty, but the spectacle was successful.
SSG Gibbs was found guilty of murder, planting weapons and illegal dismemberment. He is currently serving a life sentence in the United States Disciplinary Barracks (USDB) on Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.
While terrorists that are guilty of exponentially more severe crimes are being set free, you can help to free American Warriors like SSG Calvin Gibbs by making a tax-exempt donation to United American Patriots (UAP, Inc.) today in support of the legal fees he is accruing, and by contacting your state representatives and the U.S. Congressional Justice For Warriors Caucus to urge them to demand that our nation’s Warriors be released.