Former Afghan lawmaker Joya says U.S. soldiers disregard lives

The (Tacoma) News TribuneApril 6, 2011 

A former Afghan lawmaker told an audience of Tacoma, Washington, peace activists Tuesday that photos of Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers grinning over the corpse of a boy they allegedly murdered revealed a disregard for civilian lives among U.S. forces fighting in her country.

"They are making fun with the dead bodies of my people," said Malalai Joya, 32, a human rights activist who visited the University of Washington Tacoma on her U.S. speaking tour. About 80 people attended her talk, which was hosted by the group Peace Action of Washington and was her seventh in the Puget Sound area this week.

She spoke about 12 miles north of the Lewis-McChord jail, where the soldiers shown in the photographs are being held as they await courts-martial.

Five soldiers in their Stryker platoon face charges that they murdered Afghan civilians during patrols with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division last year. One, Spc. Jeremy Morlock, has pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against his co-defendants.

Joya criticized their courts-martial as a distraction from the suffering the war has inflicted on ordinary Afghans. She advocated a rapid withdrawal of American forces, whose presence she argued props up corrupt warlords, drug traffickers and even the Taliban.

"Just to hide their bigotry and crimes, that's why they are bringing these soldiers to court," Joya said.

Last week, she wrote in London's The Guardian newspaper that "We believe that the brutal actions of these 'kill teams' reveal the aggression and racism which is part and parcel of the entire military occupation. While these photos are new, the murder of innocents is not."

Her words alarmed some Washington residents with ties to the military. One woman called in during a radio interview Joya gave this week to argue that the actions of the soldiers in the alleged "kill team" are reprehensible to soldiers.

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