Wednesday, May 31, 2006

NYT: "Files Contradict Account of Raid in Iraq" (Eric Schmitt & David S. Cloud)

A military investigator uncovered evidence in February and March that contradicted repeated claims by marines that Iraqi civilians killed in Haditha last November were victims of a roadside bomb, according to a senior military official in Iraq.
Among the pieces of evidence that conflicted with the marines' story were death certificates that showed all the Iraqi victims had gunshot wounds, mostly to the head and chest, the official said.
The investigation, which was led by Col. Gregory Watt, an Army officer in Baghdad, also raised questions about whether the marines followed established rules for identifying hostile threats when they assaulted houses near the site of a bomb attack, which killed a fellow marine.

The above is from Eric Schmitt and David S. Cloud's "Files Contradict Account of Raid in Iraq" in this morning's New York Times. And we'll make the topic the focus for this entry. Tom e-mails to note Dahr Jamail's "Countless My Lai Massacres in Iraq" (Truthout):

The media feeding frenzy around what has been referred to as "Iraq's My Lai" has become frenetic. Focus on US Marines slaughtering at least 20 civilians in Haditha last November is reminiscent of the media spasm around the "scandal" of Abu Ghraib during April and May 2004.
Yet just like Abu Ghraib, while the media spotlight shines squarely on the Haditha massacre, countless atrocities continue daily, conveniently out of the awareness of the general public. Torture did not stop simply because the media finally decided, albeit in horribly belated fashion, to cover the story, and the daily slaughter of Iraqi civilians by US forces and US-backed Iraqi "security" forces had not stopped either.
Earlier this month, I received a news release from Iraq, which read, "On Saturday, May 13th, 2006, at 10:00 p.m., US Forces accompanied by the Iraqi National Guard attacked the houses of Iraqi people in the Al-Latifya district south of Baghdad by an intensive helicopter shelling. This led the families to flee to the Al-Mazar and water canals to protect themselves from the fierce shelling. Then seven helicopters landed to pursue the families who fled … and killed them. The number of victims amounted to more than 25 martyrs. US forces detained another six persons including two women named Israa Ahmed Hasan and Widad Ahmed Hasan, and a child named Huda Hitham Mohammed Hasan, whose father was killed during the shelling."
The report from the Iraqi NGO called The Monitoring Net of Human Rights in Iraq (MHRI) continued, "The forces didn't stop at this limit. They held an attack on May 15th, 2006, supported also by the Iraqi National Guards. They also attacked the families' houses, and arrested a number of them while others fled. US snipers then used the homes to target more Iraqis. The reason for this crime was due to the downing of a helicopter in an area close to where the forces held their attack."
The US military preferred to report the incident as an offensive where they killed 41 "insurgents," a line effectively parroted by much of the media.

For anyone who missed it, Jamail was a guest on Democracy Now! yesterday ("Haditha Massacre: Was it an Isolated Event and Did the Military Try to Cover it Up?") and here's another excerpt from that discussion:

AMY GOODMAN: Dahr Jamail, I'm reading a report from Reuters, and it says, "A U.S. Defense official said Friday, Marines could face criminal charges, possibly including murder, in what would be the worst case of abuse by American soldiers in Iraq since the 2003 invasion." Following up on the theme of your piece in truthout, can you respond to that?
DAHR JAMAIL: Well, it's very clear, actually, that willful killing, like everything that we've been talking about this morning, is considered a war crime under even the U.S. War Crimes Act. And people who commit these crimes, particularly when the victim dies, it's punishable not just by life in prison, but the death penalty. And this, of course, goes for the people who committed the act, the people who helped cover it up, on up the chain of command logically to the people who set up this whole situation to begin with, including the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of Defense and other people in the administration. And I think that that's what we need to keep in mind, that we're talking about war crimes and atrocities on the level of the My Lai Massacre and I think even comparable to things that were done during, you know, that we had the Nuremberg trials for. And this is what people need to be held responsible for, and again, as it was mentioned earlier, not just the people who committed the act, but the people who set up the entire -- all of the conditions that made all of these things possible.
AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned, Dahr, Fallujah before. And I would say most people in the United States have perhaps heard of it as a city. But why do you think it needs to be investigated to the extent that we're beginning to see with Haditha right now?
DAHR JAMAIL: Well, it needs to be investigated because there is irrefutable evidence that war crimes have been committed there. I saw with my own eyes during the April 2004 siege, where I sat in a clinic and watched men and women and young kids brought in, all saying they had been shot by snipers, when Marines pushed into the city, couldn't take the city, so they set up snipers on rooftops and just started a turkey shoot, which was exactly how it was described by one of the soldiers I ran into when I was leaving that city.
Watching a ten-year-old boy die in front of my face, because he was shot by Marines, other war crimes reported heavily. And that was just from the April siege when 736 people were killed, and then the November siege where between 4,000 and 6,000 people were killed. Indiscriminate bombings, snipers, war crimes being committed on the ground by hand, by U.S. Marines, as well, during that siege. And all of these are, of course, gross breeches of the Geneva Conventions. They are war crimes. And there is photographic evidence. There is video evidence. Doctors there to this day will talk to you about what happened. And there is absolutely no reason why all of these shouldn’t be investigated, as well.

Yes, Falluja. The slaughter/massacre that the corporate media still doesn't want to discuss. (Good morning Dexy!) The issue goes to what we'll stomach and what we won't, to how much weight we place on all life. (Or only on the lives of people who 'look like us.') Elaine's written at length on this "Mini-essay" yesterday. We've noted Dahr Jamail on Democracy Now! and to note another outlet he appeared on, we'll note Rebecca's "flashpoints tonight had dahr jamail & craig murray speaking - check it out:"

kpfa's flashpoints tonight dealt with war crimes and haditha. to talk on haditha, they had the ultimate un-embed, a reporter who's always spoken the truth - some 1 who wasn't part of the 'we were all wrong' crowd. dahr jamail spoke of how this could play out, like abu ghraib, as an isolated incident when it is fact part of the occupation. people need to stop kidding themselves.
dahr spoke about falluja, the 2nd seige. an iraqi ngo estimates that between 4,000 and 6,000 people were slaughtered. the 2nd seige is the one in november of 2004, the 1st was in april of 2004.
those who commit the crimes, those who cover it up, those who fail to report it in a timely manner, going all the way up the chain of command, are guilty of war crimes - dahr explained.

Will there be accountability? Not when people rush into minimize the crimes that took place. We saw that with Abu Ghraib. Having trouble accepting that they were crimes? Tom also notes Marjorie Cohn's "The Haditha Massacre" (Truthout):

They ranged from little babies to adult males and females. I'll never be able to get that out of my head. I can still smell the blood. This left something in my head and heart.-- Observations of Lance Cpl. Roel Ryan Briones after the Haditha Massacre
On November 19, 2005, Marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division based at Camp Pendleton allegedly killed 24 unarmed civilians in Haditha, Iraq, in a three to five hour rampage. One victim was a 76-year-old amputee in a wheelchair holding a Koran. A mother and child bent over as if in prayer were also among the fallen. "I pretended that I was dead when my brother's body fell on me, and he was bleeding like a faucet," said Safa Younis Salim, a 13-year-old girl who survived by faking her death.
Other victims included girls and boys ages 14, 10, 5, 4, 3 and 1. The Washington Post reported, "Most of the shots ... were fired at such close range that they went through the bodies of the family members and plowed into walls or the floor, doctors at Haditha's hospital said."
The executions of 24 unarmed civilians were conducted in apparent retaliation for the death of Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas when a small Marine convoy hit a roadside bomb earlier that day.
A statement issued by a US Marine Corps spokesman the next day claimed: "A US Marine and 15 civilians were killed yesterday from the blast of a roadside bomb in Haditha. Immediately following the bombing, gunmen attacked the convoy with small-arms fire. Iraqi army soldiers and Marines returned fire, killing eight insurgents and wounding another."
A subsequent Marine version of the events said the victims were killed inadvertently in a running gun battle with insurgents.
oth of these stories were false and the Marines knew it. They were blatant attempts to cover up the atrocity, disguised as "collateral damage."

As we wind down this entry, Zach notes Robert Parry's "Bush's My Lai" (Consortium News):

The new U.S. atrocity in Iraq, the alleged murder of two dozen Iraqis by revenge-seeking Marines in the city of Haditha, appears likely to follow the course of other Iraq war-crimes cases, such as the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib -- some low-- or mid-level soldiers will be court-martialed and marched off to prison.
George W. Bush will offer some bromides about how the punishment shows that the United States honors the rule of law and how the punishment is further proof of America's civilized behavior when compared with the enemy's barbarity. It's also likely the U.S. news media won't place too much blame on Bush.
But the common thread from the bloody invasion of Iraq in 2003 through Abu Ghraib to Haditha is that Bush cavalierly sent young Americans into a complex and frightening conflict with false and alarmist rhetoric ringing in their ears.

There's another apparent common thread. The claim wasn't made until later yesterday (Parry's article was published early Tuesday).

From Schmitt and Cloud's article in the Times:

On Tuesday, the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, said President Bush first became aware of the episode after the Time magazine inquiry, when he was briefed by Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser.

But it? Who knows if it's true. But it's another case, as stated by the White House, were Bully Boy's out of the loop. And if the NSA is learning of it from Time, that's a shocker as well. So once again, we have the issue of when did Hadley know and what did he do? For those who've forgotten, one of Rove's claims in Plamegate, from last summer, was that he wasn't trying to out Valerie Plame, the CIA agent, because, if he was, he wouldn't have e-mailed STEPHEN HADLEY after speaking with Matt Cooper of Time. As we asked at The Third Estate Sunday Review,
"Editorial: What did Hadley know and what did he do?" Did Hadley do nothing with the information? That applies to the issue of the outing of Valerie Plame and the issue of what happened in Haditha -- a common thread. (Another common thread is the administration supposedly getting all their information on both topics -- their 'working intell'? -- from Time magazine.)

Back to Parry:

Through clever juxtaposition, Bush's speeches linked Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and later blurred the distinctions between Iraq’s home-grown insurgency and the relatively small number of al-Qaeda terrorists operating in Iraq.
Again and again, in 2002-2003, Bush rhetorically fused the names Saddam Hussein and Osama bin-Laden, as Bush rushed the United States into war. Then, in fall 2005 -- around the time of the alleged Haditha atrocity on Nov. 19, 2005 -- Bush was framing the Iraq conflict as a war to stop terrorists from creating "a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia," which would threaten the American mainland.
Though these claims lacked credible intelligence -- Hussein and bin-Laden were bitter enemies and al-Qaeda remains a fringe player in the Muslim world -- Bush's messages apparently sank in with impressionable young soldiers and Marines trying to understand why they needed to kill Iraqis. [See's "
Bush's Latest Iraq War Lies."]
As a result of Bush's incessant propaganda,
a poll of 944 U.S. military personnel in Iraq -- taken in January and February 2006 -- found that 85 percent believed the U.S. mission in Iraq was mainly "to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9/11 attacks." Seventy-seven percent said a chief war goal was "to stop Saddam from protecting al-Qaeda in Iraq."
Bush had not only misled the American public, but he had confused the American troops assigned to carry out the complicated occupation of Iraq, a nation with a history, language and culture foreign to the vast majority of U.S. soldiers. By exaggerating the threat that Iraq posed to the United States, Bush also set the conditions for atrocities.

Worth remember/contemplating, Katrina Vanden Heuvel's "A Failing Policy's Last Argument" (The Notion, The Nation), noted by Julie:

Having lost all positive reasons for the Iraq War, the Bush administration and its allies have fallen back on the last argument of a failing policy: We can't afford to lose in Iraq. But as the stories about U.S. troops executing innocent Iraqi children emerge other questions come to mind: What if we have already failed? What if our continued presence only makes the situation worse not better?

Remember to listen, watch or read (transcripts) Democracy Now! today. The e-mail address for this site is