Monday, June 05, 2006

Dogs Of War II: Pay Them To Keep Their Mouths Shut, If They're Still Alive

Ill: Webdailyplanet

OK, kids, a compendium of all the news & spin over the past several days regarding allegations that our forces are killing civilians in Iraq in unchecked & wanton fashion.

1. Haditha: as I read & summarize this Washington Post article (title bar), here's the update of the November 19, 2005 events there, & some very especial tidbits Demon Princess would like to point out, such as this:

But for a human rights organization that supplied a videotape by an Iraqi journalism student--showing the morgue where the bodies were dumped & the walls of the homes of the dead civilians strafed by gunfire--to Time magazine, which published it, you wouldn't ever had known about the massacre if Donald Rumsfeld had had his way. Unfortunately, some stand-up Marines had already spilled the beans by the time Rummy thought to order them to keep their pieholes shut.

And that's one reason, among others, the freedom of the press in America is being so ferociously assaulted: we'll never win this war on terror if y'all know about things like this. We're creating more problems than we've ever solved by invading a nation that had little or nothing to do with 911 in the first place, so forget this promptly or I'll have to kill you.

Onto the Haditha story:

9.19: At 5 pm a call went out for trucks to collect the bodies of 24 babies, women & children shot in the head & chest, as well as an old man in a wheelchair who had been shot 9 times. A group of girls, ages 1 to 14, were among them. All killed by gunfire.

9.20: The first official report, made the next day, claimed 15 dead, all as a result of a roadside bomb. The report went on to say that immediately after the bomb, the Marines involved were attacked by small-arms gunfire. Iraqi army soldiers & U.S. Marines claimed to have returned the fire, wounding 1 & killing 8 "insurgents." Total: 24.

Reported the WaPo, "Despite what Marine witnesses saw when they arrived, that official version has been allowed to stand for six months. Who lied about the killings, who knew the truth and what, if anything, they did about it are at the core of one of the potentially most embarrassing and damaging events of the Iraq war, one that some say may surpass the detainee abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison."

Currently, "The Marine Corps is saying only that it would be inappropriate to comment while investigations are underway. But since that Saturday afternoon in November, evidence has been accumulating steadily that the official version was wrong and misleading."

We're not forgetting Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, the 20 year old Marine of Kilo Company whose death as a result of the roadside bomb apparently set others of his company on a vengeance-killing spree. "Lance Cpl. Roel Ryan Briones said that Terrazas had been 'like a brother to me.' Staff Sgt. Travis Fields, Terrazas's platoon sergeant, called him 'a man of heart.'"

But that by no means excuses the viciousness of the unwarranted attacks on civilians that followed. As I always like to say 2 (or 24) wrongs don't make a right, not to mention that what followed was as absurd as it was insulting. "...Not long after the bodies were discovered," the Marines paid $38,000 to the families of 15 of the dead--or approximately $2,500 per person, "the maximum the United States offers."

"Thereafter, "Kilo Company did not dwell on what happened Nov. 19. Mike Coffman, who was a Marine Reserve officer in Haditha at the time, recalled that another officer, telling him about the incident, 'indicated to me that he thought from the beginning that it was overreaction by the Marines, but he didn't think anything criminal had occurred.'"

January: Three months after the incident, here arrives the "top military official who would play key role in the case: Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the new No. 2 military officer in the country." Reputed to be that rarest of rare commodities in the heady upper reaches of the U.S. armed forces, the WaPo wrote: "He is an unusual general in today's Army, with none of the 'good old boy' persona seen in many other top commanders. He had praised an article by a British officer that was sharply critical of U.S. officers in Iraq for using tactics that alienated the population. He wanted U.S. forces to operate differently than they had been doing."

However, it's apparently going to take some time...

Not long after he arrived in Baghdad, he was furnished the video by the human rights group. When the video reached Time, reporters questioned U.S. military officials.

In response, a Marine captain "sent the reporters a dismissive e-mail saying that they were falling for al-Qaeda propaganda,' Time said recently. 'I cannot believe you're buying any of this,' he wrote. ' The captain "declined last week to comment on any aspect of the Haditha incident."

"But Army Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a more senior spokesman in Baghdad, notified Chiarelli of the questions. The general's response to his public affairs office was short: just brief the Time magazine reporter on the military investigation into the incident that Chiarelli assumed had been conducted.

"The surprising word came back: There had been no investigation.

"Chiarelli told subordinates in early February he was amazed by that response, according to an Army officer in Iraq. He directed that an inquiry commence as soon as possible. He wanted to know what had happened in Haditha, and also why no investigation had begun."

3.9: "Army Col. Gregory Watt was tapped to start an investigation and by March 9, he told Chiarelli that he had reached two conclusions, according to the Army officer." First: the manner of death & the characterization of civilians as "insurgents" was falsified, and second: "the Marine Corps had not investigated the deaths, as is the U.S. military's typical procedure in Iraq, particularly when so many civilians are involved. Individually, either finding would have been disturbing. Together, they were stunning."

Not just stunning. Damning is more like it.

3.10: The news reached Rummy, 4 months after the fact. "An aide to Rumsfeld said it had the the potential to be "really, really bad--as bad or worse than Abu Ghraib," recalled one Pentagon official."

3.11: President Bush was informed, according to the White House.

"That weekend, almost four months after the incident, "we went to general quarters," recalled one Marine general, using the naval expression for the call to arms." Whatever that means.

3.13: "Marine officers began briefing key members of Congress on defense-related committees. Their message was succinct: Something highly disturbing had happened in Haditha, and its repercussions could be serious.

"The alacrity of the Marine response surprised some of Rumsfeld's aides in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. OSD, as it is called at the Pentagon, told the Marine Corps a few days later not to say anything to anyone about the investigation, recalled the general. Too late, the Marines responded, we've already briefed Capitol Hill."

According to the WaPo, the "Marines began their own investigation almost immediately, following up on Watt's inquiry, but quickly realized that to credibly examine the acts of their top commanders in Iraq, they would need someone outside their service. The Army offered up Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell, a career Special Operations officer who first saw combat as a sergeant in the Vietnam War, to look into the matter. The Marines, who are part of the Navy Department, also turned over the question of criminal acts to agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service."

3.12: the Naval Criminal Investigative Service sends a team of "three Iraq-based investigators to Haditha, one of the most violent areas in Iraq. A few days later, as the scope of the case sank in, it dispatched a team of reinforcements from the United States. But even then, nothing had been made public about the November event that might have distinguished it from Iraq's daily bloodshed.

"Then, on March 19, the Time magazine article appeared. 'I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head,' the magazine quoted Eman Waleed, 9, as saying. Most of the victims were shot at close range, the director of the local hospital told Time."

4.7: "The first public indication that the military was taking those allegations seriously came on April 7, when Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, a reserved, quietly professional officer from northwestern Colorado, was relieved of command of the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Marines, Kilo Company's parent unit. Also removed were two of his subordinates--Kilo's commander, Capt. Luke McConnell, and the commander of another company. Even then, the Marine Corps didn't specify why the actions were taken, beyond saying that the officers had lost the confidence of their superiors. "

5.17: "Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) let the news slip out. In the middle of a rambling statement at the outset of a news conference on Capitol Hill, he said--almost as an aside -- that what happened in Haditha was 'much worse than reported in Time magazine.' He asserted that the investigations would reveal that 'our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood... the reporters present barely focused on what Murtha had said...finally, the fourth asked about Haditha. Murtha responded with a bit more detail: 'They actually went into the houses and killed women and children. And there was about twice as many as originally reported by Time.' Even then, his comments captured little attention and were not front-page news."

"... Considerable mystery remains about how Marine commanders handled the incident and contributed to what some officials suspect was a coverup. 'The real issue is how far up the chain of command it goes,' said one senior Marine familiar with the case. 'Who knew it, and why didn't they do something about it?'"

And in the meantime, "The Marine Corps still has not corrected its misleading Nov. 20 statement asserting that the Iraqi civilians were killed in a bomb blast. A Marine Corps spokesman didn't return calls on Friday asking why it had not."

* * *
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Condi, on Fox News Sunday, seemed to back away from Bush administration claims made earlier in the week that "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was 'misquoted' when he said Thursday 'This is a phenomenon that has become common among many of the multinational forces. No respect for citizens, smashing civilian cars and killing on a suspicion or a hunch. It’s unacceptable.'"

Condi "talked to" (we daresay, tried to chastize) "Mr. Maliki about his comments, but did not say that he was misquoted. She did say that the prime minister was speaking 'directly to the concerns of the Iraqi people,' but that Maliki realizes the important role that US troops play in his country.

"We have had some bad incidents and there continue to be allegations of others which will be investigated [said Rice]. But overwhelmingly, American forces there putting their lives on the line every day, protecting Iraqis, helping to liberate them – that is appreciated by the Iraqi people and by the prime minister."

"About the allegations of US troops shooting Iraq civilians, Rice said whether it is 'Haditha or what happened at Abu Ghraib' these incidents would be investigated, and people will act on what is learned. "

Not much, if we have anything to do with it, she should have added. Because, in the same news that day, Cheney wants any language that sounds like the Geneva Conventions against torture removed from all official policy manuals for the armed forces.

2. Disabled man dragged from home & executed for refusing to inform, set up to look like an insurgent. Family members claim offers of hush money, harrassment when they refused.

The Christian Science Monitor offered this compilation of news reports from the Washington Post & the Knight-Ridder News Service today.

"Seven Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, and a Navy corpsman have been removed from duty and returned to Camp Pendleton in California, where they are being held pending charges in the death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad al-Zobaie. Four other marines have been told not to leave the base. A Marine lawyer familiar with the case said that charges are expected and that the case "will move quickly... look for them to be tried before the Haditha suspects."

"According to accounts given by Hashim [Awad's] neighbors and members of his family, and apparently supported by photographs, the Marines went to Hashim's home, took the 52-year-old disabled Iraqi outside and shot him ... The assault rifle and shovel next to his body had been planted by the Marines, who had borrowed them from a villager, family members and other residents said.

"[Mr. Awad's] family alleged this weekend that a small group of US servicemen came to them last week and offered the family money to support the Marines' version of the killing.

"The Marines involved justified the killing with assertions that they had found Awad digging a hole to plant a roadside bomb, with a AK-47 at his side. They said they engaged him in a firefight and killed him.

"In an interview with Knight Ridder published Friday, Awad's family and friends said he had told them that Marines stationed in the area had asked Awad several times to be an informant and to find out who was planting explosives in the village. Each time, they say, he refused.

"On the morning of April 3, Awad's family says Marines arrived at the door and pulled him outside. Less than an hour later, gunshots were heard and when the family went outside next morning, they found a freshly dug hole about 500 yards from their home, splattered with blood and littered with plastic gloves. Earlier, the Marines had taken Awad's body to the local police and said they had found him digging an explosives hole, and killed him.

"The family members said American investigators have since harassed them, questioning their allegations in hours-long sessions that begin in the dead of night and last past dawn. They said they once were taken for questioning to nearby Abu Ghraib prison, the scene of previous allegations of American abuse.

"There was no way to confirm the accounts. US officials have declined to provide details of the allegations that led them on May 25 to announce that they were investigating the death of an Iraqi civilian and that 'several service members from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment . . . were removed from operations and have returned to the United States.' But the probe of the case has turned up enough evidence against the Marines that eight individuals have been jailed and four others have been told not to leave their base at Camp Pendleton, Calif."

3. Pregnant woman in labor shot & killed for cousin's failure to stop at checkpoint.

Sorry, folks, I just can't let this one fall to the bottom of the "bad news about American forces misbehaving in Iraq" news barrel, as it apparently already has. Can there be a more poignant & tragic example of the disruptions, loss, & unfathomable depths of grief caused to local civilians when U.S. forces shoot first & ask questions later?

Is there a more despicable example of the failure to live up to the "winning hearts & minds" empty political rhetoric by which we were led to believe there was some point to this war besides capturing oil fields & by the way, fulfilling the Bush grand vision of democracy in the backwards Middle East (as long as the government installed thereby agrees with our goals, that is?)
I think not. A big giant F on that score, Mr. Bush.

4. Ishaqi:
The only bright news from the military's POV is that they've cleared themselves of any wrongding in the Ishaqi incident.

The Washington Post reported this past Saturday that "U.S. commanders used appropriate force in taking down a safe house in Iraq during a March 15 military raid that led to the deaths of as many as a dozen civilians, according to the results of an investigation announced in Baghdad yesterday.

"Officials moved quickly to tamp down allegations of a civilian massacre in the town of Ishaqi, near Balad, after a video broadcast by the BBC this week appeared to show that several civilians, including children, were shot to death in the nighttime raid.

"The military scrambled to announce the investigation's findings amid rising international furor about another alleged mass slaying, in Haditha...
The alleged slayings have increased tensions between U.S. forces and the Iraqis amid claims that the military has used excessive force while fighting insurgents. Military commanders acknowledged yesterday that frustrations and stresses related to battling the insurgency may be causing a small number of U.S. troops to fail to follow proper procedures.

"Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, spokesman for Multi-National Force-Iraq, issued a statement last night saying that investigators had found no wrongdoing in the Ishaqi raid and that the ground force commander "properly followed the rules of engagement as he necessarily escalated the use of force until the threat was eliminated." Caldwell said troops captured a Kuwaiti-born al-Qaeda cell leader--Ahmad Abdallah Muhammad Na'is al-Utaybi--and killed an Iraqi bombmaker and recruiter during the coordinated raid.

"The troops took direct fire from the building upon their arrival, he said. They responded first with small arms and then by calling in helicopters and, later, close air-support, essentially destroying the structure, Caldwell said in the statement. Troops then entered the building and found the Iraqi bombmaker's body, along with three dead 'noncombatants' and an estimated nine 'collateral deaths.'

"Allegations that the troops executed a family living in this safe house, then hid the alleged crimes by directing an air strike, are absolutely false," Caldwell said.
Demon Princess would never dream of expecting you to wade through all this misery with her without a small reward. In this case, a brilliant news-release spoof of the story, titled, "Operation Instant Exoneration A Success" by Andy Borowitz, at


Anonymous Pat said...

Honest to god I don't know how these bastards Bush, Cheney and the other repugs live with themselves. How do you shrug off this frankenstein horror story by uttering some inane statement like "stay the course"? Our country/culture is in very deep trouble, the only thing the religious right prays for is the ability to make next months SUV and mortgage payment. What a house of cards! Marionette generals kowtowing to their superiors during the day and pounding em' down with each other at the "O" club at night. What a twisted joke.
Holy shit I need a blog.
I hadn't seen the six month time line before.
Appreciate the venting space.

9:22 PM  
Blogger Demon Princess said...

Hey Pat! You're back :)

Vent away! If enough people did, I daresay things would be a lot better in short order.

I just extracted the timeline from the WaPo article because, hey, I'm compulsive about keeping the facts about atrocities in order. It's a legal thing:) Makes at-a-glance sense of otherwise impenetrable information.

Weirdly enough, I'd never really thought to apply it to current political events, but with all the shenanigans & coverups these assholes get up to, figuring out who knew what when is essential. An excercise I hope we get to witness on a large scale sometime after November, if you get my drift.

I have no experience with Officer's Clubs personally, but I imagine its a fraternity kinda "us against the world" kinda thing. Which results in, oh, coverups, for example. I'm not sayin' that's true of everyone in the service. Some soldiers must have some integrity left. But doesn't hurt to have the press on their asses keeping them honest. But that's a rant for another post.

Thanks for playing!

12:55 AM  

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