Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The pattern of war crimes in Iraq

Coalition forces are committing war crimes in Iraq. Several soldiers from the US Army’s 41st Regiment appeared before a military court in Baghdad last week, charged with murder. One of the soldiers, Sgt John Horne, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison for killing a wounded Iraqi child.

Other members of the Regiment face charges arising from excessive and indiscriminate use of force in the suburbs of Sadr City, where US troops have been fighting Shiite militia. And two members of the 41st face murder charges for killing two fellow soldiers.

But it’s not just individual soldiers losing their grip in the heat of battle. War crimes in Iraq reveal a pattern of widespread, systemic contempt for the laws of war and fundamental human rights.

In Samarra, bodies littered the streets, untended because of the fear of snipers. Families tried to bury their dead, but the road to the cemetery was blocked off by US troops. Witnesses said many civilians were killed. President Ghazi Yawar called the assaults “collective punishment”.

AFP and Channel 4 both report that troops in Fallujah were given orders to shoot all males of fighting age, armed or unarmed. Article 48 of the Geneva Conventions requires that “Parties to a conflict shall at all times distinguish between civilians and combatants”.

US forces have bombed hospitals, shot ambulances and prevented medical aid from reaching Fallujah. They refused to let men flee the kill zone. The Geneva Conventions require that hospitals, their staff, the sick, wounded or infirm, are all afforded protection and respect.

More than 200,000 people, forced to flee Fallujah when US troops attacked the city last month, now face the trauma of returning to their shattered homes. The city remains without power and water, its antiquated infrastructure has been ruined and hundreds of buildings have been destroyed. The stench of death still lingers in the air.

Tom Lasseter, a reporter embedded with the 1st Infantry Division’s Alpha Company, described the attack on Fallujah with intense detail. Phosphorous shells released bouncing white orbs of smoke. “We’re going to destroy this town” one soldier said, “I hope so” replied another.

Lasseter recalls Alpha Company occupied an abandoned home. They urinated in the corners and defecated on the floor. Many of the men wore skull and crossbones patches sewn onto their vests. One marine said it felt like the enemy was everywhere. “So we just went ape shit with the cannon, shooting everything,” he said.

General Natonski said “We had the green light, we went all the way.”

Foreign Minister Downer told ABC Radio the assault on Fallujah was necessary “to dig out and defeat the terrorists” and “to ensure that the Iraqis can have an election”. He said the carnage would give Iraq’s new government “democratic legitimacy and the support of Iraqi people”.

John Burns, reporting for the New York Times, said the “Marines envision a huge effort of social and physical engineering, all intended to transform a bastion of militant anti-Americanism into a benevolent and functional metropolis.” There are plans to rebuild the city and an American corporation has a contract to repair a wastewater treatment plant damaged by American bombs.

But Dahr Jamail found that many Iraqis don’t appreciate the West’s benevolence. “They are all liars, the government and the Americans,” one resident said. “The mujahedin didn’t hurt us. They helped us.” A grieving mother weeps, “This is the third of my kids to be killed. The Americans are savages. They do nothing but bring injustice.”

Meanwhile, the Boston Business Review reports that Raytheon, a US weapons company, has developed a new Humvee mounted ‘heat beam’ weapon which they hope to test in Iraq. Charles Heal, a former Marine who advised Raytheon on the beam’s development, said “It’s ready, it will likely be in Iraq in the next 12 months.”

From the lies told about WMD to the abuses at Abu Ghraib, the fifty failed attempts to murder Saddam, the desecration of holy sites, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, the willful killing of wounded and unarmed individuals... Howard, Ruddock, Hill and Downer have all knowingly conspired with the Bush regime to commit just about every war crime imaginable.

These creeps don’t care about the Geneva Conventions, and why would they - as elected representatives of a “civilized democracy” and allies of the United States, they can defy international law with impunity.

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