Published on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 by The Nation
War Crimes in
War crimes, massacres, and, as Al Jazeera properly calls it, "collateral murder," are all part of the
The release last week of the Wikileaks video , thirty-eight grisly minutes long, of US airmen casually slaughtering a dozen Iraqis in 2007 -- including two Reuters newsmen -- puts it into focus not because it shows us something we didn't know, but because we can watch it unfold in real time. Real people, flesh and blood, gunned down from above in a hellish rain of fire.
The events in
"American troops raked a large passenger bus with gunfire near
As General McChrystal himself recently said:
"We really ask a lot of our young service people out on checkpoints because there's danger, they're asked to make very rapid decisions in often very unclear situations. However, to my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I've been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it."
My question is: if so, then why aren't the rules of engagement altered? Why is it that US forces can fire wildly at an approaching vehicle, if in none of the cases that have happened thus far were there hostile forces involved?
An analysis by Politifact takes apart Secretary of Defense Gates' callous assertion that the murders were "unfortunate" and "should not have any lasting consequences." We've already investigated this, he said, so what's the big deal?
The military's rationale for the slaughter is that US forces a few hundred yards away had taken small arms fire, and so the airmen in the copters circling above concluded that the men they'd seen carrying what they thought were weapons and RPGs -- although the "RPG" turned out to be a cameraman's telephoto lens -- were bad guys who could be shot to pieces at will. There was, of course, no evidence at all that the dozen or so Iraqis butchered were involved in what may or may not have been a shooting incident nearby. But, you know -- war is hell.
Politifact, to its discredit, defends Gates on these grounds, quoting David Finkel, a Washington Post reporter and author of The Good Soldiers, who writes in blase defense of the slaughter:
"What's helpful to understand is that, contrary to some interpretations that this was an attack on some people walking down the street on a nice day, the day was anything but that. It happened in the midst of a large operation to clear an area where
"More context. You're seeing an edited version of the video. The full video runs much longer. And it doesn't have the benefit of hindsight, in this case zooming in on the van and seeing those two children. The helicopters were perhaps a mile away. And as all of this unfolded, it was unclear to the soldiers involved whether the van was a van of good Samaritans or of insurgents showing up to rescue a wounded comrade. I bring these things up not to excuse the soldiers but to emphasize some of the real-time blurriness of those moments.
"If you were to see the full video, you would see a person carrying an RPG launcher as he walked down the street as part of the group. Another was armed as well, as I recall. Also, if you had the unfortunate luck to be on site afterwards, you would have seen that one of the dead in the group was lying on top of a launcher. Because of that and some other things, EOD -- the Hurt Locker guys, I guess -- had to come in and secure the site. And again, I'm not trying to excuse what happened. But there was more to it for you to consider than what was in the released video."
Finkel, who apparently is not going to write a sequel to his book called The Bad Soldiers, cavelierly dismisses the deaths of a dozen Iraqis as something that happens in the "real-time blurriness of those moments."
"Twelve days before President Hamid Karzai denounced the behavior of Western countries in
"The boy had lost his legs in a February airstrike by
"The tears and rage Karzai encountered in that hospital in Uruzgan province lingered with him, according to several aides. It was one provocation amid a string of recent political disappointments that they said has helped fuel the president's emotional outpouring against the West and prompted a brief crisis in his relations with the
But I suppose Finkel can justify that one, too.
© 2010 The Nation
Robert Dreyfuss, a Nation contributing editor, is an investigative journalist in
Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org
URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/04/13-3
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs