Jun 10, 2006

Haditha, Iraq: Cold-blooded Executions Spark Outrage, Echoes of My Lai, Vietnam

To the soldier on the street in Iraq, a report of the killing of an unarmed civilian is another day on the job. These unprovoked attacks against Iraqi civilians seem to be an ugly side-effect of the rage and outrage of the daily horrors they face--or are they? The Iraq war--if it ever had support at home in the States--has a dismal reputation in the zeitgeist now. Add to that the spotty armament of the soldiers (unarmored Humvees, only recently updated body armor, and more), the U.S military presense stretched too thin to send even assistance during the Hurricane Katrina disaster, soldier morale as low as it can go, desertions at an all-time high, prisoner torture condoned up to the highest levels--all contribute to the maddening chaos. But what really makes a soldier crazy enough to open fire on children and the elderly? Or to obey orders to release Napalm-like phosphorus bombs on unarmed civilians?

Reports of U.S. soldiers killing unarmed Iraq citizens are legion. Here are a few:
  • Samarra, Early May, 2006: U.S. troops killed three unarmed civilians, including a 60-year-old woman and a mentally handicapped man.

  • Fallujah, April 29, 2006: U.S soldiers fire into a crowd of protesters, killing 14 and injuring at least 75 others
  • Fallujah, April 30, 2006: Soldiers fire into a crowd protesting the killings from the previous day, and again, three unarmed civilians are killed and others are injured

  • Haditha, Nov. 19, 2005: As many as 24 people killed, including a three-year-old girl

  • Baghdad: 11 people killed, including a 75-year-old woman and a 6-month-old infant

  • Fallujah, Nov., 2005: The U.S. uses napalm-like weapons against civilians

  • Tikrit, Jan. 3, 2004: Soldiers use a machine gun to splatter a taxi with bullets, killing four people, including a seven-year-old boy

Human Rights Watch has issued a 56-page report, Hearts and Minds: Post-War Civilian Casualties in Baghdad by U.S. Forces, that confirms 20 deaths in Baghdad alone between May 1 and September 30 or last year.

Complete records of Iraqi civilian casualties since the invasion of Iraq have not been kept by the U.S. military. Gen. Tommy Franks snarkily commented, "We do not do body counts." Reports across the globe vary wildly, with some suggesting 100,000 or more. IraqBodyCount.net keeps a running database, and their total stands at between 38,000 and 42,000. Wherever the number stands, only five investigations have been ordered of these events.

Do we blame the White House for its creation of bogus reasons leading us into the illegal war against Iraq? Do we blame the Marines, who went crazy and executed innocent people who happened to be nearby after the war death of their fallen comrades? Do we blame the military machine that drives the U.S. economy and propels us toward war with a quivering trigger finger? Maybe all of the above and ourselves for not voicing our outrage loudly and forcefully enough to affect change.

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