HADITHA MASSACRE BODIES, INCLUDING SMALL CHILD
"War forms its own culture. It distorts memory, corrupts language, and infects everything around it.... War exposes the capacity for evil that lurks not far below the surface within all of us. Even as war gives meaning to sterile lives, it also promotes killers and racists." - Chris Hedges, NY Times
This story from a year ago is really disturbing and it puts to the lie the meme that a "few bad apples" are to blame for Haditha and Abu Ghraib. I do not blame the soldiers, I blame Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld for letting the military get out of control. The story was told by Army mechanic Adian Delgado last year.
"Guys in my unit, particularly the younger guys, would drive by in their Humvee and shatter bottles over the heads of Iraqi civilians passing by. They'd keep a bunch of empty Coke bottles in the Humvee to break over people's heads."
I said to them: 'What the hell are you doing? Like, what does this accomplish?' And they responded just completely openly. They said: 'Look, I hate being in Iraq. I hate being stuck here. And I hate being surrounded by hajis.'"
I first met Delgado in a classroom at Acalanes High School in Lafayette, California, where he presented a slide show on the atrocities that he himself observed in Southern and Northern Iraq. Delgado acknowledged that the U.S. military did some good things in Iraq. "We deposed Saddam, built some schools and hospitals," he said. But he focused his testimony on the breakdown of moral order within the U.S. military, a pattern of violence and terror that exceeds the bounds of what is legally and morally permissible in time of war.
Delgado says he observed mutilation of the dead, trophy photos of dead Iraqis, mass roundups of innocent noncombatants, positioning of prisoners in the line of fire - all violations of the Geneva conventions. His own buddies - decent, Christian men, as he describes them - shot unarmed prisoners.
In one government class for seniors, Delgado presented graphic images, his own photos of a soldier playing with a skull, the charred remains of children, kids riddled with bullets, a soldier from his unit scooping out the brains of a prisoner. Some students were squeamish, like myself, and turned their heads. Others rubbed tears from their eyes. But at the end of the question period, many expressed appreciation for opening a subject that is almost taboo. "If you are old enough to go to war," Delgado said, "you are old enough to know what really goes on."
Q: Were there any other incidents?
DELGADO: The worst incident that I was privy to was in late November. The prisoners were protesting nightly because of their living conditions. They protested the cold, the lack of clothing, the rotting food that was causing dysentery. And they wanted cigarettes. They tore up pieces of clothing, made banners and signs. One demonstration became intense and got unruly. The prisoners picked up stones, pieces of wood, and threw them at the guards. One of my buddies got hit in the face. He got a bloody nose. But he wasn't hurt. The guards asked permission to use lethal force. They got it. They opened fire on the prisoners with the machine guns. They shot twelve and killed three. I know because I talked to the guy who did the killing. He showed me these grisly photographs, and he bragged about the results. "Oh," he said, "I shot this guy in the face. See, his head is split open." He talked like the Terminator. `I shot this guy in the groin, he took three days to bleed to death." I was shocked. This was the nicest guy you would ever want to meet. He was a family man, a really courteous guy, a devout Christian. I was stunned and said to him: "You shot an unarmed man behind barbed wire for throwing a stone." He said, "Well, I knelt down. I said a prayer, stood up and gunned them all down." There was a complete disconnect between what he had done and his own morality.
Q: Commanders permitted use of lethal force against unarmed detainees. What was their response to the carnage?
DELGADO: Our Command took the grisly photos and posted them up in the headquarters. It was a big, macho thing for our company to shoot more prisoners than any other unit.
FROM BOB HERBERT AT THE NY TIMES:
Mr. Delgado said he had witnessed incidents in which an Army sergeant lashed a group of children with a steel Humvee antenna, and a Marine corporal planted a vicious kick in the chest of a kid about 6 years old. There were many occasions, he said, when soldiers or marines would yell and curse and point their guns at Iraqis who had done nothing wrong.
He said he believes that the absence of any real understanding of Arab or Muslim culture by most G.I.'s, combined with a lack of proper training and the unrelieved tension of life in a war zone, contributes to levels of fear and rage that lead to frequent instances of unnecessary violence. Mr. Delgado, an extremely thoughtful and serious young man, balked at the entire scene. "It drove me into a moral quagmire," he said. "I walked up to my commander and gave him my weapon. I said: 'I'm not going to fight. I'm not going to kill anyone. This war is wrong. I'll stay. I'll finish my job as a mechanic. But I'm not going to hurt anyone. And I want to be processed as a conscientious objector.' "
Mr. Delgado, who eventually got conscientious objector status and was honorably discharged last January, recalled a disturbance that occurred while he was working in the Abu Ghraib motor pool. Detainees who had been demonstrating over a variety of grievances began throwing rocks at the guards. As the disturbance grew, the Army authorized lethal force. Four detainees were shot to