The cruel and indiscriminate killings of Iraqis is not limited to Haditha. There are also massacre claims for killings at the Abu Sifa area of Ishaqi and a mosque in Baghdad as well as an execution-style killing at Hamandiya and radioactive poisoning at Tuwaitha near Baghad and napalm at Fallujah. Just today it was reported that a deadly traffic accident involving US troops caused a riot in Afghanistan, and then US troops and Afghan security forces fired on protesters, killing at least 5 people and wounding 60. The US stated that it regretted any deaths and injuries caused by the traffic accident when a cargo truck in a convoy sustained mechanical failure, hitting 12 civilian vehicles. Witnesses say the US convoy hit the other vehicles to push their way through a rush-hour traffic jam. It's not just Iraq, either.
Haditha: Nov. 19, 2005
Americans shot and killed 24 men, women and children -- at least 1 man in a wheelchair -- at close range in retaliation for a Marine who was killed by a roadside bomb. The military first claimed that the soldier and 15 civilians were all killed by the roadside bomb. The remaining 9 victims were claimed to be insurgents who were killed in small arms fire battle, which included killing men in a taxi cab that were trying to flee the area. It should be noted that US troops shooting unarmed, civilian occupants of taxis is not a first, unfortunately. One veteran witnessed "an order to open fire on all taxis in the city of Samawa because it was believed Iraqi forces were using them."
TIME broke the story of the potential massacre at Haditha after conducting a 10-week investigation that included interviewing eyewitnesses and local officials, and providing a very detailed account of what transpired that day. The Marines moved very methodically from house to house in a rampage that lasted 3 to 5 hours. After shooting one man, the Marines ignored his pleas for hours as they let him bleed to death.
The military initially denied Iraqi claims of massacre until TIME provided the military the findings of its own investigation based on survivor accounts and a videotape taken by an Iraqi journalism student of the bodies at the hospital and views of the damage done to the homes. The video showed corpses at the Haditha morgue with bullet wounds in the head and chest, not shrapnel from a bomb. The video also showed "houses with bullet holes in the walls, pieces of human flesh, pools of blood and clothes and pots scattered across floors." The TIME investigation found that "walls and ceilings inside both houses were pockmarked with shrapnel and bullet holes as well as sprays of blood. There were no signs of damage to the outside walls" that one might expect had there been a gunfight battle between insurgents and Marines.
The evidence also includes "horrific photographs of a massacre" taken by one of the US Marines on his mobile phone. The photographs show "many victims shot at close range in the head and chest, execution-style," and one photo shows "a mother and young child bent over on the floor as if in prayer. Both have been shot dead." In addition, a Marine intelligence team took photographs that show "execution-style" killings as victims were shot in the head or back, including women and 6 children.
Abu Sifa Area Of Ishaqi: March 2006
Iraqi police have accused US troops of executing 11 people, including an elderly woman and an infant baby during a raid at the Abu Sifa area of Ishaqi. The purpose of the raid was to follow up a tip that an al-Qaeda member was in the house.
While Knight Ridder indicated that it is common to hear of US troops killing innocent civilians, "most are judged later to be unfounded or exaggerated." But, this report was "unusual because it originated with Iraqi police and because Iraqi police were willing to attach their names to it."
Police, military and eyewitness accounts agree that after US forces approached the house, a gun battle ensued and someone inside the house exchanged gunfire with the troops outside. Accounts differ as to what happened after the firefight. The US account is that the house collapsed from the heavy fire, and US forces found the al-Qaeda suspect alive in the rubble and arrested him. The troops also claimed to have found a dead man, 2 dead women and a dead child in the rubble. The Iraqi police account is that US forces entered a house that was still standing and gathered the family members in one room. The troops then executed 11 people: 5 children, 4 women and 2 men. Then the troops bombed the house, burned 3 vehicles and killed the villagers' animals. Evidence from the autopsies "revealed that all the victims had bullet shots in the head and all bodies were handcuffed."
The US military response was that it did not have information to support the allegations, but it's "highly unlikely" that such allegations were true because US forces "take every precaution to keep civilians out of harms' way. The loss of innocent life, especially children, is regrettable."
Mosque: March 26, 2006
The facts are still unfolding about the mosque raid and killing of 16 Iraqis. It was claimed by Iraqis that the killing was a massacre and initial news reports and photographs supported this claim as well as the suspicions flowing from changing stories by the US. The US military initially claimed that it did not know the building was a mosque, not having seen at the location a minaret, which is the "distinctive architectural features of Islamic mosques." But, "news footage taken after the attack" showed the "room where the killing occurred appeared to be a prayer hall" and the dead bodies were in civilian clothes in a room with no weapons.
The US then claimed the Iraqis had faked a massacre by moving corpses to the mosque, and then later retracted, indicating that the unarmed men were killed at the mosque. At first the raid was not a "crackdown on Shiite militias," and the next day the military changed its story to characterize their intent of the raid "as a reminder to Sadr of the US military's reach in Iraq."
However, a more recent report by the Los Angeles Times muddies the water sufficient to deem it inappropriate at this time to include it as an example of another massacre. The US claims that the raid was conducted based on a tip that an Iraqi hostage would be killed that night, and an Iraqi hostage had indeed been freed during that raid. After the incident produced an uproar, some reports confirmed that a building in the area may have been used to hold Iraqis who had been kidnapped for ransom. The publicly expressed outrage caused the US military to show classified materials to the Los Angeles Times to prove that there was a report of a hostage being held at the mosque and surveillance reports of gunmen on nearby rooftops. And, there may be reason to believe that Iraqi forces played a larger role in the killings given the new policy that Iraqi forces will only be allowed to raid mosques in the presence of US troops.
Hamandiya: April 26, 2006
The military is also presently investigating accusations that another Marine unit killed a man "execution style" in Hamandiya last month and "planted evidence to make him look like an insurgent." If true, it would not be the first time as a veteran soldier told the BBC that his "unit was advised to carry shovels in their vehicles which they could plant on civilian victims to make it look as if they were concealing roadside bombs." As the soldier stated:
"I have seen innocent people being killed. IEDs [improvised explosive devices] go off and [you] just zap any farmer that is close to you," he said. "You're driving down the road at three in the morning. There's a guy on the side of the road, you shoot him ... you throw a shovel off."
Fallujah: November 2004
An Iraqi doctor recently brought evidence to Australia to support claims that US forces used napalm on civilians during the 2nd seige of Fallujah. The evidence is film and photographs of the bodies that doctors collected once US forces finally allowed the doctors to enter the city. It was concluded that the "pattern of burns of bodies" indicate napalm was used because it is a "fuel bomb that burns only on the exposed part of the body, so that the clothes will not be affected."
Baghdad: 2003 Nuclear contamination
The UN reported last month that more than 1,000 Iraqis who live near the Tuwaitha site are at "acute risk of radioactive poisoning." The Tuwaitha site had been the center of Iraq's nuclear program under Saddam Hussein, but the site was not secured after the US invaded Iraq, and US forces watched as the site that was first bombed by US forces was then being looted. Uranium drums were emptied and then sold to hold water. "Levels of radiation are known to be higher than normal and prolonged exposure could prove risky over time."
Why is such conduct being committed by our troops?
While not excusing intentional killings of innocent civilians or massacres by any means, there may be a confluence of factors that contribute to the rage expressed by these rampages and killings aside from the obvious stress and circumstances of war in which Iraq is considered an "atrocity-producing situation."
Part of the problem may be bad intelligence and disrespect for different cultural values. In a recent incident, 50 British and US Special Forces raided a home believed to be a terror cell according to US intelligence. The troops blew up the wrong house, destroyed 3 cars, killed 2 donkeys by driving over them with military vehicles and arrested 2 men, later determined to be totally innocent. Instead of remorse for destroying a home and family animals as well as the trauma caused by the raid and arrest, the "Squaddies have dubbed the mission" as "A Donkey Too Far." As stated in the article: "There's been a fair amount of ribbing. But the troops can see the funny side. Next time we'll get the right address and the boys will keep a special look out for stray donkeys."
Part of the problem may be that no military officers in the chain of command were held accountable for Abu Ghraib, or that last year the military decided not to pursue charges against a Marine who shot dead an unarmed insurgent in Fallujah in November 2004 - an incident filmed by an NBC cameraman.
Part of the problem may be US ground force numbers that were never sufficient for this war, forcing the use of Air Force and Navy personnel to perform ground troop duties and soldiers to work "22-hour patrol shifts" while hungry troops seek food from Iraqis.
Part of the problem may be that under pressure from the British, US commanders finally ordered Marines and soldiers in 2006 to be "less trigger-happy." Iraqis now avoid US troops, angered by checkpoint shootings, raids and airstrikes that kill innocent civilians: Some Iraqis say US soldiers act like "cowboys in Western movies." So, part of the problem may be a US President who the world perceived as a "cowboy commander-in-chief" that was reinforced by Bush's statements challenging the insurgents to "bring it on" in 2003 and that he would capture bin Laden "dead or alive." Three years later, Bush regrets using this "kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people. I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner." These statements, given that it impacted world perception, no doubt impacted our troops, along with a number of other factors.