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Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
FRIDAY HADITHA ROUND-UP. It became obvious last night that I should have promptly blogged the Ishaqi BBC story yesterday late morning, when I saw it not long after the round-up, because by now everyone else has, and you've heard.
I decided to do Haditha round-ups so as to avoid scatter-shotting the stories into more confusing separate posts, but it's also now clear that sometimes daily posts won't be frequent enough; lessons learned.
Ishaqi, as you know:
The BBC has uncovered new video evidence that US forces may have been responsible for the deliberate killing of 11 innocent Iraqi civilians.
The video appears to challenge the US military's account of events that took place in the town of Ishaqi in March.
The US said at the time four people died during a military operation, but Iraqi police claimed that US troops had deliberately shot the 11 people.
The video pictures obtained by the BBC appear to contradict the US account of the events in Ishaqi, about 100km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, on 15 March 2006.
The US authorities said they were involved in a firefight after a tip-off that an al-Qaeda supporter was visiting the house.
According to the Americans, the building collapsed under heavy fire killing four people - a suspect, two women and a child.
But a report filed by Iraqi police accused US troops of rounding up and deliberately shooting 11 people in the house, including five children and four women, before blowing up the building.
The video tape obtained by the BBC shows a number of dead adults and children at the site with what our world affairs editor John Simpson says were clearly gunshot wounds.
The pictures came from a hardline Sunni group opposed to coalition forces.
It has been cross-checked with other images taken at the time of events and is believed to be genuine, the BBC's Ian Pannell in Baghdad says.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi police have accused American troops of executing 11 people, including a 75-year-old woman and a 6-month-old infant, in the aftermath of a raid last Wednesday on a house about 60 miles north of Baghdad.
The villagers were killed after American troops herded them into a single room of the house, according to a police document obtained by Knight Ridder Newspapers. The soldiers also burned three vehicles, killed the villagers' animals and blew up the house, the document said.
A U.S. military spokesman, Major Tim Keefe, said that the U.S. military has no information to support the allegations and that he had not heard of them before a reporter brought them to his attention Sunday.
"We're concerned to hear accusations like that, but it's also highly unlikely that they're true," he said. He added that U.S. forces "take every precaution to keep civilians out of harms' way. The loss of innocent life, especially children, is regrettable."
Accusations that U.S. troops have killed civilians are commonplace in Iraq, though most are judged later to be unfounded or exaggerated. Navy investigators announced last week that they were looking into whether Marines intentionally killed 15 Iraqi civilians - four of them women and five of them children - during fighting last November.
But the report of the killings in the Abu Sifa area of Ishaqi, eight miles north of the city of Balad, is unusual because it originated with Iraqi police and because Iraqi police were willing to attach their names to it.
The report, which also contained brief descriptions of other events in the area, was compiled by the Joint Coordination Center in Tikrit, a regional security center set up with United States military assistance. An Iraqi police colonel signed the report, which was based on communications from local police.
Brig. Gen. Issa al-Juboori, who heads the center, said that his office assembled the report on Thursday and that it accurately reflects the direction of the current police investigation into the incident.
He also said he knows the officer heading the investigation. "He's a dedicated policeman, and a good cop," he said when reached by phone in Tikrit from Baghdad. "I trust him."
The case involves a U.S. raid conducted, according to the official U.S. account, in response to a tip that a member of al-Qaida in Iraq was at the house.
Neighbors, interviewed by a special correspondent for Knight Ridder, agreed that the al-Qaida member was at the house. They said he was visiting the home's owner, a relative. The neighbors said the homeowner was a schoolteacher.
According to police, military and eyewitness accounts, U.S. forces approached the house at around 2:30 a.m. and a firefight ensued. By all accounts, in addition to exchanging gunfire with someone inside the house, U.S. troops were supported by helicopter gunships, which fired on the house.
But the accounts differ on what took place after the firefight.
According to the U.S. account, the house collapsed because of the heavy fire. When U.S. forces searched the rubble they found one man, the al-Qaida suspect, alive. He was arrested. They also found a dead man they believed to be connected to al-Qaida, two dead women and a dead child.
But the report filed by the Joint Coordination Center, which was based on a report filed by local police, said U.S. forces entered the house while it was still standing.
"The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 persons, including five children, four women and two men," the report said. "Then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals."
The report identified the dead by name, giving their ages. The two men killed were 22 and 28. Of the women, one was 22, another was 23, a third was 30 and the fourth was 75. Two of the children were 5 years old, two were 3, and the fifth was 6 months old, the document said.
The report was signed by Col. Fadhil Muhammed Khalaf, who was described in the document as the assistant chief of the Joint Coordination Center.
A local police commander, Lt. Col. Farooq Hussain, interviewed by a Knight Ridder special correspondent in Ishaqi, said autopsies at the hospital in Tikrit "revealed that all the victims had bullet shots in the head and all bodies were handcuffed." Efforts to reach hospital spokesmen Sunday were unsuccessful.
Keefe, the U.S. military spokesman, said that he had seen photographs of the victims and had not seen handcuffs, which caused him to doubt the validity of the report.
He said, however, that he has no reason to doubt the body count provided by local police.
"We conducted a preliminary investigation," he said. "They were the investigating officers on the ground."
Keefe said that he didn't know which U.S. unit conducted the raid. An official account of the raid provided Sunday by the military also did not mention the unit involved by name.
Ibraheem Hirat Khalaf, whose brother Faiz owned the house and was among the dead, said he watched and heard the assault from his home 100 yards away. He said that U.S. troops used six missiles from helicopters to destroy the house as they were leaving.
Abu Hijran, 38, and a neighbor, said those in the house were liked and respected, though the wanted al-Qaida member was not as well known.
Rasheed Thair, an employee of Ishaqi, said that the town was in a state of shock over the killings.
"Everyone attended the funeral," he said. "We want the Americans to give an explanation for this horrible crime which took the smile and the dream of a spring night from 11 people, and destroyed even the simple toys of children."
Here, same URL, is the actual police document:
This is a translation of the Iraqi police report obtained by Knight Ridder, including accounts of events not related to the Ishaqi raid.
In the name of God, the most merciful
This is the morning and afternoon events of 15/3/2006
1. Interior Ministry Operations:
All forces belonging to the Interior Ministry will go on 100 percent alert status starting Wednesday 15/3/2006 until 1000 hours Friday 17/3/2006.
2. Coordination Center of Beji
At 810 gunmen in a white vehicle, duck type (a reference to the local name for a Toyota model) kidnapped the child Mohamed (Badei Khaled) from Samaha school in Beji (map coordinates 617667).
3. Coordination Center of Dujail
At 730 a benzene truck burned near Gassem al Queisy fuel station after one of its tires caught fire. The incident burned the driver (Hamed Abdalilah) and he was transported to the hospital (map coordinates 263519).
4. Coordination Center of Balad
At 230 of 15/3/2006, according to the telegram (report) of the Ishaqi police directorate, American forces used helicopters to drop troops on the house of Faiz Harat Khalaf situated in the Abu Sifa village of the Ishaqi district. The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 people, including 5 children, 4 women and 2 men, then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals (map coordinates 098702).
Turkiya Muhammed Ali, 75 years
Faiza Harat Khalaf, 30 years
Faiz Harat Khalaf, 28 years
Um Ahmad, 23 years
Sumaya Abdulrazak, 22 years
Aziz Khalil Jarmoot, 22 years
Hawra Harat Khalaf, 5 years
Asma Yousef Maruf, 5 years
Osama Yousef Maruf, 3 years
Aisha Harat Khalaf, 3 years
Husam Harat Khalaf, 6 months
Fadhil Muhammed Khalaf
Assistant Chief of the Joint Coordination Center
Reuters has been continually updating this list of Iraqi complaints of such incidents, and Ishaqi and Haditha have both long been on it. However, the fact that this list isn't all that long -- given it covers three years, quite short, actually -- does indicate that these events remain fairly aberrational.
The Ishaqi incident was also included in a brief anti-war letter to the Grauniad on May 20, 2006, though only as a passing allusion in a letter focused primarily on the infamous incident at the isolated desert village Mukaradeeb, in which according to Iraqis a wedding party was attacked and 42 killed, and according to the American military, a bunch of insurgents were hit.
Some blogs picked up on Ishaqi in March. This quotes a now-dead AP report from March 20th:
Shortly after a roadside bomb killed a U.S. Marine in a western Iraqi town, American troops went into nearby houses and shot dead 15 members of two families, including a 3-year-old-girl, residents say.
Anyway, bottom line is that if you were paying attention, you might have spotted this, but it didn't get much traction in the Western press, and was clearly treated by most outlets as Just An Iraqi complaint of dubious veracity. Yesterday late morning, when I checked Google News for "Ishaqi," there was only one hit, the BBC report; now there are "about 253," particularly for this AP report.
A third set of allegations that U.S. troops have deliberately killed civilians is fueling a furor in Iraq and drawing strong condemnations from government and human rights official. "It looks like the killing of Iraqi civilians is becoming a daily phenomenon," the chairman of the Iraqi Human Rights Association, Muayed al-Anbaki, said Friday after video ran on television of children and adults slain in a raid in Ishaqi in March.
Al-Anbaki's comments came a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki upbraided the U.S. military over allegations that Marines killed two dozen unarmed civilians in Haditha, calling it "a horrible crime." They were his strongest public comments on the subject since his government was sworn in last month.
U.S. commanders have ordered new ethics training for all troops in Iraq. But the flow of revelations and investigations threatens to undermine Iraq's new government and public support in America for President Bush's management of the war.
Iraq's government also began its own investigation of the deaths in Haditha.
In addition to the Haditha case, in which Marines are alleged to have gunned down 24 civilians in a rage of revenge for a bombing that killed a Marine in November, seven Marines and a Navy corpsman could face murder, kidnapping and conspiracy charges as early as Friday in the April shooting death of an Iraqi man, a defense attorney said Thursday.
Military prosecutors plan to file the charges against the men, who are being held in solitary confinement at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Marine Corps base, Jeremiah Sullivan III, who represents one of the men, said Thursday.
The U.S. military had no additional comment Friday on the accusations stemming from a raid March 15 in the village of Ishaqi, about 50 miles north of Baghdad.
In March, the U.S. military said four people died when they attacked from the ground and air a house suspected of holding an al-Qaida operative. The house was destroyed.
But video shot by an AP Television News cameraman at the time and previously unaired shows at least five children dead. The video shows at least one adult male and four young children with obvious entry wounds to the head. One child has an obvious entry wound to the side caused by a bullet.
Local Iraqis said there were 11 total dead, and charged that they were killed by U.S. troops before the house was leveled.
The video includes an unidentified man saying "children were stuck in the room, alone and surrounded."
"After they handcuffed them, they shot them dead. Later, they struck the house with their planes. They wanted to hide the evidence. Even a 6-month-old infant was killed. Even the cows were killed too," he said.
The video included shots of the bodies of five children and two men wrapped in blankets.
Other video showed the bodies of three children in the back of a pickup truck that took them to the hospital in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's former hometown.
Police Capt. Laith Mohammed said the March 15 attack that hit Ishaqi involved U.S. warplanes and armor.
Riyadh Majid, who identified himself as the nephew of Faez Khalaf, the head of the household who was killed, told AP at the time that U.S. forces landed in helicopters and raided the home.
Khalaf's brother, Ahmed, said nine of the victims were family members who lived at the house and two were visitors.
The U.S. military, which said in March that the allegations were being investigated, said it was targeting and captured an individual suspected of supporting foreign fighters of the al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist network. It had no further comment Friday.
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, spokesman for U.S.-led forces in Iraq, said at a news conference Thursday that "about three or four" inquiries were being carried out around the country, but he would not provide any details.
Iraqi officials and relatives also said U.S. forces killed two Iraqi women - one of them about to give birth - when the troops shot at a car that failed to stop at an observation post in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad.
The U.S. military said coalition troops fired at a car after it entered a clearly marked prohibited area near an observation post but failed to stop despite repeated visual and auditory warnings. It said the incident was being investigated.
You've doubtless also seen that last story, the pregnant woman on the way to the hospital, which was picked up all over yesterday.
The CNN Ishaqi story is also being run by many outlets, although they headline it as "near Balad."
The U.S. military told CNN it is investigating an incident in March near Balad in which Iraqi civilians were killed during a U.S. raid.
The probe comes amid concern over U.S. military conduct in Iraq, stoked by claims of a massacre by Marines of 24 civilians in Haditha last November.
This latest incident under investigation took place on March 15 in the Abu Seffa district in the town of Ishaqi, 10 miles north of Balad.
Iraqi police said 11 people were killed in a U.S.-led raid against a suspected al Qaeda in Iraq site, including five children -- the youngest 6 months old -- four women, and two men were killed. The U.S. military provided a lower casualty count, saying an insurgent, two women and a child were killed.
At the time, U.S. military spokesman Tim Keefe said U.S.-led forces staged the raid and came under fire as they approached a building, and air support fired on the site.
"Coalition forces returned fire, utilizing both air and ground assets," Keefe said, according to The New York Times. The target building was destroyed along with one vehicle.
A man believed to be a "foreign fighter facilitator" was taken into coalition custody and was being questioned.
A Balad police official told CNN at the time that eyewitnesses claimed that U.S. soldiers kept an entire family in a room before spraying them with bullets randomly.
U.S. soldiers destroyed the building, the official said.
Also, the official said U.S. soldiers killed livestock belonging to people in the house.
The official said police found bullet casings in the house that would only have been used by U.S. soldiers.
Police started an investigation, filming inside and outside the house, the official said.
A BBC report on Thursday was airing video of the aftermath of the incident, footage that was obtained from a Sunni political group. The BBC says the video shows dead bodies with gunshot wounds.
There's plenty of independent coverage, as well.
Australia's ABC network on both Ishaqi and Haditha. The Melbourne Herald Sun. The Australian. Various others; none of these say anything original; I've read them for you; they're just repeating what's above.
The Grauniad focuses on the newfound Iraqi government attention:
Iraq will demand access to investigators' files about the alleged massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians by US troops in the town of Haditha, Iraq's prime minister Nuri Maliki said today.
The request raises pressure on the US over an incident being described as the worst stain on the reputation of its armed forces since the My Lai massacre, and comes as at least two other cases were brought to light in which US soldiers allegedly killed Iraqi civilians.
Mr Maliki made the demand during a visit to a power station with Washington's Iraq ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad.
"I hope it [the US investigation] will be fair for the sake of all the victims," he added. Khalilzad said that a handover of files had not yet been discussed, but that a meeting on the subject would be held later today with military officials.
Mr Maliki also said that such incidents were common in Iraq. Troops from the multinational force showed "no respect for citizens, smashing civilian cars and killing on a suspicion or a hunch", he told reporters.
Doubt is now being cast on the military's version of two other fatal incidents in Iraq in recent months. The BBC last night broadcast footage which contradicts the official account of an incident in Ishaqi in March, in which Iraqi police claim 11 people were tied up and shot by coalition troops.
The chairman of the Iraqi Human Rights Association, Muayed al-Anbaki, said that the incidents were "unacceptable". "It looks like the killing of Iraqi civilians is becoming a daily phenomenon," he said.
In California, a military lawyer confirmed that seven marines and one member of the naval corps were expected to face charges later today for the killing of an Iraqi civilian in the town of Hamandiya in April.
Reports have indicated that the man may have been taken from his home and shot, before attempts were made to make him look like an insurgent by placing an AK-47 rifle near his body and suggesting that he was in the process of planting a roadside bomb.
A US military spokesman in Baghdad suggested that more revelations may follow. Major general William Caldwell said that "about three or four" investigations into such incidents were underway.
The bodies of 24 Iraqi civilians killed in an alleged massacre by American Marines in the town of al-Haditha will be exhumed by US investigators for forensic tests, it emerged today.
The information may help teams to establish how the civilians died and details in the sequence of events after a roadside bomb exploded in the town, killing a Marine in November.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service hopes to determine whether the shots were fired at close range, the calibre of bullets used and the angles of the shots, according to sources close to the investigation quoted in the Washington Post.
The Iraqi Cabinet has demanded access to US investigative files and announced that it would conduct an independent inquiry into the alleged massacre which has further strained relations between the Government and the multinational forces.
Mr al-Maliki said that he only learnt details of the al-Haditha killings through media reports. The US is conducting a separate investigation into allegations that there was a subsequent cover-up with officers on the ground, who initially reported that the civilians had all died in the roadside bomb blast.
"I hope it [the US investigation] will be fair for the sake of the victims," Mr al-Maliki told reporters during a visit to a new Baghdad power plant today. He is due to meet General George Casey, the US commander in Iraq, later today to discuss the release of the reports.
The Prime Minister, who declared a one-month state of emergency in Basra yesterday, said that some troops had: "No respect for citizens, smashing civilian cars and killing on a suspicion or a hunch. It’s unacceptable."
Although he did not elaborate, the Prime Minister said that the conduct of coalition troops would be taken into consideration: "when we review the presence in Iraq of the multinational forces."
An aide said that the government would review the existing UN mandate for coalition forces before it expires in December. He said that it was no longer content to grant all-encompassing powers to conduct raids and arrests.
Salam al-Zubaie, the Deputy Prime Minister and one of the most powerful Sunni Arabs in the new Government, said: "The coalition forces must change their behaviour. Human blood should be sacred regardless of religion, party and nationality."
He acknowledged that it was unlikely that Iraqi officials would be able to force the extradition of any troops but he demanded that the US authorities hand over its own investigation files.
Google News has "2,263 related" stories; you'll forgive me that I won't be checking all, I trust.
Before getting to the main relevant stories from today's major American papers on these incidents, I want to note this June 1st story from the Telegraph, filed by Oliver Poole, which is considerably rough:
'Marines are good at killing. Nothing else. They like it'
In January, shortly before the first published reports emerged about US marines methodically gunning down men, women and children in the Iraqi town of Haditha, The Daily Telegraph spent time at the main camp of the battalion under investigation.
Rumours had spread that what happened on Nov 19 diverged from the official line that locals were killed by a roadside bomb.
None of the troops wanted to talk, but even a short stay with the men of the 3rd Bn 1st Marine Division in their camp located in Haditha Dam on the town's outskirts, made clear it was a place where institutional discipline had frayed and was even approaching breakdown.
Normally, American camps in Iraq are almost suburban, with their coffee shops and polite soldiers who idle away their rest hours playing computer games and discussing girls back home.
Haditha was shockingly different - a feral place where the marines hardly washed; a number had abandoned the official living quarters to set up separate encampments with signs ordering outsiders to keep out; and a daily routine punctured by the emergency alarm of the dam itself with its antiquated and crumbling machinery.
The dam is one of Iraq's largest hydroelectric stations. A US special operations unit had secured it during the invasion and American troops had been there ever since. Now they were spread across the dozen or so levels where Iraqi engineers once lived.
The lifts were smashed, the lighting provided only a half gloom. Inside, the grinding of the dam machinery made talking difficult. The place routinely stank of rotten eggs, a by-product apparently of the grease to keep the turbines running.
The day before my arrival one soldier had shot himself in the head with his M16. No one would discuss why.
The washing facilities were at the top and the main lavatories at the base. With about 800 steps between them, many did not bother to use the official facilities.
Instead, a number had moved into small encampments around the dam's entrances that resembled something from Lord of the Flies. Entering one, a marine was pulling apart planks of wood with his dirt-encrusted hands to feed a fire.
A skull and crossbones symbol had been etched on the entrance to the shack.
I was never allowed to interview a senior officer properly, unlike during every other stint with American forces. The only soldiers willing to speak at length were those from the small Azerbaijani contingent whose role was to marshal the band of Iraqi engineers who kept the machinery going into and out of the facility.
The US troops liked them. "They have looser rules of engagement," one said admiringly in a rare, snatched conversation.
It is not yet known where exactly the men responsible for the killing of the 24 civilians in Haditha were based. There was a handful of small, forward-operating bases in the town and surrounding area, with two dozen or so in each. If they were in these, it is highly unlikely their conditions were any better.
They would certainly also have shared the recent history of the battalion. It had undergone three tours in Iraq in two and a half years.
More than 30 of its members had died in the previous one, the majority when the unit led the major attack on Fallujah, then at the heart of the insurgency. Now they were in Haditha, one of the most dangerous settlements in Iraq, after only seven months away.
It is a place where six marines died in three days during the previous August and where in nearby Parwana 14 died shortly afterwards in the most deadly roadside bomb attack of the war.
At the dam there was one American civilian, an engineer sent out by the US government with instructions to keep the facility operational.
It was a difficult task. Each time there was a power cut the turbines stopped working, the water against the dam would start to build up and everybody knew that if the local engineers could not get the generators started in time it would collapse.
The American's job was not helped by the marines viewing his Iraqi workers as potential saboteurs. The troops he was quartered with terrified him, so much so that he would not let his name be quoted for fear of reprisal.
He was keeping a secret dossier of breaches he said he had witnessed, or learned of. He planned to present it to the authorities when he returned to the US.
"Marines are good at killing," he said. "Nothing else. They like it."
This is, recall, Britain's right-wing paper, known as the "Torygraph." Not that they've been remotely uncritical of the war; no British newspaper has since it began, reflecting the war's unpopularity from the start in Britain. Still, this account is rather striking.
Back to Haditha: the Washington Post, as we noted in passing earlier, leads with the exhumation of the bodies of the victims, which was still being reported as of yesterday as forbidden by the families of the victims according to Islamic law. The rest of the focus is on NCIS, where personnel have clearly been talking to Josh White and Thomas E. Ricks:
Criminal investigators are hoping to exhume the bodies of several Iraqi civilians allegedly gunned down by a group of U.S. Marines last year in the city of Haditha, aiming to recover potentially important forensic evidence, according to defense officials familiar with the investigation.
A source close to the inquiry said Naval Criminal Investigative Service officials have interviewed families of the dead several times and have visited the homes where the shootings allegedly occurred to collect as much evidence as possible. Exhuming the bodies could help investigators determine the distance at which shots were fired, the caliber of the bullets and the angles of the shots, possibly crucial details in determining how events unfolded and who might have been involved.
The possible evidence was disregarded at first because the slayings originally were not treated as crimes.
NCIS officials said the Nov. 19 incident was not reported to them as a criminal case until nearly four months later -- on March 12 -- and the failure of the Marine Corps to request assistance from investigators sooner could create legal complexities.
This last is news; I've not seen such a claim before, and it's good to see the precise date NCIS entered pinned down; given that the investigation by the Marines started in January, this seems extraordinarily late, and clearly requires, and will get, investigation itself.
The delay already has presented many hurdles for investigators, who have had to rely on dated information, witnesses and suspects who had months to tailor their stories, and a lack of fairly routine forensic evidence that should have been collected at the time the civilians were killed, according to Defense Department officials, defense attorneys and sources close to the criminal probe.
"We are definitely starting with a full count," said one official close to the investigation, who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss the case. "There's plenty of shoulda, woulda, coulda to go around in this case. We have lots of disadvantages going in, but we will re-create the incident as best we can."
The NCIS is an independent criminal investigative agency that is not in the military chain of command. Its probe has included as many as 50 special agents, forensics investigators and support personnel operating in Iraq and in the United States, the largest homicide investigation of its type since the war in Iraq began in 2003, according to Navy officials.
Ed Buice, a spokesman for the NCIS at the Washington Navy Yard, said yesterday that criminal investigators learned of the Haditha incident on March 12 -- nearly 16 weeks after it occurred -- when the Marine Corps officially requested an investigation. The probe began immediately, and three NCIS agents based in Iraq went to Haditha within 24 hours, Buice said.
"The investigation is labor-intensive, complex and time-consuming," Buice said. "NCIS is committed to following up on any and all tangible leads and evidence."
Buice said the investigation is ongoing and "will remain open until after the findings are adjudicated." While Defense Department officials anticipate potential charges of murder, dereliction of duty and obstruction of justice, the NCIS has not yet reported its findings, and military commanders ultimately will decide what, if any, judicial procedures to initiate.
The NCIS will be looking at the days leading up to the roadside bombing that killed a member of the Kilo Company Marines and allegedly set off an emotion-laced spree of shootings in a series of homes near the explosion. The gruesome death of Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, 20, of El Paso, Tex., occurred shortly before Marines allegedly shot and killed a number of civilians, including women and children.
Now, officials close to the case said, investigators are starting with the men who allegedly were in the houses when shots were fired and working their way out from there.
Sources close to the case said the military is assembling a team of experienced prosecutors for the Haditha shootings case. Defense officials said the Pentagon and the Marine Corps are taking the investigation very seriously.
"I think it's going to be a very difficult case for them to prove," said Vaughan Taylor, a former military prosecutor and instructor in criminal law at the Army's Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School. On balance, he said, he would rather be a defense counsel in the case than prosecute for the government.
"I think there's plenty of avenues for defense in this case -- the fact that it wasn't initially investigated, the fact that there's been plenty of time for witnesses to play with stories. There's a lot of wiggle room in there."
The gap between the incident and the beginning of the NCIS investigation is going to cause major problems in prosecuting any charges, a Marine officer familiar with the case agreed. "They have huge proof problems," he said, citing the lack of identified bodies.
"The long and the short of it is, until they prove the cause of death," they don't have anything, said one civilian defense lawyer representing a Kilo Company Marine. "Photographs won't be enough to do it. Good luck with that."
Marine spokesmen at the Pentagon and at Marine Corps Forces Central Command have declined to comment, citing the investigation.
A separate investigation has found several failures in the aftermath of the shootings, according to top officials familiar with the probe. These include Marines giving false statements and officers in the chain of command not providing proper oversight in the weeks and months that followed. That probe, by Army Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell, is expected to be finished this week.
Yesterday, the military announced that Marines and soldiers stationed in Iraq will undergo core values training to reinforce how troops should act on the battlefield. The move is a sign that commanders and leaders in Washington are concerned about the ramifications of the Haditha shootings in Iraq and at home.
Aine Donovan, director of the Ethics Institute at Dartmouth College and a former Naval Academy professor, said Marines have more ethics training than most troops and that there is no excuse for what happened.
"If you look at what happened in Haditha, you had soldiers stressed to the point of no return, and they snapped," Donovan said. "This will be remembered as the worst episode of this war. This will damage the entire profession. You're never going to restore peace by killing civilians."
President Bush said yesterday that the training "is just a reminder for troops either in Iraq or throughout our military that there are high standards expected of them, and that there are strong rules of engagement."
Bush added that "if there is wrongdoing, people will be held to account," and said the nation has "a willingness to deal with issues like this in an upfront way and an open way and correct problems."
Lots of meat in this one, with all the NCIS-focused coverage. It becomes clear how important examination of the bodies will be.
This is the NCIS website, incidentally; more about the history of the agency here, and more about them generally here. Although the CBS tv show that's now in its third year, starring Mark Harmon, is fairly unrealistic popcorn, it does give a vague idea of some of the sorts of issues they deal with (though David McCallum is not, I believe, actually on-call as a medical examiner, more's the pity); but the show is also distinctly fantasy.
CBS News's David Martin, however, at the CBS blog, is real:
The first big news story I ever covered was the court martial of Lt.William Calley for the My Lai massacre. Here I am more than 30 years later covering the investigations into what could very well turn out to be another massacre at Haditha in Iraq. Having sat through every day of Calley’s court martial, I knew a lot more about what happened at My Lai than I currently do about what happened at Haditha, but there are some obvious similarities and some obvious differences.
First the differences. Hundreds of Vietnamese civilians were killed at My Lai – the exact number has never been established. Two dozen women, children and unarmed men were killed at Haditha. The Army investigated My Lai before it was exposed in the press. Haditha is under investigation only because Time Magazine found out about it and brought it to the attention of the U.S. command in Baghdad. Most of the soldiers at My Lai were there because they had been drafted into the Army. All the Marines at Haditha were volunteers.
Now the similarities. Both wars were dragging on with no end in sight and becoming increasingly unpopular back home. In both wars, U.S. troops were up against an enemy that hid among the local population. Both the soldiers at My Lai and the Marines at Haditha were angry and frustrated – taking casualties with little to show for it. And in both cases, there were photos of the bodies which made the killings all the more horrifying, although so far the pictures taken at Haditha haven’t seen the light of day.
I came away from the Calley court martial convinced that none of the grim realities of Vietnam justified or even mitigated what happened at My Lai – and the jurors agreed, since they convicted Calley. I also came away thinking that Calley was just not officer material and never should have been put in command of men in combat. Had they been better led, My Lai would not have happened.
There was no officer in Haditha. The Marines were under the command of a sergeant with seven years experience. If he was the senior man in the squad, they were all probably in their 20s. We don’t know yet whether the sergeant directed the killings or just allowed them to happen, but we do know that innocent people – young children – were shot dead, so it seems safe to say that if the Marines had been better led, Haditha would not have happened.
The media is all over this story now, tracking down members of the unit, calling the defense lawyers they’ve hired, squeezing details out of officials who have been briefed on the investigation. Once the defense lawyers get into the act, you can be sure we’ll start hearing another side of the story. And we should. But everybody who knows what the investigation has found so far says it is ugly and will get uglier if and when the pictures taken of the bodies lying where they had been shot are released. From My Lai to Abu Ghraib, it was the pictures that turned a news story you could hardly believe was true into an undeniable reality.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced Thursday that Iraq would conduct its own investigations into what he suggested were multiple cases of killings of civilians by U.S.-led forces, saying his government might demand greater restraints on foreign troops as a condition of their staying in Iraq.
A top U.S. general in Iraq, meanwhile, said the American military would embark within "a few days" on morals and ethics training for most of the roughly 150,000 multinational troops in Iraq, spurred by investigators' findings concerning the alleged killing by U.S. Marines of 24 men, women and children in the western town of Haditha late last year and allegations of a coverup.
"The allegations of Haditha are troubling to all of us," Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, commander of multinational forces in Iraq, said about the Nov. 19 killings.
"There's enough out in the open press that would indicate that there are some serious issues that we're looking at," Chiarelli said, stressing that the allegations concerned relatively few troops.
"Out of those 150,000 soldiers, I'd dare to say that 99.9 percent of them are doing the right thing," he said.
"Whenever you have 150,000 individuals who are in a different environment and a different culture, an environment that can be dangerous at times, people will react differently at different times. I'd like to get it to 100 percent of our soldiers doing the right thing every single day," he said. "But you've got to be a realist and understand that those kind of things do happen."
Maliki, head of a Shiite Muslim-led governing coalition that has at times expressed resentment of the U.S. troop presence here, now in its fourth year, formally condemned not just the Haditha killings but what he called "the practice" of occupying forces' disregard for civilians.
"The list might be long, because this has become a phenomenon among many of the multinational forces that they do not respect the civilian," Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq's first permanent government since the fall of Saddam Hussein, told reporters after a cabinet meeting. "They run them over and leave them, or they kill anyone suspicious."
"This cannot be accepted, and maybe we will talk about that during the review process on the issue of the MNF's stay in Iraq, so that it would become one of the conditions by which the foreign troops should be bound," the prime minister said, using the initials for multinational force.
Under the U.N. charter, the U.S.-led coalition technically can remain in Iraq only at the invitation of the Iraqi government. Maliki, while speaking sternly on the killings to the Iraqi public, stopped well short of saying the issue might lead to the foreign troops being asked to leave or even singling out the Americans as culprits.
Obviously, given the rampant daily massacres/death squad killings by militias and members of the Iraqi police and others of the myriad Iraqi security agencies/authorities, the Americans could hardly be singled out; indeed, until yesterday, there was little or no attention paid to Haditha and American incidents by the Iraqi government (such as it was); clearly now, however, attention has been drawn and focused, and things won't be going backwards to what they were.
While Maliki's Shiite coalition at times has accused U.S. officials of tying the Iraqi government's hands in the fight against Sunni Arab insurgents, many Iraqis on all sides of the country's conflicts fear far greater strife if the U.S.-led forces withdraw.
Which is why, incidentally -- and here's I'll generate great argument, I know -- I prefer to wait for the Iraqis and Iraqi government to ask us to withdraw, rather than to listen to American protestors demanding we withdraw; this isn't about Americans, it's about Iraqis. The primary fault of Americans looking at the world, and our foreign policy, is that Americans almost always make it about us. It's not always about us; it's often about them, and most of all now, Iraq is about Iraqis.
George W. Bush got us into this mess, with the cooperation of many of us, but we're stuck, now, and have a responsibility to not simply bug out, but to do our best to extricate ourselves with the emphasis being on minimizing the further damage to Iraq, rather than to ourselves.
We broke it, and it's up to us to do our best to do what we can, within reason, to ameliorate the situation, not simply skeddle out and save our own asses. This sucks beyond words, but it's the only moral approach. (What the moral approach actually transfers into in specific plans, I won't opine on; I'm simply stating what I think the base of our planning needs to be; obviously we need to be heading in the direction of withdrawal, but we're also not going to be in a position to do that in a major way very quickly, unless we just want to screw the remaining innocent Iraqis. Yes, I repeat, this definitely sucks; it's sucked for a long time now.)
Caldwell said insurgents kill more civilians than U.S. forces do, but gave no figures. For three years, the U.S.-led force has given varying answers on the extent to which it tracks civilian deaths in the conflict. Individual commanders have released partial tolls.
Chiarelli said the instruction ordered for foreign troops would amount to "core warrior-values training. In reality, it's refresher training."
"I think if you go out, you'll find leaders doing this kind of training on their own," he said. "This is just an attempt to try to take a month to do this -- to ask leaders at all levels to go ahead and reinforce those core values."
Commanders in the field will be sent packets of information that include a letter from Chiarelli explaining the training and 36 slides "that lay out some basic premises and a series of vignettes," Chiarelli said. Training sessions for each service member were expected to run two to four hours, he said.
Chiarelli declined to say whether any further measures would be taken. "I won't be able to tell you that until the rest of the investigation comes in. This is just one that seems kind of blatantly obvious," he said.
"I think it's always good when people take the time to review those things that make us special. I'm proud of this institution. I don't know what other army or coalition in the world would take the opportunity to go back and review what makes us special, to understand the role of the military in a democratic state. I'm proud of us as an institution for doing this thing," he said.
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki lashed out at the American military on Thursday, denouncing what he characterized as habitual attacks by troops against Iraqi civilians.
As outrage over reports that American marines killed 24 Iraqis in the town of Haditha last year continued to shake the new government, the country's senior leaders said that they would demand that American officials turn over their investigative files on the killings and that the Iraqi government would conduct its own inquiry.
In his comments, Mr. Maliki said violence against civilians had become a "daily phenomenon" by many troops in the American-led coalition who "do not respect the Iraqi people."
"They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion," he said. "This is completely unacceptable." Attacks on civilians will play a role in future decisions on how long to ask American forces to remain in Iraq, the prime minister added.
The denunciation was an unusual declaration for a government that remains desperately dependent on American forces to keep some form of order in the country amid a resilient Sunni Arab insurgency in the west, widespread sectarian violence in Baghdad, and deadly feuding among Shiite militias that increasingly control the south.
It was also a sign of the growing pressure on Mr. Maliki, whose governing coalition includes Sunni Arabs who were enraged by news of the killings in Haditha, a city deep in Sunni-dominated Anbar Province. At the same time, he is being pushed by the Americans to resolve the quarreling within his fragile coalition that has left him unable to fill cabinet posts for the Ministries of Defense and the Interior, the two top security jobs in the country.
Marine officials said Thursday that Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Johnson, who was the top Marine Corps commander in Iraq during the Haditha killings, had been set to be promoted to become the service's senior officer in charge of personnel, a three-star position.
General Johnson is widely respected by the Marine Corps' senior leadership, yet officials said it was unlikely that the Pentagon would put him up for promotion until the Haditha investigations were concluded.
"We in the ministers' cabinet condemned this crime and demanded that coalition forces show the reasons behind this massacre," Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie, one of the most powerful Sunni Arabs in the new government, said in an interview.
"As you know, this is not the only massacre, and there are a lot," he said. "The coalition forces must change their behavior. Human blood should be sacred regardless of religion, party and nationality."
Mr. Zubaie, also the acting defense minister, acknowledged that Iraqi officials would probably not be able to force the extradition of any troops suspected of culpability in the Haditha killings. But he said a committee of five ministers, including defense, interior and finance, would investigate the killings with the expectation that American officials would turn over their files. "We do not have the security file because it is in the hands of the coalition forces," he said. "We hope there will not be obstacles ahead."
The crisis over Haditha and other disputed killings in Sunni areas comes just as it appears that military operations may be needed to retake some Sunni areas at risk of falling to the insurgency.
This week American forces ordered 1,500 troops from Kuwait into Anbar Province, a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency, in the latest sign that insurgents and terrorist groups including those led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi control much of the sprawling desert region.
In interviews on Thursday, two senior Republicans — Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, who is next in line to be committee chairman — both said it was too soon to tell whether the episode would undermine support for the war. Still, both expressed concern.
Senator Warner, who has promised to hold hearings as soon as the military completes its investigation, said he had been urging Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to wrap up the inquiry as swiftly as possible.
"In the interim, frankly, the public opinion on this matter is being influenced by misinformation, leaks and undocumented and uncorroborated facts," he said.
Mr. McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than five years, said the incident harked back to the My Lai massacre during the war in Vietnam. He added, "It certainly is harmful, but I can't assess the extent of the damage."
Neither he nor Mr. McCain would say whether Mr. Rumsfeld should be called as a witness.
"I think it depends on what we find out," Mr. McCain said. "I can't say until we really know what happened. There are allegations, and I emphasize allegations, that there was a cover-up. If so, then obviously more senior people would have to be the subject of hearings."
On Wednesday, American troops near the restive city of Samarra shot and killed two Iraqi women, including one who might have been pregnant and on her way to a hospital, after their car did not heed what the American military command said were repeated warnings to stop.
At a news conference in Baghdad, a senior American military spokesman, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, said that "about three or four, at least," allegations of wrongdoing by American troops were being investigated and that anyone found guilty of offenses in those incidents or in the Haditha case would be punished. "This tragic incident is in no way representative of how coalition forces treat Iraqi civilians," he said.
I agree that it's not common, I believe, for American troops to engage in undisciplined massacres. On the other hand, a vastly lesser offense that has clearly been common, according to universal Iraqi testimony, has been great quickness to fire at vehicles approaching checkpoints, and generally to engage in "force protection" that too often results in the deaths of Iraqi innocents; innumerable incidents of this nature have been reported, and are resented little or no less by Iraqis. (And the British forces have long made a point of viewing this differently than their American counterparts, right from the start of the occupation. See also, Ben Griffin.)
ABC News is reporting that senior officers may be charged with the coverup:
Military sources told ABC News that there are likely to be charges filed against officers up the chain of command in connection with the killing of 24 civilians by U.S. Marines in Haditha, Iraq, in November 2005.
Those who could be charged include senior officers who were not on the scene at the time of the killing but should have known something wrong had happened and done something about it.
Military prosecutors plan to file murder, kidnapping and conspiracy charges against seven Marines and a Navy corpsman in the shooting death of an Iraqi man in April, a defense lawyer said Thursday.
The eight men are being held in the brig at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base north of San Diego, said Jeremiah Sullivan III, who represents one of the men.
The men served in Iraq with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, and are members of the battalion's Kilo Company. The highest-ranking among them is a staff sergeant.
Sullivan said he learned from Marine Corps attorneys that the charges have been drafted and official charging documents could be given to the men as early as Friday.
Separately, another group of five Marines in Kilo Company, including a lieutenant who commanded the platoon, are under investigation for injuring a suspect in their custody, according to a defense attorney who has been contacted by the family of one of the Marines. He spoke Thursday only on condition of anonymity because he has not taken on the case.
The Iraqi man was killed west of Baghdad on April 26. His death was unrelated to the shootings of as many as two dozen civilians in the western Iraqi city of Haditha. The Pentagon is investigating troops from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment in that case.
The Marine Corps and Pentagon spokesmen have refused to comment on any aspect of the Iraqi's death since an investigation was announced May 24.
However, a Pentagon official said Thursday that charges are expected to be brought "very soon." The official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss charges before they are filed, could not confirm the specific counts.
Sullivan said the eight men are being held in solitary confinement.
"There's concern about the publicity of Haditha having a detrimental impact on the case," he said. "My concern is that the whole politics of this. There's an assumption that these guys are guilty before there's been an opportunity for a thorough, impartial investigation."
Under military law, after charges are served defendants have the right to an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a civilian grand jury investigation.
An investigating officer presides over the hearing and makes a recommendation to the Marine general who directed the investigation. The general has the final say whether to order a court-martial and what charges, if any, the defendants will face.
The Marine Corps will file criminal charges, including some murder counts, against several enlisted Marines and a Navy corpsman in the fatal shooting of an Iraqi civilian in April, officials close to the investigation said Thursday.
The Marines and the corpsman were brought back to Camp Pendleton in recent weeks as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service looked into the April 26 shooting of a man in Hamandiya.
The troops, with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, may also have attempted a cover-up by planting evidence near the body to suggest that the man was an armed insurgent digging a hole to plant a roadside bomb.
Murder charges in the Hamandiya case would be the first brought against Marines based at Camp Pendleton in the death of an Iraqi.
Commenting on the case this week on ABC television, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), a retired Marine colonel and decorated Vietnam veteran, said that "some Marines pulled somebody out of a house, put them next to an [improvised explosive device], fired some [AK-47s] so they'd have cartridges there. And then tried to cover that up."
Besides the murder counts, the charges are expected to include conspiracy. Under the military system, the charges will go to a proceeding called an Article 32, akin to a preliminary hearing.
A hearing officer will then recommend to the commanding general whether the case should go to a court-martial. The commanding general can reject the recommendation.
When the Hamandiya charges will be filed is unclear. A spokesman at Camp Pendleton would say only that "the investigation is still ongoing and no charges have been preferred."
The officials who spoke about the case asked for anonymity because they had not been authorized to speak publicly.
More than a dozen Marines are in the brig or restricted to the base as part of the Hamandiya investigation, although only eight are expected to be charged.
Keeping Marines who are under investigation in the brig is unusual, suggesting that the Corps is concerned the suspects may try to flee. Marines involved in the Haditha case are at Camp Pendleton but are not in the brig.
Marine brass have been briefing key members of Congress on the investigations in the Haditha and Hamandiya incidents.
Both involve Camp Pendleton Marines, but those in Haditha were with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 1st Marine Division. The battalion was on its third deployment to Iraq when the killings occurred.
Although no Marines have been charged with murdering an Iraqi, a major and a sergeant were convicted in 2004 of lesser charges stemming from the June 2003 death of an Iraqi prisoner at a detention camp near Nasiriya. The prisoner was reputed to have ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and was suspected of complicity in the ambush of a U.S. convoy.
The major was convicted of maltreatment of prisoners and dereliction of duty; the sergeant was convicted of assault and dereliction. Neither was sentenced to the brig.
Army personnel in Iraq have been embroiled in similar investigations, some involving murder charges, but none of the cases has received as much notoriety as Haditha. One reason may be the presence of incriminating photos and videos of the Haditha victims, taken by Iraqis and Marines. Also, that case appears to involve at least a low-level cover-up.
One of the main objects of the administrative Army investigation is to determine whether the cover-up extends beyond the Marines on the scene to high-ranking officers who knew, or should have known, that the troops' original report that the Iraqis were killed in crossfire or by an insurgent bomb was false.
Three officers with the Haditha battalion were relieved of duty in April by Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division. Natonski said only that he had "lost confidence" in their leadership.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, the battalion commander of the three-five, and Capt. Luke McConnell, commander of Kilo Company, are being scrutinized under the military doctrine of "command responsibility," in which a commander can be held accountable for the actions of subordinates even if he knew nothing about those actions.
Capt. James Kimber, commander of India Company, was relieved because of disputes unrelated to Haditha, according to his attorney and officials close to the investigation. Kimber and his family are reacting angrily to his name being mentioned in connection with the killings.
"He was caught up in this, and he was thrown in [by the commanding general] because they needed another head," said Kimber's father, Richard, of Gaithersburg, Md. "This has ruined his Marine career, and it's very unfair."
Although the Haditha and Hamandiya incidents appear to involve similar accusations, the cases have been treated differently.
Only after Time magazine began investigating the Haditha case in January and February did the Marine Corps back off from its assertion that the Iraqis had been killed in crossfire or by an insurgent bomb.
But in the Hamandiya case, an investigation was begun more promptly. Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, the top Marine in Iraq, took the unusual step last month of issuing a statement that "sufficient information existed to recommend a criminal investigation."
Marine brass are worried that the incidents could harm the Corps' reputation and further erode public support for the U.S. mission in Iraq. With that in mind, the Marine Corps has promised to make the Army's administrative investigation of the Haditha killings public as soon as possible.
"This is bad," said one senior officer. "We've got to keep it from being worse."
In another allegation of misconduct by U.S. forces, the BBC on Thursday aired videotape that it said supported the Iraqi version of disputed killings near the city of Balad in March.
The U.S. account says troops seeking a suspected insurgent attacked a house, killing the man as well as two women and a child who were inside.
But Iraqi witnesses, including police officers, told The Times the day of the incident that troops had entered the house, hog-tied 11 residents and shot them through the head.
The BBC did not air most of the videotape, saying the images were too grisly to be shown.
U.S. officials told the BBC that the incident was under investigation.
A Marine captain who was relieved of command after members of his battalion were accused of killing civilians in Haditha, Iraq, denied any role in the slayings and complained that he had become a "political casualty."
"It makes my blood boil to see my name lumped in with this massacre, when I was in a different city not playing any role in this incident," Capt. James Kimber told The Associated Press.
Kimber, 33, of Fountain Hills, Ariz., was one of three officers reassigned to new duties last month for what the Marines said was "a lack of confidence in their leadership abilities." None of the three officers has been charged with wrongdoing.
Kimber said he first learned about the shootings in February when he heard that a Time magazine reporter was asking questions about civilian deaths.
Kimber said he heard nothing about a civilian massacre during city council meetings and talks with local leaders.
"It would have been huge, there would have been no question it would have filtered down to us," he said. "We reported no significant atmospheric change as a result of that day."
Kimber said he was removed because senior commanders at California's Camp Pendleton were scrambling to defuse an explosive situation.
"I believe I was a political casualty as a result of the Haditha incident," Kimber said in a telephone interview.
A Camp Pendleton spokesman did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Kimber, a Marine officer for 10 years, completed two combat tours in Iraq. He won a Navy-Marine Corps Commendation medal for valor in the battle of Fallujah during his first tour in 2004.
He said his troops had performed exceptionally in Iraq. On street patrols in Haditha and Haqlaniyah, he said, India Company discovered more than 350 weapons caches, located 40 roadside bombs and saw a sharp drop in roadside bomb attacks, something Kimber attributed in part to good relations with local citizens.
Kimber has been reassigned to a desk job at Pendleton. He said his military career is all but over and he hopes that before he leaves the Marines, he can stop his name from being associated with Haditha.
William Arkin, the WaPo national security blogger, comments, but doesn't really add much.
The Novato Advance, a small Northern California paper, reports on the local-boy angle:
A Novato soldier could be playing a key role in an investigation of two dozen Iraqi civilians killed by Marines in Haditha, Iraq last November.
Lance Cpl. Andrew Wright, a 21-year-old Marine and North Bay Christian Academy graduate, is currently submitting his testimony to investigators in Camp Pendleton about the deaths. Wright's parents, Novato residents Frederick and Patty Wright, say that superior officers asked Wright to take pictures of the dead bodies with his digital camera after the incident.
Wright is one of two Marines in the 3rd Battalion who was asked to take pictures of the Iraqi bodies after the incident. The other, Lance Cpl. Roel Ryan Briones, is also cooperating with the investigations. His mother, Susan Briones, has said that Ryan was traumatized by the incident.
Wright is in his third year in the Marines. He received a Purple Heart last year from injuries he incurred during the battle in Fallujah, Iraq, last January.
Wright graduated from North Bay Christian Academy in 2003 but his presence is still seen at the school. According North Bay Christian parent Barb Landies, Wright's former teacher, Sharon Losey, has her class pray for Wright every morning at the beginning of class. Losey's students have also prepared care packages for him and have sent him letters. Losey could not be reached for comment by press time.
Frederick and Patty Wright were unable to be reached for comment yesterday. The two live in Hamilton. Frederick has been quoted by the Associated Press saying his son is “the Forrest Gump of the military” and that he “ended up in the spotlight through no fault of his own.”
The Wrights also admitted that they have hired a lawyer for their son and Wright is complying fully with the investigation.
Once the investigation is completed, a senior Marine officer will determine if the charges will be dismissed against any soldiers implicated in the investigation or if they are to be punished as determined by the “Uniformed Code of Military Justice.” The punishment could be non-judicial or could involve a court martial, from which a range of disciplinary actions could be ordered, from discharge to capital punishment.
Okay, yeah, I'm getting down to the dregs now.
For the heck of it, here is today's cheery Department of Defense press release about all of this.
A rightwing blog, "Sweetness & Light" here questions whether "is it possible Dr. Walid (Wahid) has an anti-American prejudice?," Dr. Walid being the initial doctor who reported the gunshot wounds, and the site points to lengthy quotes from reports of how the doctor had been held prisoner by the American forces for a week and badly beaten. The exhumation and examination of the bodies should set aside any such concerns, I would think. The site also alleges that a Dr. Walid Al Obeidi is a member of a terrorist-supporting group, and might be the same guy; again, I think the examination of the bodies will render this question irrelevant, regardless of the answer (and finding similar names in Iraq isn't difficult).
What Mai Lai did was to turn American citizens against the Vietnam War by making them realize what the war was doing to their own troops. This was that it was demoralizing and debasing otherwise decent young Americans, out of fear, out of hatred, out of sheer despair at being trapped in an unwinnable war — because it involved, inevitably, killing many innocent citizens as well as actual insurgents or guerrillas.
The alleged Haditha massacre, once its full details are made public, will undoubtedly push American public opinion toward the same tipping point.
We'll see more of this, of course.
Janis Karpinski, former commander of Abu Ghraib, comments:
The former commander of the military police brigade responsible for Abu Ghraib (grayb) prison says she's hopeful the truth will come out about what happened in Haditha, Iraq. But she isn't too optimistic.
Colonel Janis Karpinski says senior military officials are too afraid to tell the truth about what happened.
In an interview with The Associated Press, she says she isn't confident that the Pentagon will conduct a complete investigation.
Karpinski also adds that core value training for troops in Iraq is coming too late. She says the extra training may not provide any insight into why some troops misbehave.
Karpinski was the highest-ranking officer punished in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. She was demoted a year ago from brigadier general to colonel.
I'll add important stories as addenda later in the day, if warranted. (If Blogger lets me; it's acting up again.)
The major obstacle to progress in Iraq, he suggested, was not the United States, but rather the slow efforts by Mr. Maliki's government to appoint Defense and Interior Ministers, two ministries that are central to securing Iraq.
"My assessment of the situation is that the government that has been elected under the new constitution needs to appoint a defense minister and a minister of interior and get about the task of governing the country," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
This is entirely true, but also a complete diversion from the topic at hand. It's also not suggestive of respecting the Iraqi government as that of a sovereign country, but it's vintage Rumsfeld.
The American military will cooperate with the Iraqi government in its investigation into reports of killings of civilians, the chief of staff for United States forces in Iraq said in Baghdad this morning.
In Baghdad today, Brig. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr., the chief of staff for American forces in Iraq, confirmed that the Ishaqi incident has been under investigation. He called the various allegations "disturbing" and "frustrating," but cautioned that there should not be a "rush to judgment on every incident we see."
General Campbell said in a televised briefing that he did not believe the incidents would not create a rift between the United States and the Iraqi government. "We're very confident that the new prime minister and his government will work with us through this investigation," he said. "We're going to give them whatever assistance they need."
Today, speaking at a press conference in Baghdad with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Mr. Maliki said that an independent commission had been formed to look into what he referred to as "the massacre committed against a group of innocents."
In response to a question as to whether the United States would permit American soldiers to be charged by Iraq, General Campbell said today that no status of forces agreement had yet been concluded with the new government, which took office late last month.
Horrific images of Iraqi adults and children have fueled new allegations that U.S. troops killed civilians in the Iraqi town of Ishaqi. But ABC News has learned that military officials have completed their investigation and concluded that U.S. forces followed the rules of engagement.
A senior Pentagon official told ABC News the investigation concluded that the allegations of intentional killings of civilians by American forces are unfounded.
Military commanders in Iraq launched an investigation soon after the mid-March raid in the village of Ishaqi, about 50 miles north of Baghdad.
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell will make a statement about the Ishaqi allegations today in Baghdad, ABC News has learned.
In Ishaqi, American forces were going after a high-value terrorist target they succeeded in apprehending. The U.S. military reported in March that four people died when the troops destroyed a house from the air and ground.
But previously unaired video shot by an AP Television News cameraman at the time shows at least five children dead, several with obvious bullet wounds to the head. One adult male is also seen dead.
"Children were stuck in the room, alone and surrounded," an unidentified man said on the video.
A total of 11 people died, according to Iraqis on the scene. The Iraqis said the people were killed by U.S. troops before the house was destroyed.
On Wednesday in Samarra, a pregnant woman named Nahiba Jassim and her cousin, Saliha Hassan, were killed by gunfire when their car entered what the U.S. military called a clearly marked, prohibited area near a checkpoint and observation post manned by coalition forces.
According to the military, the driver of the car ignored signals and commands to stop, so troops fired shots to disable the vehicle.
Facing a constant threat of deadly attacks by insurgents, American forces in Iraq are allowed to fire in self-defense if they believe they are in danger. One of the survivors of the incident told ABC News they were rushing the pregnant woman to the hospital because she was about to give birth and they didn't know the road was blocked.
Jassim's brother was driving, and he said the soldiers shot straight into their vehicle.
"I didn't see any warning," he says. "I was driving at speed, and they started shooting at us."
Doctors at the hospital tried to save Jassim's baby but failed.
The U.S. military generally compensates the family of any civilian who is killed inadvertently by American forces. It's not known if this will apply in this case.
Then more rehash.
Minor note: for whatever reason (too high a quote-to-commentary ration, I suspect), Memeorandum doesn't find this post (or ones like it) worth linking to (so far).
ADDENDUM, 3:30 p.m.: Raw Story has graphic photos from Ishaqi, taken by Agence France Presse, showing wounded corpses in graphic detail. DO NOT CLICK unless you want to see extremely graphic pictures, including of dead children.
UPDATE, 3:42 p.m.: Memeorandum finally linked under a link to the last ABC story.
ADDENDDUM, 4:49 p.m.: Nell notes in comments her two posts on Ishaq in March. One of the (relatively non-graphic) photos of dead children she used is in the Raw Story series linked above; I neglected to mention that there are more such pictures here, along with a detailed and lengthy analysis by the writer, Chris Floyd, whom I'm not familiar with. (He's a leftist journalist; bio here; Flash presentation on Ishaqi (Abu Sifa) here -- warning: strong and graphic images.) (Nell also linked to Chris Floyd's original pictures, which I just noticed after noticing I'd overlooked it at the Raw Story link.)
In a last, sharp rebuke to Army prosecutors who had charged more than a dozen soldiers with abusing prisoners at a secret military jail in Afghanistan, a military jury on Thursday acquitted a former Army interrogator of beating and sexually humiliating a man accused as a terrorist.
The charges against the defendant, Pfc. Damien M. Corsetti, grew out of a lengthy Army investigation into the deaths of two Afghan men in December 2002 at the detention center, in Bagram, Afghanistan.
Private Corsetti, 26, was the final soldier to be tried in the case. He was not charged with mistreating either of the men who had died, but his portrayal by some other soldiers in that inquiry and the lurid accusations he faced cast him as an emblematic figure in a detention center where violent abuses took place.
A tall, heavyset young man, Private Corsetti was known to his fellow interrogators as Monster — a nickname they said was tattooed in Italian across his stomach. The staff sergeant who headed his interrogation platoon sometimes called him the King of Torture.
Army prosecutors charged him with beating and kicking Ahmed al-Darbi, a member of Al Qaeda, and stripping off his pants to humiliate him.
Private Corsetti was also accused of smoking hashish on the roof of the Bagram detention center, a cavernous warehouse that had been a Soviet aircraft-machine shop, and failing to obey a lawful order by drinking alcohol in his tent. But witnesses for the defense, and even some called by the prosecution, said his nicknames were facetious and his menacing behavior was an act he put on at the instruction of more senior interrogators who were trying to break the resistance of important but uncooperative prisoners. “He’s like a big teddy bear,” one of Private Corsetti’s friends and fellow interrogators, Marshall Skaggs, testified on Thursday. “He is very nice.”
The lead prosecutor, Capt. Christopher Ellis, described the case as one in which clear rules had been egregiously violated. “This case was all about standards that were in place,” he said. “This is not how professional soldiers are trained.”
But even some prosecution witnesses suggested that after President Bush’s determination in February 2002 that the Geneva Conventions would not apply to enemy combatants captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan, those standards were not so clear.
The jurors, who included five senior sergeants, two lieutenant colonels and two colonels, deliberated less than half an hour before returning their verdicts. They acquitted Private Corsetti even on the charge involving alcohol, which his defense lawyer, William E. Cassara, readily admitted.
There's more, if you'd like to read about it. I haven't followed this case, and don't have an opinion about it at this time. More here.
You're right, you should get great argument on who should set the terms and times for withdrawal. I see no reason at all that our armed forces ought to be pawns, or tools, in the struggle between one Iraqi faction and another. We have no dog in most of the fights going on in the country at this point.
Put bluntly, the supremacy of SCIRI over Muqtada al-Sadr isn't worth a single drop of the blood of a single American.
I blogged about Ishaq in March, twice. I'm deeply grateful to Gary for digging up the names of the children killed; I used without permission an AP picture that tore at me. They are pictured lying in the back of an open truck at the morgue, with male relatives weeping over them.
I hadn't noticed until today that the AP reporter who filed the story linked in my first March post on Ishaq and the Iraqi police officer who signed the police report have the same family name (Khalaf) as many of the victims. I recognize that some family names can dominate an area, and I am not insinuating that either of the men have made anything up. In fact, the AP reporter's version supports what the U.S. military is saying now.
To my mind, flattening a building with women and children inside (which the troops knew because they had been inside and taken out a man) is a war crime, whether they took fire from the building or not. I believe that this sort of bombing happens much more often than we are told.
But it's not at all impossible that in Ishaqi the U.S. troops did shoot the eleven people in the house, then shelled and bombed it. It's noteworthy that in Haditha it appears that the Marines shot the residents of the houses, then called in air strikes on the houses; at least two 500-lb bombs were dropped on the houses.
Gary: However, the fact that this [Reuters] list isn't all that long -- given it covers three years, quite short, actually -- does indicate that these events remain fairly aberrational.
It does not necessarily indicate that at all. The article describes the list as "some other incidents that have made headlines about U.S. forces' treatment of civilians in Iraq"
Checkpoint shootings, indiscriminate machine gun firing after a roadside explosion, and bombing and shelling of houses with noncombatants inside are so common as to have become routine. Resulting deaths are clearly often classified as insurgent kills by the U.S. military. Incidents that the U.S. media cover form a small subset of those.
In El Salvador, the largest-scale bombing in the history of the western hemisphere took place from 1984-89; daily, planes and helicopters went out and destroyed houses and strafed people and livestock. The objective was to drive noncombatants out of areas where the FMLN had support. Thousands of Salvadorans were killed and wounded. It was all but impossible to get U.S. reporters to cover the story. Phil Bronstein said to my face in 1988, "It happens every day. That's not news."
So pardon me if I'm not ready to give the U.S. military the benefit of the doubt here. Civilian deaths have been underestimated and underreported since the beginning of the war.
Except for a very few cases where the media scrutiny has been intense, and where pictures have been available, there has been virtual impunity for murder and abuse of civilians and detainees by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I understand the reluctance of the brass to come down hard on individual servicemembers when nothing is done to hold Rumsfeld, Cambone, Wolfowitz and the others who created this quagmire responsible. But it still amounts to mass impunity. Poison to the U.S. military, to democracy, to our relationship with the rest of the world.
For some reason this blog takes forever to download, at least on my home computer, which is slow and cranky. (Like me for the past couple of days, due to a slight jogging injury.) Too bad--I'd be here more often.
Anyway, I agree with Nell. Speaking for myself (not necessarily for Nell), I'm much more interested in the level of civilian casualties that fall under the heading of "collateral damage" than I am in what I assume are the rare occurences of outright massacres. It's good that we're not the sort of society that fights insurgencies by deliberately wiping out whole villages in face-to-face slaughter and I'm also willing to believe we use much less indiscriminate firepower than we did in Vietnam, but all the same, what's most interesting to me about these stories is that if the civilians had merely been killed as collateral damage it wouldn't have attracted much notice, or that's the impression I'm getting.
I've been hunting around for estimates of the number of insurgents our forces kill--I gather it's around 10,000 per year. Based on what has happened in other guerilla wars, I'd guess the number of civilians we're killing is in the same ballpark. But if so, very little of this is reported in Iraq Body Count's files. I assume this is because in most cases the press is unable to check up on the results when the US military kills people. Or maybe the level of insurgent-killing is really much lower. Or (and I don't believe this), maybe the US is capable of killing insurgents with a comparatively tiny number of civilian casualties.