Collateral Murder: Just Another Day On Iraqi Streets
WikiLeaks has released today a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad — including two Reuters news staff. I can’t begin to describe how I felt watching that video, listening to the nonchalant exchange between US soldiers over the radio while they indiscriminately mowed down over a dozen Iraqis; more than half of them were unarmed. Some were shot attempting to aid the wounded. Two of them were children sitting in a van. You can, and you should, watch as much as you possibly can of the video (disturbing content) before going on to read the rest of this post. You can also find the overview page of the Collateral Murder video here.
Have you watched the video? Now here’s the official U.S. army statement in 2007 as it was reported by the New York Times:
The American military said in a statement late Thursday that 11 people had been killed: nine insurgents and two civilians. According to the statement, American troops were conducting a raid when they were hit by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. The American troops called in reinforcements and attack helicopters. In the ensuing fight, the statement said, the two Reuters employees and nine insurgents were killed.
“There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force,” said Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a spokesman for the multinational forces in Baghdad.
Nice cover up, No? Weddady explains on twitter how this could happen: “NYT is only as good as their sources when reporting on unseen events. US military sources –> US military official line.” I wouldn’t expect the army to behave any differently; Armies protect their own no matter what. Disgusting, but not uncommon. Defendants of the soldier’s actions are saying that the Iraqis had guns and what appears to be RPGs. Jacob Appelbaum clears things out a bit saying “When I was on northern Iraq in 2005: I had a camera over my shoulder, and a guard with an AK-47. This is very common in Iraq.” I also have to add that RPGs used by the insurgents are anti-tank weapons and not a ground-to-air weapon. Trying to hit an Apache with these is similar to trying to kill a flying wasp with a slingshot. Suspecting the journalist’s camera to be an RPG which is quite an outrageous mistake to make and still does not hold as an excuse for the trigger-happy soldier operating that 30mm machine gun. Read more about how they’re actually used in Iraq here.
There’s more to the story. US army officials lie trying to pretend that they don’t know how two children were injured in the incident. The children were in fact in the van trying to rescue the wounded and the on the full length video we hear the one of the soldiers saying: “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.” Except the so-called battle happened in a suburb; you know, where families with children usually live. Iraqis are not bringing their kids to battle. The battle is happening in their back yards, streets, and homes. With over a million Iraqis killed since the war began and over 4 million became refugees, isn’t it clear as the sun that Iraqis have pretty much done everything within their power to spare their kids the battle.
The climax of disregard to human life, and a textbook breach of the Geneva Conventions and their three additional protocols, happens near the end of the video. A van draws near the wounded and an unarmed man rushes out of it trying to evacuate the wounded. The soldier requests permission to “Engage” — gotta love the euphemisms — and once he’s granted permission he opens fire killing everyone on the scene. I’ve seen a few apologists argue that these are insurgents and that the Geneva conventions and International Humanitarian Law (IHL) don’t apply for some reason they fail to mention. Article 41 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I) says the following:
Safeguard of an enemy hors de combat
1. A person who is recognized or who, in the circumstances, should be recognized to be hors de combat shall not be made the object of attack.
2. A person is hors de combat if:
(a) he is in the power of an adverse Party;
(b) he clearly expresses an intention to surrender; or
(c) he has been rendered unconscious or is otherwise incapacitated by wounds or sickness, and therefore is incapable of defending himself.
Several other articles reiterate the corner-stone of IHL: the differentiation between combatants and non-combatants. Once a fighter is wounded and no longer able to partake in the battle, he is no longer a target. I’ve read so many attempts at justifying what the soldier’s did from people who claim to be military exerts or serving in the US occupation forces in Iraq. I’m ever so convinced that every soldier should be taught Humanitarian Law before being taught how to survive in the wild or how to shoot a rifle. That incident is a disgrace, and it’s unlikely that it’s one of a kind. Defending it is inexcusable, no it’s unimaginable.
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