Reports from Iraq Reflect War's Bitter Course

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War is assuredly the darkest abyss into which humanity can descend. Iraq is no exception. A small percentage might still hold the illusion that the United States has brought liberation and good cheer, whistling soldiers cobbling shoes for poor Iraqi children, school bells ringing, etc. But the eternal credo that 'war is hell' rings truest. Those who have willingly sent America's youth to die, kill, and maim in this abysmal quagmire are audience to a drama from which they keep a safe distance. The majority of the war's supporters have paid no personal price for the illegal misadventure, have sacrificed nothing, and take no responsibility whatsoever for the blood their tax dollars have helped spill. In place of missing WMD and a link to 9/11, two things remain: lies and lives lost.

Reporting from Samarra : the Senseless Killing of Wissam Abbas

Tom Lasseter of Knight Ridder Newspapers, on assignment in Iraq , gives a lucid account of life and death in Samarra , Iraq , one week before the bombing of the Golden Shrine Mosque, which took place on February 22. He reports how, after a gunfight, soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division retrieve the bodies of Iraqi resistance fighters. One soldier yells, 'Strap those motherf-----s to the hood like a deer,' and so they do. As they drive out of the area with the dead men strapped to the roof, Iraqi families stand and glare. In the same news story, Lasseter later tells how a jumpy 21-year-old soldier named Michael Pena from Texas shoots an innocent 31-year-old man named Wissam Abbas, with a .50-caliber machine gun. Abbas suffers terribly in front of the soldiers while a tearful medic tries to stuff his organs back into his body. Abbas later dies at the local hospital. Lasseter ends the news report by saying that, although Pena didn't say a word about the man he'd killed, he blurts out in frustration: 'No one told me why I'm putting my life on the line in Samarra, and you know why they didn't? Because there is no f------ reason.' A young soldier has murdered an innocent man, a precious life is lost, for nothing, Pena will be forever scarred psychologically, and he admits he does not have a clue as to why he is in Iraq , carrying out his government's apocalyptic mission. (the entire article)

British Soldiers Refuse to Fight with U.S. Troops

British SAS (Special Air Services) soldier Ben Griffith, after three months in Baghdad , told his commanders (this March) that the Iraq war was illegal and he was no longer prepared to fight alongside American troops, who he said committed 'dozens of illegal acts.' The decision marked the first time a SAS soldier refused to go into combat and quit on moral grounds. The soldier's refusal to stay and fight in Iraq ended Griffith 's exemplary, eight-year career. Facing court-martial, he felt certain he would be labeled a coward and imprisoned, but instead he was discharged with a testimonial describing him as a 'balanced, honest, loyal and determined individual who possesses the strength of character to have the courage of his convictions.' Mr. Griffith said the American military's 'gung ho and trigger-happy mentality' and tactics undermined any chance of winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis.

Most chilling is Griffith 's belief that U.S. troops viewed all Iraqis as 'untermenschen' ' the Nazi term for races regarded as subhuman. Griffith says, 'As far as the Americans were concerned, the Iraqi people were subhuman, untermenschen. You could almost split the Americans into two groups: ones who were complete crusaders, intent on killing Iraqis, and the others who were in Iraq because the Army was going to pay their college fees. They had no understanding or interest in the Arab culture. The Americans would talk to the Iraqis as if they were stupid, and these weren't isolated cases, this was from the top down.' (the entire article)

Also in Britain , this April, a military court found a British air force doctor guilty of disobeying orders after he challenged the legality of the war in Iraq , and he was sentenced to eight months in prison and dismissed from the service. The Houston Chronicle reports that Flight Lt. Malcolm Kendall-Smith said U.S. actions in Iraq were on a par with those of Nazi Germany. He was convicted by a panel of Royal Air Force officers after a three-day court-martial. Kendall-Smith formed his belief that the war was unlawful after serving tours of duty in Kuwait and Qatar at the time of the invasion. 'I have evidence that the Americans were on a par with Nazi Germany with (their) actions in the Persian Gulf ,' he told the court. (the entire article)

March 15th Massacre in the Small Town of Ishaqi

The US military has launched an investigation into the killing of Iraqi civilians by U.S. forces in a raid March 15th in Ishaqi, Iraq, near the city of Balad. Iraqi police have accused American troops of murdering eleven civilians in the assault. According to an Iraqi police report first obtained by Knight Ridder, the villagers were killed after US troops herded them into one room of a house. After the shootings, the house was blown up. The dead included five children and four women ranging in age from six months to 75 years old. Local medics said the bodies had bullet wounds to the head. (The US military contends that only four civilians were killed in the raid after the troops came under fire while trying to capture an al-Qaeda suspect.) (the entire interview)

Fifteen Civilians Executed in Haditha Last November

The investigation into the Ishaqi killings comes not long after a U.S. Navy criminal probe into reports that Marines intentionally shot 15 civilians dead near the western town of Haditha last November. A young Iraqi girl has given a frightening account of what witnesses claim amounts to mass murder by U.S. troops in the war-torn country. Ten-year-old Iman Walid lost several members of her family in the attack. Iman tells of screaming soldiers entering her house, spraying bullets in every direction. Fifteen people in all were killed, including her parents and grandparents. Her account has been corroborated by other eyewitnesses, who say it was a revenge attack after a roadside bomb killed one Marine. Time reported on April 11th that three Marine officers involved have been relieved of command and reassigned. At first, the Marines issued a statement saying that a roadside bomb had killed 15 civilians, while eight insurgents had been killed in a later gun battle, but U.S. military officials have since confirmed the 15 civilians were actually shot dead. (the entire article)

All the Blood Spilled in Iraq Is a Direct Consequence of One Decision

The known massacres in Haditha last November and Ishaqi this March have claimed the lives of 23 civilians. Mathew Scofield, who is European bureau chief for the Knight Ridder news agency, was the first to obtain the report from the Iraqi police, and he provides a detailed account of the My Lai-style massacres in an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. Goodman asks what he thinks about the President's notion that the media is only telling the 'bad news' about the war. Schofield replies, 'If you're looking at these two stories as isolated incidents of times when Iraqis believe Americans have gone out of control and killed people, that's missing the mark by a wide margin . . . the belief over here is that this is happening all the time.' He adds, 'Now, if Bush wants to come out and say that we're ignoring the good news, I think there is, on the other side, an effort to ignore the depth of the bad news here.'

The question must be asked: How many more civilian executions have occurred over the last three years that have been covered up or not reported, for a variety of reasons? In addition to charging those involved in the massacres, justice must also be found for those Iraqis whose lives have been taken as a result of: U.S. aerial bombing; confusing checkpoints; coalition/resistance crossfire, sectarian attacks; suicide bombings; kidnappings; lack of proper medical care, depleted-uranium poisoning; etc. Every death in Iraq , from the thousands slaughtered on the trek to Baghdad , to Margaret Hassan, to U.S. soldiers, to Iraqis fighting to defend their country, to 100,000 innocent civilians, to dozens of journalists, to Tom Fox, all of these deaths have resulted directly from that one disastrous decision by our misguided policy-makers: the decision to invade Iraq .

A crucial task before us is to continue to reveal the ugly truths of this war and shed light on the fact that the decision to start the war is at the core of every death, all civil strife, and every atrocity that unfolds now on a daily basis. History tells us, all too clearly, that guerrilla wars like this one are unwinnable. Many worry that this illegal intervention has the potential to lead to a long and painful Lebanon-style civil war. We need to demand that foreign troops withdraw, to allow an independent Iraq-driven political process, and to seek justice for all the Iraqi victims, including, but not limited to, 31-year-old Wissam Abbas, cut down by U.S. machine-gun fire, in Samarra , Iraq , in the prime of his life.

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Kristina M. Gronquist's picture
Columns on STR: 10

Kristina M. Gronquist is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis. She specializes in foreign policy analysis and holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Minnesota.