Friday, July 11, 2008

Fallujah: Death of command responsibility

The "battle of Fallujah" was itself a war crime, a punitive assault on a densely populated city initiated immediately after the November 2004 U.S. elections. It incorporated many specific war crimes, among them the use of white phosphorus, the murder of civilians, the sealing-off of hospitals and ambulances, and the killing of wounded and prisoners.

Remember when reporter Kevin Sites documented the shooting of a wounded, unarmed, prone prisoner by a Marine? [see image] The Marine wasn't charged with anything. There was a wave of denunciation and questioning of Sites and justification of the shooter. Well, there was more prisoner killing going on. In fact, it's pretty clear that the rules of engagement, such as they are in Iraq, were suspended in Fallujah.

Yet as each new atrocity comes to light, somehow commanders are never the ones facing charges, even when they're clearly responsible. In this case, three Marines were ordered to conduct a sweep of a house after another platoon member was killed by a sniper ("to get our heads back in the game", not because the sniper was firing from the house). They'd found and handcuffed four men, but their unit was moving out and "there was no time" to take prisoners:

"We called up to the platoon leader and the response was, 'Are they dead yet?'" Weemer said on the tape.

The three are in a hearing to determine if they'll be court martialed on charges of murder and dereliction of duty. The platoon leader is not facing charges. He's not even named in the news coverage of this hearing.

All this only came out because one of the participants talked about the experience during interviews as part of applying for a Secret Service job. Who knows how many more incidents are known only to the perpetrators?

Some veterans of the Fallujah rampage went on to murder civilians at Haditha a year later, and were only charged after video evidence became available and Time reported the story. In another perversion of command responsibility, all those shooters and their commanding officers have been let off one by one except Sgt. Wuterich, the squad leader. His court martial begins soon.


Monday, July 07, 2008

Your FISA summariza

(Title a shameless ripoff of inspired by The Editors' Your FISA Advisa)

The vote has been postponed until Wednesday to make it easier for Senators to attend Jesse Helms' funeral. So keep the calls and letters coming. Thomas Nephew has a splendid roundup of resources, and more how-to.

I talked to a legislative assistant today to get a reading on Webb's vote, and found that they haven't discussed it yet. He protested that none of the amendments is in final form. Although true, typical, and unsettling, that's not an excuse to duck taking a position; the amendments' basic outlines are known. This is especially so for the Dodd amendment, S.Amdt.5064, that will simply strike the telecom immunity provisions from the bill. So we'll talk again tomorrow.

The Webb aide did say that Judge Walker's recent ruling in the Al Haramain case is "changing the game a little" for members of the Judiciary Committee. I expressed the hope that the change was in the direction of eroding support for the bill, since the main effect of that ruling was to expose as a sham the Democratic leadership's claim that exclusivity was a big part of what was "won" to make this bill an acceptable "compromise". This might, though, mean that Specter's amendment is shape-shifting -- something to keep an eye on.
Update: July 8, 10:30 am - As so often, Glenn Greenwald drives home the fundamental issues at stake here. Worth reading especially to see the full-page ad in the Washington Post placed by the liberty-and-law-defending rabble, and news of a fundraising push for Accountability Now (the rabble's PAC) set to "explode" on August 8, the anniversary of Nixon's resignation. I was among the crowd celebrating outside the White House that evening. Ah, 1974-75: our own little Prague Spring.

Update: July 14, 5:00 pm - Just for the record: Roll call votes on the Dodd amendment (full text: "Strike Title II" [immunity]), the Specter amendment, the Bingaman amendment, and the bill itself. All went wrong by bigger margins than I'd expected. Webb voted only for Bingaman and the bill; I never reached his aide again before the vote.

Labels: ,