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.



At 10:55 PM, July 26, 2008, Blogger janinsanfran said...

The New York Times story today of the photographer who duly recorded death and carnage and got himself booted by the U.S. Marines is most relevant about these crimes. Kevin Sites made one visible in Fallujah. They don't want us to see any more. These are crimes, not primarily by the grunts who pull the triggers, but by the men who sent them into these situations.

At 10:08 AM, August 02, 2008, Blogger Nell said...

Thanks, Jan. A classic "Saturday story"...

And it's a "Saturday story" all the way down, because the NY Times itself reserved the photo of the Marines' remains for... Saturday, June 28.


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