Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The fog of war: miasma of lies

Is everyone involved in this story lying?

Last week I blogged about a war crime committed by U.S. troops in Ishaqi, near Balad. They flattened a house with planes and armor while a family was inside (which they knew, because they'd just finished raiding it, taking away one man).

Now, just after Time has publicized charges of Marines shooting unarmed residents in Haditha last November, Iraqi police allege that the same thing happened in Ishaqi:

Police investigators in Salahudin Province have accused American troops of executing 11 civilians, including several children, during a raid last Wednesday on a house in Ishaqi, near Balad, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official said. According to the investigators, the Americans lined up the civilians and shot them, then killed the livestock and destroyed the house, the official asserted.

A local police commander in Ishaqi told Knight Ridder Newspapers that an autopsy revealed bullet wounds in all the victims' heads.
[my emphasis]

The children in the AP picture do not appear to have been shot, though it's possible that the picture is compatible with their being shot with small arms at close range. But the AP reporter in the original interviewed family members at the morgue; they said that the children, and the two men and four women with them, were killed when the planes and armor collapsed the house with them inside. If U.S. troops had lined them up and shot them, wouldn't those weeping men in the picture have said so? The reporter and photographer saw the bodies, yet made no mention of gunshot wounds.

The American military acknowledged at the time that it had demolished the house using ground and air power, but only after insurgents began firing from the building. Three civilians — two women and a child — and one insurgent were killed in the attack, American officials said, and another insurgent was captured.

This is also bizarre. The original story contains no acknowledgement from the American military that they demolished the house with people inside, and it seems like a remarkable admission even now, as a response to the new charges ("We didn't kill them up close and personal, we killed them from our positions. The house did it!"). The U.S. military undercount of Iraqi deaths is routine, if particularly brazen and stupid in this case, where a reporter and photographer documented eleven bodies.

Neither force has earned the right to be taken at its word. Unit discipline and command responsibility have broken down to the point that these incidents are widespread. We have got to get the troops the hell out of there.

Update March 25: Chris Floyd lays out what we know and don't more vividly than I can hope to.



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