A fellow named 1LT TJ Grider who claims to have led the platoon that killed the boys in Buhriz has responded to allegations that the photographs are evidence of war crimes. The gist of the defense of the actions of the American troops:
"I then took pictures in accordance with the rules of engagement. The pictures were necessary for evidence against the surviving insurgents as well as documentation of the skirmish. The initial pictures were taken without weapons because we had consolidated the RPGs away from the individuals and were guarding them while we set up security and treated the wounded. It was the tactically right thing to do as well as the morally right thing to do by treating the wounded even though they had just tried to kill us.
In accordance with orders we then took a series of pictures of the insurgents with the weapons that they had on them. You are correct there was obviously only one RPG launcher there and a few warheads. The rest of the warheads they had were already fired at us minutes earlier. Were there more launchers that they dropped while attempting to flee as they realized the overwhelming force they had just engaged? I don't know and we didn't have time to search as we started taking fire and had audio on small arms fire from nearly every direction."
"As far as the pictures go they were and are necessary. They will be used in the prosecution of the surviving insurgents, although their confessions, which have never been mentioned by Mr. Kraft will probably be enough to convict them.
It was not my requirement to take those pictures, but that of the new Iraqi government. They specifically instructed the military to take pictures of insurgents wit the weapons or contraband they had on them. That is what we did that day.
Yes the RPGs were initially moved to secure the area and pictures were taken. What if we had not had time because of coming under fire to take pictures with the weapons? We needed to have pictures at least confirming the days events. Because we did not come under fire immediately we had time to go back and take the pictures according to how the Iraqi government wanted them for evidence purposes. To suggest we planted them is ridiculous."
He has admitted that they planted the weapons, but now claims that this was done for innocent motives, as "they will be used in the prosecution of the surviving insurgents". Obviously, this won't do. It is as if a prosecutor went to a crime scene and rearranged the evidence to create photos that would more easily lead to a prosecution. These photos are useless as evidence of anything. If they were really concerned with building a case for a prosecution, they would have taken photos of any weapons found in the place where they were found, and recorded information of where the weapons were in relation to the Iraqi boys. Grider himself admits:
"Were there more launchers that they dropped while attempting to flee as they realized the overwhelming force they had just engaged? I don't know and we didn't have time to search as we started taking fire and had audio on small arms fire from nearly every direction."
In other words, there were no RPGs around the Iraqis. That seems to conclude the matter, and is an admission that these deaths were not a matter of self-defense. You will no doubt have noticed that he claims that he couldn't look for more RPGs because they "started taking fire", but two paragraphs earlier claims to have been in a position to treat the enemy wounded, and presumably take the photos, because "we were no longer taking fire (because we had just neutralized the insurgents that had fired on us)". The story falls apart in the details.
A few comments:
- Just a few weeks ago, the Pentagon would have ignored the blog snipers, or issued a one-line denial. Now we get a response with fairly obvious input from Pentagon PR specialists and lawyers. Obviously, the Downing Street Memo is starting to take a toll.
- The photos clearly show that the resistance fighters wore scarves over their heads. This makes perfect sense, as the Americans can and would arrest any fighter they could identify. Maybe Grider is suggesting that the scarves were blown off (along with the shoes - and the pants).
- Here is the quote from Michael Mandel again:
"Every death was a crime for which the leaders of the invading coalition were personally, criminally responsible. When General [Vince] Brooks said the soldiers at the Karbala checkpoint were exercising their 'inherent right to self-defense' he was talking nonsense: an aggressor has no right to self-defense. If you break into someone's house and hold them at gunpoint and they try to kill you but you kill them first, they’re guilty of nothing and you're guilty of murder."
Save me the platitudes of how "honorable" this platoon is.