Monday, June 23, 2003

Iraq:

  1. American soldiers have started to admit to shooting civilians in Iraq. Sergeant First Class John Meadows said:

    "You can't distinguish between who's trying to kill you and who's not. Like, the only way to get through s*** like that was to concentrate on getting through it by killing as many people as you can, people you know are trying to kill you. Killing them first and getting home."

    Specialist Corporal Michael Richardson said:

    "There was no dilemma when it came to shooting people who were not in uniform, I just pulled the trigger. It was up close and personal the whole time, there wasn't a big distance. If they were there, they were enemy, whether in uniform or not. Some were, some weren't."

    and, chillingly referring to injured Iraqi soldiers:

    "S***, I didn't help any of them. I wouldn't help the f******. There were some you let die. And there were some you double-tapped. Once you'd reached the objective, and once you'd shot them and you're moving through, anything there, you shoot again. You didn't want any prisoners of war. You hate them so bad while you're fighting, and you're so terrified, you can't really convey the feeling, but you don't want them to live."

    Specialist Anthony Castillo said:

    "When there were civilians there we did the mission that had to be done. When they were there, they were at the wrong spot, so they were considered enemy."

    Peter Beaumont, a journalist who was himself almost killed by an American soldier, summarizes the problem (and see also here):

    "So what happened then in the advance into Baghdad - and what is happening still as American soldiers fire on crowds of demonstrators? The answer struck me recently. The world's biggest and most formidible army - the most technologically advanced - lacks discipline regarding its own rules of engagement and an ability - the critical ability - to properly identify targets before engagement.

    This is not a new problem. It is behind the too frequent incidences of US friendly fire on its allies; behind the arrogance with which US forces treated many Iraqis.

    But the result is a recklessness and a lack of care for civilian casualties that borders on the criminal."


  2. On Wednesday, American troops shot into a violent group of unpaid soldiers protesting in Baghdad, killing two people, apparently in response to having stones thrown at them (the Americans predictably claim they were fired upon). American forces killed an Iraqi woman, her child and an Iraqi man in the village of Maqarr al-Dheeb, about 10 miles from the Syrian border. American soldiers caught in an attack near Mushahidah fired wildly on a bus, wounding eight people. Abdul Rahman Mohammed Ali, the bus driver, said:

    "We had nothing to do with this. We were just passing this place. Why should they attack people when they don't know who is responsible?"

    There was a report (or here) that American troops killed over 100 civilians at Rawah on June 13, although that seems like a lot of dead civilians with no particular fuss being made. A 15-year-old boy, along with two other civilians, was shot dead in the heavy-handed raid on Thuluya.

  3. Human Rights Watch has found inconsistencies in the American stories of the massacres in Falluja on April 28 and 30, and is asking for an investigation. Good luck with that.

  4. The same old problems continue:

    • Due to unclean water supplies, there are still cases of water-borne diseases.

    • Bremer of Baghdad claims that Baghdad is now receiving 20 hours of electricity a day. This is a lie (some parts get 20 hours, some parts get 2). Shamsedin Mansour, a poor shopkeeper, said:

      "We have had no electricity for six days. Many of our people are suffering from heart problems because of the heat. We live with as many as 42 people in a house and do not have the money to buy even a small generator. Without light at night it is easy for gangs of thieves with guns to take over the streets, and the shooting keeps us awake. If we try to protect ourselves with arms, the Americans arrest us."

      Due to the extreme insecurity on the streets, people are forced to stay in their homes all day, and the houses, without air conditioning, become impossibly hot. The electricity problem also leads to lack of refrigeration, and affects the water supply.

    • People suffering from symptoms of radiation (or here) sickness, as many as 30 to 40 a day, are starting to appear at a hospital near the Tuwaitha nuclear facility, probably contaminated with radioactive material looted from the unguarded facility.

    • The extreme insecurity on the streets is keeping school attendance levels, particularly of girls, very low.

    • Iraqis are claiming that American soldiers involved in the raids and inspections are stealing from them.



  5. The American operation known as 'Operation Desert Scorpion' (who comes up with these names?) was conducted in a particularly heavy-handed manner, and has caused much bitterness. The American soldiers were sent into the raids to the music of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries", and displayed their usual lack of sensitivity.


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