By Mike Ferner
Please! Would somebody please tell me that the corporate news media is talking about U.S. war crimes in Iraq in addition to the civilians killed in Haditha?!
I can only hope that my fellow citizens are not being told that this latest outrage tumbling out of Iraq is some isolated incident; that Herr Rumsfeld will diligently investigate it, and dispense timely justice to all guilty parties (below the rank of Lieutenant, of course).
JUST in case your Uncle Bob or Aunt Sophie has been asking you “Exactly what the hell is going on in Iraq?” and you’re looking for hard facts to help them get off the fence, here you are.
Keep in mind these are just a few instances compiled by one citizen sitting in Toledo with an old computer connected to the internet—an indication that there just might be even more going on.
Keep in mind also, that the following acts are criminal violations of the law not just because they are really horrid inhumanities, but because Congress, the U.S. Constitution, and international law (yes, there are international laws binding on the U.S.) explicitly prohibit the very kinds of atrocities now rotting at the feet of George W. Bush. Each section below begins with the relevant law or treaty violated in Iraq or Afghanistan. Every one of them, and more, are documented at the Veterans For Peace website.
Nuremberg Tribunal Charter
Principle VI: “The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:
(b) War crimes: …murder, ill-treatment…of civilian population of or in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war…plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages…
- Two Afghan prisoners who died in American custody in Afghanistan in December 2002 were chained to the ceiling, kicked and beaten by American soldiers in sustained assaults that caused their deaths, according to Army criminal investigative reports.
- At least 26 prisoners have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002 in what Army and Navy investigators have concluded or suspect were acts of criminal homicide, according to military officials.
- In Fallujah, 40% of the buildings were completely destroyed, 20% had major damage, and 40% had significant damage. That is 100% of the buildings in that city.
(c) Crimes against humanity: Murder, extermination…and other inhuman acts done against
any civilian population…when such acts are done…in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.”
- "I decided to swim … but I changed my mind after seeing U.S. helicopters firing on and killing people who tried to cross the (Euphrates) river."
- “We were tied up and beaten despite being unarmed and having only our medical instruments,” Asma Khamis al-Muhannadi, a doctor who was present during the U.S. and Iraqi National Guard raid on Fallujah General Hospital told reporters later. She said troops dragged patients from their beds and pushed them against the wall. “I was with a woman in labour, the umbilical cord had not yet been cut,” she said. “At that time, a U.S. soldier shouted at one of the (Iraqi) national guards to arrest me and tie my hands while I was helping the mother to deliver.”
- Abu Hammad said he saw people attempt to swim across the Euphrates to escape the siege. “The Americans shot them with rifles from the shore,” he said. “Even if some of them were holding a white flag or white clothes over their heads to show they are not fighters, they were all shot.” Hammad said he had seen elderly women carrying white flags shot by U.S. soldiers. “Even the wounded people were killed. The Americans made announcements for people to come to one mosque if they wanted to leave Fallujah, and even the people who went there carrying white flags were killed.”
The Geneva Conventions
Protocol I, Article 75: “(1)…persons who are in the power of a Party to the conflict…shall be treated humanely in all circumstances…(2) The following acts are and shall remain prohibited…whether committed by civilian or by military agents: (a) violence to the life, health, or physical or mental well-being of persons…(b) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault…and threats to commit any of the foregoing acts.”
The investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba found that “intentional abuse of detainees by military police personnel” included the following:
- Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet
- Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees
- Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing
- Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time
- Forcing naked male detainees to wear women’s underwear
- Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being videotaped
- Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them
- Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture
- Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee’s neck and having a female soldier pose for a picture
- A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee
- Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee
Protocol I, Art. 70: “The Parties to the conflict…shall allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of all relief consignments, equipment and personnel…even if such assistance is destined for the civilian population of the adverse Party.”
- Convoys sent by the Iraqi Red Crescent to aid the remaining population (in Fallujah) have been turned back.
- Marked ambulances were repeatedly shot at by U.S. troops during the April, 2004 siege of Fallujah and troops prevented the distribution of medical supplies.
- In Saqlawiyah, Dr Abdulla Aziz told IPS that occupation forces had blocked any medical supplies from entering or leaving the city. “They won’t let any of our ambulances go to help Fallujah,” he said. ”We are out of supplies and they won’t let anyone bring us more.”
Protocol I, Art. 35: “In any armed conflict, the right of the Parties…to choose methods or means of warfare is not unlimited…It is prohibited to employ methods or means of warfare which are intended, or may be expected, to cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the environment.”
- On April 1, 2003 the residential al-Hilla outskirts of Babylon were hit with an undetermined number of BLU-97 A/B cluster bombs. Each bomb releases 202 bomblets which scatter over an area the size of two football fields, with a dud rate of 5%-7%. Immediate reports stated that at least 33 civilians died and around 300 were injured in the attack. Amnesty International condemned the attack, saying that “the use of cluster bombs in an attack on a civilian area of al-Hilla constitutes an indiscriminate attack and a grave violation of international humanitarian law."
- On March 22, 2003, reporters from CNN and the Sydney Morning Hera
ld – Melbourne Age embedded with the 1st Battalion 7th Marines at Safwan Hill near Basra reported air strikes dropping napalm.
Convention III, Art. 5: “Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy (are prisoners of war under this Convention), such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.”
- President Bush issued an order on February 7, 2002, specifying that the U.S. would not apply the Third Convention to members of Al Qaeda. That order set forth policies that led to the willful killing, torture, or inhuman treatment; and great suffering or serious injury to body or health, of prisoners in U.S. custody in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay.
Need more documentation? Try the 1996 War Crimes Act ; the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, Article VI (par. 2); or the above-mentioned treaties such as the Geneva Conventions, the Nuremberg Principles, U.N. General Assembly resolutions, and others.
Just as the news media’s fascination with Abu Ghraib was way after the fact and limited in scope, so too, is its present fascination with the Haditha killings. As they used to say during WWII, “There’s a war on, ya know!” Exactly what do Americans think happens when their nation goes to war?
Dr. Jonathan Shay, a psychologist with years of experience treating Vietnam vets with PTSD and author of the seminal Achilles in Vietnam, gave his prescription for preventing that disease and preventing the breakdown of character that would likely happen to any of us in combat. It wasn’t better training, or better diagnoses, or better drugs. He said “Abolish war.” It’s time we took his advice seriously.
Mike Ferner served as a Navy Corpsman during Vietnam and is a member of Veterans For Peace , whose slogan is “Abolish War!”