Friday, June 02, 2006

Mi Lai Moment

[Update below]

In heated and desperate war zones, atrocities rarely occur in isolation. If Vietnam demonstrated anything, it was this. US troops, increasingly frustrated by guerilla forces they could rarely pin down, began to abuse and eventually kill civilians in large numbers. The exposure of the Mi Lai massacre only led to more admissions that, indeed, US forces had routinely punished locals out of anger and frustration.

As the situation in Iraq spirals further out of control, the apparent massacre at Haditha appears to be taking on the same countenance that Mi Lai had in Vietnam; a watershed by which the environment of systemic abuse and murder of the civilian population will come to be known. For now, within days of the exposure of the Haditha atrocity, news comes that another civilian massacre may have taken place in the town of Ishaqi in March of this year. As with Haditha, and Falluja before that, the familiar pattern arises: false claims by the military that appear to be contradicted by facts on the ground. While the military claimed that the family killed inside an Ishaqi house died as a result of building collapse, video seems to argue that, in fact, the people inside the house had first been shot, executed. Local witnesses also verify this. Can we really believe that this yet another "bad apple" scenario?

Which is a question that must come to mind with the story of the Ishaqi family. So I was rather interested to come across Crossing the Line, which features a story by Dahr Jamail who reports a number of similar incidents as have been recorded by The Monitoring Net of Human Rights in Iraq (MHRI). In fact, Jamail indicates that there have been "countless My Lai massacres in Iraq," some quite recent:
  • May 5, 2006: MHRI reported that, in Samarra, "American soldiers entered the house of Mr. Zidan Khalif Al-Heed after an attack upon American soldiers was launched nearby the house. American soldiers entered this home and killed the family, including the father, mother, daughter and son. The daughter was in 6th grade, the son suffered mental and physical disabilities.
  • May 13, 2006: US forces and Iraqi National Guard attacked the Al-Latifya district south of Baghdad with helicopter gunships. Families flee their houses, only to be pursued. 25 are shot, 6 detained. The US military claims 2 insurgents were killed and 4 detained.
  • May 15, 2006: A US helicopter is downed south of Baghdad. US forces and ING attacked homes while locals fled. Indiscriminate airstrikes and snipers targeted any and all. The US military claimed only insurgents were killed: "I can confirm that there were no civilian casualties in this incident." Cmdr. Robert Mulac, military spokesman.
  • May 15, 2006: In the Yarmouk district of Baghdad, US forces raided the home of Essam Fitian al-Rawi. Al-Rawi was killed along with his son Ahmed; then the soldiers reportedly removed the two bodies along with Al-Rawi's nephew, who was detained.
This doesn't even come close to the number of executions by death squad that are taking place on a daily basis, deaths squads run under the umbrella of the Ministry of the Interior, armed and funded by the US military.

Anyone with open eyes has known that Iraq has been a disaster for sometime. The troops have known this, too, which is why this kind of military activity has been taking place. Simply put, anger is what apppears to be governing these actions. It makes no sense on any other level. The "hearts and minds" effort has largely and obviously been abandoned. No doubt there were earnest attempts initially, but as extant security conditions worsened, that allowed insurgents to actually target such efforts. The US military now seems doomed to the failed Vietnam mindset. For once a military force turns on a civilian population, the war is all but over.

Update: A US military investigation into the attack in Ishaqi has cleared US troops and claims that no misconduct was found. Though I didn't make it clear above, it wasn't just locals who witnessed this, but Iraqi police had also claimed that US troops had rounded up and shot the 11 civilians in the house.


Post a Comment

<< Home