Smeared With Shit; Kicked to Death

The stories of official torture and murder by US troops in Iraq continue to dribble out. Many of the worst incidents are old news, ignored for months by a sonambulant press corps.

The most sadistic case to come across our desk involves two US Marines now undergoing court-martial proceedings stemming from the death of an Iraqi citizen called Mr. Hatab. The killing took place last year at Camp Whitehorse outside Nasyriya.

Hatab was detained by a Marine patrol on June 5, 2003. The Marines were pparently enraged by the fact that Hatab was discovered carrying a rifle from the 507th, the division of famed damsel in distress Jessica Lynch, which had been ambushed early in the war. Two Marine Lance Corporals covered the the civilian with feces, stomped on him, kicked him, dragged him, and finally broke his neck, resulting in his death.

The Marine Major who ordered the abuse faces military trial for dereliction of duty and assault. The Marine reservist who killed Hatab has already been cleared of wrongdoing by a military tribunal. One other Lance Corporal, a federal corrections officer in the US, is charged with kicking Mr. Hatab.

The defense team for the two Marines contends that they are lowly reservists and had no formal training in techniques of interrogation and detention–a legal stretch at least for the federal prison guard.

The defense lawyers also claim that military intelligence officers ordered Hatab be “softened up” for future questioning, a rationale that will likely be deployed in the Abu Ghraib proceedings. Of course, it’s unclear how a dead man can provide any kind of useful information.

This one was for you, Jessica.

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3