It is depressingly predictable how “worked up” the Pentagon brass gets about an atrocity committed in gross violation of the Geneva Conventions when the crime is captured on film, as happened during this recent Fallujah action in the case of an NBC pool cameraman showing the execution by a US Marine of a wounded Iraqi captive, and the apparent execution of several other wounded captives later on.
But does anyone seriously believe that this particularly ugly atrocity is the only one that occurred during the assault?
The casual way it was done, in front of the embedded cameraman, makes it clear that quite to the contrary, this must be standard operating procedure for the American soldiers, who weren’t even worried about about the possible consequences of their being photographed. (Remember, the executioner was not alone, and none of his colleagues tried to stop him.)
How surprised should we be at this bloodthirsty and criminal behavior? The goal of the assault on Fallujah was not the capture of a city-the normal situation in a war. It was the killing of all the insurgents who were in the city.
Consider this. The approach taken to this assault was first to ring the city with a cordon of over 10,000 heavily armed troops, supported by virtually the entire fleet of U.S. warplanes in the Iraq theater-F-15s, F-18s, A-10 Warthogs and helicopter and fixed-wing gunships. Women and children were allowed to leave the doomed city, but all males “of fighting age” were turned back if they tried to leave.
You have to ask: turned back for what purpose?
If the goal was to capture potential guerrillas, here were the men and boys trying to leave, offering themselves up to be arrested, investigated, interrogated and even held in detention. But instead of this, they were turned back to face the coming attack (this action in itself was a major violation of the Geneva Conventions, which require armies to allow non-combatants to leave the scene of fighting). If they were really fighters, did it make sense to send them back into Fallujah where they could pick up weapons and possibly kill U.S. soldiers? If the goal was to capture insurgents, then these unfortunates would simply have to be captured later, accomplishing the same thing, but under much more dangerous circumstances for both them and for their U.S. attackers.
Clearly the real goal all along was something else: to kill them all-insurgents, potential insurgents, and any other “fighting age” males (that included little boys as young as 15!) unlucky enough to be residents of Fallujah.
That such horrors are going on in our name should be no surprise. This war was never about “liberation.” It is about conquest.
That so little is being said about it here in the U.S. is a crime.
“Support the troops” we are told.
But we cannot do that, if the troops are engaged in criminal behavior.
Surely no American would wish harm to the many thousands of good men and women, boys and girls who have been snatched away from their families and their lives to fight Bush’s war in Iraq. We want them all home safe, immediately. But no one should be blindly adopting a slogan that implies supporting what the troops are doing in Iraq, which we know includes atrocities worthy of the German SS.
It should be clear to any thinking person that the U.S. cannot win in Iraq. Unable to defeat the insurgency in there, the U.S. has turned to terror and to military tactics–the executing of wounded and captured fighters, the turning back of refugees, the denial of water and food to people in Fallujah, the barring of ambulances and medics from the scene of battle, the deliberate destruction of medical facilities and the capture and closure of hospitals–that are on their face war crimes. Yet in adopting such tactics, the U.S. is ensuring that it cannot win either. The criminal behavior of American troops in Fallujah, so reminiscent of the behavior of Serbian troops in Bosnia, now broadcast over all of the Middle East, merely encourages more Arab and Iraqi fighters to enlist in the growing anti-American jihad.
And let’s face it, the confining of fleeing, unarmed males to Fallujah on the eve of the assault of that city, and the return of fleeing unarmed men and boys during the heat of battle (reporrted widely in the U.S. media), is no different than the herding up and execution of adult males in Sbrynica by Serb militia. The Serb war criminals, who had no air force, had to kill their victims by small arms fire. All the U.S. war criminals (and here I’m referring to the colonels and generals and Defense Department officials who set the policy on refugees) have had to do is force them to stay trapped in the killing zone.
If you want to support the troops, bring them home.
Nothing else is going to save them, either from the enemy, or from the criminal policies of their own leadership.
Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” to be published this fall by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org