Getting with murder. There’s no other way to describe the Pentagon’s announcement that it is refusing to prosecute any of the 17 U.S. soldiers who contributed to the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004. The decision is against the recommendations of the Army’s own investigators.
In one case, soldiers at a U.S. base in Al Asad admitted to assaulting an Iraqi prisoner, at one point lifting him to his feet by holding a baton to his throat. He later died from his injuries.
Army investigators recommended that 11 soldiers from the Fifth Special Forces Group and the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment face charges in that case. But the accused soldiers’ commander “decided that the soldiers were justified in using force against the Iraqi because he was being aggressive and misbehaving,” reported ABC News.
The case is not an isolated one. According to recent reports, at least 28 suspected or confirmed homicides of detainees in U.S. custody took place in Iraq and Afghanistan between August 2002 and November 2004. Yet so far, just three dozen soldiers have been charged with crimes in connection with these homicides–many of them for minor offenses.
The message is clear. Despite the rhetoric about “liberation” and “democracy,” Washington’s standard operating procedure in the “war on terror” has been the use of torture and terror against any Iraqis or Afghans identified as resisting U.S. rule.
The disclosure of the number of homicides of prisoners in U.S. custody comes at the same time as new revelations about abuse suffered by Iraqi detainees.
According to U.S. Army documents released last week, U.S. troops in Mosul tortured Iraqi prisoners–but none ever faced a court-martial over the abuse. According to the Army’s own investigation, Iraqi detainees were hit with water bottles, had sandbags placed over their heads, were forced to exercise until they collapsed and were deprived of sleep.
“The detainees would get so scared, they would piss themselves,” one soldier told an investigator. Yet the Army claims it was unable to determine which guards were at fault–so none ever were punished.
With some 70,000 Iraqis and Afghans held in detention by U.S. forces since 2001, the scale of abuse is undoubtedly greater than what is known.
Meanwhile, the military recently announced that Petty Officer 3rd Class Pablo Paredes–a war resister who refused to ship out to the Persian Gulf last year–will face a special court-martial for refusing to fight. “I’d rather do military prison time than six months of dirty work for a war that I and many others do not support,” he told the San Diego Union Tribune last year.
Like with the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, the Bush administration will blame a few “bad apples” for the torture and murder of Iraqis. But the blame for these atrocities goes to the top.
George Bush and Dick Cheney, who waged a war based on manufactured evidence of “weapons of mass destruction.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who refused to allow detainees rights under the Geneva Conventions. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who literally wrote the memo on how to get away with torture. These are the real war criminals.
NICOLE COLSON writes for the Socialist Worker.