Friday, April 09, 2010

Controversial Wikileaks video spurs troop testimonials about war crimes ordered by upper echelons of government

Iraq War Vet: "We Were Told to Just Shoot People, and the Officers Would Take Care of Us"
(t r u t h o u t) -- by: Dahr Jamail --

On Monday, April 5, Wikileaks.org posted video footage from Iraq, taken from a US military Apache helicopter in July 2007 as soldiers aboard it killed 12 people and wounded two children. The dead included two employees of the Reuters news agency: photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh.

The US military confirmed the authenticity of the video.

The footage clearly shows an unprovoked slaughter, and is shocking to watch whilst listening to the casual conversation of the soldiers in the background.
As disturbing as the video is, this type of behavior by US soldiers in Iraq is not uncommon.

Truthout has spoken with several soldiers who shared equally horrific stories of the slaughtering of innocent Iraqis by US occupation forces.

"I remember one woman walking by," said Jason Washburn, a corporal in the US Marines who served three tours in Iraq. He told the audience at the Winter Soldier hearings that took place March 13-16, 2008, in Silver Spring, Maryland, "She was carrying a huge bag, and she looked like she was heading toward us, so we lit her up with the Mark 19, which is an automatic grenade launcher, and when the dust settled, we realized that the bag was full of groceries. She had been trying to bring us food and we blew her to pieces."

The hearings provided a platform for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan to share the reality of their occupation experiences with the media in the US.

Washburn testified on a panel that discussed the rules of engagement (ROE) in Iraq, and how lax they were, to the point of being virtually nonexistent.

"During the course of my three tours, the rules of engagement changed a lot," Washburn's testimony continued, "The higher the threat the more viciously we were permitted and expected to respond. Something else we were encouraged to do, almost with a wink and nudge, was to carry 'drop weapons', or by my third tour, 'drop shovels'. We would carry these weapons or shovels with us because if we accidentally shot a civilian, we could just toss the weapon on the body, and make them look like an insurgent."

Hart Viges, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division of the Army who served one year in Iraq, told of taking orders over the radio.

"One time they said to fire on all taxicabs because the enemy was using them for transportation.... One of the snipers replied back, 'Excuse me? Did I hear that right? Fire on all taxicabs?' The lieutenant colonel responded, 'You heard me, trooper, fire on all taxicabs.' After that, the town lit up, with all the units firing on cars. This was my first experience with war, and that kind of set the tone for the rest of the deployment."

Vincent Emanuele, a Marine rifleman who spent a year in the al-Qaim area of Iraq near the Syrian border, told of emptying magazines of bullets into the city without identifying targets, running over corpses with Humvees and stopping to take "trophy" photos of bodies.

"An act that took place quite often in Iraq was taking pot shots at cars that drove by," he said, "This was not an isolated incident, and it took place for most of our eight-month deployment."

Kelly Dougherty - then executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War - blamed the behavior of soldiers in Iraq on policies of the US government...MORE...LINK

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