IRAQ: US troops regularly kill civilians, says PM

Issue 

Doug Lorimer

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al Maliki, whose government is completely dependent for its survival on the 133,000 US troops occupying his country, lashed out at the US military on June 2, denouncing what he characterised as habitual attacks by US troops on Iraqi civilians. Maliki said violence by US soldiers against civilians had become a "regular occurrence", adding: "They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion."

Maliki made his remarks a day after US troops in the city of Samarra, 95 kilometres north of Baghdad, shot and killed two Iraqi women, one of whom was in labour and was being driven by the other to hospital, after their car did not heed what the US military claimed were repeated warnings to stop.

The June 2 New York Times reported: "The denunciation was an unusual declaration for a government that remains desperately dependent on American forces ... It was also a sign of the growing pressure on Maliki, whose governing coalition includes Sunni Arabs who were enraged by news of the killings in Haditha, a city deep in Sunni-dominated Anbar province ...

"[US] Military and Congressional officials have said they believe that an investigation into the deaths of two dozen Iraqis in Haditha on Nov. 19 will show that a group of marines shot and killed civilians without justification or provocation. Survivors in Haditha say the troops shot men, women and children in the head and chest at close range."

Having ignored survivors' complaints for more than six months, leading officials in the Iraqi government announced on June 2 that they would launch their own inquiry into the Haditha massacre.

The US Naval Criminal Investigative Service began an investigation into the Haditha killings after an investigation by Time magazine, the results of which were published in March, revealed evidence discrediting the original marine command version of what had happened.

The June 2 NYT reported: "Marine commanders in Iraq learned within two days of the killings in Haditha last November that Iraqi civilians had died from gunfire, not a roadside bomb as initially reported, but the officers involved saw no reason to investigate further, according to a senior Marine officer.

"The commanders have told investigators they had not viewed as unusual, in a combat environment, the discrepancies that emerged almost immediately in accounts about how the two dozen Iraqis died, and that they had no information at the time suggesting that any civilians had been killed deliberately."

A senior marine general familiar with the investigation being led by US Army General Eldon Bargewell into whether there was a cover-up of the Haditha massacre, told the NYT that "it was impossible to believe" that senior marine commanders in Iraq were ignorant of what really happened in Haditha. "You'd have to know this thing stunk", he said.

While the US corporate media has gone into a frenzy over the Haditha massacre, countless other massacres of Iraqis continue to be ignored.

Independent US journalist Dahr Jamail, in a May 30 article posted on the Truthout website, wrote that earlier that month he had received a report from the Iraqi NGO Monitoring Net of Human Rights in Iraq (MHRI) that stated: "On Saturday, May 13, 2006, at 10:00 pm, US forces accompanied by the Iraqi National Guard attacked the houses of Iraqi people in the Latifya district south of Baghdad by an intensive helicopter shelling. This led the families to flee to the Mazar and water canals to protect themselves from the fierce shelling. Then seven helicopters landed to pursue the families who fled ... and killed them. The number of victims amounted to more than 25 martyrs ...

"The forces didn't stop at this limit. They held an attack on May 15, 2006, supported also by the Iraqi National Guards. They also attacked the families' houses, and arrested a number of them while others fled. US snipers then used the homes to target more Iraqis. The reason for this crime was due to the downing of a helicopter in an area close to where the forces held their attack."

The US military, Jamail added, "preferred to report the incident as an offensive where they killed 41 'insurgents', a line effectively parroted by much of the media".

Jamail went on to note that the MHRI "also estimated that between 4000 and 6000 Iraqi civilians were killed during the November 2004 US assault on Fallujah. Numbers which make those from the Haditha massacre pale in comparison."

On May 29, Baghdad's Shaqiyah TV station reported from Ramadi, west of the Iraqi capital, that "US forces killed five civilians and wounded two others in the city today. A source at the Ramadi state hospital said that among the dead were a child and a woman. An Iraqi officer in Ramadi said that the US forces were beefing up their presence on the periphery of Ramadi, noting that the city will soon come under siege 'ahead of an all-out attack such as the one that targeted Fallujah' in 2004."

The June 2 US Army Times reported that "though not powerful enough to overrun US positions, insurgents in the city of 400,000 people have fought US and [puppet] Iraqi forces to a virtual stalemate".

Associated Press reported on June 6 that "US led forces fired artillery at the train station in the western city of Ramadi, in volatile Anbar province, 'targeting four military-aged males unloading a weapons cache', according to the US-Iraqi Joint Operations Center". AP reported that a local hospital official said that five civilians were killed and 15 wounded by the artillery attack.

From Green Left Weekly, June 14, 2006.
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