You are herecontent / HOLDING PETRAEUS ACCOUNTABLE
HOLDING PETRAEUS ACCOUNTABLE
Preface to U.S. War Crimes in Iraq 2007-2008 – Update
Available at www.consumersforpeace.org
In Iraq we are witnessing U.S. military commanders and their civilian leaders desperately attempting to maintain an occupation with an overstretched, emotionally exhausted military by using strategies and tactics that substitute massive firepower for troops on the ground. We are also witnessing wholesale detention of Iraqis by the US forces, a well-worn colonial strategy. And we are witnessing what can only be described as the US-orchestrated destitution of the Iraqi people, another colonial method of conquest.
These strategies are all violations of long-established rules of the laws and customs of war, also referred to as humanitarian law. What we are witnessing is no less than the United States forces committing war crimes on a daily, wholesale basis for no discernible reason except to perhaps to maintain a perception of US dominance in the Middle East.
General David Petraeus, commander of the Multinational Forces, is the latest of the United States military leaders in Iraq to adopt strategies and tactics that seriously violate humanitarian law and that are, accordingly, war crimes. He and his predecessors have acted outside the law with no accountability.
When General Petraeus testified before Congress in September 2007, the hearings were distinguished by the fact that he was not asked a single question in either the House or the Senate about the impact of U.S. military actions and administrative policies on the Iraqi people. He was not asked a single question about the rules of war and possible war crimes -- either those ordered from the top of the chain of command or those that have occurred within the ranks because of their commanders’ willingness to flout international law.
This was particularly troubling because there are numerous reports, including those issued by ConsumersforPeace.org,1 outlining specific violations of international law in Iraq by U.S. forces from the invasion to the present.
The evidence in these reports was dramatically substantiated in March 2008 by the Winter Soldier hearings organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, which presented war crimes testimony by soldiers who fought in Iraq. The war crimes described related in many cases to “rules of engagement” that are supposed to govern when weapons are used and what kinds of weapons are used. The soldiers testified that rules of engagement are routinely ignored.
The soldiers told of incidents in which unit commanders ordered, permitted and sometimes encouraged war crimes that included: random shooting of unarmed, obviously innocent civilians; excessive use of firepower leading to countless civilian deaths and injuries; firing on Iraqis based on profiling (including “shoot anyone on the street” and “shoot anyone driving a taxi”); concealment of unauthorized killing of civilians; baseless detention; and widespread beating of civilians.
It was completely clear in the testimony that massive use of firepower of all kinds made it totally impossible to determine how many civilians were killed or wounded in many incidents. In some cases people were literally blown to bits because of the size of weapons used against them. Former Marine Corporal Jason Washburn told of a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher being used against a woman walking toward his unit carrying a large bag: “We lit her up.” The Mk 19 is designed for use against vehicles, armored personnel carriers and infantry formations. The bag was found to contain food she was bringing to the U.S. troops.
These hearings, which presented well-documented and clear evidence of criminal conduct towards Iraqi civilians, much of it first hand, were all but ignored by major press outlets. We wonder if any members of Congress, especially those that will be questioning General Petraeus, have taken the time to consult this valuable testimony.
Consumersforpeace.com considers it essential that when General Petraeus appears before Congress in April 2008, he be questioned, and held accountable for the violations illustrated by the WinterSoldier hearings as well as all other documented violations of international law, particularly with respect to:
(1) The use of attack helicopters and aerial bombing against individuals and buildings under circumstances where it is virtually impossible to ensure that the targets are combatants and that use of the weapons will not kill and injure civilians. The devastating explosive force of the aerial weapons almost ensures that human targets will not only be killed but in many cases will be so pulverized or incinerated as not to be able to be buried or counted.
(2) Wholesale detention of Iraqi civilians without charge, a practice that has increased in 2007 – 2008 both by United States and Iraqi forces.
(3) The continuing avoidance by the United States of its responsibilities under humanitarian law to provide for the basic human needs of the Iraqi people
This report, as well as recent reports by UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, MedAct and many non-governmental organizations provides additional documentation that can provide a basis for questioning the General Petraeus.