Monday, May 29, 2006

Iraq, Afghanistan on Memorial Day

Of all days, this is the one to seek out the best from our bravest in Iraq and Afghanistan. CENTCOM reports that women are gaining prominence in the Afghan National Police. CNN has a special report on troops returning home. I will write more on this day in a little while, but the latest from Iraq -- in particular -- remains troubling. Also, a combative riot in Afghanistan needs to be mentioned. CNN reports 46 deaths from attacks today in Iraq.

The latest from Iraq

The AP:
BAGHDAD -- A tribal chief who challenged Iraq's most feared terrorist and sent fighters to help US troops battle Al Qaeda in western Iraq died in a hail of bullets yesterday, the latest victim of an apparent insurgent campaign against Sunni Arabs who work with Americans.
The San Francisco Chronicle:
It is hard to tell how many Iraqis have left their homes in the past three months, during which sectarian killings have reached new heights. Iraqi immigration officials estimate that between 90,000 and 100,000 families have been displaced, most of them since the Feb. 22 bombing of the Shiite Askariya shrine in Samarra, an event that set off the latest wave of violence.

In interviews with The Chronicle, dozens of Baghdad residents told stories of their neighbors, Sunnis and Shiites alike, leaving their homes to flee attacks by sectarian militias.
Azzaman:
But the local security forces have become inept in the face of the growing influence of militias.

Analysts believe that conditions are now as worse in Basra as any other city within the so-called Sunni Triangle, the stronghold of anti-U.S. resistance.

The analysts say the situation is worsening in much of the south but Basra is the key to the stability of the region and the country at large.

Iraq’s most prolific oil wells are situated within the provincial borders. These wells currently produce most of Iraq’s oil output and make the bulk of its oil exports.

Iraq’s wrangling factions, aware of Basra’s strategic position as the country’s principal oil producer, have built up strong militia forces and infiltrated government and police ranks in the city.
Bloody Haditha

The actions one day in that Sunni city are a developing albatros for American forces in Iraq.

The Los Angeles Times has an American Marine's account:
He said he erased the digital photos he took at the scene after first providing them to the Haditha Marine command center. He said Navy investigators later interrogated him about the pictures and confiscated his camera.

At least two military investigations are underway into the incident at Haditha, which is emerging as possibly the worst case of alleged criminal misconduct by U.S. forces in the 3-year-old Iraq war.

Of the 12 Marines being investigated, three or four are thought to have done the killing, according to officials briefed on the investigation. The others are being investigated for failing to stop the killings or for not reporting the incident truthfully.

Briones is the first of his unit to speak publicly about the events. His account provides background on the atmosphere and activities that day in the Euphrates River town and the traumatic memories it left in its wake.
The New York Times interviews residents of Haditha:
Four people who identified themselves as survivors of the killings in Haditha, including some who had never spoken publicly, described the killings to an Iraqi writer and historian who was recruited by The New York Times to travel to Haditha and interview survivors and witnesses of what military officials have said appear to be unjustified killings of two dozen Iraqis by marines. Some in Congress fear the killings could do greater harm to the image of the United States military around the world than the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

The four survivors' accounts could not be independently corroborated, and it was unclear in some cases whether they actually saw the killings. But much of what they said was consistent with broad outlines of the events of that day provided by military and government officials who have been briefed on the military's investigations into the killings, which the officials have said are likely to lead to charges that may include murder and a cover-up of what really happened.
As has the Times of London:
GRAPHIC accounts of the apparent slaughter of unarmed civilians have been obtained by The Times as Washington braces itself for the results of an investigation into what threatens to be the most damaging military scandal in Iraq.

On Saturday Iman Hassan, a 10-year-old Iraqi girl, told The Times how she had watched US marines kill her mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, four-year-old cousin and two uncles.
Jack Murtha has responded forcefully, the Boston Globe:
Representative John P. Murtha, Democrat of Pennsylvania, said that Marine commanders knew within days of the deaths in the Iraqi city of Haditha in November that initial military reports suggesting the civilians died in an explosion triggered by insurgents were false, but that the officers did not alert Congress or the public.

A spokesman for the Marine Corps, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Fazekas, said yesterday that until investigations were complete, the Marines would not comment on the deaths or respond to Murtha's allegations of a coverup.

Military investigators have privately told members of Congress that the Marines shot the civilians, including six children, ``in cold blood," Murtha said, in apparent retaliation for an insurgent attack that killed a Marine.
It is a somber day for all countries involved in these wars.

4 Comments:

Blogger polarbear said...

Folks, we should not be surprised by this incident. We are involved in a war and specifically, a counterinsurgency war that, by its nature, is fought in and among the civilian population. Counter-insurgency battles tend to be decentralized with small units operating on their own, fighting against an enemy that seeks concealment within the population. The stress and challenges for small unit leaders is enormous. Squad leaders are called upon to make decisions that most Americans, comfortable on their TV couch or peering into internet computer screens, sipping lattes, can not comprehend and should not judge without all the facts. In combat, small unit leaders must make frequent risk filled; split second; friend or foe decisions. I am betting that the intent of the Marines involved in the Haditha incident was not to murder but to destroy a perceived foe. Mistakes in combat happen and bad mistakes are punished. Historically, counter-insurgencies last from ten to twelve years. Folks, we are three years into that process and over the next seven to nine years, this is going to happen again. As citizens of a country that has sent service men to fight this war, let us not make the same mistake as the Viet Nam War, where we used service men and women; our own sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and neighbors as political sacrificial pawns to gain momentum for an antiwar movement.
Former Commanding Officer (1981-1982): Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion 1st Marine Regiment

1:03 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

I appreciate your service to our country and your comments. I agree with most of what you have to say with the following exceptions:

Reports are that Haditha involved the death of a three-year-old. Moreover, General Pace yesterday said the reports are not likely to make anyone proud.

However, the stress levels for those small units are extreme. That must be taken into account.

Second, we are not properly executing this war at present. Do you believe we have enough troops in Ramadi? Either fight to win or go home.

1:28 PM  
Blogger mesotron said...

I am not surprised at all. In the 1960s an American soldier killed his wife at home in Mannheim (Germany), was accused for murder and left court as a free man.
The jury found him not guilty, because "he acted under extreme pressure" and he was trained to be a "killing machine".
These things happen from time to time. Soldiers kill civilians by accident and because they are trained to take away lifes.
I see that the United States has vital interests in the Iraqi region. Therefore a war was waged against some kind or army first, but then the enemy turned to be invisible. Who is the enemy now?
After years of occupation of Iraq the situation has worsened. There is an enormous crime rate throughout the country, human rights are disobeyed on a regular basis and no improvement of this chaotic situation is in sight.
Though it is high time to restore peace, there will be no antiwar movement any more today. Nowerdays other countries like China or Russia will take this opportunity to compromise human rights standards, while the US has no authroity in this issue any more. I am not surprised at all. I am sad.

4:27 AM  
Blogger mesotron said...

I am not surprised at all. In the 1960s an American soldier killed his wife at home in Mannheim (Germany), was accused for murder and left court as a free man.
The jury found him not guilty, because "he acted under extreme pressure" and he was trained to be a "killing machine".
These things happen from time to time. Soldiers kill civilians by accident and because they are trained to take away lifes.
I see that the United States has vital interests in the Iraqi region. The USA therefore waged a war against an invisible enemy - not an army.
After years of occupation of Iraq the situation has worsened. There is an enormous crime rate throughout the country, human rights are disobeyed on a regular basis and no improvement of this chaotic situation is in sight.
Though it is high time to restore peace, there will be no antiwar movement any more. These things were in the past. Nowerdays other countries like China or Russia will take this opportunity to compromise human rights standards, while the US has no authroity in this issue any more. I am not surprised at all. I am sad.

4:29 AM  

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