'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Friday, November 03, 2006

Insurgent Body Counts 

What is the criteria by which the US military determines whether it has killed Iraqi insurgents? Seymour Hersh provided some insight the other day, during an appearance at McGill University in Montreal:

During his hour-and-a-half lecture – part of the launch of an interdisciplinary media and communications studies program called Media@McGill – Hersh described video footage depicting U.S. atrocities in Iraq, which he had viewed, but not yet published a story about.

He described one video in which American soldiers massacre a group of people playing soccer.

“Three U.S. armed vehicles, eight soldiers in each, are driving through a village, passing candy out to kids,” he began. “Suddenly the first vehicle explodes, and there are soldiers screaming. Sixteen soldiers come out of the other vehicles, and they do what they’re told to do, which is look for running people.”

“Never mind that the bomb was detonated by remote control,” Hersh continued. “[The soldiers] open up fire; [the] cameras show it was a soccer game.”

“About ten minutes later, [the soldiers] begin dragging bodies together, and they drop weapons there. It was reported as 20 or 30 insurgents killed that day,” he said.

Hersh errs, however, by describing the episode as one of indiscriminate random violence. There is, in fact, a purpose to it. It inflicts collective punishment, no matter how crude and inexact, upon the populace in the vicinity of insurgent activity. It is based upon the bizarre notion that insurgent activity can be discouraged through violent retaliatory attacks upon non-combatants.

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