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

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Free Fire Zone Iraq (Part 1) 

From McClatchy:

This is how the residents of Haditha recall that day: U.S. Marines were apparently bent on revenge after a roadside bomb killed one of their own. They killed four unarmed men and an unarmed taxi driver. Then they threw grenades and entered two homes. In the Younes' household, they killed eight people, including two toddlers, a 5-year-old and a mother recovering from an appendectomy.

In an adjacent home, they killed seven people, including a 4-year-old and two women, according to death certificates and one of the children who survived. Across the street, residents of two houses shared by a family were pulled out. The men were separated from the women as the Marines asked them about weapons.

Family members said they had one AK-47 in each house, which Iraqi law allows. The Marines forced the women and children into one house at gunpoint, then took four brothers to a back bedroom and executed them, the family said.

Yousef Aid Ahmed was not at home when the killing occurred. He is now the sole breadwinner for his mother and extended family.

His father became ill after the shootings, and later, the family said, went blind from grief. Ailing, he lingered in a small bedroom where his sons were killed. One was gunned down to the left of the bed, a second to the right. The third man's body wound up inside a closet and the fourth was propped against the wardrobe. Despite a fresh coat of paint, the ceiling still bears grey spots where the men's blood spattered. They were all shot in the head.

The relatives seldom go into this room.

The Marines told a different story. Lt. Col. Paul J. Ware, an investigating officer with the Navy Marine Corps Trial Judiciary gave this account: Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, a Marine who acknowledged killing three of the brothers, told investigators that the four brothers were holed up in a back bedroom where the Marines later found two AK-47s. Ware wrote in the report that the evidence made the Iraqi's story implausible and their accounts were inconsistent.

The report didn't say whether there was any evidence that the AK-47s were fired. The report also implied that the family may have made up their story for the $10,000 in compensation for the deaths of civilians and that their credibility should be questioned because they were women and a teenager.

"Witness accounts are not credible," the report said about the case of one Marine accused of killing three of the brothers. "Although $10,000 does not appear to be a large amount of money...such a sum of money was equal to 4 times the average annual salary of a typical resident of Haditha. Prior to making these claims, no payments were made to the Ahmed family."

Relatives said they accepted the money after authorities told them it would help the case. Now they wish they'd never taken the cash.

"Right now I feel hatred that will not fade," said Yousef Aid Ahmed. "It grows every day."

As the McClatchy article explains, it increasingly appears that nothing will happen to the Marines that participated in the Haditha massacre. Someday, the Iraqis will liberate themselves from the predations of the occupation. One can only hope that it happens sooner rather than later.

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