Thursday, February 14, 2008


Just how much more violence is it going to take in Baghdad before the Bush administration and their puppet mouthpiece, FOX NEWS, admit the "surge" is falling apart in Iraq?

Bus blast leaves 30 casualties in eastern Baghdad

Baghdad - Voices of Iraq
Thursday , 14 /02 /2008 Time 8:35:29

Baghdad, Feb 14, (VOI) - At least five persons were killed and 25 more were wounded on Thursday in a booby-trapped bus explosion in Sadr City in eastern Baghdad, a police source said.

“A small bus bomb, parked in al-Muredi popular market in Sadr City in eastern Baghdad, went off, killing five civilians and injuring 25 others,” the source told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq - (VOI).“Police cordoned off the area, while ambulances rushed the wounded to nearby hospitals,” he added.


The repeated return of U.S. troops to Iraq and Afghanistan for sometimes as many as four or five tours, plus the extension of their tours in both war zones, have had a telling affect on U.S. troops who have turned into murderers.

There are also signs the problem is only going to get worse as U.S. troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan find little relief in the way of new recruits to replace them.

Meanwhile, the "surge" appears to be imploding as more and more suicide bombers strike in Baghdad and elsewhere around Iraq.

Iraq's government is virtually worthless and many Iraqi citizens are without water and electricity.

In Afghanistan, there are signs the Taliban is growing again and there have been repeated attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The idea that the U.S. could force-feed a democracy on two Middle East countries was not only poorly thought out, but was in itself an idea that had no precedence in any part of the Middle East.

Commentary by Bill Corcoran, editor of this blog and a former reporter and columnist for 40 years for a syndicated chain of newspapers and a former member of the United States Army Combat Engineers.


By Robert Parry Created Feb 13 2008 - 9:22am

By forcing repeat combat assignments to Iraq and Afghanistan and by winking at torture and indiscriminate killings George W. Bush is degrading the reputation of the U.S. military, turning enlisted soldiers and intelligence officers into murderers and sadists.

For instance, on Feb. 10 at Camp Liberty in Iraq, Army Ranger Sgt. Evan Vela was sentenced by a U.S. military court to 10 years in prison for executing an unarmed Iraqi detainee who &ndash along with his son had stumbled into a U.S. sniper position last year.

After letting the 17-year-old son go, Vela's squad leader, Staff Sgt. Michael Hensley ordered Vela to use a 9-millimeter pistol to shoot the father, Genei Nesir Khudair al-Janabi, in the head, an order that Vela carried out.

It was murder, plain and simple, military prosecutor, Major Charles Kuhfahl, told the court.
Janabis son, Mustafa, was allowed to make a statement, explaining how his fathers death had devastated the family and how one of his four younger brothers now avoids their home because he cant stand the sight of his fathers empty room.

Please don&rsquot forget about us, Mustafa told the court.

But Vela's guilty verdict was a rare case of holding a U.S. soldier accountable in the killing or abusing of an Iraqi. Among the infrequent cases that have been brought, most end in acquittals or convictions only on minor charges.

Last November, for example, another military jury acquitted Hensley in the same murder of Janabi as well as in the killing of two other Iraqi men south of Baghdad in the early days of Bush's troop surge. That jury ruled that Hensley was following the approved "rules of engagement," though it did convict him of planting an AK-47 on one victim.

Some of Vela's military comrades complained that it was unfair to single any of them out for punishment because these killings are so common in Iraq.Vela's former platoon commander, Sgt. First Class Steven Kipling, said that if all U.S. combat soldiers in Iraq were subjected to the same scrutiny applied to Vela, we would have thousands of cases. [NYT, Feb. 11, 2008 [1]]

Indeed, the evidence does suggest that the handful of homicide cases from Iraq and Afghanistan that reach military trial represent only a small fraction of the unprovoked killings of locals at the hands of U.S. soldiers.

In another incident near the town of Iskandariya, Iraq, on April 27, 2007, Army sniper Jorge G. Sandoval, Jr. received an order from Sgt. Hensley to kill a man cutting grass with a rusty scythe because he was suspected of being an insurgent posing as a farmer.

Like Hensley, Sandoval was acquitted because the military jury accepted defense arguments that the killing was within the rules of engagement. (Sandoval was convicted of a lesser charge of planting a coil of copper wire on a slain Iraqi, and was sentenced to five months in prison.)

The Sandoval case also revealed a classified program in which the Pentagons Asymmetric Warfare Group encouraged U.S. military snipers in Iraq to drop bait such as electrical cords and ammunition and then shoot Iraqis who pick up the items. [Washington Post, Sept. 24, 2007 [7]]

The U.S. counterinsurgency and security operations in Iraq and Afghanistan also have been augmented by heavily armed mercenaries, such as the Blackwater security contractors who operate outside the law and were accused by Iraqi authorities of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in a shooting incident on Sept. 16, 2007.Though most media criticism has focused on trigger-happy Blackwater security contractors, Bush's military strategy has employed its own indiscriminate firepower from the loose rules of engagement for U.S. troops, to helicopter gun ships firing on crowds, to jet air strikes, to missiles launched from Predator drones.

For instance, the U.S. military acknowledged on Oct. 23, 2007, that an American helicopter killed 11 people, including women and children, after someone allegedly shot at the helicopter as it flew over the village of Mukaisheefa, north of Baghdad.Iraqi police and witnesses said 16 people died, apparently as some rushed to help a wounded man, the New York Times reported.

The helicopter gunners presumed the wounded man to be an insurgent and thus opened fire on the locals who came to his aid, according to witnesses.

The locals went to check if he was dead and gathered around him, said Mohanad Hamid Muhsin, a 14-year-old who was shot in the leg. But the helicopter opened fire again and killed some of the locals and wounded others.

When Iraqis carried the wounded into houses to administer first aid, the helicopter fired on the houses, killing and wounding more people, said Muhsin, who added that the dead included two of his brothers and a sister.

A local police official said the 16 dead included six women and three children, while 14 other Iraqis were wounded.

The incident followed on the heels of an Oct. 21 gun battle in which 49 people died when U.S. forces attacked alleged Shiite militiamen in Sadr City, a crowded slum in eastern Baghdad. Local authorities said the dead included innocent bystanders. [NYT, Oct. 24, 2007 [10]]

Another account of the Oct. 23 incident in the Los Angeles Times quoted residents saying the men who were killed were farmers irrigating their fields in the pre-daylight hours.

Abdul Wahab Ahmed, a neighbor, said the U.S. attack also involved jets that conducted two bombing runs. The dead included two toddlers and four teenagers, he said. [Los Angeles Times, Oct. 24, 2007 [11]]

The U.S. military said one of those killed in the Oct. 23 attack was a known member of an I.E.D. cell, referring to improvised explosive devices that Iraqi insurgents have made their weapon of choice in fighting the U.S. occupation.The American statement added that four other military-age males were killed along with five women and one child. U.S. military spokesmen often justify killings in Iraq and Afghanistan by noting that the dead are military-age males (or MAMs), slain in the vicinity of a firefight.

Vietnam EchoThe shoot-to-kill strategy toward MAMs has a resonance back to the Vietnam War when U.S. helicopter-borne troops sometimes would spot a MAM working in a rice paddy, fire a shot near him and then interpret his running as an aggressive act justifying his killing.

This technique was described approvingly by retired Gen. Colin Powell in his widely praised autobiography, My American Journey.I recall a phrase we used in the field, MAM, for military-age male, Powell wrote. If a helo spotted a peasant in black pajamas who looked remotely suspicious, a possible MAM, the pilot would circle and fire in front of him.

If he moved, his movement was judged evidence of hostile intent, and the next burst was not in front, but at him.Brutal? Maybe so. But an able battalion commander with whom I had served at Gelnhausen [West Germany], Lt. Col. Walter Pritchard, was killed by enemy sniper fire while observing MAMs from a helicopter. And Pritchard was only one of many. The kill-or-be-killed nature of combat tends to dull fine perceptions of right and wrong.

While its true that combat is brutal and judgments can be clouded by fear, the mowing down of unarmed civilians in cold blood doesn't constitute combat. Under the laws of war, it is regarded as murder and, indeed, a war crime. Neither can the combat death of a fellow soldier be cited as an excuse to murder civilians. [For more on Powells justification for war crimes, see Chapter 8 in Neck Deep [12].]

In effect, Bush's global war on terror has reestablished what looks like the Vietnam-era Operation Phoenix, a program that assassinated Vietcong cadre, including suspected communist political allies.

The troubling picture is that the U.S. chain of command, presumably up to Bush, has authorized loose rules of engagement that allow targeted killings as well as other objectionable tactics including arbitrary arrests, enhanced interrogations, kidnappings in third countries with extraordinary renditions to countries that torture, secret CIA prisons, and detentions without trial.

This anything-goes approach has been conveyed down to soldiers in the field who believe they have wide discretion to kill Iraqis and Afghanis on the slightest suspicion. With rare exceptions like the conviction of Sgt. Vela the U.S. military has become a law onto itself, an extension of President Bush's megalomania.

Click on link above to read the full story.

Posted on the blog CORKSPHERE, by Bill Corcoran, editor of the blog which brings readers the truth about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan sans the prism of spin by the Bush White House and their propaganda mouthpiece FOX NEWS.

About authorRobert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at [14]. It's also available at [15], as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'Robert Parry's web site is Consortium News [16]