By Felicity Arbuthnot, Global Research, Nov. 8, 2010
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the latest, vast cache of documents from Wikileaks, is that anyone was surprised at the revelations. For Iraqis, Afghans and the region, and Iraq and Afghanistan watchers across the globe, countless millions of words have been written and eye witness reports sent since day one of the highly questionable legality of the Afghan invasion the absolute illegality of that of Iraq.
Soldiers have put “trophy” photographs of the dead, mutilated, tortured on the internet. In August the BBC’s documentary: “The Wounded Platoon”, aired interviews with soldiers who admitted shooting Iraqi civilians and “keeping scores.” (1) Abu Ghraib’s particular testimony to freedom, democracy and liberation’s bounties, will likely remain the mental monument to the U.S., military in Iraq, which will ring down the generations.
Former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tareq Aziz and his colleagues await an Inquistitional, mediaeval end on a hangman’s noose, under America’s watch (with the U.K., since still in coalition.) Charges include crimes against humanity. Yet the perpetrators of nearly seven years of near indescribable crimes against humanity in Iraq – and near a decade in Afghanistan, return home to heroes’ welcomes.
Reaction in Iraq to the woeful litany of crimes documented in some 400,000 U.S., files is encapsulated by Baghdad Political Science Professor Saadi Kareem, who commented:
“Iraqis know all about the findings in these documents. The brutality of American and Iraqi forces was hidden from Americans and Europeans, but not for Iraqis … Iraqis are totally aware of what happened to them.”
President of the London-based Arab Law Association, Sabah al-Mukhtar, told Al Jazeera that:
“Frankly there is no surprise ..” The Middle East knew from day one.
The Independent’s Robert Fisk (“The Shaming of America”, 24th October 2010) commented:
“As usual, the Arabs knew. They knew all about the mass torture, the promiscuous shooting of civilians, the outrageous use of air power against family homes, the vicious American and British mercenaries, the cemeteries of the innocent dead. All of Iraq knew. Because they were the victims.”
The U.S., soldiers knew too of the illegalities they were committing, at every level. These were not aberrations that needed a crash course in international law, or the laws of war, they were crimes, which would have been just that, anywhere on earth.
Former Private Ross Caputi, formerly of the U.S., Marines, has offered testimony on some of these crimes, to the 15th Session of the Human Rights council of the U.N., (13th., September – 1st., October 2010.) He was in the second assault on Fallujah, in November 2004. The city’s residents had been ordered to leave. Seemingly about two thirds fled, allowed to take little or nothing, leaving a lot of unguarded homes. The soldiers went:
“from house to house” through the city. “… there were often possessions left behind … looting became very commonplace (of) anything that seemed valuable – silverware, teapots, knives and clothing.”
“People in my Unit were searching the pockets of the dead … for money.” The Platoon Commanders and Company Commander: ” … were aware of what was happening …”
Why Caputi stole a “black winter ski mask”, is unexplained. Daylight robbery, likely being emulated across Iraq, a country where, until the embargo’s strangulation took grip, and with it desperation, even in cities, people left their doors unlocked, when out.
Theft was seemingly a way of life for soldiers from early on, recorded in a litany of reports and numerous documents.
So far, this publication has not found records of moneys and goods being ordered returned, by senior officers. With looting and the collapse of the banks, money, by virtually all, was kept at home.
One report to the Human Rights Council is of the raid on the home of, and arrest of, Mohammed Khamis Saleh Ali al-Halbusi, in Fallujah, during the night of 2nd November 2003. Beaten in front of his family, he alleges that thirty seven thousand U.S., dollars were stolen, with a quantity of gold – an important cultural possession, passed down from generation to generation.
Caputi also recounts that during November 2004, a tactic know as “reconnaissance by fire”, was used. Areas and buildings are fired into:
“If you hear silence after your firing, then there are no people in the area or building …”
Surely dead by “reconnaissance”, is also a likely possibility? The tactic is “always indiscriminate.”
He also confirms the use of white phosphorous. (The use of depleted uranium with its residual genetic, carcinogenic and toxic implications, is now undisputed.)
Another indiscriminate tactic was using:
” … bulldozers to clear houses. If there were suspected resistance fighters in a house, we would bulldoze it, in case … I watched a battalion bulldozing an entire neighbourhood …”
Another instance involved three people in a house including:
“a young boy, roughly ten years old.” Grenades were fired in to the house until it: “collapsed on top of all three of them”, killing them. “In every instance .. (of killings) I am unaware of any action taken to report their deaths. We always just moved on.”
Thus, it seems, even the upper estimates of Iraqi deaths may well be underestimated.
Disfiguring burns, attacks and torture leading to blindness, deformities and limb loss, become a sickening norm is this town, where at least – in spite of all efforts to prevent them – such extensive records of its brutalization do exist.
Mr Caputi had considerable courage to come forward. But, it has to be asked, did he and his colleagues, rifling through family homes, momentos, most personal belongings, inheritance, helping themselves and stealing cash, question: “What are we doing? Can this be right?”
One Iraqi who “knew” only too well what happened in Fallujah, was Dr Salam Ismael. He had worked as a doctor in Fallujah during the April 2004 siege. He finally gained entry with aid in January 2005, two months after the November assault. (2) He records:
“It was the smell that first hit me, a smell that is difficult to describe, and one that will never leave me. It was the smell of death. Hundreds of corpses were decomposing in the houses, gardens and streets of Fallujah. Bodies were rotting where they had fallen, bodies of men, women and children, many half-eaten by wild dogs.
“A wave of hate had wiped out two-thirds of the town, destroying houses and mosques, schools and clinics. This was the terrible and frightening power of the US military assault. The accounts I heard over the next few days will live with me forever. You may think you know what happened in Fallujah. But the truth is worse than you could possibly have imagined.”