News Release

Soldiers Reveal Disturbing Patterns


In this week’s issue of The Nation, an article details interviews with fifty U.S. combat veterans. According to The Nation: “It is time to reckon with the weight of evidence that American forces regularly kill Iraqi noncombatants. Occupying armies with little knowledge of the local culture, fighting guerrillas who mingle among the population, have usually meant disaster for civilians. In Iraq, the impossible mission, poor training and inconsistent and irresponsible rules of engagement have compounded the problem, leading many American soldiers to conclude that endangering civilians is simply the cost of staying safe; to consider all Iraqis the enemy; or, under extreme stress, to lash out in revenge after insurgent attacks.”

Chris Hedges was a foreign correspondent for nearly 20 years. He worked as the bureau chief in the Middle East and the Balkans, as well as in other assignments, for the New York Times from 1990 to 2005. He won the 2002 Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism. Laila Al-Arian is a freelance journalist based in New York City.

In the article, Hedges and Al-Arian write: “These combat veterans, some of whom bear deep emotional and physical scars, and many of whom have come to oppose the occupation, gave vivid, on-the-record accounts. They described a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts. Their stories, recorded and typed into thousands of pages of transcripts, reveal disturbing patterns of behavior by American troops in Iraq. Dozens of those interviewed witnessed Iraqi civilians, including children, dying from American firepower. Some participated in such killings; others treated or investigated civilian casualties after the fact. The soldiers, sailors and marines emphasized that not all troops took part in indiscriminate killings. … But they nevertheless described such acts as common and said they often go unreported — and almost always go unpunished.”

Hedges and Al-Arian continued: “Human rights groups have issued reports, such as Human Rights Watch’s ‘Hearts and Minds: Post-war Civilian Deaths in Baghdad Caused by U.S. Forces,’ packed with detailed incidents that suggest that the killing of Iraqi civilians by occupation forces is more common than has been acknowledged by military authorities. While some veterans said civilian shootings were routinely investigated by the military, many more said such inquiries were rare. ‘I mean, you physically could not do an investigation every time a civilian was wounded or killed because it just happens a lot and you’d spend all your time doing that,’ said Marine Reserve Lieut. Jonathan Morgenstein, 35, of Arlington, Virginia.”

Hedges and Al-Arian added: “Much of the resentment toward Iraqis described to The Nation by veterans was confirmed in a report released May 4 by the Pentagon. According to the survey, conducted by the Office of the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army Medical Command, just 47 percent of soldiers and 38 percent of marines agreed that civilians should be treated with dignity and respect. Only 55 percent of soldiers and 40 percent of marines said they would report a unit member who had killed or injured ‘an innocent noncombatant.’ … Several interviewees said that, on occasion, these killings were justified by framing innocents as terrorists, typically following incidents when American troops fired on crowds of unarmed Iraqis. The troops would detain those who survived, accusing them of being insurgents, and plant AK-47s next to the bodies of those they had killed to make it seem as if the civilian dead were combatants.”

For a recent example, see the Associated Press story reporting: “[S]even Marines and a Navy corpsman went out late one night to find and kill a suspected insurgent in the village of Hamandiya near the Abu Ghraib prison. Unable to find him, the Marines and corpsman dragged another man from his house, fatally shot him, and then planted an AK-47 assault rifle near the body to make it appear he had been killed in a shootout, according to court testimony. … Thomas, 25, from St. Louis, pleaded guilty but withdrew his plea and is the first defendant to go to court-martial. … Lopezromo, who was not part of the squad on its late-night mission, said he saw nothing wrong with what Thomas did. ‘I don’t see it as an execution, sir,’ he told the judge. ‘I see it as killing the enemy.’ He said Marines consider all Iraqi men part of the insurgency.”
More Information

For more information the Institute for Public Accuracy at (202) 347-0020 or David Zupan at (541) 484-9167