News Release

U.S. Troops and Iraqi Civilians


Last week, McClatchy newspapers reported that, according to the U.S. military’s own statistics, “U.S. soldiers have killed or wounded 429 Iraqi civilians at checkpoints or near patrols and convoys during the past year. … The statistics don’t include instances of American soldiers killing civilians during raids, arrests or in the midst of battle with armed groups, and it remains unclear how the U.S. military tracks such information.”

Mejia is an Iraq combat veteran who served a year in a U.S. military prison for refusing to return to the war in Iraq. He is the author of Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia. He was one of the 50 veterans interviewed for the forthcoming book Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Civilians. Months before the appearance of the Abu Graib photos, Mejia complained to his superiors about treatment of detainees. Explaining his decision not to return to Iraq, Mejia said: “People would ask me about my war experiences and answering them took me back to all the horrors — the firefights, the ambushes, the time I saw a young Iraqi dragged by his shoulders through a pool of his own blood or an innocent man was decapitated by our machine gun fire. The time I saw a soldier broken down inside because he killed a child, or an old man on his knees, crying with his arms raised to the sky, perhaps asking God why we had taken the lifeless body of his son.”
More Information

Kevin Benderman was imprisoned for 14 months after trying to apply for conscientious objector status. His book Letters from Ft. Lewis Brig, co-authored with his wife, Monica Benderman, is forthcoming. Monica Benderman said: “[Last week] a Marine — not only convicted of conspiring to commit kidnapping, larceny, and making false statements but [also] the murder of an innocent Iraqi man — was given his sentence. He is to receive a reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge.”

Monica Benderman added: “It is now considered ‘bad conduct’ to murder an unarmed man, knowingly return to the scene to fabricate the appearance of self-defense and hide the facts after the fact.”

She continued: “In 2004 my husband, a 10-year U.S. Army veteran, made a conscious decision to no longer participate in war — he spoke openly of the bad conduct of his commanders in giving orders to soldiers in his unit which not only jeopardized the lives of innocent Iraqis, and children, but also those of the soldiers he served with. For his decision … he was found guilty of missing movement or not getting on a plane and was sentenced to 15 months in prison, loss of all pay, reduction in rank and a dishonorable discharge.”

The Los Angeles Times reports: “A military jury handed a bad-conduct discharge without a prison sentence to a Marine corporal convicted of kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder in the execution of an unarmed Iraqi in Hamandiya last year. … [The Marine] had pleaded guilty in January and accepted a 12-year sentence as part of a plea bargain but then changed his mind and requested a trial. The jury convicted Thomas on Wednesday in the slaying of the middle-aged Iraqi man, who was dragged from his home, marched 1,000 yards and shot 11 times.”
More Information
More Information

Jamail has done extensive reporting from war-torn Iraq, including interviews with Iraqis about the conduct of U.S. troops.
More Information

In August of 2006, the Washington Post reported: “Though experts estimate that thousands of Iraqi civilians have died at the hands of U.S. forces, only 39 service members were formally accused in connection with the deaths of 20 Iraqis from 2003 to early this year. Twenty-six of the 39 troops were initially charged with murder, negligent homicide or manslaughter; 12 of them ultimately served prison time for any offense.”

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