Countless My Lai Massacres in Iraq
By Dahr Jamail
r u t h o u t"
-- The media feeding frenzy around
what has been referred to as "Iraq's My Lai" has become
frenetic. Focus on US Marines slaughtering at least 20 civilians
in Haditha last November is reminiscent of the media spasm
around the "scandal" of Abu Ghraib during April and May 2004.
Yet just like Abu Ghraib, while the media spotlight shines
squarely on the Haditha massacre, countless atrocities continue
daily, conveniently out of the awareness of the general public.
Torture did not stop simply because the media finally decided,
albeit in horribly belated fashion, to cover the story, and the
daily slaughter of Iraqi civilians by US forces and US-backed
Iraqi "security" forces had not stopped either.
Earlier this month, I received a news release from Iraq, which
read, "On Saturday, May 13th, 2006, at 10:00 p.m., US Forces
accompanied by the Iraqi National Guard attacked the houses of
Iraqi people in the Al-Latifya district south of Baghdad by an
intensive helicopter shelling. This led the families to flee to
the Al-Mazar and water canals to protect themselves from the
fierce shelling. Then seven helicopters landed to pursue the
families who fled … and killed them. The number of victims
amounted to more than 25 martyrs. US forces detained another six
persons including two women named Israa Ahmed Hasan and Widad
Ahmed Hasan, and a child named Huda Hitham Mohammed Hasan, whose
father was killed during the shelling."
The report from the Iraqi NGO called The Monitoring Net of Human
Rights in Iraq (MHRI) continued, "The forces didn't stop at this
limit. They held an attack on May 15th, 2006, supported also by
the Iraqi National Guards. They also attacked the families'
houses, and arrested a number of them while others fled. US
snipers then used the homes to target more Iraqis. The reason
for this crime was due to the downing of a helicopter in an area
close to where the forces held their attack."
The US military preferred to report the incident as an offensive
where they killed 41 "insurgents," a line effectively parroted
by much of the media.
On that same day, MHRI also reported that in the Yarmouk
district of Baghdad, US forces raided the home of Essam Fitian
al-Rawi. Al-Rawi was killed along with his son Ahmed; then the
soldiers reportedly removed the two bodies along with Al-Rawi's
nephew, who was detained.
Similarly, in the city of Samara on May 5, MHRI reported,
"American soldiers entered the house of Mr. Zidan Khalif Al-Heed
after an attack upon American soldiers was launched nearby the
house. American soldiers entered this home and killed the
family, including the father, mother and daughter who is in the
6th grade, along with their son, who was suffering from mental
and physical disabilities."
This same group, MHRI, also estimated that between 4,000 and
6,000 Iraqi civilians were killed during the November 2004 US
assault on Fallujah. Numbers which make those from the Haditha
massacre pale in comparison.
Instead of reporting incidents such as these, mainstream outlets
are referring to the Haditha slaughter as one of a few cases
that "present the most serious challenge to US handling of the
Iraq war since the Abu Ghraib prison scandal."
Marc Garlasco, of Human Rights Watch, told reporters recently,
"What happened at Haditha appears to be outright murder. The
Haditha massacre will go down as Iraq's My Lai."
Then there is the daily reality of sectarian and ethnic
cleansing in Iraq, which is being carried out by US-backed Iraqi
"security" forces. A recent example of this was provided by a
representative of the Voice of Freedom Association for Human
Rights, another Iraqi NGO which logs ongoing atrocities
resulting from the US occupation.
"The representative … visited Fursan Village (Bani Zaid) with
the Iraqi Red Crescent Al-Madayin Branch. The village of 60
houses, inhabited by Sunni families, was attacked on February
27, 2006, by groups of men wearing black clothes and driving
cars from the Ministry of Interior. Most of the villagers
escaped, but eight were caught and immediately executed. One of
them was the Imam of the village mosque, Abu Aisha, and another
was a 10-year-old boy, Adnan Madab. They were executed inside
the room where they were hiding. Many animals (sheep, cows and
dogs) were shot by the armed men also. The village mosque and
most of the houses were destroyed and burnt."
The representative had obtained the information when four men
who had fled the scene of the massacre returned to provide the
details. The other survivors had all left to seek refuge in
Baghdad. "The survivors who returned to give the details guided
the representative and the Red Crescent personnel to where the
bodies had been buried. They [the bodies] were of men, women and
one of the village babies."
The director of MHRI, Muhamad T. Al-Deraji, said of this
incident, "This situation is a simple part of a larger problem
that is orchestrated by the government … the delay in protecting
more villagers from this will only increase the number of
Arun Gupta, an investigative journalist and editor with the New
York Indypendent newspaper of the New York Independent Media
Center, has written extensively about US-backed militias and
death squads in Iraq. He is also the former editor at the
Guardian weekly in New York and writes frequently for Z Magazine
and Left Turn.
"The fact is, while I think the militias have, to a degree,
spiraled out of US control, it's the US who trains, arms, funds,
and supplies all the police and military forces, and gives them
critical logistical support," he told me this week. "For
instance, there were reports at the beginning of the year that a
US army unit caught a "death squad" operating inside the Iraqi
Highway Patrol. There were the usual claims that the US has
nothing to do with them. It's all a big lie. The American
reporters are lazy. If they did just a little digging, there is
loads of material out there showing how the US set up the
highway patrol, established a special training academy just for
them, equipped them, armed them, built all their bases, etc.
It's all in government documents, so it's irrefutable. But then
they tell the media we have nothing to do with them and they
don't even fact check it. In any case, I think the story is
significant only insofar as it shows how the US tries to cover
up its involvement."
Once again, like Abu Ghraib, a few US soldiers are being
investigated about what occurred in Haditha. The "few bad
apples" scenario is being repeated in order to obscure the fact
that Iraqis are being slaughtered every single day. The "shoot
first ask questions later" policy, which has been in effect from
nearly the beginning in Iraq, creates trigger-happy American
soldiers and US-backed Iraqi death squads who have no respect
for the lives of the Iraqi people. Yet, rather than high-ranking
members of the Bush administration who give the orders,
including Bush himself, being tried for the war crimes they are
most certainly guilty of, we have the ceremonial "public
hanging" of a few lowly soldiers for their crimes committed on
In an interview with CNN on May 29th concerning the Haditha
massacre, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter
Pace commented, "It's going to be a couple more weeks before
those investigations are complete, and we should not prejudge
the outcome. But we should, in fact, as leaders take on the
responsibility to get out and talk to our troops and make sure
that they understand that what 99.9 percent of them are doing,
which is fighting with honor and courage, is exactly what we
expect of them."
This is the same Peter Pace who when asked how things were going
in Iraq by Tim Russert on Meet the Press this past March 5th
said, "I'd say they're going well. I wouldn't put a great big
smiley face on it, but I would say they're going very, very well
from everything you look at …"
Things are not "going very, very well" in Iraq. There have been
countless My Lai massacres, and we cannot blame 0.1% of the
soldiers on the ground in Iraq for killing as many as a quarter
of a million Iraqis, when it is the policies of the Bush
administration that generated the failed occupation to begin
Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who spent over 8 months
reporting from occupied Iraq. He presented evidence of US war
crimes in Iraq at the International Commission of Inquiry on
Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in
New York City in January 2006. He writes regularly for TruthOut,
Inter Press Service, Asia Times and TomDispatch, and maintains
his own web site, dahrjamailiraq.com.
Click on "comments" below to read or post comments -
Click Here For Comment Policy