Sunday, April 15, 2007

the deadliest weapon in the world is a marine and his rifle

News from the other war:

American marines reacted to a bomb ambush with excessive force in eastern Afghanistan last month, hitting groups of bystanders and vehicles with machine-gun fire in a series of attacks that covered 10 miles of highway and left 12 civilians dead, including an infant and three elderly men, according to a report published by an Afghan human rights commission on Saturday.

Families of the victims described in interviews this week the painful toll of the attacks, which took place on March 4 in Nangarhar Province. One victim, a 16-year-old newly married girl, was cut down while she was carrying a bundle of grass to her family’s farmhouse, according to her family and the report. A 75-year-old man walking to his shop was hit by so many bullets that his son said he did not recognize the body when he came to the scene.

In its report, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission condemned the suicide bomb attack that started the episode, striking a Marine Special Operations unit convoy and slightly wounding one American. And the report said there might also have been small arms fire directed at the convoy immediately after the blast. But it said the response was disproportionate, especially given the obviously nonmilitary nature of the marines’ targets long after the ambush.
. . .

The events have had the highest profile of a number of potential human rights violations by both sides, many by the Taliban and its allies, in the fighting in Afghanistan that were documented by the Afghan commission, which was established after the Taliban’s ouster and is partly financed by Congress. The commission’s report comes amid resurgent Taliban violence and coalition reprisals that are costing an increasing number of civilian lives and that have brought harsh criticism of international forces in the country.

The deputy director of the human rights commission, Nader Nadery, warned that attacks like the highway shooting had greatly contributed to outrage in Afghanistan, contradicting efforts by coalition forces to win people’s support away from the Taliban. “This is not an isolated case” he said. “People are realizing more that they are a victim of the conflict from both sides, from the Taliban and from the international operations.”
. . .

In other cases involving coalition troops in Afghanistan, the report detailed an airstrike in Kapisa Province in March that killed a family of nine people, including two pregnant women and four children younger than 5.
If you kill them young enough, they can’t grow up to be terrorists. Or something.
The report also criticized continuing house raids by American forces, including one on the house of one of the human rights commission’s staff members, who the report said was hooded and handcuffed to a detonator and told not to move in case it exploded.
This is one way to show so-called human rights groups who is really in charge. Maybe now they’ll think twice about releasing reports like this one.

Via IOZ, we have word of mercenaries in Iraq joining in the fun.

On the afternoon of July 8, 2006, four private security guards rolled out of Baghdad's Green Zone in an armored SUV. The team leader, Jacob C. Washbourne, rode in the front passenger seat. He seemed in a good mood. His vacation started the next day.

"I want to kill somebody today," Washbourne said, according to the three other men in the vehicle, who later recalled it as an offhand remark. Before the day was over, however, the guards had been involved in three shooting incidents. In one, Washbourne allegedly fired into the windshield of a taxi for amusement, according to interviews and statements from the three other guards.
He’s a veritable army of one.

Can’t wait ‘till he comes home. Hold on, he’s back already.
Washbourne, a 29-year-old former Marine, denied the allegations. "They're all unfounded, unbased, and they simply did not happen," he said during an interview near his home in Broken Arrow, Okla.

The full story of what happened on Baghdad's airport road that day may never be known. But a Washington Post investigation of the incidents provides a rare look inside the world of private security contractors, the hired guns who fight a parallel and largely hidden war in Iraq. The contractors face the same dangers as the military, but many come to the war for big money, and they operate outside most of the laws that govern American forces.

The U.S. military has brought charges against dozens of soldiers and Marines in Iraq, including 64 servicemen linked to murders. Not a single case has been brought against a security contractor, and confusion is widespread among contractors and the military over what laws, if any, apply to their conduct. The Pentagon estimates that at least 20,000 security contractors work in Iraq, the size of an additional division.

Private contractors were granted immunity from the Iraqi legal process in 2004 by L. Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. occupation government. More recently, the military and Congress have moved to establish guidelines for prosecuting contractors under U.S. law or the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but so far the issue remains unresolved.
IOZ clarifies for the Post’s readers:
[T]he fact that ignorant men made the decisions does not make the decisions themselves acts of ignorance. Or, as they say on the innertubes: Not a bug, but a feature. The United States didn't create a legal vacuum around two tens of thousands of heavily-armed hit men by accident, and the issues of their accountability and their culpability do not "remain unresolved" because they're "thorny" or "difficult" or "complex." How many times must we repeat ourselves: the war in Iraq was an act of aggression by the United States, an unprovoked invasion with no more moral or legal legitimacy than any conquest undertaken by Germany or the Soviet Union or Napoleonic France. We are not the good guys.
If we had a more patriotic press, we wouldn’t be plagued by these unpleasant thoughts. Thankfully, there’s a simple way to resolve any nasty cognitive dissonance—ignore it.

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