Sunday, June 25, 2006

Finding answers from Uncle Sam

The Haditha killings (also called the Haditha massacre or the Haditha incident) were an incident that occurred on November 19, 2005 in the town of Haditha, Iraq. A convoy of United States Marines was attacked with an improvised explosive device which killed Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas. Up to twenty-four Iraqis were subsequently killed; it is alleged that they were non-combatant local residents who were massacred by Marines in the aftermath of the insurgent attack. A Marine Corps communique initially reported that 15 civilians were killed by the bomb's blast and eight insurgents were subsequently killed when the Marines returned fire against those attacking the convoy. However, media reports contradicted this story.The evidence uncovered by the media prompted the US military to open an investigation into the incident, with charges reported to be delivered in due course. Video shot by Iraqi journalist and human-rights worker Taher Thabet and cellphone photos reportedly taken by one of the Marines the day after the killings have been put forth as evidence that the killings were methodical and without resistance.The term "execution-style" has been used by US military officials to describe the killings. The intentional killing of civilians, or indeed of any unarmed people, is prohibited by modern laws of war derived from the UN Charter, the Hague Conventions and the Geneva Conventions, and constitutes a war crime. The Marines and officers are expected to face courts martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is U.S. military law. Due to a Status of Forces Agreement with the Government of Iraq, the troops will not be subject to Iraqi law.
Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse
Beginning in 2003, numerous accounts of abuse and torture of prisoners held in the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq (also known as Baghdad Correctional Facility) occurred. The acts were committed by personnel of the 372nd Military Police Company, CIA officers, and contractors involved in the occupation of Iraq. An internal investigation by the United States Army commenced in January 2004, and reports of the abuse, as well as graphic pictures showing American military personnel in the act of abusing prisoners, came to public attention in April 2004, when a 60 Minutes news report (April 28) and an article by Seymour M. Hersh in The New Yorker magazine (posted online on April 30 and published days later in the May 10 issue) reported the story.The resulting political scandal damaged the credibility and public image of the United States and its allies in the prosecution of ongoing military operations in the Iraq War, and some critics of U.S. foreign policy argued that it was representative of a broader American attitude and policy of disrespect and violence toward Arabs. The U.S. Administration and its defenders argued that the abuses were isolated acts committed by low-ranking personnel, while critics claimed that authorities either ordered or implicitly condoned the abuses and demanded the resignation of senior Bush administration officials. The U.S. Department of Defense removed seventeen soldiers and officers from duty, and seven soldiers were charged with dereliction of duty, maltreatment, aggravated assault, and battery. Between May 2004 and September 2005, seven soldiers were convicted in courts martial, sentenced to federal prison time, and dishonorably discharged from service. Two soldiers, Specialist Charles Graner, and his former fiancée, Pvt. Lynndie England, were sentenced to ten years and three years in prison, respectively, in trials ending on January 14, 2005 and September 26, 2005. The commanding officer at the prison, Brig. General Janis Karpinski, was demoted to the rank of colonel on May 5, 2005. The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib was in part the reason that on April 12, 2006, the United States Army activated the 201st Military Intelligence Battalion, the first of four joint interrogation battalions.

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