Friday, July 28, 2006

AlterNet: Blogs: PEEK: 'The squad leader threatened to kill anyone who talked'

AlterNet: Blogs

'The squad leader threatened to kill anyone who talked'
By Evan Derkacz
Posted on July 28, 2006, Printed on July 28, 2006

Another story of a deliberate murder and cover-up is making its way out of Iraq.

War is terrible for the human soul. It's debatable whether containment is the best strategy or whether we can annihilate war altogether, but the one thing we can agree on is that it unleashes the worst in us.

And let's be honest here...

the longer this war rages on with unclear and politically-motivated goals leading the way, the more violence we'll see on the battlefield and off. And then there's the more concrete problem of unlawful violence from commanders.

If it were soldiers from another country here in America and we'd heard stories of abuse, rape and murder, we'd lose any feelings of equivocation very, very quickly.

Here's another. With a dose of Sopranos thrown in.

Differing accounts of the killing of three Iraqi prisoners have emerged.

The mission that led to the killings started at dawn on May 9, when soldiers with the Third Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division landed in a remote area near a former chemical plant not far from Samarra, according to legal documents and lawyers for the accused soldiers. It was the site of a suspected insurgent training camp and was considered extremely dangerous.

From there, according to a Sergeant Lemus' changed of heart testimony, "he had witnessed a deliberate plot by his fellow soldiers to kill the three handcuffed Iraqis and a cover-up in which one soldier cut another to bolster their story. The squad leader threatened to kill anyone who talked."

The lawyers who dispute his account, don't have a prettier version: "Just before leaving, the soldiers had been given an order to 'kill all military-age men' at the site by a colonel and a captain." Which is a war crime.

The Colonel, famous for being the Black Hawk Down hero, refuses to testify: "It is very rare for any commanding officer to refuse to testify at any stage of a court-martial proceeding, said Gary D. Solis, a former military judge and prosecutor who teaches the law of war at Georgetown University."

Here's what's scariest: "Two initial investigations of the killings by commanders found no wrongdoing."

How many cases go unlitigated?

Evan Derkacz is a New York-based writer and contributor to AlterNet.

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