Saturday, June 03, 2006

Troops cleared in Ishaqi.

A military investigation of the deaths of 11 Iraqi civilians in Ishaqi last March has cleared US forces involved in the incident. According to the WaPo, "Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, spokesman for Multi-National Force-Iraq, issued a statement last night saying that investigators had found no wrongdoing in the Ishaqi raid and that the ground force commander 'properly followed the rules of engagement as he necessarily escalated the use of force until the threat was eliminated.'

What I find interesting is that they were able to come up with a final report on this so quickly. The killings in Haditha happened six months ago and they're still not done investigating. It just seems odd to me that the Iraqi police on the scene were so adamant that US troops had killed those people; the medical examiner insisted that all 11 had died of gunshot wounds and video footage and photos seemed to contradict the military version of events.

Not that I want there to be evidence that our troops massacred even more innocent civilians beside those in Haditha and the one Iraqi male in the west of Baghdad, but there was a cover-up in the other two other cases, so I'm just slightly skeptical.

In any case, regardless of the whether US troops deliberately murdered anyone or not, new information about the incident shows that an AC-130 gunship was called in to provide air support. That's a whole lot of overkill to capture one al-Qaeda suspect. I really question the judgment that was used in this case. If you're going to go in with that kind of fire-power you'd better make sure there aren't noncombatants anywhere near where you're shooting, I would think. (Obviously, all the destruction inside and around the house that was attacked wasn't all the work of one al-Qaeda suspect.)

Especially, if you're attempting to win hearts and minds, like we keep being told we're trying to do over there. In Afghanistan, we've seen over the past two weeks or so that calling in air strikes, however militarily necessary can have a negative effect on the overall mission if civilians are killed, like has happened in two incidents recently. Riots erupted in Kabul this past Monday after a US truck lost its breaks and crashing into rush hour traffic killing five people, possibly an indication that we've been wearing out our welcome there. President Hamid Karzai complained that US forces fired on the rioters. The US maintains that troops only fired over people's heads, but Karzai said, "The coalition opened fire, and we strongly condemn that."

This isn't first time that he's complained about the US killing civilians, either. Now, our good democratic Iraqi friend Nouri al-Maliki has come out and blamed the US for killing Iraqis. He said yesterday, "this has become a daily phenomenon among many of the multinational forces that they do not respect the Iraqi people. They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion. This is unacceptable."

Despite the silver lining to all this that David Brooks sees, saying that this gives al-Maliki a chance to show he's not a puppet of the US, I'd say that these allegations of massacres are pretty much of a major disaster for our military and our reputation around the world. I don't know, call me crazy, but I don't see how we dig ourselves out of this mess any time soon.


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