October 29, 2006

Etrajudicial Executions in Iraq

The US military is engaged in a variety of routine forms of extrajudicial execution in Iraq. Consider the tesimony of Marine Pfc. John J. Jodka III at his court-martial on charges of being involved in the killing of an Iraqi civilian in the village of Hamdania. Jodka said the squad agreed to a plan by squad leader Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins to kidnap and kill a known insurgent.[1] Assuming the intelligence on the "known" insurgent was correct, this plan constituted extra-judicial execution: Hutchins' squad was acting as Police, Judge, Jury and Executioner.

Imagine if the "known insurgent" would have simply handed himself over to Hutchins' squad. Based on Jodka's testimony, they would likely have taken him out and shot him. It's no different than shooting someone who surrenders, which is very un-American.

But, the "liberal" corporate media doesn't even comment on that. The only "news" is that the "known insurgent" wasn't home, so Hutchins' squad instead dragged 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad from his home and shot him. Then, they planted a shovel and gun on Awad making it appear that they had come upon somone planting a roadside bomb. One has to wonder, how commonly are extra-judicial exectuion plans like that of Hutchins'?

"Maybe this is an aberration," some might say. Unfortuntately, there is a lot of evidence that extra-judicial executions by US forces in Iraq are common. I provide some readily-available examples below.

Homicides of Detainees in U.S. Custody

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has obtained autopsy reports for people who died in US Custody. The reports indicate "homicide" as the cause of death for at least 21 people. It's certain that these do not represent all cases of detainee deaths, in part because we know that the US had "ghost detainees," people who were never acknowledged to be in US custody. In addition, it's probable that some of the "natural" deaths, in which the autopsy report cites "no significant trauma," were been biased (cover-ups).

Some might say, "Maybe these people died by accident. You know, maybe the interrogators were a little too rough. That's not really intentional "extra-judicial execution."" This is a fine line; however, the autopsy reports also include "accident" as a manner of death while in US custody.

Maybe death-by-torture, or "accidental death" by excessive force isn't exactly the same as extra-judicial execution. So, lets move on to other well-defined categories of killing Iraqis outside the heat of combat.

"Dead Checks"

Evan Wright of the Village Voice, embeded with US Marines, describes routine extra-judicial executions. He describes one example of his convoy coming up to a bullet-riddled pickup truck off the side of the road with people in it. "As our Humvee stopped behind the truck, a Marine in the vehicle ahead of us leapt out, pointed his rifle into the window of the pickup and sprayed it with gunfire. It was a cold-blooded execution." Maybe the people in the truck were already dead.... maybe not. Maybe the "the few, the proud, the brave" are just putting poor guys out of their misery.

Wright describes passing more bodies, some still smouldering, some dismembered. "The execution of one or two more men wasn't worth commenting on." Suggesting that this sort or thing is routine?

After returning home Wright was watching TV. Like many, he saw the video report by "NBC correspondent Kevin Sites, embedded with U.S. forces in Fallujah. A Marine standing over a wounded, unarmed Arab sprawled on the floor of a mosque executed him with a gunshot to the head." But unlike many watching the TV, Wright knew this was not an isolated case, but rather the norm.

According to Wright, "The behavior of the Marine in the video closely conforms to training that is fairly standard in some units. Marines call executing wounded combatants "dead-checking."

"They teach us to do dead-checking when we're clearing rooms," an enlisted Marine recently returned from Iraq told Wright. "You put two bullets into the guy's chest and one in the brain. But when you enter a room where guys are wounded you might not know if they're alive or dead. So they teach us to dead-check them by pressing them in the eye with your boot, because generally a person, even if he's faking being dead, will flinch if you poke him there. If he moves, you put a bullet in the brain. You do this to keep the momentum going when you're flowing through a building. You don't want a guy popping up behind you and shooting you."

So, is the execution of injured iraqis standard operating procedure for US forces in Iraq? This film of a US Apache helicopter crew executing an injured iraqi is one more example that suggests it is.

Is it practical to execute injured Iraqis? Yes. Is it in keeping with American's sense of morality? That question is up for debate.

Another perspective is provided by journalist Kevin Sites in a letter to the Marine unit in which he was embedded and witnessed the now-famous case of the execution in the mosque.

"Recon by Fire"

Filmmaker Brian Palmer has been embedded with US Marines three times. Maybe his accounts, described below, are an aberration. However, if a practice is common enough to receive a slang name, like "dead checks," then they are probably... common practices.

Brian Palmer was present when the Marines engaged some people in a fire fight. The Marines killed three of the men but several others ran, possibly into a canal choked with reeds. Palmer reports, "So the Marines did something I found startling: it's a tactic called "recon by fire." According to Palmer, quoted in a PBS NOW report, "They aim their weapons into the canal and start shooting. The logic behind recon by fire: it's better to fire a bullet blindly than send a Marine into harm's way."[2]

Palmer continues, "But sometimes, Marine bullets hit innocent Iraqis. Last year, I filed requests for Marine Corps reports on incidents like these that occurred during the 2004-2005 deployment to Iraq." In one, Marines attached to the battalion's parent unit shot and killed a six-year-old boy who they mistook for an enemy. Marines from BLT one-two described other such incidents to me, but the corps did not release reports on them."

"In that "recon by fire," Marines killed one more suspected insurgent in the canal. They detained two other men and a 16-year-old boy," says Palmer.

Some might say, "but the people ran and hid. This shows they're guilty." Even if they were insurgents, and they ran, they should be given the opportunity to surrender. However, running doesn't prove guilt. They have good reason to run. Aside from the humiliation of being pushed around by US forces when detained, Iraqis have grown to fear them. According to the International Red Cross, "Coalition Force Intelligence Officers... estimate between 70% and 90% of persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake." [3] The same report documents that many who are arrested are subjected to harsh treatment during the arrest and in subsequent interrogations (Remember the Reuters reporters detained and sexually abused by US forces?). "Two of the three Reuters staff said they had been forced to insert a finger into their anus and then lick it, and were forced to put shoes in their mouths, particularly humiliating in Arab culture." As noted above, some die in US custody by accident. Iraqis know this. So, innocent Iraqis often run when confronted by US troops.

"Light'em Up"

Another common phrase in the US forces' dictum is to "light up" vehicles, which are often carrying unarmed civilians. I sympathize with anxious soldiers, shocked by the terror of war, when they shoot at an oncoming vehicle that isn't stopping. I also sympathize with frightened civilians, running away in fear when stumbling upon US forces, who get obliterated by high caliber US machine guns. Is this extra-judicial execution? It is when the cars have already passed or are turning to get away.

When Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena's car was shot up, from behind by the way, it made the news. The vast majority of these incidents occur without any journalists around. Sgt. Ricky Clousing describes another instance. "I was in Mosul on a convoy en route, and we stopped to assist another convoy that had been struck by an IED. I was ordered to pull rear security on the convoy, where I proceeded to go behind the rear Humvee and guard the road.

As I was doing that, I had seen a vehicle turn down our road going approximately 15 miles an hour. I saw directly in the window. It was a young boy, or a young man, I should say, and as soon as he saw U.S. troops, he was terrified, took his hands off the wheel. It was evident that he was scared that U.S. troops were there, weapons drawn. He didn't know what was going on. He was making an effort to brake the vehicle and to turn around immediately, when a soldier in the turret of the Humvee behind me proceeded to open up fire and fired four to five rounds inside of the vehicle."

"I spoke with the leaders afterwards and told them that basically they needed to instruct their soldiers to assess and analyze a situation properly... And when I did, I was really shot down by the superiors, basically that I didn't know how convoy operations worked, and I had never been deployed before [he was military intelligence, not infantry] and I didn’t understand that this happens and that that’s just something that’s a reality of war, and that I apparently didn't know what I was talking about." [4]

Another outspoken source on this is Marine Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey "Shortly after Massey arrived in Iraq, his unit was ordered to man roadblocks. To stop cars, the Marines would raise their hands. If the drivers kept going, Massey says, “we would just light ’em up. I didn’t find out until later on, after talking to an Iraqi, that when you put your hand up in the air, it means ‘Hello.’” He estimates that his men killed 30-plus civilians in one 48-hour period." Do you think this is the only road block like this in of Iraq?

I acknowledge the rationales associated with "realities of war" and frightened soldiers who over-react or act out in rage. Unltimately, the responsibility for these "accidents" and extra-judicial executions rest on George Bush and his war-of-aggression conspitators. "To initiate a war of aggression.. is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." -- chief American prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson, Nuremberg.

Strikes on "Suspected" Terrorists: Targeted Assassinations

How often have we heard or read the following? "A U.S. Air Force gunship has conducted a strike against suspected terrorrists..." or "U.S. forces launched a pinpoint missile strike in Yemen, killing a top al-Qaeda operative in his car."

In regard to the later example, in which an unmanned CIA drone aircraft was used, a U.S official said, "the evidence collected so far linking al-Harthi to the attack on the USS Cole was circumstantial and probably would not be decisive in court. "Fortunately, that's no longer an issue."

So much for the American value of "Innocent until proven guilty."

UN Findings of Other Extrajudicial Executions in Iraq

"On September 8, 2005 the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq issued a human rights report, stating that the governing institutions created by the United States in Iraq are engaged in an organized campaign of detention, torture, and extrajudicial execution, directed primarily at Iraqis who practice the Sunni form of Islam." [5]


[1] Associated Press, Oct. 27, 2006, Web LINK
Follow-up AP Coverage. November 16, 2006, "The judge wanted to hand down a five-year punishment, but was bound by the terms of the plea deal."

[2] PBS, NOW "HIT OR MISS IN IRAQ" March 31, 2006.

[3] ICRC Leaked Report PDF File of leaked ICRC Report. See: p. 8, paragraph 7.

[4] DemocracyNow interview with Sargent Ricky Clausing, August 11th, 2006 Full Transcript.

[5] Nicolas J. S. Davies, "The Dirty War in Iraq."

Read More June 1, 2004, "They Should Never Have Been in Prison", by Aaron Glantz (IPS)

Other US Extra-judicial Executions Outside of Iraq

On the FBI killing of Filiberto Ojeda Rios in Puerto Rico:
"So, on September 23, 2005, in the town of Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, the FBI murdered a legend, but in the process, stupidly, they created a bigger one."
Web LINK: Rafael Rodriguez Cruz, "Assassination in Puerto Rico: The FBI Murders a Legend" Rafael Rodriguez Cruz is an attorney in Hartford, Connecticut.

October 28, 2006

Maliki: America's Man in Iraq

Bush has a problem. The central figure in the PBS documentary, "My Country, My Country," Dr. Riyadh, a Sunni medical doctor, is quoted saying that Iraq had a puppet government. Many Iraqi's surely feel that Maliki's a puppet, or at least is beholden to decisions and actions of the United States, which provides personal security for him. Iraqi's know first hand that Iraq has soverignty in name only.

But wait. The corporate media has reported four recent cases of Maliki making statements that conflict with US policy. For example, the US provides a timetable for Iraq to take over security, and Maliki says he does not agree to a timetable being imposed on Iraq. Now Maliki's dissent has become the news story.

One has to wonder, is Maliki's appearance of dissent being scripted? We know from former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Niel that Bush's Cabinet meetings were often scripted. We know that political handlers are very sensitive to how their story is going to play in the corporate media, in part because the superficial media dictates the rules for story telling.

One could let it go at that, but then I see something "funny" in an AP article. AP writs:

Al-Maliki's anger grew through the week until on Friday, al-Suneid said, the prime minister told Khalilzad: "I am a friend of the United States, but I am not America's man in Iraq." Hassan Senaid is one of the prime minister's closest advisors.

After Saturday's talks, White House spokesman Tony Snow said of al-Maliki: "He's not America's man in Iraq."

It looks like al-Suneid and Tony Snow are reading from the same US talking points.


Associated Press, STEVEN R. HURST and QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Oct. 28, 2006.

October 24, 2006

Silenced Majority

An October 2006 CNN poll asked, "Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq?" A majority, 64%, answered "Disaprove."

CNN asked, "From what you know now, do you think the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, or not?" A majority, 54%, answered "Not right thing."

During the Vietnam War, the term "Silent Majority" was used by President Richard Nixon in a 1969 speech. It referes to a hypothetical large number of people who do not express their opinions publicly. When President Nixon used it for the first time, it referred to those Americans who did not join in the large demonstrations against the Vietnam War at the time. (Wikipedia).

Today, according to the polls, the majority of Americans think the Iraq War "was not the right thing." However, because the mass media is controlled by corporate owners and advertizers, this majority is "silenced," hence a new term is being born. It is a sign of the gravity of our times, times that are as or more critical to the future of the World as was the Vietnam era.

October 17, 2006

"Kill Bush"

I'm taking a big risk here writing a blog entry with that title. But, note the quotation marks. Actually I didn't say "Kill Bush." I'm just quoting 14 year old Julia Wilson, who recently had a visit from the Secret Service for posting a picture of George Bush with "Kill Bush" scrawled across the top.

Did you know that if you Google "Kill Bush" you'll get 31,600,000 hits? You probably do, since you probably googled "Kill Bush" to find this page. But if not, then you'll be curious to know that there's actually a web URL "www.killbush.net" and that it's in spanish. In addition, the only advertisment that comes up is an eBAY add entitled, you got it, "Kill Bush," claiming that you can buy "anything" on eBay. Now, there's an entry the Secret Service should investigate.

Yes, Michelle Malkin's site comes up #3 as of today if you Google "Kill Bush." OK, and for honesty sake, not all of the 31,600,000 hits are actually about killing George Bush. For example, there's one about "Saddam tried to kill Bush's daddy." And, for you technically correct, if you put quotes around "Kill Bush" to search the exact phrase, the number of entries falls drastically to 265,000. Wow, that's not many. Maybe I WILL get to chat with the Secret Service... naw, probably not.

Finally, if you Google the images for "Kill Bush" you'll find 394 images. You'll also discover that there's a "My Space" web page called "Kill Bush."
My Space "Kill Bush" AND, there are people making money off of the "Kill Bush" slogan... well, they were. They no longer seem to be including this nifty T-Shirt in their collection any more. I guess that makes them collector's items on eBAY... just don't get caught wearing one.

Now, maybe you're not that curious, BUT if you search for the exact phrase "Bill Kush," kinda like like "Buck Fush", the number of hits drops to 923 (now 924 because of this blog post). Now THOSE are the ones the SS should be checking out.... well, maybe not.

OK, so I'm not saying "kill Bush," and probably won't get a visit or even an e-mail from the Secret Service, but I'll let you know if I do. My first reaction to the SS visit to Julia Wilson was, "Doesn't the SS have a better system for setting their priorities? What if everyone decided to post e-mails and web page entries with "Kill Bush" statements as a means of protest."

Other thoughts that entered my head were, "Don't SS agents know that the President, every president, represents the plutocratic class? Why would they take a bullet to protect the wealthy elite? We've got well defined chain of authority if the President dies. It's not like the country is going to melt into a quivering heap if Bush is killed... Cheney runs the country anyway."

* Sigh * The other thought I had, and given the off chance the authorities actually read this stuff, is that we really don't want a police state.... really. It isn't becoming to the image of America to descend into a cloak and dagger society.

Nuf said about killing Bush. He's doing a fine job of it himself.

October 15, 2006

Vokey and Cerveny: True Americans

What defines America as "good"? That we are a just nation, so just, that our judicial procedures give the benefit of the doubt to accused enemies. So free, that we allow extremists, like Nazis and Klansmen, to parade in public. The erosion of these principles represents the erosion of what defines America as "good." If we allow this to happen, America will no longer be special among nations; America will no longer have moral authority, only military authority, which engenders compliance due to fear, not due to respect.

Today, we live in an America that cannot claim to be good, because we have allowed this erosion to occur. The "good" of America has been undermined by a segment of people in the elite political and military class. But there is a battle for America's soul among the elite, with contributions by the more common people.

An example of this battle is the courageous stance being taken by Marine Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, who represents a detainee at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo, and his his paralegal assistant, Marine Sgt. Heather Cerveny, both pictured below.

Colby is on record saying in April 2006, "Some of the rules [of judicial process] are made by the presiding officers themselves, and they can change tomorrow." According to the CBC, "Lt.-Col. Colby Vokey said his client needs extra lawyers on his side, given what he calls the arbitrary nature of the military proceedings at Guantanamo."" [1]

Cerveny, similarly, has mustered the courage to expose Guantanamo guards who bragged to her about routine abuse of detainees. She will surely be harassed, and face retribution, like barriers to her career path [2] (See Note [3] for an example of this).

Colby and Cerveny deserve our support. Let your voice be heard by contacting the US Department of Defense: CONTACT

Marine Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, who represents a detainee at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo

Marine Sgt. Heather Cerveny, paralegal assistant for Vokey


[1]. Canadian Broadcast Corp., April 20, 2006. Web LINK

[2]. AP, MIRANDA LEITSINGER, October, 15, 2006. Web LINK

[3]. October 13, 2006 DemocracyNow! Headline: Military Attorney In Hamdan Case Forced to Leave Military

In news on Guantanamo Bay, the Navy attorney, Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, who took on the Bush administration in the landmark Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case is effectively being forced to leave the military. Navy Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift represented the Guantanamo prisoner Salim Ahmed Hamdan in the Supreme Court case that rebuked President Bush’s war powers. About two weeks after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of his client, Swift was denied a promotion. Under the Pentagon’s policy of “up or out” Swift must now retire from the military. The National Law Journal recently named Swift one of the top 100 lawyers in America – he was the only military lawyer on the list.

October 7, 2006

Lebanon: Village Damage by District

This page is work in progress...

"Lebanon is divided into six governorates, which are further subdivided into 25 districts. The districts themselves are also divided into several municipalities, each enclosing a group of cities or villages." (Wikipedia) All the governorates and their respective districts are listed at the end of the report with a map.

There are about 200 villages south of the Latani River (See Map of Southern Lebanon below, which includes Israeli attacks on UN compounds south of the Latani River).

The following is a summary of damage by governorate, district and village. The primary source is the USAID Lebanon Situation Reports (LSR), which often cite other sources. I've tried to provide report dates and Situation Report numbers.

Beirut Governorate

(There are no "districts" in Beirut. Only the city and neighorhoods).

Of 120 damaged buildings surveyed that housed 2000 families, 40 need to be reconstructed. About 6,000 housing units were destroyed and 17,000 damaged. (Preliminary report. (LSR32 Sept. 1).


Water and sewer piplines in major streets of Haret Hreik Municipality sustained significant damage (LSR38 Sept 12).

Nabatiyeh Governorate (Jabal Amel)

Al-Nabatiyé District

50 percent of all structures were destroyed in the villages of Yohmor and Western Zawtar. (LSR26, Aug. 23).

Nabatiye Village: 50 percent of the homes destoryed, numerous unexploded ordinance remain.


Drinking water sources and waste treatment capacity destroyed south of Nabatiye, Marjayoun including Qaliaiaa (often the collection and distribution pipeline systems are damaged). (LSR32 Sept. 1)
Water remains a concern: Villages of Zaoutar Ghariya, Zaoutar Shargiya and Yahmour. (LSR35 Sept. 6)

* Hasbyya

Marji'youn District

50 percent of all buildings destroyed in Markabe Village. (LSR24)

Ghanduriyah village: 90 percent of the homes destroyed. (LSR30)
Houla village: 20 percent of the homes destroyed. (LSR20)
Markaba village: 50 percent of the homes destroyed. (LSR20)
Mays al Jabal village: 30 percent of the homes destroyed. (LSR20)
Qantarah (Cantarah): 50 percent of the homes destroyed. (LSR20)
Talusha village: 15 percent of the homes destroyed. (LSR20)
Tayyababh village: 80 percent of the homes destroyed. (LSR20)


District affected by damage to three major pumping stations.
Khiam, water and sewer networks destroyed (LSR35 Sept. 6)
Marjaba village: Central water tank and pumps damaged, nonfunctinal.
Markaba and Taibe water needs remained as of Sept 8 (LSR38 Sept. 12)
Taibi, Adaisi, Deir Seryan, Kantara, Kfar Kila, Talousse, Rab Tlateen and Markaba, Mais Al Jabal, Blida and Houla water and waste piplines damaged (LSR32 Sept. 1)

A large plume of smoke billows in the town of Khiam, in southern Lebanon, Tuesday, July 25, 2006, after Israeli air raids targeted it. For as sense of scale, note the size at the base of the plume, compared to the houses in front of the plume. An Israeli bombardment hit a UN observer post in the village of Khiam, killing four UN observers. (AP Photo/Lotfallah Daher).

Bint Jbeil District (Bent Jbail, Bint Jubayl)

Ayta As Shaab: 70 percent of the homes and other properties were destroyed or badly damaged. (LSR24)
Bayt Leif: 30 percent of the homes destroyed (LSR21)
Bint Jbeil: 800 properties destroyed, 1,100 significantly damaged. (LSR36)
Borj Qalaouiye: 20 houses destroyed, 80 heavily damaged. (LSR38)
Kafra: 25 percent destroyed (LSR21)
Khiam village: 750 homes destroyed, 1,000 homes heavily damaged, 1,000 lightly damaged.
Majdel Silim: 200 homes destroyed, about 350 damaged out of 700. (LSR36)
Qabrikha: 100 homes destroyed, 75 damaged out of 480. (LSR36)
Soultaniye: Significant damage to houses. (LSR38)

50 to 90 percent of the government and public buildings in 39 villages in the Bent Jbail district destroyed. (LSR 26 Aug. 29)

Affected by damage to three major pumping stations: Villages of Maroun er Ras, Aainata, Qabrikha and Kounine (LSR36 Sept 7)
Majdel Silim: Need water pumps (LSR36)
Soultaniye: Need for water tanks. (LSR38 Sept 12)

Majdel Silim: UXO scattered through the village.

Beqaa Governorate (Bekaa)

Al-Hirmil District (Hermel)
Hermel village had the most significant structural damage in Bekaa.



North Bekaa water supply in need of urgent repairs.

Baalbeck District

Baalbek: 2,000 homes destroyed. (LSR24)
Taibe: Significant damage to houses. (LSR38)


North Bekaa: water supply in need of urgent repairs.
Taibe village: Need for water tanks (LSR38 Sept. 12)

South Governorate

* Tyre (Sur, Sour)

Jabal al Butm village: 50 percent of the homes destroyed. (LSR21 Aug. 16)
Zibquin village: 60 percent destroyed. (LSR21 Aug. 16)


Lack safe water and reliable power: Villages of Deir Qanoun, Qana, Ramadya, Knisse, Henniyeh, and Zibquin. (LSR35 Sept. 6)
Water and sanitation concerns: Villages of Srifa, Maarake (LSR37 Sept. 8)

Beirut Governorate

The Beirut Governorate is not divided into districts and is limited to the city of Beirut.

Nabatiyeh Governorate (Jabal Amel) - 4 districts

* Al-Nabatiyé
* Hasbyya
* Marji'youn
* Bint Jbeil

Beqaa Governorate - 5 districts

* Al-Hirmil (Hermel)
* Baalbeck
* Zahlé
* Western Beqaa (al-Beqaa al-Gharbi)
* Rashyya

North Governorate (al-Shamal) - 7 districts

* Akar
* Tripoli
* Zgharta
* Bshirri
* Batroun
* Koura
* Miniyeh-Danniyeh

Mount Lebanon Governorate (Jabal Lubnan) - 6 districts

* Jbeil
* Kisirwan
* Al-Matn
* Ba'abda
* Alay
* Al-Shouf

South Governorate (al-Janoub) - 3 districts

* Saida
* Tyre (Sur)
* Jezzine

CLICK for Detailed Map of Southern Lebanon boarder area - 1986

Lebanon Village Districts, below

Source: USAID Disaster Assistance daily situation reports, which often cite other sources, like the Lebanese government and the United Nations.

Click for painting, "Lebanon Village 2006"