The Cover-Ups That Exploded

By ALEXANDER COCKBURN


PREFACE

39 percent of US inflicted casualties in Iraq have been children

Contrary to popular opinion in the United States, neither the war in Afghanistan nor the war in Iraq have been "clean" wars. They have been brutal, BLOODY affairs - WHICH IS THE PRICE OF EMPIRE; the price America's oil elites have been willing to pay in order to secure the oil wealth of the Middle East and Central Asia for themselves. [Please see our 2002 article, "The Coming War in Iraq: What It's Really All About."]

The Lancet, one of the oldest scientific medical journals in the world, published two peer-reviewed studies on the effect of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation on the Iraqi mortality rate. The first survey published on 29 October 2004, estimated 98,000 Iraqi deaths. The authors described this as a conservative estimate, because it excluded the extreme statistical outlier data from Falluja. [Please see our article on the Battle of Falluja, "Sowing the Seeds of the Gog/Magog War."]

The second survey published on 11 October 2006, estimated 654,965 deaths related to the war, or 2.5% of the population, through the end of June 2006. By now, the number has exceeded 1,000,000.

Insofar as casualties that have resulted from US air strikes, 46 percent of the victims have been women, and 39 percent have been children.

A similar death rate exists in Afghanistan where about 3% of the population has been killed.

Negroponte

Finally, it is impossible to get any kind of realistic statistics regarding the number of deaths that have occurred as a result of CIA-sponsored death squad activity, much of which has been explained away as "sectarian violence."  [You are encouraged to read our series of articles on the way the US sponsors death squad activity in its "client-states;" interestingly, the same high-ranking government official that organized and ran death squads in Central America for the United States - John Dimitri Negroponte - is the exact same government official that initiated this kind of ruthless activity in Iraq; the name of the article is, "The Horror of John Dimitri Negroponte and Everything He Represents."]

In the light of these realities, can there really be any doubt that the United States is the OVERFLOWING SCOURGE described in Isaiah 28:15 and 28:18? [Please see our article, "In Search of Babylon: What Do the Scriptures Say?"]

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The Pentagon is reeling after two lethal episodes uncovered by diligent journalism show trigger-happy U.S. Army helicopter pilots and U.S. Special Forces slaughtering civilians, then seeking to cover up their crimes.

The worldwide web was transfixed recently when Wikileaks put up on YouTube a 38-minute video, along with a 17-minute edited version, taken from a U.S. Army Apache helicopter, one of two firing on a group of Iraqis in Baghdad at a street corner in July of 2007. Twelve civilians died, including a Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and a Reuters driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40.

COLLATERAL MURDER

At a press conference in Washington, D.C., Wikileaks said it had got the footage from whistle-blowers in the military and had been able to break the encryption code. The Pentagon has confirmed the video is genuine.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the U.S. military has finally admitted that Special Forces troops killed two pregnant Afghan women and a girl in a February, 2010, raid, in which two Afghan government officials were also killed. Brilliant reporting by Jerome Starkey of The Times of London has blown apart the U.S. military's cover-up story that the women were killed by knife wounds administered several hours before the raid.

SPECIAL FORCES KILL AFGHAN WOMEN

It now appears that the knife wounds may have been inflicted by the Special Forces troops retrieving their bullets from the dead or dying women's bodies. Starkey's story last Sunday in The Times reported that -

"Afghan investigators also determined that American forces not only killed the women but had also 'dug bullets out of their victims' bodies in the bloody aftermath" and then "washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened."

The 17-minute video recording the US military's massacre from the air in Baghdad, is utterly damning. The visual and audio record reveal the two Apache helicopter pilots and the US Army intelligence personnel monitoring the real-time footage falling over themselves to make the snap judgment that the civilians roughly a thousand feet below are armed insurgents and that one of them, peeking round a corner, was carrying an RPG, that is, a rocket-propelled antitank grenade launcher.

The dialogue is particularly chilling, revealing gleeful pilots gloating over the effect of their initial machine-gun salvoes. "Look at those dead bastards," one pilot says. "Nice," answers the other. Then, as a wounded man painfully writhes toward the curb, the pilots eagerly wait for an excuse to finish him off.  "All you gotta do is pick up a weapon," one pilot says yearningly.

Then suddenly a civilian van, seeing the carnage, pulls up. A man jumps out, and starts dragging the wounded man around to load him in. The pilots implore the intelligence monitors to give them the go-ahead to strafe the van, about which they have made the instant, fatally erroneous judgment that this is an insurgent rescue squad. A few moments later, the intelligence monitors, with zero visual evidence underpinning their judgment, give the go-ahead.

Children wounded in the Apache attack.

Another salvo finishes off the wounded man and his would-be rescuer, kills other civilians in the van and wounds two children in the front seat.

U.S. ground troops arrive on the scene, report the presence of wounded children. "Well, it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle," one pilot tells the other. There are further sniggers as a U.S. armored vehicle rolls up. "I think they just drove over a body," one of the pilots cackles.

One disgraceful exchange discloses a brutal order to the US ground troops not take the wounded children to the nearest military hospital, thus condemning them to the long waits and understaffed, under-equipped Baghdad civilian hospitals. It clearly shows the culpability of the next command echelon, which is just as great as that of the pilots.

In the wake of the lethal onslaught, the U.S. military denied that any error had taken place, its version of events faithfully cited by the New York Times under the headline "2 Iraqi Journalists Killed as U.S. Forces Clash With Militias":

"According to the [U.S. military's] statement, American troops were conducting a raid when they were hit by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. The American troops called in reinforcements and attack helicopters. In the ensuing fight, the statement said, the two Reuters employees and nine [sic] insurgents were killed."

The footage made public by Wikileaks makes it clear this was fiction, from start to finish.

Noor-Eldeen

Defense analyst Pierre Sprey, who led the design teams for the F-16 and A-10 and who spent many years in the Pentagon, stresses two particularly damning features of the footage. The first is the claim that Noor-Eldeen's telephoto lense could be mistaken for an RPG.   "A big telephoto for a 35mm camera is under a foot and half at most. An RPG, unloaded, is 3 feet long  and loaded, 4 foot long. These guys were breathing hard to kill someone."

Sprey's second point is that an Apache helicopter makes a very loud "whomp, whomp" noise. " Twelve guys are unconcerned, with loud helicopters right overhead. Imagine if they were planning an assault on American troops. They'd be crouched down and skulking along walls, spread out.  They would not be walking casually down the middle of the street, totally ignoring the  helicopters."

A retired U.S. Marine was even blunter in an email exchange:

"Not a good show at all. The group on the ground were banishing nothing that 'looked' or appeared as weapons, especially the voiced 'RPG' which is so obvious when loaded. And then again - they were told in advance by intelligence (I am sure by the tone in the flight) that these people were bad guys. The Apache crews were just stupid and the intelligence clowns pointing them and egging them on are guilty of murder - 'you are clear to engage'. GMAFB."

In the aftermath the US military claimed that some AK-47s and a grenade launcher had been found at the scene. Sprey comments that, in the course of the subsequent cover-up,  the weapons may well have been planted, LAPD style.  [Please see our article, "The Utility of Police Brutality in the Elites' War against the Poor" which discusses the atrocities carried out by the LAPD.]

According to Reuters their  men had been working on a story about weight lifting when they heard about a military raid in the neighborhood, and decided to drive there to check it out. Local witnesses say there was no firefight anywhere near where they were gunned down by the Apaches.

Reuters, which by that time had already had four employees killed in Iraq by the U.S. military (ultimately, to date, eight), demanded an investigation, which the Army says it undertook but found no breach of its Rules of Engagement by the pilots or U.S. Army intelligence.

The reaction of David Schlesinger, Reuter's editor in chief, to the release of the footage by Wikileaks was appallingly feeble. Schlesinger said on April 5,

"The deaths of Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh three years ago were tragic and emblematic of the extreme dangers that exist in covering war zones. We continue to work for journalist safety and call on all involved parties to recognize the important work that journalists do and the extreme danger that photographers and video journalists face in particular."

Reupke

This anodyne blather elicited a furious email aimed at Schlesinger - sent two days later to The Baron site, "For Reuters people past and present" - from a former Reuters editor in chief and general manager, Michael Reupke. Wrote Reupke,

"The flabby response to the shameful murder of photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh by reckless U.S. forces is not reassuring. What of their families? Why do we leave it to others to make the running? Is this a Thomson effect? Michael Reupke (outraged and angry!)."

The final sentence alludes to the 2008 takeover of Reuters by the media conglomerate Thomson.

In fact, Reuters was shown the Apache video by the U.S. military shortly after the killings but raised no stink. Requests for public release under the Freedom of Information Act were denied. Finally, whistleblowers handed the video to Wikileaks.

Leave the last word to a retired U.S. Army man, answering the email from the retired U.S. Marine quoted above:

"The damage this incident and its video evidence will do is immense ... it will irrefutably confirm for many that large chunk of anti-American propaganda which insists the American flyers are just playing computer shoot-em-up games using real flesh and blood as a proxy for the digital figures they usually slaughter only in the arcades.

"How much is simulator training responsible for the disconnection from reality demonstrated in this incident? The crew was detached from reality ... How [is] the Army ... producing crews that, having the potential for such incompetence, cannot detect it among themselves. If anyone in that crew had paused and asked if the action being taken was correct, surely it would have been aborted ... The Army has to find out why."

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