Joe Hendren

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Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Fall Guy of Fallujah

Been thinking more about the case of the US Marine caught on tape shooting an Iraqi solider. Shooting a wounded unarmed solider is a clear breach of the Geneva Conventions. Article 3 holds that "persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat (out of combat) by sickness, wounds, detention or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely".

There is certainly a case for the Marine to be charged, but why is no one talking about the culpability of his commanders and superiors? According to the press release issued by the US Central Command the purpose of this investigation is to "determine whether the Marine acted in self-defence, violated military law or failed to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict". But there are other obvious questions. Why did senior commanders allow a Marine with facial injuries who had recently seen one of his buddies being killed head straight back into combat?

I can see parallels with the case of Lynley England already. Despite clear indications the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was sanctioned, even encouraged by those further up the chain of command, so far only low level soldiers have been charged over the scandal. While Lynley England was involved in some appalling and degrading treatment of prisoners it occurs to me that she was also a scapegoat for the appalling actions and decisions of others. Seymour Hersch alleges that Rumsfeld authorized the use of questionable interrogation tactics to facilitate the accumulation of actionable intelligence. For there to be justice all must be held to account.

Is this pattern going to repeat itself in the case of the Marine? Will he become the public face, the fall guy of Fallujah?

When a Pentagon spokesperson, Lt Colonel Barry Venable commented on media coverage of this case in comparison to other alleged homicides involving soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division, he said "Not to diminish the severity of the incident, but the difference is that there was a camera present for this one." (Press, 18 Nov) So in the case of the Marine and Lynley England, was the camera the crime?

As well as the Geneva Conventions I also had a look at the US Army's own Law of Land Warfare. It states;
501. Responsibility for Acts of Subordinates
In some cases, military commanders may be responsible for war crimes committed by subordinate members of the armed forces, or other persons subject to their control. Thus, for instance, when troops commit massacres and atrocities against the civilian population of occupied territory or against prisoners of war, the responsibility may rest not only with the actual perpetrators but also with the commander. Such a responsibility arises directly when the acts in question have been committed in pursuance of an order of the commander concerned. The commander is also responsible if he has actual knowledge, or should have knowledge, through reports received by him or through other means, that troops or other persons subject to his control are about to commit or have committed a war crime and he fails to take the necessary and reasonable steps to insure compliance with the law of war or to punish violators thereof....
So based on Bush being 'Commander in Chief' there could be a case to put Bush and Rummy on trial for war crimes based on the events of Fallujah and Abu Ghraib.

It is becoming pretty clear that US senior commanders are out of control in Iraq. There have been several other possible violations of the Geneva Conventions during the reinvasion. Since my last post, the International committee of the Red Cross has condemned the "utter contempt for humanity" shown by all sides in the fighting in Iraq. Complying with international humanitarian law was "an obligation, not an option."

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At 2:26 AM, Blogger flogger said...

IF the Marine shot an unarmed, wounded insurgent, he should be punished. But if he thought the insurgent may have been armed, or was going to, in any way, hurt him or a fellow Marine, he had every right to shoot and kill the enemy.

Consider the circumstances. Like I pointed out before, there were numerous cases of booby-trapped insurgents. His buddies were facing booby-trapped guys the same day, down the same street. They knew they were facing an enemy who would attack them in a cowardly way. I would have shot the guy too, if I thought he was still alive and could potentially be booby-trapped. The Marines have a slogan, "Kill 'em all. Let God sort 'em out." Harsh, but the way they are going to treat their enemy on the battlefield.

You realize no one is going to successfully get Bush and Rumsfeld. Even though Rumsfeld is currently being attacked by lawyers in the UK for Abu Gharaib war crimes, it is just for show. And is does illustrate that people are, in fact, going after the senior commanders. We live in a new age of hyperlitigation.

As for allowing the Marine to return to combat when injured, I think he was not injured too badly. His injury did not seem to get in the way of his ability to effectively fire his rifle, for instance. As for seeing your buddies get killed in combat, that is an unfortunate reality of war. If everyone was allowed to leave the battlefield to lick their wounds, both physical and mental, there would not be enough soldiers to have the war. Maybe that is a good strategy!? Everyone gets to go home when they get hurt or see their friends get killed. That way, the war would be over in no time! I think I like it.

No war is ever going to be fought humanely. The idea is pretty much oxymornoic.

I am not a supporter of the war in Iraq. I am, however, a supporter of the coalition troops. I think they are doing an outstanding job, given the circumstances. I believe the U.S. needs to pull out and let a different nation do the leading, perhaps the Saudis. Let's talk about ideas of how to solve the problems over there that affect us all, instead of attacking Bush and the Marines.

At 2:29 AM, Blogger flogger said...

I forgot to add that I really like reading your stuff, which you already know. Keep it up!

At 12:06 AM, Blogger Joe Hendren said...

Well most seem to think from the videotape the Iraqi was unarmed. The solider exclaims 'he is alive' 'he is alive' like it is a crime or something. While human booby traps have occured there is little to no evidence of this in this case as the same Iraqi had been caught and disarmed by US troops earlier in the day.

I am glad that human rights lawyers are attempting to hold Rumsfeld to account. At the time I posted there was no mention of going after leaders in positions of responsibility.

Even if it is just a show trial I believe it will help to send a message that no matter who you are, you can't treat people in an simply inhumane way. I think you could argue that the public nature of the Nuremburg trials did more to change people's attitudes and encourage sympathy for the victims than the convictions ever did.

I had hoped that the US army learnt about combat fatigue and the effects of tramatic stress from vietnam. It is an awareness issue. In peacetime, would you give someone with 'mental' wounds a rifle?

Just because no war is going to be fought humanely, does not mean that this goal cannot lead to a more postive outcome. But it is an irony that the 20th century that gave us the Hague and Geneva Conventions was also the most violent (but the 21st century appears to be catching up fast on that score)

At 12:09 AM, Blogger Joe Hendren said...

Thanks. Massively busy in the last week, so negleted blog a bit, should be back to normal frequency transmission next week.


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