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Victim's of the Pentagon's high-tech hell

April 4, 2003 | Page 5

NICOLE COLSON reports on terrible toll of the U.S. war on Iraq.

"WHY DO they hate the Iraqi people so much?" That was the question that Omar Ismail asked an Associated Press reporter after witnessing the U.S. bombing of the Al-Nasr market in Baghdad last week.

"The market was strewn with wreckage, and there were bloodstains on a sidewalk," the Associated Press reported. "Crowds of mourners wailed, and blood-soaked children's slippers sat on the street not far from a crater blasted into the ground." Some 50 people--maybe more--were cut to pieces at the market, which was bombed at its busiest time, around 6 p.m.

"Why do they makes mistakes like these if they have the technology?" asked Abdel-Hadi Adai, whose 27-year-old brother-in-law Najah Abdel-Rida was killed in the attack. "There are no military installations anywhere near here."

But the Pentagon won't even say that it made a mistake--if that's what it was. As it did after the air war atrocities in Afghanistan, the U.S. military would only say that it's investigating.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld can't stop hyping the wonders of the Pentagon's "precision" weapons. "[E]very single target has been analyzed, and the weapon has been carefully selected, and the direction in which the weapon is delivered has been carefully examined, and the time of day when there is the greatest prospect of minimizing any innocent lives," he told reporters. "It is an enormously impressive effort, a humane effort to do what is necessary to reduce this threat against our country and that region, and to eliminate a regime that has killed hundreds of thousands of human beings."

Perhaps, in Rumsfeld's world, firing onto a crowded market at 6 p.m. is the "humane" thing to do. Or maybe it was "humane" when a U.S. missile gutted the student union at Mustansiriya University. Or a cluster of homes in the Qadisiya neighborhood. Or Abu Taleb street in a crowded neighborhood of poor Shia Muslims in nothern Baghdad.

"It was an outrage, an obscenity," British journalist Robert Fisk wrote of the carnage from that attack. "The severed hand on the metal door, the swamp of blood and mud across the road, the human brains inside a garage, the incinerated, skeletal remains of an Iraqi mother and her three small children in their still-smoldering car. Two missiles from an American jet killed them all--by my estimate, more than 20 Iraqi civilians, torn to pieces before they could be 'liberated' by the nation that destroyed their lives."

With every day that the war on Iraq continues, there will be more horror stories like these--of innocent civilians and conscripted soldiers, of children and the elderly, killed or wounded by the very military forces that are supposedly "liberating" them. And many more of these bombings will probably never be reported.

"If this is what we are seeing in Baghdad, what is happening in Basra and Nasiriya and Kerbala?" asked Fisk. "How many civilians are dying there too, anonymously, indeed unrecorded, because there are no reporters to witness their suffering?"

According to the Bush gang, any civilian casualties in Iraq are the fault of Saddam Hussein alone. Bush told a group of veterans last week that: "The contrast could not be greater between the honorable conduct of our forces and the criminal acts of the enemy."

He must not have met Marine Sgt. Eric Schrumpf. In a revolting interview in the New York Times, Schrumpf, a sharpshooter with the Fifth Marine Regiment, bragged openly about having killed Iraqis. "We had a great day," Schrumpf said to his partner as the reporter listened. "We killed a lot of people."

He shrugged off the civilian toll: "We dropped a few civilians, but what do you do?" More than once, according to Schrumpf, he has faced the choice of whether to take a shot at an Iraqi soldier standing among civilians.

As the Times reported: "He recalled one such incident, in which he and other men in his unit opened fire. He recalled watching one of the women standing near the Iraqi soldier go down. "'I'm sorry,' the sergeant said. 'But the chick was in the way.'"

And Washington dares to call this liberation?

The hypocrites who run the war on Iraq

IRAQIS JUST aren't following the rules of war. That seems to be the common complaint at Pentagon press briefings these days. "I've never seen anything like this," Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, scowled to reporters last week, after reporting that some Iraqi troops had worn civilian clothes to attack U.S. forces. Not true--Pace must know that U.S. Special Forces routinely dress in civilian clothing to carry out missions.

Donald Rumsfeld started hyperventilating about the Geneva Convention governing the conduct of war after Iraqi television broadcast "humiliating" pictures of captured U.S. soldiers. But it didn't seem to matter to anyone when the U.S. media showed images of Iraqi prisoners forced to lay face down in the sand, their hands bound behind them.

Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke told reporters: "The Iraqi military even used a hospital as a fortress, firing on [U.S.] Marines. During time of war, a hospital is always considered to be a safe place for the sick and the wounded."

Except, of course, for the hospital that U.S. warplanes bombed in the Western Iraqi town of Rutbah last week. Apparently, some sick and wounded Iraqis don't count to the U.S. military.

"This is a war crime"

U.S. AND British forces are using depleted uranium (DU) shells--in violation of a United Nations resolution that classifies them as illegal weapons of mass destruction. Munitions tipped with DU can pierce even heavy tank armor. But the exploded shells leave behind a radioactive, cancer-causing debris.

Doug Rokke, a college professor who was hired by the Pentagon after the first Gulf War to clean up the DU disaster in Iraq, told the Scottish Sunday Herald last week that using these munitions is a "war crime."

"This war was about Iraq possessing illegal weapons of mass destruction--yet we are using weapons of mass destruction ourselves," said Rokke. "Such double standards are repellent."

Conditions grow more desperate

"THEY ARE going to starve us." That's what one shopkeeper in Baghdad told a reporter as the humanitarian crisis in Iraq began to grow. "The American soldier will never come and fight on the streets of Baghdad," he said. "They will just wait for all our food to finish, wait for our water to finish, they will wait for us to be finished."

No wonder Iraqis feel this way. At least 60 percent of the population was dependent on United Nations-sponsored food rations before the conflict began. And because of the deliberate bombing of the civilian infrastructure, the humanitarian crisis is expected to deepen over the next several weeks.

Conditions in the city of Basra, for example, are especially bleak. Electricity and water supplies were cut off by U.S. bombing in the first week of the war, leaving many of the city's 1 million-plus residents to drink contaminated water and face the threat of diarrhea and cholera.

But trust the Bush gang to always find a way to blame Iraq. According to Donald Rumsfeld, the problem with the lack of drinking water isn't that coalition bombs that have knocked out water treatment facilities. It's "a deliberate decision by the regime not to repair the water system or replace old equipment with new equipment."

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