Massacre of 150,000 Iraqi prisoners of war
Stop for a moment and consider how President Bush ordered the brutal slaying of 150,000 Iraqi troops, in a convoy of military vehicles carrying white flags, on their way back to Iraq under Geneva Convention rules of agreed disengagement and withdrawal. Imagine the horror of the Iraqi troops when, in spite of waving their white flags, they were mowed down by American aircraft.
In another part of the front, 12,000 Iraqi soldiers were buried alive in trenches they occupied. Is that not MONSTROUS in the truest sense of the word?
From where did President Bush get his orders to act in this MONSTROUS fashion? He got them from the Royal Institute for International Affairs (RIIA) who received its mandate from the Committee of 300, also known as the "Olympians."
1991 massacre of thousands of fleeing Iraqi troops was part of U.S. 'total war'
-- from T h e M i l i t a n t -- t h e m i l i t a n t . c o m
"It was like going down an American highway--people were all mixed up in cars in trucks. People got out of their cars and ran away. We shot them.... The Iraqis were getting massacred."--Pfc. Charles
Sheehan-Miles, describing March 2, 1991, assault on retreating Iraqi column at Rumaila, Iraq, two days after cease-fire in Gulf War. "We've blown away a busload of kids."--Unidentified platoon sergeant during March 2 assault.
"We're yelling on the radio, 'They're firing at the prisoners! They're firing at the prisoners!'"--Specialist 4 Edward Walker, describing February 27, 1991, incident during ground invasion of Iraq.
"It's murder."--Unidentified U.S. soldier during February 27 attack.
BY MAURICE WILLIAMS Washington's assault on Iraq was one of the biggest slaughters in modern history. The six-week bombardment that began in mid-January 1991 and the 100-hour ground invasion unleashed on February 24 killed an estimated 150,000 people. Millions were homeless and exposed to hunger and disease, as large sections of the country were left in ruins. The murderous effects of that war are still felt today, reinforced by the ongoing economic embargo and continued bombing attacks against Iraq.
Despite attempts by the U.S. government to lie and cover up the truth about its massacre, some of the facts have come out over the years. An extensive article in the May 22 issue of the New Yorker magazine by journalist Seymour Hersh has exposed more facts about Washington's slaughter in the Arab-Persian Gulf. Washington seized on Baghdad's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 to launch a war aimed at overthrowing the Iraqi government and installing
a regime subservient to U.S. imperialism. In pursuing these goals the U.S. capitalist class sought to gain an edge over its imperialist rivals in Europe and Japan, bolster its domination in the Middle East, and gain greater control over the oil reserves in the Gulf. The U.S. rulers also used the war to tighten their military encirclement of the workers state in Russia.
Washington, however, did not achieve its political aims in the region. They failed to overthrow the Iraqi government. They have proven unable to crush the Palestinian struggle for a homeland. Instead, there is more volatility and instability in the region and today the Israeli government, its junior imperialist partner in the region, has been forced out of Lebanon.
The February 1991 U.S.-led ground invasion of Iraq was a one-sided slaughter, not a war. The capitalist regime in Iraq, headed by Saddam Hussein, did not organize a fight but simply tried to maneuver with Washington. Baghdad abandoned the mass of workers and peasants in Iraq's army on the battlefield of Kuwait and southern Iraq. As these ex-soldiers tried to flee back home, the U.S. military machine simply massacred tens of thousands of human beings. The U.S. invading forces suffered barely a handful of casualties, mostly from "friendly fire."
Hersh is a liberal journalist who gained a reputation for his investigative reporting on the 1968 My Lai massacre of Vietnamese by the U.S. military. For the New Yorker article, more than 300 interviews were conducted with U.S. army officers in the Gulf war and army investigators.
Hersh focuses mainly on events after the cease-fire announced by U.S. president George Bush on Feb. 28, 1991, in particular the operations directed by one of the top commanders of the Gulf War, Gen. Barry McCaffrey. The article quotes U.S. army officers and soldiers who describe several instances of Iraqis being killed as they tried to flee or surrender or even after they had given themselves up as prisoners to the U.S. forces.
Hersh views these massacres simply as an "excess" of war. He doesn't challenge the premise of Washington's bipartisan assault on the Iraqi people, and so doesn't dwell much on the brutality unleashed by Washington before the February 28 cease-fire, which Bush proclaimed because he believed that by then the U.S. forces were on the verge of achieving their goals.
Nonetheless, even the limited facts presented in this article are an indictment of Washington and shed light on the character of its assault.
McCaffrey, who commanded 26,000 troops of the 24th Infantry Division, drove his forces more than 200 miles into Iraq to block the retreat of Iraqi soldiers from the war zone in Kuwait. Abandoned by their military leadership, they offered no resistance.
Killing of hundreds of fleeing soldiers
"We met the enemy," recalled 1st Lt. Greg Downey, describing an encounter on February 25, the second day of the ground war. "They were a sad sight with absolutely no fight left in them." Referring to the fact their leadership had stranded them, he added, "The hate I had for any Iraqi dissipated."
After the cease-fire was declared, the retreating Iraqis had been assured safe passage. Many had thrown away their weapons. Tanks were loaded on trucks with their cannons aimed to the rear. "Some of the tanks were in travel formation, and their guns were not in any engaged position," said Sgt. Stuart Hirstein of the 124th Military Intelligence Battalion.
On March 2, deep inside Iraq, a five-mile-long retreating column of Iraqis approached the causeway across Lake Hammar, near the Rumaila oil field west of Basra. They ran into the U.S. forces McCaffrey had deployed right across the line of retreat. McCaffrey ordered a devastating attack. The U.S. military forces sealed off the causeway with Apache attack helicopters and artillery fire, pinned the Iraqi column on the road, and pounded them for five hours with wave after wave of bomb, tank, artillery, and missile attacks.
At least 400 Iraqis were killed. Some 700 Iraqi tanks, armored cars, and trucks were destroyed. Among them was a bus with civilians and children that was hit by a rocket. No shots were fired at the U.S. forces, and there were no serious U.S. combat casualties.
No reporters were allowed in the area at the time. During the Gulf War no media representatives were permitted on the battlefields without military escorts. The massacre of unresisting Iraqis and the deaths of children deeply disturbed many U.S. soldiers. One platoon sergeant remarked, "We've blown away a busload of kids."
An officer in the 124th Military Intelligence Battalion said a captured Iraqi tank commander asked his U.S. interrogators several times, "Why are you killing us? All we were doing was going home."
U.S. slaughter of Iraqi prisoners
On February 27, the fourth day of the U.S. ground invasion, a large group of Iraqi soldiers had surrendered to a platoon in the 2-7 Battalion of the 24th Infantry Division. One of the first vehicles to pull up was a bus filled with wounded Iraqi soldiers. The bus was marked with a crescent--the Arab equivalent of the Red Cross sign.
Doctors and male nurses were among the approximately 380 prisoners. Specialist 4 Edward Walker was ordered to blow up weapons confiscated from the Iraqi soldiers. Shortly after destroying a truck holding these weapons, the platoon was abruptly ordered to move on. The U.S. GIs, greatly outnumbered by the Iraqis, left after giving them surrender leaflets printed in Arabic. The papers promised that those who gave up would live to see their families again.
Lt. Kirk Allen, the platoon commander, notified the battalion's operations headquarters of the exact location of the Iraqi hospital bus. As the confiscated weapons were destroyed in a massive explosion, according to Walker, several U.S. Bradley vehicles, armed with chain-driven machine guns capable of firing up to a thousand rounds a minute, rolled onto the scene.
The high-intensity weapons opened up. 'They knew there were prisoners there' Walker, who was convinced all the prisoners were mowed down, said the Bradleys also fired on him and the other GIs who were in a marked Humvee. "They knew there were prisoners there. They knew they were unarmed," said Walker. "They knew the hospital bus was there, and they knew we were blowing the truck up."
Walker left the military in 1991, not permitted by the authorities at Fort Leonard Wood to re-enlist after spilling the beans on the killing.
Another military engagement involving McCaffrey's troops from the 124th Military Intelligence Battalion occurred one day after the cease-fire. A ground-radar surveillance team joined a platoon of scouts who discovered a cache of Iraqi weapons at a deserted schoolhouse near Highway 8.
Steven Larimore, a sergeant who headed a brigade assigned to the platoon, said his men noticed a group of villagers walking in the area. "One guy had a white bedsheet on a stick," Larimore stated. "Out of the blue sky, some guy from where we're sitting begins shooting" at the Iraqis. Other machine guns opened fire. In less than three or four minutes some 20 Iraqi civilians were mowed down.
Liberal reporter Hersh denounces the U.S.-organized atrocities carried out after the cease-fire under McCaffrey's command, but says little about the brutal bombing campaign and the final ground assault by the U.S. forces until then--a war that was completely bipartisan.
But the events of March 2 were a continuation of the "total war" approach unleashed by the imperialist rulers on the Iraqi people, culminating with the annihilation of tens of thousands fleeing on the highway from Kuwait City to Basra. During this onslaught, described by pilots as a "turkey shoot," U.S. military forces bombed the front and back of Iraqi convoys, trapping
thousands of vehicles in a "killing box." A reporter for the London Independent who visited the scene of the carnage wrote, "I lost count of the Iraqi corpses crammed into the smouldering wreckage or slumped face down in the sand."
Far from being a rogue officer, McCaffrey simply carried out the "Powell doctrine"--named for Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time--of using maximum force at the outset of a war to minimize U.S. casualties.
"Do we understand that when we use military force decisively, we are actually killing people and breaking up their equipment?" McCaffrey insisted in an interview published in the May 29 issue of Newsweek. "Do you understand that when you actually apply power, you don't want a fair fight?"
One fact Hersh does not report is that during the murderous Desert Storm assault, the U.S. army literally buried alive thousands of Iraqi soldiers in their trenches.
On February 24-25, 1991, three U.S. army brigades used tanks equipped with plows to fill in with sand 70 miles of six-foot-deep trenches defended by more than 8,000 Iraqi soldiers on the Saudi-Iraq border. McCaffrey came under investigation after the war when an officer in his unit filed a complaint about his post-cease-fire operations. Military investigators filed a secret report and exonerated McCaffrey in 1991.
McCaffrey was promoted to four-star general in 1994 and served as commander of the U.S. military forces in Latin America. President William Clinton named him White House "drug czar" two years later. Today he is directly involved in Washington's escalating military intervention in Colombia, which is being waged under the banner of fighting drug traffickers intertwined with the "fight against terrorism."
The U.S.-organized massacre in Iraq was not an aberration or an excess. It was the product of the drive by the U.S. ruling families to defend their declining capitalist world order. The Gulf War announced subsequent military assaults like the U.S.-led war against Yugoslavia.
One of the best explanations of these developments can be found in New International no. 7, which features the article "Opening Guns of World War III: Washington's Assault on Iraq," by Jack Barnes.