The story of the Haditha Massacre has been developing for months now, but exactly what happened after a roadside bomb killed a US Marine in the Iraqi town of Haditha now seems clear: Marines went on a vengeful rampage, killing two dozen Iraqi civilians including women, children and babies.
In Memories of a Massacre, Ellen Knickmeyer from the Washington Post relies on witness accounts for the story of the killings:
[O]ne of the Marines took charge and began shouting, said Fahmi, who was watching from his roof. Fahmi said he saw the Marine direct other Marines into the house closest to the blast, about 50 yards away.
It was the home of 76-year-old Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali. Although he had used a wheelchair since diabetes forced a leg amputation years ago, Ali was always one of the first on his block to go out every morning, scattering scraps for his chickens and hosing the dust of the arid western town from his driveway, neighbors said.
In the house with Ali and his 66-year-old wife, Khamisa Tuma Ali, were three of the middle-aged male members of their family, at least one daughter-in-law and four children — 4-year-old Abdullah, 8-year-old Iman, 5-year-old Abdul Rahman and 2-month-old Asia.
Marines entered shooting, witnesses recalled. Most of the shots — in Ali’s house and two others — were fired at such close range that they went through the bodies of the family members and plowed into walls or the floor, physicians at Haditha’s hospital said.
A daughter-in-law, identified as Hibbah, escaped with Asia, survivors and neighbors said. Iman and Abdul Rahman were shot but survived. Four-year-old Abdullah, Ali and the rest died.
When reports first appeared about the massacre, the US military denied them, accusing one reporter of buying into enemy propaganda.
Although this incident is remarkable for its ferocity and its death toll, it is far from isolated. In fact, indiscriminate killings by occupation forces in Iraq are commonplace. The Iraqi ambassador to the US said yesterday that US forces in Iraq killed his cousin in an interview with Wolf Blitzer:
BLITZER: [...] you lost a cousin at Haditha in a separate battle involving United States Marines.
[IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO US] SUMAIDAIE: Well, that was not a battle at all. Marines were doing house-to-house searches, and they went into the house of my cousin. He opened the door for them.
His mother, his siblings were there. He led them into the bedroom of his father. And there he was shot.
BLITZER: Who shot him?
SUMAIDAIE: A member of the Marines.
BLITZER: Why did they shoot him?
SUMAIDAIE: Well, they said that they shot him in self-defense. I find that hard to believe because, A, he is not at all a violent — I mean, I know the boy. He was [in] a second-year engineering course in the university. Nothing to do with violence. All his life has been studies and intellectual work.
Totally unbelievable. And, in fact, they had no weapon in the house. They had one weapon which belonged to the school where his father was a headmaster. And it had no ammunition in it. And he led them into the room to show it to them.
BLITZER: So what you’re suggesting, your cousin was killed in cold blood, is that what you’re saying, by United States Marines?
SUMAIDAIE: I believe he was killed intentionally. I believe that he was killed unnecessarily. [...]
In Afghanistan, less than two weeks after American warplanes bombed an Afghan village, killing at least 16 civilians among the Taliban, riots have claimed the lives of 20 people in Kabul.
The riots started after a deadly crash where a US truck smashed into a row of cars, killing up to 5 Afghans. Fifteen people died after US troops opened fire, a remarkable death toll given the US military’s first claims that the firing was over the heads of the protestors.
The US is now investigating what happened, with military spokesperson Col. Tom Collins saying it is possible US troops fired to “defend themselves” against people throwing rocks:
Though no U.S. soldiers were hurt in the riot, [Collins] said this did not mean they were not in danger. “Deadly intent on the part of the aggressors can be a rock caving in the side of your head. Our soldiers felt threatened,” he said.
These are our allies.