Now, I've always had a tremendous respect for the service men and women who are out there risking their lives every day for our country. And it's important that we recognize that far more missions and prisons are handled with respect for human life than not. Meanwhile, whatever problems our military has, it's still known as the best and most humane in the world.
But we can do better.
This week, The Nation came out with an article including disturbing detail about the brutal treatment of Iraqi civilians by some U.S. soldiers and marines in the early years of the war. The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness, by Chris Hedges & Laila Al-Arian, documents interviews with 50 Iraq combat vets, dozens of whom:
...witnessed Iraqi civilians, including children, dying from American firepower. Some participated in such killings; others treated or investigated civilian casualties after the fact. Many also heard such stories, in detail, from members of their unit. The soldiers, sailors and marines emphasized that not all troops took part in indiscriminate killings. Many said that these acts were perpetrated by a minority. But they nevertheless described such acts as common and said they often go unreported -- and almost always go unpunished.Granted, The Nation's report is biased towards the earlier years of the war (including interviews with only two respondents who served in Iraq after 2005), and the Washington Post reports that the aggregate number of civilian deaths has decreased by 34% since January. Nevertheless, the June 30th bombing in Sadr City, in which two U.S. raids for insurgents hit a civilian area, prove we still have a problem. Witnesses -- including surviving residents, police and hospital officials -- said as many as 26 innocent Iraqis were killed during the operation, including a number of children.
Back in May, I wrote here about the failure of the U.S. military to adequately document and compensate for the deaths of Iraqi civilians. The recent events in Sadr city substantiate the point we and our friends at the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) have been making...and breaks my heart, because it just shouldn't be this way.
"Every civilian death deserves recognition and the families suffering a loss deserve the dignity of knowing the circumstances,” said Sarah Holewinski, CIVIC’s executive director, in a recent press release. "If and when the US may be at fault, an investigation is appropriate and just."
EPIC joins with CIVIC in demanding a full, transparent investigation into these and other civilian casualties. "Investigate, figure out what went wrong, why civilians were killed, then fix the problem," said Holewinski. "That effort would show the Iraqi people that U.S. troops care."