Can You Spot The War Crime?

by Gregory Elich

May 12, 2003


Now that the war in Iraq has come to an end, the Bush Administration is planning to prosecute former Iraqi officials for war crimes. According to Administration sources, hundreds of Iraqis will be put on trial, and thousands more may be granted amnesty in return for confessions. As Pierre-Richard Prosper, US Ambassador for War Crimes explained it, "There must be credible accountability. For crimes committed against US personnel, we, the United States, will prosecute." Crimes committed against the Iraqi people are to be judged by Iraqis, acting under American guidance and control. "Atrocities and abuses by the regime of its own people should be tried by Iraqis," a high-ranking US official said. "We're prepared to provide support which could range from financial aid to legal experts to judges, to make it credible." The obvious premise is that only American control will result in a "credible" process.

There is much confusion about what does and does not constitute a war crime. While many have a clear notion of the concept, others are befuddled. In order to bring clarity and understanding to this troublesome subject, a quiz is offered below. A total of five exercises will test the reader's comprehension of the issue of crimes against humanity. In each exercise, a number of incidents are described, but only one qualifies as a war crime. The object is to correctly identify which example in an exercise is a war crime. Ten points are awarded for each correct answer, and at the end the reader can compare his score against a chart to gauge his or her knowledge of the subject.

Exercise 1

According to Article 2 of the United Nations Charter, "All members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered." Furthermore, the Charter adds, "All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations."

In 1950, the International Law Commission of the United Nations adopted the Principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal as constituting basic principles of international law. Foremost among the crimes defined as punishable under international law are crimes against peace, which include "planning, preparation, initiation or waging a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances." The second category of crimes against peace include "participation in a common plan or conspiracy" to accomplish the aforementioned crimes.

In his opening address for the United States at the Nuremberg Tribunal, Chief Prosecutor Robert Jackson declared "that to plan, prepare, initiate or wage a war of aggression...is a crime." Jackson identified several actions as aggression, and therefore crimes against peace, including invasion of the territory of another state and attack by armed forces on the territory of another state. It is noteworthy that Jackson added, "It is the plot and the act of aggression which we charge to be crimes. Our position is that whatever grievances a nation may have, however objectionable it finds the status quo, aggressive warfare is an illegal means for settling those grievances or for altering those conditions."

On March 20, 2003, the United States and Great Britain bombarded Iraq with cruise missiles and bombs, the prelude to an invasion which soon followed. Within weeks, invading American and British troops had conquered Iraq. The invasion was undertaken without United Nations authorization because a veto of such action in the UN Security Council appeared to be a certainty. Iraq had not threatened or attacked either the U.S. or Great Britain, nor was there any indication that it intended to do so. Furthermore, UN inspectors had effectively eliminated Iraq's stock of chemical weapons by the time they departed in 1998.

One oil well in Kirkuk burned for six weeks, the result of an apparent accident. At the Al-Rumeila field, four oil wells were deliberately set afire, with the intention either to create a smoke screen to cover defending forces, or to deny these assets to invading American and British forces. A total of eleven wells were said to have gone up in flames, all belonging to Iraq.

Only one war crime can be found in the first exercise. Can you find it?

Answer (10 points)

Admittedly, this first exercise was very easy. Yes, that's right. Iraq committed a war crime by burning a few of its oil wells, as that noted expert on international law, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, so aptly pointed out on the first day of the war. "I have seen indications and reports that the Iraqi regime may have set afire to as many as three or four oil wells in the south. Needless to say, it is a crime for that regime to be destroying the riches of the Iraqi people." The wells may have been the riches of the Iraqi people, but rightfully they will soon belong to American and British oil companies, which is what makes this a war crime. Only the misguided would imagine that the thousands of US and British bombs and missiles dropped destroyed the riches of the Iraqi people. These were smart bombs, after all. For those readers who are confused about the example, there is a basic moral principle involved. US and British oil companies have the right to expect that anticipated profits on their future possessions not be limited by damage done to oil wells. Operation Iraqi Freedom could not possibly be construed as a war crime, because good guys were pursuing evildoers. It was also really cool to see all those airplanes and missiles in action.

Exercise 2

In 1980, Iraqi troops invaded Iran in an attempt to seize territory by force of arms. The resulting war dragged on for eight years, causing immense destruction and costing the lives of 1.7 million people in one of the twentieth century's major wars.

In December 1983, President Reagan sent envoy Donald Rumsfeld, now Secretary of Defense, to Baghdad to meet Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and offer American assistance. Rumsfeld told Hussein that the U.S. wanted a full resumption of relations and that it "would regard any major reversal of Iraq's fortunes as a strategic defeat for the west." Only the month before State Department official Jonathan Howe informed Secretary of State George Schultz that Iraq was using chemical weapons against Iranian forces on an "almost daily basis." It was also well known by then that the Hussein government had engaged in widespread repression, crushing the Iraqi left through executions, imprisonment, torture and exile.

Howard Teicher, a former official of the National Security Agency who accompanied Rumsfeld on that mission, said that in June 1982, "President Reagan decided that the United States would do whatever was necessary and legal to prevent Iraq from losing the war with Iran," and formalized that policy in a National Security Decision Directive [NSDD] which Teicher helped draft. CIA Director William Casey "personally spearheaded the effort to ensure that Iraq had sufficient military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to avoid losing the Iran-Iraq war. Pursuant to the secret NSDD, the United States actively supported the Iraqi war effort by supplying the Iraqis with billions of dollars of credits, by providing US military intelligence and advice to the Iraqis, and by closely monitoring third country arms sales to Iraq to make sure that Iraq had the military weaponry required."

"The United States also provided strategic operational advice to the Iraqis to better use their assets in combat," Teicher continued. "For example, in 1986, President Reagan sent a secret message" through Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek, acting as an intermediary, "to Saddam Hussein telling him that Iraq should step up its air war and bombing of Iran," and "similar strategic operational military advice was passed" to Hussein through meetings with various heads of state.

Teicher "personally attended meetings in which CIA Director Casey and Deputy Director Robert Gates "noted the need for Iraq to have certain weapons such as cluster bombs and anti-armor penetrators in order to stave off Iranian attacks." The CIA supplied cluster bombs to Iraq through Cardoen, a Chilean company.

In 1991 Iraq invaded Kuwait. Once again Iraq coveted territory but unlike the previous war the scale of death and destruction was comparatively minor. Only one of these invasions was a war crime. Which one was it?

Answer (10 points)

The two invasions can be clearly differentiated. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was a war crime, whereas that of Iran was not. Without question a moral distinction can be made. The invasion of Iran was welcomed and supported by the United States and therefore does not constitute a war crime. The invasion of Kuwait, on the other hand, was opposed by the United States, which bombed Iraq and imposed ruinous sanctions against that nation, driving its people into misery, deprivation and despair.

Exercise 3

Article 44 of the Protocol Additional of the Geneva Conventions directs combatants "to distinguish themselves from the civilian population while they are engaged in an attack or in a military operation preparatory to an attack. Recognizing, however, that there are situations in armed conflicts where, owing to the nature of the hostilities an armed combatant cannot so distinguish himself, he shall retain his status as a combatant, provided that, in such situations, he carries his arms openly: (a) during each military engagement, and (b) during such time as he is visible to the adversary while he is engaged in a military deployment preceding the launching of an attack in which he is to participate."

During the war, Iraqi civilians and guerrillas who openly carried arms defended their country by fighting back against invading American and British troops.

More than 10,000 American forces belonging to the Special Operations Group (SOG) operated inside Iraq during the war, as did more than two dozen CIA paramilitaries. Many of them performed their duties out of uniform, disguised as Iraqi civilians and carrying concealed weapons. Special operations units sought out and assassinated Iraqi Baath Party members and government officials, both in Baghdad and elsewhere. US Army Delta Force and other SOG units were given a list of more than 100 Iraqi officials that they were instructed to either kill or capture. This was the largest such operation since the Phoenix program in the Vietnam War, when American assassins murdered tens of thousands of influential Vietnamese civilians who held political views not to the liking of the US military. Special operation forces also electronically marked targets in order to guide bombs dropped by US and British warplanes. Even before the war, SOG operatives blew up buildings and the scale of their operations increased dramatically once the war began. The Special Operations Group is seen as Rumsfeld's baby, and so pleased was he with the results that he authorized it to plan and carry out missions "against terrorists" and other opponents anywhere in the world. In support of a wider role for the SOG, Rumsfeld has proposed increasing its budget by more than $1 billion.

In a program that amounted to over $200 million, CIA operatives conducted a year-long campaign prior to the war aimed at bringing down the government of Iraq through a coup, and in which Iraqi officials were recruited and clandestine radio stations established.

Answer (10 points)

Yet another easy exercise. Instead of supporting and welcoming our troops, as they were supposed to do, Iraqi civilians and guerrillas committed a war crime when they shot at our boys. As Major General Stanley McChrystal, vice director of operations for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and a trustworthy authority on the subject, so eloquently phrased it, "If a force is going to engage in combat, it's going to fight, it must wear a uniform or some kind of uniform -- law of land warfare says arm bands or some distinctive marking that allows combatants to be identified from civilians."

Special Operations Group forces killing and creating mayhem while dressed in civilian clothing and armed with concealed weaponry cannot possibly be interpreted as having committed war crimes. Quite the contrary. They're Americans; that's why. Less enlightened foreign peoples tend to jump to the erroneous conclusion that the elimination of Iraqi officials was tantamount to murder. That is because foreigners are not blessed with a free press, such as we have in the U.S. If they enjoyed a free press, then they would realize that the good guys were rooting out evildoers and bad guys. Marine General Peter Pace was right to brag, "During this war, the Special Operations Forces have done amazing feats of bravery, and I believe that they'll be properly reported at the proper time." At which time, praise will be heaped on our boys in the SOG who so richly deserve our support.

Exercise 4

Article 13 of the Geneva Convention relating to the treatment of prisoners of war requires that prisoners of war "at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity."

On several occasions, Iraqi prisoners of war were filmed and shown on American television. Then, on March 23, 2003, Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television and Iraqi State television broadcast a film clip showing five captured American soldiers.

Article 79 of the Protocol Additional of the Geneva Convention declares that journalists "in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians," and that they "shall be protected as such under the Conventions and this Protocol."

On April 2, the Sheraton Hotel in Basra was struck four times by artillery fire. The hotel's only guests were journalists from Al-Jazeera. According to the television channel's spokesman, "Al-Jazeera had officially advised the Pentagon of all relevant details pertaining to its reporters covering the war on Iraq," including supplying the location of "official HQs of all its reporters in Basra, Mosul and Baghdad."

Six days after that attack, two missiles slammed into the Baghdad-based office of Al-Jazeera. Correspondent Tariq Ayoub was standing on the roof at the time, with cameraman Zuheir Iraqi, preparing for a live broadcast. Ayoub was killed instantly and Iraqi suffered a wound to his neck from flying shrapnel. "Al-Jazeera's office is located in a residential area and there is no way that the attack was a mistake," pointed out Al-Jazeera correspondent Majed Abdel Hadi. "We were watching and filming the bombardment and it's quite clearly a direct strike on the Al-Jazeera office," said Rageh Omaar, a reporter for the BBC. "This was not just a stray round. It just seemed too specific."

That same day, a US tank fired a round into the upper floors of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, which housed more than 200 journalists who had chosen to report on the war independently rather than accompany US units. French reporter Hervé de Ploeg said that American tanks "headed there, moved their turrets and waited at least two minutes before opening fire. I did not hear any shots in the direction of the tank...It had been very quiet for a moment. There was no shooting at all. Then I saw the turret turning in our direction and the carriage lifting. It faced the target. It was not a case of instinctive firing." The exploding round killed two cameramen and injured three other journalists.

Answer (10 points + 10 bonus points)

The correct answer is that the broadcast of five American prisoners of war was a war crime. This crime, which was rightly pronounced as "shocking" by the more astute commentators, ranks as the most heinous of the entire war. It cannot be compared with American broadcasts showing Iraqi prisoners of war. As W. Hays Parks, Special Assistant to the Judge Advocate General for the US Army explained it, US forces had not violated any laws by permitting journalists to film Iraqis POWs because such filming was a "statement of fact." This should clear up any confusion concerning the difference between the two cases.

In regard to the journalists who were killed, please award yourself an additional 10 points if you thought they had it coming to them because they weren't supporting our troops. As surprising as it may seem, it is not considered a war crime to broadcast propaganda attempting to show the good guys in a bad light. The free press behaved as it was supposed to, and "embedded" its journalists with US units and attended US military press briefings. But these bad guy journalists willfully aided evildoers by reporting on collateral damage, as if anyone would care about some foreigners being killed in the first place. Who wants to hear about collateral damage? What about our boys who were killed? How dare they report on some worthless foreigners dying! Why didn't they report on the suffering of our troops, fighting so nobly to bring democracy and freedom to backward peoples?

Exercise 5

Article 49 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions requires that in war time, "The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack." Furthermore, "Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited." Indiscriminate attacks are defined as "those which are not directed at a specific military objective; those which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective; or those which employ a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited." Article 52 stipulates, "Civilian objects shall not be the object of attack or of reprisals."

Two American cruise missiles slammed into the Al-Shaab residential Baghdad neighborhood at mid-day on March 26, blasting a large hole in the street and demolishing a large building. Wrecked automobiles were strewn about the street. Fifteen civilians were killed in the attack, and 30 more wounded. "I saw a dozen bodies or more," said Wasim Al-Shinmari. "They were inside the cars, outside the cars, even in the buildings. Children, ladies, men -- nobody had any warning." A woman and her three children were burned alive as the explosion tossed their car upside down, engulfing it with flames. A building manager, Hishem Danoon, ran to a door when he heard the explosion. "I found Ta'ar in pieces over there," he said, speaking of one of the young men who worked for him. A second workman, Sermed, also died, his brains thrown onto the pavement behind a burned car. "I had five sons and now I have only two -- and how do I know that even they will survive?" a middle-aged man said sorrowfully. "One of my boys was hit in the kidneys and heart. His chest was full of shrapnel. It came right through the windows. Now all I can say is that I am sad that I am alive." Rageh Omaar reported for the BBC, "I saw human remains, bits of severed hands, bits of skull," and his colleague Andrew Gillian added, "The nearest military building, civil defense headquarters, is I have to say at least a quarter of a mile away."

Two days later a cruise missile set off a powerful explosion when it struck a market place at 6:00 PM in the Baghdad suburb of Shu'ale. The marketplace was crowded with people shopping after the day's work. "I was standing in my doorway looking around when the rocket fell right in the middle of the market," recalled Fadel Jabbar Hussein, who was struck by shrapnel in his arm and stomach. "Before that, I heard a sound in the sky, and everybody looked up and saw a plane with a white line coming from it; and the next minute or two went blank. When I opened my eyes, I was on the ground and it was like after a storm -- all the stalls were turned over, people were screaming, there was smoke and a lot of blood." Ikhlas Fiaq recalled the attack while she was receiving treatment for wounds at the Al-Noor Hospital, "When the rocket came the whole area became dark. For a few minutes I couldn't see a thing. When I opened my eyes, I saw bodies and parts of bodies everywhere I looked. It was a massacre. Simply that, a massacre." At the hospital coffin after coffin was loaded onto trucks, surrounded by relatives of the victims wailing with grief. Tarif Jamil, a doctor at Al-Noor Hospital, remarked, "There were limbs torn off, and burns, multiple shrapnel injuries, head and chest injuries. I saw about six children -- all dead -- and at least three women." Dr. Haqqi Razouki observed, "I don't remember so many injured people, so much blood everywhere, in this hospital before. Even the doctors and nurses were shocked. People were so badly injured that they were dying in our hands." Days passed as people continued to die from their wounds, the death toll eventually reaching 62.

Ahmed Mohammed Jabbar, who owned a stall in the neighborhood, lost his youngest son, age 11. His other son, age 14, barely survived shrapnel wounds to his head and trunk. When Jabbar was told by doctors that his older son would live, he sobbed with relief. Gafel Hamdani, 74 years old, saw his three youngest sons, ages 12, 18 and 20, killed before his eyes. "What can I tell you?" he said. "Isn't the sight of them enough?" Salman Zakker was wounded by shrapnel in the attack. "I could not get up and I could not feel my legs," he said. "Women were screaming. Two boys were lying next to me. I tried to help them get up, but they were dead." Dr. Abbas Ali Abbas concluded, "I don't believe America is doing it by accident. Every day, they kill civilian people. Every day, injured civilians are brought to our hospital. It is not a war. It is slaughter."

US warplanes showered Hilla and Maarak, two small towns near Babylon, with cluster bombs over the course of a few days in late March and early April. Cluster bombs are anti-personnel weapons, designed to inflict maximum damage to human beings. Before hitting the ground, each cluster bomb releases hundreds of smaller bomblets which spread over a wide area and explode in the air, sending thousands of razor-sharp pellets zinging in all directions, penetrating everything they hit and tearing human beings to shreds. The bomblets fell like "small grapefruit," said Mohammed Moussa. "If it hadn't exploded and you touched it, it went off immediately. They exploded in the air and on the ground and we still have some in our home, unexploded." Reporters from Reuters visited the Babylon General Hospital and filmed the carnage. Babies sliced in two, children with amputated limbs, and in the hospital's mortuary, mounds of dismembered and mutilated remains of what were once people. In grief-stricken agony, a father held out the pieces of his baby in his arms and shouted, "Cowards! Cowards!" Two trucks were piled with the bodies of victims. Alia Mukhtaff was filmed in a hospital bed, recovering from her wounds. Her husband and six of her children had been killed in the attack. Patients with amputated limbs were filmed. One man reported that an American vehicle fired a shell into his home. "I could see an American flag," he said. The Reuters film was never shown in the West.

At least 61 people were reported by Babylon General Hospital to have died, and well over 300 were wounded. Yet many more victims were simply buried without ever being taken to the hospital, and the true scale of death may never be reported. Razek Al-Kazem Al-Khafaji and his family were fleeing in his pick-up truck from fighting taking place in Nasiriya. A US Apache helicopter spotted them and launched a rocket at the truck, killing all 15 members of his family. Only Razek survived. He lost his wife, six children, his father and mother, his three brothers and their wives.

Ali Abed recalled the attack on Hilla on the morning of April 1. "The earth shook and we were hit by shrapnel. My wife was killed right there. My nephew was injured. My son was injured. It was terrible." In nearby Kifl, Azira Khadem said the attack came at 4:00 AM, when everyone was asleep. "I heard the bombardment. People opened doors and tried to get out. But then the bombardment came from all directions -- artillery, tanks, soldiers. It hit the houses and five, six, 20 people were killed. Then the planes went away. Where were the people to go? Wherever they could, they fled."

Khalid Hallil was inside his home when shrapnel ripped through the walls and tore his left thigh apart. His father later recalled, "Metal just came from everywhere. Believe me, there were no soldiers in the area. Only civilians. There was no justification for attacking us in our homes. No justification for this murderous act."

Dr. Hydar Abbas reported that all of the injuries in his ward were caused by cluster bombs. "The majority of the victims were children who died because they were outside. We have an ambulance driver, Abdul Zahra, whose leg had to be amputated after he came under attack while he was driving to the area. What kind of war is it that [Great Britain] and America are fighting?"

The small village of Manaria, home to about 50 families, was also the target of American military planners. Twelve-year old Ahmed Hussein was home with his family on March 29. "We heard a plane and went outside," he said. "It was very loud. One of my aunts grabbed me and pulled me around the corner. There was a big sound, and smoke. Then I heard screaming inside." Ahmed's aunt, Alia Mijbas, was hit in both legs by shrapnel, while her son, five year old Mahmood, was struck in the chest and shoulders as he was drinking a glass of milk. Ahmed's mother, Hamida, was telling her 13-year old daughter Samara not to go outside when the missile exploded and shrapnel shot through the house, hitting Samara in the stomach. Samara "just fell," Hamida said. "I could see blood coming from her stomach. She was gasping, and as I ran to her she was crying, 'Mama, Mama.' It was so terrible." Hamida paused while she wiped away her tears. "There were others also hurt, and everyone was crying and screaming. We had to wait for a car because ours was so badly damaged. But I knew my Samar would not last until we got to the hospital. And that is what happened. She died in my arms..."

Air attacks killed 19 people in two neighboring villages, Zambrania and Talkana. In Zambrania, Haidari Al-Yussuf had just sent his 17 year old son Jalal and his nephew Ibrahim on their way to enjoy lunch at the home of his friend at the next farm. "Then we heard something going very fast through the air, and then the loud noise. I started running straight away. I knew something bad had happened. When I got there I found Ibrahim was dead and Jalal was hurt. He had a big open wound in his neck and there was blood pouring out. He was taken to the hospital. He died there."

Journalists who ventured outside of Baghdad reported seeing bombed cars, trucks, buses and bodies strewn along the roads. Apparently from time to time US and British pilots bombed anything that moved along the roads. This trigger-happy attitude was reflected in the behavior of their counterparts on the ground. Paul Eedle, a journalist for The Financial Times, witnessed American soldiers shooting unarmed civilians in Baghdad. "Three times in three hours I saw troops...open fire, killing five people and wounding five -- among them a six-year-old girl," he reported. "The Marines shot anything that they considered remotely a threat. An old blue Volkswagen came up an alley opposite the palace gate. A Marine on top of the stone-clad arch of the gate opened fire and the car crashed into a wall. We heard screaming from the alley." Eedle noted that "a man who had run on to his balcony upon hearing the gunfire had been shot dead." A short while later, after Eedle heard heavy gunfire, a "white Mitsubishi van roared along the main road...the driver slumped over the wheel, unconscious or already dead. The van veered off the road into a wall."

Reporter Laurent Van der Stockt, on assignment for The New York Times Magazine, also witnessed civilians being shot. "On April 6, we were at the outskirts of Baghdad, facing a strategic bridge... American snipers got the order to kill anything coming in their direction. That night a teenager who was crossing the bridge was killed." The next day, Van der Stockt accompanied advancing Marines. "A small blue van was moving towards the convoy. Three not-very-accurate warning shots were fired. The shots were supposed to make the van stop. The van kept on driving, making a U-turn, took shelter and then returned slowly. The Marines opened fire. All hell broke loose. They were firing all over the place. You could hear 'Stop firing' being shouted. The silence that set in was overwhelming. Two men and a woman had just been riddled with bullets." Not long after that, a second vehicle approached. "Its passengers were killed on the spot. A grandfather was walking slowly with a cane on the sidewalk. They killed him too. As with the old man, the Marines fired on a SUV driving along the riverbank that was getting too close to them. Riddled with bullets, the vehicle rolled over. Two women and a child got out, miraculously still alive. They sought refuge in the wreckage. A few seconds later, it flew into bits as a tank lobbed a terse shot into it."

On March 31, US Marines killed ten women and children travelling in a van as they approached a checkpoint in southern Iraq. Five of the children appeared to be under five years of age. "It was the most horrible thing I've ever seen, and I hope never to see it again," said an Army medic. He described how one woman held the mutilated bodies of her two children in her arms. "She didn't want to get out of the car."

After the fall of Iraq, US occupation troops stationed in the town of Fallouja, 35 miles west of Baghdad, were confronted by more than two hundred angry Iraqi demonstrators on April 29. When US soldiers first arrived in the town two days beforehand, they established a post at the local school, leaving the children in the town with nowhere to study. American soldiers further inflamed resentment among the locals when they piled the school desks in the street to form a roadblock. As the demonstrators approached the school, the American soldiers panicked and opened fire. "They just shot at the protesters," said Musana Saleh Abdel Latif, whose house is across the street from the school. "Some of the wounded tried to take cover in my front yard. My wife and I started to pull them in. I was hit in the foot. My wife was hit in both legs. My brother, Walid, came to take me to the hospital, and he was shot and killed. Another brother was shot and injured." Fourteen Iraqis were killed and 70 wounded as they were mowed down by American firepower. Fifteen-year-old Ahmed Al-Essawi confirmed that the demonstrators were unarmed. "All of us were trying to run away. They shot at us directly. The soldiers were very scared. There were no warning shots, and I heard no announcements on the loudspeakers. Ahmed Karim said, "We arrived at the school building and were hoping to talk to the soldiers when they began shooting at us randomly." Hussein Ali Awari lived across the road from the school. "There were injured people crying out for help outside the house. When I tried to go out to help them, they told me to get back inside or they'd shoot." Despite American claims that they were fired upon by the demonstrators, Western reporters were unable to find a single bullet hole in the school building, whereas the walls of the buildings facing the school were pockmarked with bullet holes from US arms.

The next day, demonstrations erupted in Fallouja, protesting the massacre. As a US convoy passed the demonstrators, a young boy tossed his sandal at a jeep. The soldier manning a heavy machine-gun mounted on the back of the jeep ducked, and then swirled the gun around, firing at the crowd. Chris Hughes of The Mirror reported, "We dived for cover under the compound wall as troops within the crowd opened fire. The convoy accelerated away from the scene. Iraqis in the line of fire dived for cover, hugging the dust to escape being hit. We could hear the bullets screaming over our heads. Explosions of sand erupted from the ground -- if the rounds failed to hit a demonstrator first. Seconds later the shooting stopped and the screaming and wailing began. One of the dead, a young man, lay face up, half his head missing, first black blood, then red spilling into the dirt. His friends screamed at us in anger, then looked at the grim sight in disbelief." US soldiers had killed two people and wounded 14. US Lt. Colonel Tobin Green declared afterwards, "The evildoers are deliberately placing at risk the good civilians. These are deliberate actions by the enemy to use the population as cover."

Answer (10 points)

All right! That's kicking some Iraqi butt! That will teach the bad guys not to mess with Uncle Sam. As many of you have figured out by now, this was a trick question. There is, in actuality, no war crime in this example. As shocking as it may seem, the boy who tossed a sandal at our boys did not commit a war crime, nor did the bad guys in Fallouja commit a war crime by demonstrating when they should have been supporting our troops. This points up some of the weaknesses in international law. However, our boys in Fallouja gave the evildoers a lesson in democracy they'll not soon forget. We are there to help them because we are do-gooders and just want to help others. We're bringing them democracy, and to ensure that happens, we'll be running the country for them until they learn to do what is right. We will also help them by bringing the American entrepreneurial spirit to their backward land, and American companies will be taking over and running their oil wells and factories for them.

Please award yourself 10 points if you correctly guessed that there was no war crime. If, on the other hand, you felt that the boy tossing a sandal at our boys was a war crime, or that demonstration against our troops was a war crime, you may also award yourself 10 points. Although technically not a war crime, you correctly understood the magnitude of this breach of human decency.

In Fallouja, what was all that whining about not having anyplace to send their children to school? As if the Iraqis have anything to teach! When we're good and ready, we'll give them schools where their children can get an education in American values. It is up to us to run the country for them and teach them how to think and behave. Once we manage to civilize them, they will learn to support our troops, just as all good people do.

It was our bombs that helped that benighted people, so we shouldn't have to countenance complaints about collateral damage. We killed bad guys and evildoers, so the people in Iraq should thank us.

We as Americans can be proud. Former Lt. General Jay Garner, the initial US Administrator over Iraq, said it best. "We ought to be beating our chests every morning. We ought to look in the mirror and get proud and suck in our bellies and stick out our chests and say, 'Damn, we're Americans,' and smile."

How Did You Do?

If You Scored:

50-60 You are a patriot and support our troops. You can be proud and stick out your chest.
30-40 You support our troops, but you should watch more television in order to become better informed.
10-20 Close that book and start watching more television. You are out of touch with your culture. As a result, you are seriously confused and easily influenced by the bad guys.
0 You are an evildoer.

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Gregory Elich is a consultant in technology, an independent researcher, a journalist, and an activist.

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Looking For A Leader In 2004 - by Jan Baughman

A Moving Carol - by Alma A. Hromic

Letters to a Young Poet (Letter Four) - by Rainer Maria Rilke

Djinn Rummy Over Baghdad - Poem by Sabina C. Becker

He Who Damns A Lie Will Have To Answer To Me - Poem by Phil Rockstroh


Published May 12, 2003
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