Our War

While our government makes every effort to distract the public with their undefined, ever-shifting ‘war’ on terror, there is a real war and real ever-present terror going on – one which our government, and thus our country, initiated and continues to support. The USA based magazine The Nation has just published a series of in-depth interviews with 50 combat veterans of the Iraq war. Our war. The one we started and our government, our Prime Minister, and every one of his Ministers, continues to stoutly defend.

The piece in The Nation is a long one – available by clicking here. As the saying goes, read it and weep.

This report, originally published in The Independent (UK), gives an outline:

In the interviews, veterans have described acts of violence in which US forces have abused or killed Iraqi men, women and children with impunity.The report steers clear of widely reported atrocities, such as the massacre in Haditha in 2005, but instead unearths a pattern of human rights abuses. “It’s not individual atrocity,” Specialist Garett Reppenhagen, a sniper from the 263rd Armour Battalion, said. “It’s the fact that the entire war is an atrocity.”

A number of the troops have returned home bearing mental and physical scars from fighting a war in an environment in which the insurgents are supported by the population. Many of those interviewed have come to oppose the US military presence in Iraq, joining the groundswell of public opinion across the US that views the war as futile.


Through a combination of gung-ho recklessness and criminal behavior born of panic, a narrative emerges of an army that frequently commits acts of cold-blooded violence. A number of interviewees revealed that the military will attempt to frame innocent bystanders as insurgents, often after panicked American troops have fired into groups of unarmed Iraqis. The veterans said the troops involved would round up any survivors and accuse them of being in the resistance while planting Kalashnikov AK47 rifles beside corpses to make it appear that they had died in combat.

“It would always be an AK because they have so many of these lying around,” said Joe Hatcher, 26, a scout with the 4th Calvary Regiment. He revealed the army also planted 9mm handguns and shovels to make it look like the civilians were shot while digging a hole for a roadside bomb.

“Every good cop carries a throwaway,” Hatcher said of weapons planted on innocent victims in incidents that occurred while he was stationed between Tikrit and Samarra, from February 2004 to March 2005. Any survivors were sent to jail for interrogation.

There were also deaths caused by the reckless behavior of military convoys. Sgt Kelly Dougherty of the Colorado National Guard described a hit-and-run in which a military convoy ran over a 10-year-old boy and his three donkeys, killing them all. “Judging by the skid marks, they hardly even slowed down. But, I mean… your order is that you never stop.”

The worst abuses seem to have been during raids on private homes when soldiers were hunting insurgents. Thousands of such raids have taken place, usually at dead of night. The veterans point out that most are futile and serve only to terrify the civilians, while generating sympathy for the resistance.

Our Prime Minister has not expressed concern about any of this. Instead, John Howard says the important thing is that Australia is not party to “the weakening of American power and prestige around the world”, as “that would give great power to terrorists.” Looks to me like our government’s policy of initiating and continuing to support this war and the way it is prosecuted is actively providing the terrorists and anti-democratic forces with more power and support every day, whilst also giving them an added victory with their continuing efforts to remove and attack our own freedoms at home as well.

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  1. I think considerable care needs to be taken in arguing that the presence of coalition troops is providing “anti-democratic forces with more power and support every day” as this will easily lead to the response that “Yes, we did create a mess but now we need to stay behind and clean it up and deal with these terrorists and anti-democratic forces”. This is the argument US Democrats are likely to use to justify maintaining a presence in Iraq after 2008, i.e. to clean up Bush’s mess.

    Let’s get clear, the coalition’s presence has created chaos. There is no ‘alternative anti-democratic force’ but rather a power vacuum. The Iraqis can only begin to deal with this vacuum once the coalition is totally out.

  2. Fair enough, Piping Shrike. It’s a bit of a clumsy phrase – my point in using it was to emphasise that it’s about more than just whatever group/s we decide to put the label of ‘terrorist’ on. The whole notion of terrorist becomes a bit blurry when The Nation article makes starkly clear that our key ally are spreading a fair bit of terror themselves.

    However, regardless of the labels, your key point is the main one. Our presence (i.e. us and our allies) has created chaos, and it is unlikely to start sorting itself out until the coalition forces get out – although no doubt it will remain chaotic for some time after. Ignoring this – and the fact that we are supporting the committing of atrocities – is going to continue to make us all a lot less safe (as well as continuing to lead to a lot more dead and displaced Iraqis)

  3. the response of vn vets to this information will largely be: “you expected something different?”

    our war? i didn’t vote for a politician- it’s your war. if you voted for any politician, you legitimized the recipient of the vote cascade: john howard. all of you should be in front of a judge at the hague.

    i vote for democracy, i hope more of you will join me.

  4. Of course the Democrats and Labor would have been able to stop our involvement in this war in the Senate, had Labor (or the Libs back then) supported the longstanding attempts by the Dems to make parliamentary approval for war a precondition of overseas deployment.

    I hope that this mess does lead to the bill becoming law in the next parliament. In fact, I hope that one thing to come out of the Howard years is that we finally put some constitutional restraints onto the power of the executive (ie. PM and company) whoever or whichever party they may be. This mess just reinforces the fact that the people running the country just do not know anything – a bunch of ignorant party hacks running about with unfettered power and big guns!

    And sadly, seeing as Australia IS a democracy, we are all responsible for this mess, even those of us who marched against it – because collectively the nation has voted to support it, in spite of their opposition to war in the polls, by re-electing the War Party. So sad!

    And yet, it makes me very happy, AB, to see MPs like you out there being a voice of reason. Because, as an historian, I can tell you now that your speeches and actions will help convict the Liberals in the court of history at the very least. There will be no ‘we did what we thought was right at the time’ nonsense, because there will be a record in parliament, as well as on the streets, that there were far wiser counsels and that they were indeed told that they were wrong. So let that solitary fact illuminate your struggle, as it should.

    We just all of us have to work for the rest of our lives in whatever way we can to make sure that ‘Never Again’ triumphs, hopefully with justice for the perpetrators of the great crime. That after all, will be the surest way of prevention. Let Howard and his cohort be hounded by the law to their graves and beyond like Pinochet and his gang.

  5. Also, as if more evidence for CoW attrocities being committed on the Iraqi people, this from a murder case trial testimony by an Iraq vet:

    Beating of Iraqis became routine

    …”We were told to crank up the violence level,” said Lopezromo, testifying for the defense.

    When a juror asked for further explanation, Lopezromo said: “We beat people, sir.”….

    “I don’t see it as an execution, sir,” he told the judge. “I see it as killing the enemy.”

    He said Marines consider all Iraqi men part of the insurgency….

    Prosecution witnesses testified that Thomas shot the 52-year-old man at point-blank range after he had already been shot by other Marines and was lying on the ground.

    Lopezromo said a procedure called “dead-checking” was routine. If Marines entered a house where a man was wounded, instead of checking to see whether he needed medical aid, they shot him to make sure he was dead, he testified.

    “If somebody is worth shooting once, they’re worth shooting twice,” he said.

    Troops out NOW!

    Andrew, in the US there are mechanisms to take the president to court over certain matters through the impeachment process. Are there any legal avenues to hold all Australian MP’s responsible for the war crimes they have contributed to? According to the laws laid out 60 years ago, Australia is most definitely committing a war crime:

    And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.”

    Chief Prosecutor
    Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal 1945

    I would find it rather disturbing that even if Howard looses the next election that he can just walk away from this war crime without ever having to face charges.

  6. i think the sooner usa gets out of iraq the better – it is clear that the strategy from the top has been one of arrogance & un-fettered greed.

    as to whether oz, usa etc should have been in iraq is irrelevant [except as a lesson about what not to do].

    do acts of cowardice occur? almost certain. it is not hard to imagine [for myself] over-reacting when under extreme stress. at times, even under ‘civil’ society [such as oz], some people do really bad stuff [this has always been true across time].

    based on the info we were feed at the time [false as it turns out], i thought the war in iraq was justified: there-after, the whole strategy in this war has been on WINNING.

    let us make one thing clear: NO_ONE “WINS” ANY WAR except military business i.e., usa arms manufacturers & ‘private’ contractors.

    gwb has made the war a PRIVATE BUSINESS for his buddies in energy & the military contractors – john howard & buddies BEAR NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR THESE ACTIONS.

    in fact, while i do not often agree with jh, i think jh has acted fairly & reasonably in the war in iraq.

    further, there is little point in jh+ pointing out these matters in the public domain [it would have no impact what-so-ever].

    do i think oz should pull out its troops? no. i would wait until usa troops started to with draw – if oz troops treat iraqi people with respect [& caution] then oz presence is a BIG pos factor in countering the excesses of ‘a few bad apples’ in coalition forces [by EXAMPLE].

    while i understand u motive above, i do NOT agree with u/demo/green/lab.

    in fact, it is very clear that to ‘cut & run’ is a VERY bad strategy for oz as a ‘minor’ military presence

    BUT a MAJOR ethical presence.

    iraq people KNOW oz situation wrt usa etc & see oz as a major PLUS for them going forward.

    so, i really hate this stuff that is premised on the past [except as lessons to be learned, and there are a lot], rather than looking at OZ reaction to the situation on the ground.

  7. where did you get the idea this is a democracy? your masters told you so?

    well, that’s all right then.

  8. if u wish to delete any/all of my work, by all means do so. if u* feel it is a good idea, my guess is that u are correct.

    going forward, usa will always be oz best friend & worst enemy, all rolled into one.

    i have made some very strong views on gwb, ‘private’ entities, systemic greed & arrogance etc…

    it is clear where gwb is heading, and he will take oz [and maybe 1/2 the planet with him] down with him, based on my analysis [& chomsky].

    so, getting hysterical about the actions of gwb etc serves no point [all that will happen is that u lock him into a position]. jh has gwb’s ear – this is of crucial import [this does not mean that gwb will listen or take the advice/view]. in much the same way, i give ‘advice’ on this web-site [this does not mean u have to agree].

    i suppose the one area where i do not agree with ‘edits’ is that it cuts down on creative options for people who make decisions [including gwb].

    if u control the options for decision makers [e.g., kids at school], u attack democracy at its most basic level.

    so, gwb needs options going forward that are feaible & fair rather than just criticism [whether true or false]. we have a lot in common with people in the usa, and os we [oz] need to be careful NOT to attack usa but rather focus on the actions of those who DO & control evil actions.

    criticism of itself is perfectly useless.

    if u attack a set of actions [in-action], then u must make sure that u offer some better options


    rather than couch your options on ‘hate’ from the past.

    it is a common trap that many people make when making decisions e.g., cuba & usa.

    or, russia & usa military dispute. going forward, i am on russia’s side by a long margin [i.e., i am prepared to think of usa VIA GWB, as the ENEMY of all of us].

    if u feel my input is counter-productive to u-own polly platform, by all means, let me know.

  9. This is slightly OT, but I had to share it with the Senator. Scroll to the end of the comment from one Graeme Bird.

    Incidentally I just saw our man from the Democrats on the TV.

    Bartlett yeah?

    He really is a good guy isn’t he?

    He’s said one or two uncomplementary things about me. But being serious for a minute this bloke is one of the good guys isn’t he?


    The penny drops…

  10. it is a good thing to have a ‘thick’ skin in the polly circus andrew?

    not to worry, i think u are ‘more’ fair than most people on the planet.

    thus, this is why i made such a fuss about being able to define fair, in a tech sense of the word.

    i am more direct than your previous entry above i.e., i call a spade a spade in public, rather than behind their back.

    of course, you should NOT take the blame for views put forward by myself. i like to think that EVERY person dis-agrees with me, but you should always reserve the right to say NO.

    is andrew a ‘good’ guy?

    better than moST!

  11. My mother who spent several years in KZ, (concentration camp in Germany) where I was born says this:

    It is better to have unjust peace than any fully justified war.

    War is a war is a war and it does involve killing innocent people and it does involve all possible attrocities, bestiality, utmost brutality and total destruction, hunger, human tragedy, desecration of any moral, ethical, religious values, while ‘the war architects’ masquerading as democratic leaders or Christians, sit in their armchairs and watch TV, have glorious speeches to their nations and behave like watching a waterpolo.

    Cock fighting is forbidden in Australia but one can find people here extatic about the war which is supposed ‘to be cruel only to be kind’ (Mackbeth) by introducing a final judgment day democracy; that is why so many people are sent to heaven.

  12. the person who makes the ‘final’ judgement is u-self e.g., just before death?

    for my part, i will not die wondering “what if i had done this that or the other etC?”.

    war is genocide, on a greater or lesser scale – this has ALWAYS been the case, even in times of ‘peace’. hence, my reference to peter watson “a terrible beauty”.

    the key area where there is genocide at the moment is a MIND genocide in western nations i.e., ‘we’ kill kids in a systemic way.

    is this an over-statement? NO.

    some religions & social systems are better at the mind kill that parades as wisdom from the past.

    since i have no ‘family’, friends or enemies [except neg ideas], i am not biased against or for any person or group.

    i start from the basic premise that all people are family.

    i tend to get on with ‘country’ people who have done the hard yards, at some point in the past.

    for example, i could make a link with [some] maori with a nod or a glance. this does not happen with abc people [reverse racism].

    i also tend to get along with kids from the ‘low’ end of the social strata [my child hood] and the younger kids e.g., 7-12 years old.

    kids are better communicators than most adults -they say less, but mean more [very fair in my view].

    fair business is war with a pos [fair] attitude. the most dominant form of war is eco-war [unfair trade or allocation of resources].

    for example, consider how many people starve, die from disease, over-population stress, teeth decay [very important in social systems], and so on.

    across the globe, western nations have ABUSED less developed countries since year dot – this is STILL happening e.g., east timor.

  13. as iv sead before that its inevitble that howard will go in the next election .
    the thing is just how mutch damage can his govt do untill then .

  14. i think there was an ‘great’ grate series of

    ideas AND policy options for oz & indo’

    going forward, in the global war

    on ‘terror’=fear of great pain for the poor

    & the rich.

    i got a version of the “art of war” & peaces of piece for a fair pie eye=*U*.

    i will send more info & policy options, direct to the author of a debate & policy,
    in the public & private domain,
    frame-work for indo
    & wp from the avid, reader work*shop.

  15. We won’t be leaving Iraq until George Bush has received his “oil fix”.

    It’s par for the course for innocent people to die in wars.

    Here’s the thing that has changed. LEADERS used to LEAD their soldiers into battle. Now they stay at home and leave even more people to die in their stead.

    I suggest we pack John Howard and George Bush off to serve in the front line.

  16. yes, that would be nice, coral sees.

    sadly, our generals & princes & other sports people do not play the hay for all us spooks,
    in fear, of any gear, in hear & hop for HOT-okay?

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