Amid the release of 35,000 new cables by WikiLeaks this week comes new and tragic, but perhaps not so surprising news about the five deaths of Iraqi civilians, reportedly at the hands of U.S forces in the early to mid-2000’s. In each case the military investigated, but declined to prosecute the perpetrators, therefore resigning these Iraqi killings to the grimy dustbin of the war’s history.
Until now. This May 2007 cable from Philip Alston, U.N Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, to the U.S Secretary of State, which at the time would have been Condoleezza Rice, sheds light on how alleged “accidents” and extrajudicial killings by U.S soldiers and Marines may have been adjudicated internally, punishments waived and the truth summarily cordoned off from public view. Whatever became of these cases, and how many there ultimately were, we may never know. They call it the fog of war. If what is in this cable is true, we can call it obstruction, a deterrence of justice, and one huge reason why we were never destined to “win” the Iraq war in the first place.
As for the memo, it includes the story of a journalist who was killed outside Abu Ghraib in 2003 when his camera was supposedly mistaken for a rocket launcher, and a wounded Iraqi who was shot repeatedly by a Marine as he lay dying in front a mosque. The second incident was apparently captured on video, where the marine, sounding unhinged, kept repeating, “He’s f-cking faking he’s dead! He’s faking he’s f-cking dead!” After shooting him several times, another Marine is heard saying, “he’s dead now.”