Massacres at the Heart of America's "War on Terror":

"War crimes, crimes against humanity... things that a person simply can not come back from...."

July 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


"During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity. Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply can not come back from. I take some pride in that, actually, as to move on in life after being part of such a thing would be the mark of a sociopath in my mind. These things go far beyond what most are even aware of. To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing coverup is more than any government has the right to demand. Then, the same government has turned around and abandoned me... Any blame rests with them."

This is part of Daniel Somers' suicide letter to his family. He was a 30-year-old Iraq war veteran who killed himself on June 10. Somers had been involved in hundreds of combat missions, interrogations of Iraqi prisoners, and then worked with the Joint Special Operations Command. The experience left him in constant physical and mental anguish. (Democracy Now!, June 25, 2013)

Somers' experiences point to the ugly reality the powers-that-be and their media cover up: over the past 12-plus years of the so-called "war on terror," war crimes and crimes against humanity have not been the rare exception—they've been the rule. They haven't been committed by a few "bad apples" or "rogue" soldiers, but are built into the very DNA of the war and the U.S. role in the world. This is why, even when the U.S. military is forced to admit wrongdoing, it refuses to seriously punish the murderers. This has been a war of terror on millions in many different countries, a war of empire designed to solidify America's global power and crush any who stand in its way, not to liberate anyone, not to end death and suffering. These three stories, of three massacres—and there are many, many more—illustrate what the U.S. "war on terror" is really about.

November 19, 2005: Haditha, Iraq

In the early morning, a roadside bomb had exploded and killed a marine near Haditha. The marines immediately went on a rampage. Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, who led the assault, allegedly told his men, "If we ever get hit again, we should kill everyone in that vicinity."

Five nearby Iraqis, a taxi driver and four teenagers, were ordered out of their car and shot dead. Then the marines began going house to house.

Eman Walid Abdul-Hameed, a 10-year-old Iraqi, described what happened in her home: "The American soldiers came into our house at 7 in the morning. We were awake but still wearing our nightclothes... I heard explosions by the door. The Americans came into the room where my father was praying and shot him. They went to my grandmother and killed her too. I heard an explosion. They threw a grenade under my grandfather's bed.... They kill people, then they say sorry. I hate them."

A man and a woman, carrying a baby, ran from the house to escape the gunfire—and the marines shot and killed the man. The woman is said to have escaped with her baby, but among Eman's family, only she and one little brother survived, wounded, after the other adults died protecting them from the U.S. soldiers' bullets. The marines went on to the next house, storming in and killing eight people, including a two-year-old child and three other small children. They moved on to the next house and dragged four men into a closet and shot them there.

When the soldiers were done five hours later, they had killed 24 people. The marines involved immediately tried to cover up their massacre: they claimed the IED [roadside bomb] had killed 15 civilians, and the other dead were "insurgents" killed after they fired on the marines.

Eight marines were ultimately charged with voluntary manslaughter. Charges were dismissed against six. One was acquitted. Wuterich pled guilty to dereliction of duty. He received no jail time—only demotion to private. In February 2012, he was discharged under honorable conditions.

February 12, 2010: Gardez, Afghanistan

Gardez, Afghanistan, February 12. In the middle of the night U.S. forces murder five people among those gathered to celebrate the naming of a newborn.

Gardez, Afghanistan, February 12. In the middle of the night U.S. forces murder five people among those gathered to celebrate the naming of a newborn. Photo: AP

That evening, some 25 friends and relatives gathered at the home of Hajji Sharaf Udin in the village of Khataba, a few miles outside Gardez, the capital of Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan. They were there to celebrate the naming of Udin's newborn grandson. Around 3 am, Udin's son, Mohammed Dawood, a police commander, and his 15-year-old son went outside because they thought the Taliban were approaching. Both were shot. Dawood died, his son was wounded. The attackers weren't the Taliban—they were American Special Operations forces operating under JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command). Udin's other son, Zahir, came to the door and yelled, "Don't fire, we work for the government." He too was shot and killed. Three women crouching behind Zahir in the doorway were all killed in the hail of bullets: Bibi Shirin, 22, the mother of four children under 5; Bibi Saleha, 37, the mother of 11 children; and Gulalai, 18. Both mothers were pregnant, Gulalai was engaged.

As if this weren't horror enough, the U.S. forces assaulted the survivors, who were restrained and forced to stand barefoot for several hours outside in the cold. Eight were arrested, flown to a U.S.-Afghan base, and held four days for interrogation. All were released without charges. U.S. forces refused to give the wounded medical treatment.

"After watching his brother and his wife," Amy Goodman, of Democracy Now!, writes, drawing from the new film Dirty Wars, which documents this massacre, "his sister and his niece killed by U.S. special forces, Mohammed Sabir was handcuffed on the ground. He watched, helpless, as the U.S. soldiers dug the bullets out of his wife's corpse with a knife" in an attempt to cover up their involvement in the massacre. ("Dirty Wars: Jeremy Scahill's antidote to Zero Dark Thirty's heroic narrative," Amy Goodman,, January 28, 2013)

Night raids, special operations, covert assassinations, extrajudicial killings, drone strikes, the use of military contractors, massive detentions and torture, and all-around terror are embedded in the nature of the imperialist occupation of Afghanistan. This occupation's central goal is subduing—by any means necessary—a population in which most don't want to be under foreign domination and many have learned through eight-plus bitter years of war and occupation to distrust if not hate the American occupiers and the flunkies they've empowered in Kabul. Gulalai's father, Mohammed Tahir, said. "They teach us human rights then they kill a load of civilians. They didn't come here to end terrorism. They are terrorists."

After first denying the villagers' story, the U.S. admitted there had been an error—but there was no investigation and none of the U.S. troops who murdered innocent Afghans was ever charged with any crime.

March 11, 2012: Alokzai and Najiban villages outside Kandahar, Afghanistan

At 3 am, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, stationed at a nearby base where he supported a special operations unit charged with "village stability," burst into the homes of three families and went on a vicious, premeditated killing rampage. A 15-year-old wounded survivor said, "soldiers" woke up his family and then began shooting them.

According to another young Afghan woman, an American soldier wearing a helmet equipped with a flashlight burst into her two-room mud home while everyone slept. He killed her husband, Dawood, punched her seven-year-old son and shoved a pistol into the mouth of his baby brother. "We were asleep. He came in and he was shouting, saying something about Taliban, Taliban, and then he pulled my husband up."

Another villager said, "When it was happening in the middle of the night we were inside our houses. I heard gunshots and then silence and then gunshots again."

One villager returned home to find 11 family members dead—his wife, his mother, two brothers, a 13-year-old nephew and his six children, their bodies partially burned. "Eleven members of my family are dead," he said. "They're all dead."

After Bales murdered family members, he "poured chemicals over their dead bodies and burned them."

When Bales finished, 16 (possibly 17) innocent civilians—including nine children and three women—had been murdered. Six more were wounded: four children, one woman and one man. It was reported that Bales "returned to his base after the shooting, calmly turned himself in and was taken into custody at a NATO base in Afghanistan." (Daily Telegraph)

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed his "profound regret" and that the U.S. would "bring those responsible to justice." President Obama claimed the "incident" "does not represent the exceptional character of our military and the respect that the United States has for the people of Afghanistan." But Bales did not face justice in Afghanistan. He was whisked out of the country and taken to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. In May 2013, to avoid execution, Bales pled guilty to killing nine children and seven adults. He has yet to be sentenced.


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