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Pentagon war crimes exposed
May 27, 2000 @ 05:00:00 am
/ WW / - A new report by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh confirms that U.S. troops massacred Iraqi soldiers on March 2, 1991, after the cease-fire that ended the Gulf War. Hersh's report is carried in...

A new report by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh confirms that U.S. troops massacred Iraqi soldiers on March 2, 1991, after the cease-fire that ended the Gulf War. Hersh's report is carried in the May 22 New Yorker magazine.

The massacre was cited in war crimes hearings held by anti-war groups shortly after the war.

According to the transcript of the May 11, 1991, Commission of Inquiry for the International War Crimes Tribunal:

"A division of the Republican Guard withdrawing on a long, unprotected causeway, high above a swamp, on Highway 8, was attacked. ... The footage tells us what happened: the U.S. assembled attack helicopters, tanks, artillery, and opened fire with laser-guided weapons. The footage shows, and the commander describes: 'We went right up the column like a turkey shoot, we really waxed them.' That's on tape! Thousands of Iraqi soldiers were killed; not one U.S. soldier died."

This was part of the summary of charges presented by Sara Flounders, now co-director of the International Action Center.

The massacre was ordered by Gen. Barry McCaffrey, now the "drug control officer" for the Clinton administration, a cabinet-level position. That means that the "retired" four-star general is part of the White House's inner circle. So much for the claim of civilian control over the U.S. military; it appears that it is the generals who are setting policy.

McCaffrey is also the architect of the current U.S. military buildup in Colombia. McCaffrey's plan, including the $1.7-billion "aid" package recently passed by Congress, is widely described as setting the stage for the next Vietnam-like war by the Pentagon.

Hersh's report adds details to what was cited in the 1991 war crimes hearings, particularly on the role played by Gen. McCaffrey. According to Hersh, McCaffrey's operations officer, Patrick Lamar, said that the alleged firing by Iraqi troops used by Gen. McCaffrey to justify the attack was "a giant hoax. The Iraqis were doing absolutely nothing. I told McCaffrey I was having trouble confirming the incoming'' fire.

Retired Lt. Gen. John J. Yeosock said, "what Barry [McCaffrey] ended up doing was fighting sand dunes and moving rapidly.'' He said that McCaffrey was "looking for a battle.''

Maj. Gen. Ronald Griffith said McCaffrey "made it a battle when it was never one.''

Since the beginning, the Pentagon has had documentary evidence, including hours of videotape, of the deadly assault on a defenseless unit. The May 8, 1991, New York Newsday carried a report on the massacre based on this Army footage.

The Army opened an investigation in August 1991 into charges of war crimes, including the massacre of retreating soldiers and an earlier incident involving the murder of unarmed Iraqi prisoners. According to Hersh, McCaffrey's unit fired high-powered machine guns into a group of more than 350 disarmed Iraqi prisoners. The official investigation confirmed that McCaffrey had ordered the killing of the retreating Iraqi troops, but concluded that it was justified and not a war crime. It was a decision that can be compared to the official justification of four New York cops shooting 41 bullets and killing unarmed Amadou Diallo last year.

The May 15 New York Times reports that "allegations about the March 2 attack did not apparently cloud General McCaffrey's career."

It was all war crimes

The massacre of retreating Iraqi soldiers was also described in the 1992 book "The Fire This Time," written by Ramsey Clark, former attorney general and founder of the International Action Center. In it, Clark also describes other crimes committed by the U.S. military during the ground war, including the slaughter of unarmed Iraqi soldiers as they walked towards U.S. soldiers with their arms raised in an attempt to surrender. Clark also writes about Iraqi troops who were buried alive during the first two days of the ground offensive. Plows were mounted onto tanks to carry this out.

The book, however, focuses on another war crime that has become a mainstay of U.S. imperialism since the Iraq war: the systematic destruction of the civilian infrastructure of the country. "The Fire This Time" quotes a June 23, 1991, Washington Post article based on interviews with some of the Gulf War's top planners.

Reporter Barton Gellman wrote: "Many of the targets were chosen only secondarily to contribute to the military defeat of [Iraq]. ... Military planners hoped the bombing would amplify the economic and psychological impact of international sanctions on Iraqi society. ... Because of these goals, damage to civilian structures and interests, invariably described by briefers during the war as 'collateral' and unintended, was sometimes neither. ... They deliberately did great harm to Iraq's ability to support itself as an industrial society."

This same strategy was used again eight years later in the U.S.-NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. A new war crimes hearing into this war has been initiated by the International Action Center. A Commission of Inquiry into U.S.-NATO War Crimes in Yugoslavia opened on July 31, 1999. Ramsey Clark brought 19 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against peace against the leaders of the U.S. and NATO countries.

On June 10 in New York City, the International Action Center will hold a World Tribunal on U.S./NATO War Crimes Against the People of Yugoslavia. Sara Flounders, a co-coordinator of this Commission of Inquiry, said: "While we are not now holding the named criminals under lock and key, we see the tribunal process as a challenge to arrogant and arbitrary power. We are confident that it is the first step in a process that will continue to resonate throughout the NATO countries and among all the peoples targeted by the New World Order.

"The IAC initiated a movement that has encouraged thousands to expose NATO crimes and show solidarity with Yugoslavia. From Oslo to Berlin to Belgrade to Kiev to Athens to Sydney, in 24 cities in 14 countries, there have been tribunal hearings."

Readers wanting more information on these war crimes hearings can contact the International Action Center at (212) 633-6646, email @iacenter. org">iacenter @iacenter. org on the Web at

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