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How young Marines were made War Criminals and Massacred Civilians at Nasariya
[Article at Left Party -
Newswire "The Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy," said Corporal Ryan Dupre. "I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin' Iraqi. No, I won't get hold of one. I'll just kill him."

The Times, London, March 31, 2003

Today in the online edition of the conservative daily, The Times , was published a piece by the correspondent Mark Franchetti in Nasiriya. It was headlined “US Marines turn fire on civilians at the bridge of death” which graphically described a massacre of Iraqi civilians at the hands of US Marines in the outskirts of the besieged town. And goes on to show us generally how young Marines are made into the killers of civilians.

It is useful to note that The Times is a strong supporter of the Tory Party in Britain and has only once endorsed a Labour Party candidate in recent times: Tony Blair! Because the current Prime Minister was, according to The Times, the best choice to defend British interests, namely its decaying imperial needs.

Nobody could accuse The Times of having the slightest hesitation in its support for the British government or the invasion of Iraq. The Times was born during the splendor of the British Empire.

Franchetti writes in a piece most likely to be on the front page of tomorrow’s edition of the paper:

"...some 15 vehicles, including a minivan and a couple of trucks, blocked the road. They were riddled with bullet holes. Some had caught fire and turned into piles of black twisted metal. Others were still burning.

"Amid the wreckage I counted 12 dead civilians, lying in the road or in Nearby ditches.

"All had been trying to leave this southern town overnight, probably for fear of being killed by US helicopter attacks and heavy artillery.

"Their mistake had been to flee over a bridge that is crucial to the coalition's supply lines and to run into a group of shell-shocked young American marines with orders to shoot anything that moved.

"One man's body was still in flames. It gave out a hissing sound.

"Tucked away in his breast pocket, thick wads of banknotes were turning to ashes. His savings, perhaps.

"Down the road, a little girl, no older than five and dressed in a pretty orange and gold dress, lay dead in a ditch next to the body of a man who may have been her father. Half his head was missing. Nearby, in a battered old Volga, peppered with ammunition holes, an Iraqi woman perhaps the girl's mother - was dead, slumped in the back seat.

"A US Abrams tank nicknamed Ghetto Fabulous drove past the bodies.

"...a father, baby girl and boy lay in a shallow grave.

"On the bridge itself a dead Iraqi civilian lay next to the carcass of a donkey. As I walked away, Lieutenant Matt Martin, whose third child,
Isabella, was born while he was on board ship en route to the Gulf, appeared beside me.

'Did you see all that?' he asked, his eyes filled with tears. 'Did you see that little baby girl? I carried her body and buried it as best I could but I had no time. It really gets to me to see children being killed like this, but we had no choice.'

They had "no choice?" Every soldier has the choice of refusing to serve or to open fire against civilians. The ones who did not have any choice, were the civilians mowed down.

Franchetti added:

"Martin's distress was in contrast to the bitter satisfaction of some of his fellow marines as they surveyed the scene. 'The Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy,' said Corporal Ryan Dupre. 'I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin' Iraqi. No, I won't get hold of one. I'll just kill him.'

The journalist then described the evolution of these soldiers, from young arrogant soldiers told that they would be received as "liberators" by their superiors to become targets of small arms by Iraqi civilians and soldiers, who inflicted heavy casualties in their ranks and showed courage in defending their town.

"I was with Alpha company"- continues The Times correspondent, explaining how they received the news of ambushes of other Marines by armed civilians.

“Five wounded soldiers were rescued by our convoy, including one who had been shot four times. The attackers were believed to be members of the Fedayeen Saddam, a group of 15,000 fighters under the command of Saddam's psychopathic son Uday.

"Blown-up tires, a pool of blood, spent ammunition and shards of glass from the bullet ridden windscreen marked the spot where the ambush had taken place.”

“Swiftly, our AAVs (23-ton amphibious assault vehicles) took up defensive positions. About 100 marines jumped out of their vehicles and took cover in ditches, pointing their sights at a mud-caked house.

"Was it harboring gunmen? Small groups of marines approached, cautiously, to search for the enemy.

“A dozen terrified civilians, mainly women and children, emerged with their hands raised.”It's just a bunch of Hajis," said one gunner from his turret, using their nickname for Arabs. "Friggin' women and children, that's all."

Now a witness to the war the journalist continues:

“Cobras and Huey attack helicopters began firing missiles at targets on the edge of the city. Plumes of smoke rose as heavy artillery shook the ground under our feet.

"Heavy machinegun fire echoed across the huge rubbish dump that marks the entrance to Nasiriya. Suddenly there was return fire from three large oil tanks at a refinery.

"The Cobras were called back, and within seconds they roared above our heads, firing off missiles in clouds of purple tracer fire.

"There were several loud explosions. Flames burst high into the sky from one of the oil tanks.

"The marines believed that what opposition there was had now been crushed. "We are going in, we are going in," shouted one of the officers.

“More than 20 AAVs, several tanks and about 10 Hummers equipped with roof-mounted, anti-tank missile launchers prepared to move in.

"Crammed inside them were some 400 marines. Tension rose as they loaded their guns and stuck their heads over the side of the AAVs through the open roof, their M-16 pointed in all directions.

"As we set off towards the eastern city gate there was no sense of the mayhem awaiting us down the road.

"A few locals dressed in rags watched the awesome spectacle of America's war machine on the move. Nobody waved.

“Slowly we approached the first bridge. Fires were raging on either side of the road; Cobras had destroyed an Iraqi military truck and a T55 tank positioned inside a dugout. Powerful explosions came from inside the bowels of the tank as its ammunition and heavy shells were set off by the fire […]”

“[…] We charged onto the bridge, and as we crossed the Euphrates, a large mural of Saddam came into view. Some marines reached for their disposable cameras.

“[…] Suddenly, as we approached ambush alley on the far side of the bridge, the crackle of AK-47s broke out. Our AAVs began to zigzag to avoid being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG).

"The road widened out to a square, with a mosque and the portrait of Saddam on the left-hand side […]”"

The journalist even tried to somehow justify the actions of the Marines:

“[…] The exchange of fire was relentless. We were pinned down for more than three hours as Iraqis hiding inside houses and a hospital and behind street corners fired a barrage of ammunition. Despite the marines' overwhelming firepower, hitting the Iraqis was not easy.

"The gunmen were not wearing uniforms and had planned their ambush well – stockpiling weapons in dozens of houses, between which they moved freely pretending to be civilians.

"It's a bad situation," said First Sergeant James Thompson, who was running around with a 9mm pistol in his hand.

"We don't know who is shooting at us. They are even using women as scouts. The women come out waving at us, or with their hands raised. We freeze, but the next minute we can see how she is looking at our positions and giving them away to the fighters hiding behind a street corner. It's very difficult to distinguish between the fighters and civilians."

“Across the square, genuine civilians were running for their lives. Many, including some children, were gunned down in the crossfire. In a surreal scene, a father and mother stood out on a balcony with their children in their arms to give them a better view of the battle raging below. A few minutes later several US mortar shells landed in front of their house.

“In all probability, the family is dead.

“[…]An AAV from Charlie company was racing back towards the bridge to evacuate some wounded marines when it was hit by two RPGs.

"The heavy vehicle shook but withstood the explosions.

“Then the Iraqis fired again. This time the rocket plunged into the vehicle through the open rooftop. The explosion was deadly, made 10 times more powerful by the ammunition stored in the back.

"The wreckage smoldered in the middle of the road. I jumped out from the rear hatch of our vehicle, briefly taking cover behind a wall.

"When I reached the stricken AAV, the scene was mayhem. The heavy, thick rear ramp had been
blown open. There were pools of blood and bits of flesh everywhere.

"A severed leg, still wearing a desert boot, lay on what was left of the ramp among playing cards, a magazine, cans of Coke and a small bloodstained teddy bear.

"They are f****** dead, they are dead. Oh my God. Get in there. Get in there now and pull them out," shouted a gunner in a state verging on hysterical.

"There was panic and confusion as a group of young marines, shouting and cursing orders at one another, pulled out a maimed body.

"Two men struggled to lift the body on a stretcher and into the back of a Hummer, but it would not fit inside, so the stretcher remained almost upright, the dead man's leg, partly blown away, dangling in the air.

"We shouldn't be here," said Lieutenant Campbell Kane, 25, who was born in Northern Ireland. "We can't hold this. They are trying to suck us into the city and we haven't got enough ass up here to sustain this. We need more tanks, more helicopters."

"Closer to the destroyed AAV, another young marine was transfixed with fear and kept repeating: "Oh my God, I can't believe this. Did you see his leg? It was blown off. It was blown off."

“[…]About 1pm, after three hours of intense fighting, the order was given to regroup and try to head out of the city in convoy.

"Several marines who had lost their vehicles piled into the back of ours.

"We raced along ambush alley at full speed, close to a line of houses. "My driver got hit," said one of the marines who joined us, his face and uniform caked in mud. "I went to try to help him when he got hit by another RPG or a mortar."

"I don't even know how many friends I have lost. I don't care if they nuke that bloody city now. From one house they were waving while shooting at us with AKs from the next. It was insane."

“There was relief when we finally crossed the second bridge to the northeast of the city in mid-afternoon.

"But there was more horror to come. Beside the smoldering wreckage of another AAV were the bodies of another four marines, laid out in the mud and covered with camouflage ponchos.

"There were body parts everywhere. One of the dead was Second Lieutenant Fred Pokorney, 31, a marine artillery officer from Washington state.

“[…]Pokorney made it over the second bridge and a few hundred yards down a highway through dusty flatlands before his vehicle was ambushed. Pokorney and his men had no chance.

"Fully loaded with ammunition, their truck exploded in the middle of the road, its remains burning for hours. Pokorney was hit in the chest by an RPG.

“Another man who died was Fitzgerald Jordan, a staff sergeant from Texas.

“[…]Frantic medics did what they could to relieve horrific injuries, until four helicopters landed in the middle of the highway to take the injured to a military hospital.

"Each wounded marine had a tag describing his injury. One had gunshot wounds to the face, another to the chest. Another simply lay on his side in the sand with a tag reading: "Urgent - surgery, buttock."

“One young marine was assigned the job of keeping the flies at bay. Some of his comrades, exhausted, covered in blood, dirt and sweat walked around dazed.

"There were loud cheers as the sound of the heaviest artillery yet to pound Nasiriya shook the ground. Before last week the overwhelming majority of these young men had never been in combat. Few had even seen a dead body. Now, their faces had changed.

“[…]They suspected that civilian cars, including taxis, had helped resupply the enemy inside the city. When cars were spotted speeding along two roads, frantic calls were made over the radio to get permission to "kill the vehicles". Twenty-four hours earlier it would almost certainly have been denied: now it was granted.

“Immediately, the level of force levelled at civilian vehicles was overwhelming. Tanks were placed on the road and AAVs lined along one side. Several taxis were destroyed by helicopter gunships as they drove down the road.

“A lorry filled with sacks of wheat made the fatal mistake of driving through US lines. The order was given to fire. Several AAVs pounded it with a barrage of machinegun fire, riddling the windscreen with at least 20 holes. The driver was killed instantly.

"The lorry swerved off the road and into a ditch. Rumor spread that the driver had been armed and had fired at the marines. I walked up to the lorry, but could find no trace of a weapon. This was the start of day that claimed many civilian casualties.

“After the lorry a truck came down the road. Again the marines fired. Inside, four men were killed. They had been traveling with some 10 other civilians, mainly women and children who were evacuated, crying, their clothes splattered in blood. Hours later a dog belonging to the dead driver was still by his side[…]”

“[…]Two tanks and three AAVs were placed at the north end of the third bridge, their guns pointing down towards Nasiriya, and given orders to shoot at any vehicle that drove towards American positions.

"Though civilians on foot passed by safely, the policy was to shoot anything that moved on wheels. Inevitably, terrified civilians drove at speed to escape: marines took that speed to be a threat and hit out.

"During the night, our teeth on edge, we listened a dozen times as the AVVs' machineguns opened fire, cutting through cars and trucks like paper.

“Next morning I saw the result of this order - the dead civilians, the little girl in the orange and gold dress. Suddenly, some of the young men who had crossed into Iraq with me reminded me now of their fathers' generation, the trigger-happy grunts of Vietnam.

"Covered in the mud from the violent storms, they were drained and dangerously aggressive.

“[…] Mike Brooks was one of the commanders who had given the order to shoot at civilian vehicles. It weighed on his mind, even though he felt he had no choice but to do everything to protect his marines from another ambush.

"On Friday, making coffee in the dust, he told me he had been writing a diary, partly for his wife Kelly, a nurse at home in Jacksonville, North Carolina, with their sons Colin, 6, and four-year-old twins Brian and Evan. When he came to jotting down the incident about the two babies getting killed by his men he couldn't do it.

"But he said he would tell her when he got home. I offered to let him call his wife on my satellite phone to tell her he was okay. He turned down the offer and had me write and send her an e-mail instead. He was too emotional. If she heard his voice, he said, she would know that something was wrong.”

Franchetti’s story is likely to unleash a storm of angry responses by working and young people from around the world. Creating a scandal of great proportions we hope will help to stop these crimes.

It is absolutely clear that those who gave the orders around Nasariya are at risk of being indicted as war criminals. We hope that the indictment gets all the way to the top of the US military hierarchy.

After all, George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and the US Armed Forces High Command are the ones who made these young Americans war criminals.

Meanwhile, the US media continues to show the “clean war” waged by powerful empires against Iraq. Possibly, they are already at work manufacturing stories that would explain how these Marines did not have "any other choice" but shooting civilians.