Daily Archives: July 16, 2007

Iraq Vets Talk (Updated)

Three years ago I predicted, based on my experience with Viet Nam vets, that the day was going to come when we read of atrocities committed by our troops in Iraq.

I thought it would come as My Lai came or the depredations of Tiger Force–in gonzo attacks on Iraqis in the field. I expected Fallujah might very likely be that moment. Marines storming into a beleagured city where you can’t tell the enemy from the friendlies and mowing down everything in sight without fear or favor. It’s still possible, don’t kid yourself. The troops are exhausted, angry, betrayed by their own commanders (anybody remember “fragging”?) and by the President who lied to get them there and then put them in the position of jail-keepers, only the jail they have to watch over is an entire country. It is hard enough to control an army when it believes in its mission; it is almost impossible when it doesn’t.

I’m not making excuses for those involved, only trying to put what’s happened into the context of the reality they are now facing, a reality most of us–lucky us!–will never have to face. If you ask young men and women to die for you in the name of some great humanitarian cause and it turns out to be a crock, it turns out that you’ve asked them to die for some cock-eyed dream of empire or the piling up of your personal wealth or the fortunes of yourself and your family–and in this case, your contributors–you have turned those young men and women into mercenaries, Hessians. You have made them not a force of liberation but a force of occupation, not liberators but oppressors, and don’t think they don’t know it. Their rage, depression, and growing sense that everything they’ve just done was pointless, worthless, a sham, has to go somewhere.

Unfortunately, though we haven’t yet seen fragging*, we’ve seen massacres of civilians in Haditha and elsewhere, and a slaughter of probable innocents in Baghdad. I warned in a different post (that I can’t find at the moment) that the effect of a dirty war on the men and women who had to fight it wasn’t going to be pretty, especially when they came home and had to somehow learn to live with what they’d done.

The Nation has just published a major report (via Sadly, No) that proves it’s happening.

Over the past several months The Nation has interviewed fifty combat veterans of the Iraq War from around the United States in an effort to investigate the effects of the four-year-old occupation on average Iraqi civilians. These combat veterans, some of whom bear deep emotional and physical scars, and many of whom have come to oppose the occupation, gave vivid, on-the-record accounts. They described a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts.

Their stories, recorded and typed into thousands of pages of transcripts, reveal disturbing patterns of behavior by American troops in Iraq. Dozens of those interviewed witnessed Iraqi civilians, including children, dying from American firepower. Some participated in such killings; others treated or investigated civilian casualties after the fact. Many also heard such stories, in detail, from members of their unit. The soldiers, sailors and marines emphasized that not all troops took part in indiscriminate killings. Many said that these acts were perpetrated by a minority. But they nevertheless described such acts as common and said they often go unreported–and almost always go unpunished.

The effect on the troops who do such things or see them done is devastating.

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Parole board grants Davis 90-day stay

The Georgia State Parole Board granted Troy Davis a 90-day stay of execution after a commutation hearing on evidence suggesting very strongly that he’s innocent.

The state parole board on Tuesday temporarily halted the execution of convicted cop killer Troy Anthony Davis less than 24 hours before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection.

The board issued a 90-day stay of execution after a 9-hour closed-door clemency hearing where last-minute questions of his innocence were raised. The board did not release its vote.

Davis still faces execution unless the parole board commutes his sentence to life in prison, with or without parole, before the stay is up. Davis’ lawyers also have appealed his case before the Georgia Supreme Court, seeking a new trial.

So we have one rational move from the Georgia justice system. That’s one out of a dozen, not exactly a streak but something to build on, at least. Now the State Supreme Court needs to grant a new trial and the parole board needs to extend Davis’ SOE until that trial is over and a decision is reached.

Anyplace else (except Texas), we could assume a new trial and the PB’s extension, but this is Georgia, the home of conservative justice where everybody is guilty until and maybe even after he’s proved innocent, and we can’t assume they’ll be rational. Most of them haven’t been so far.

This is conservatism all over: they believe things that aren’t true, and when you prove they aren’t true, they just shut their eyes and yell louder, “I’m right! I’m right! I’m RIGHT!” like a little kid caught in a lie.

That’s bad enough. What’s worse is they’re perfectly willing to let other people die to protect them from having to admit a mistake.

Sound familiar? There’s a pattern here….

Georgia Will Kill Innocent Man Tomorrow

It seems that Georgia’s whole justice system is a travesty equal to if not surpassing the abortion of what’s laughingly called “justice” in Texas. Not content with throwing a 17-yr-old in jail for 10 years for having consensual sex with a 16-yr-old girl that she initiated, convicting him under a statute that was meant for career sex offenders, tomorrow it plans to execute a man for a crime it’s patently obvious to everyone he didn’t commit. And there’s one thing Genarlow Wilson and Troy Davis have in common that won’t surprise you: they’re both black.

Troy Davis was convicted of killing a police officer in 1989 on the basis of testimony from the man who was probably the actual killer and from eyewitnesses who now say they were browbeat by police when they tried to tell the truth.

Key witnesses have [said] that police prodded them to implicate Davis. The affidavit from Darrell Collins, the friend who was with Davis that night, was typical.

“I told them it was Red and not Troy who was messing with that man, but they didn’t want to hear that,” Collins, who was 16 at the time, said in his 2002 statement. “The detectives told me, ‘Fine, have it your way. Kiss your life goodbye because you’re going to jail.’ After a couple of hours of the detectives yelling at me and threatening me, I finally broke down and told them what they wanted to hear.”

Seven of the nine witnesses at Davis’ trial tell similar stories and have recanted their original statements, now admitting that it was Sylvester “Red” Coles who fought with and then killed Officer Mark MacPhail. State AG Thurlow Baker’s office investigated the shooting (because a cop was the victim) and came to the same conclusion.

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