“During the course of my three tours, the rules of engagement changed a lot,” Washburn’s testimony continued, “The higher the threat the more viciously we were permitted and expected to respond. Something else we were encouraged to do, almost with a wink and nudge, was to carry ‘drop weapons’, or by my third tour, ‘drop shovels’. We would carry these weapons or shovels with us because if we accidentally shot a civilian, we could just toss the weapon on the body, and make them look like an insurgent.”

Hart Viges, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division of the Army who served one year in Iraq, told of taking orders over the radio.

“One time they said to fire on all taxicabs because the enemy was using them for transportation…. One of the snipers replied back, ‘Excuse me? Did I hear that right? Fire on all taxicabs?’ The lieutenant colonel responded, ‘You heard me, trooper, fire on all taxicabs.’ After that, the town lit up, with all the units firing on cars. This was my first experience with war, and that kind of set the tone for the rest of the deployment.”

Vincent Emanuele, a Marine rifleman who spent a year in the al-Qaim area of Iraq near the Syrian border, told of emptying magazines of bullets into the city without identifying targets, running over corpses with Humvees and stopping to take “trophy” photos of bodies.

Although the testimony from the vets in this article is from the 2008 Winter Soldier hearings, they are a pertinent reminder that the actions by military personnel in the Wikileaks video were not unusual and probably were within a vague and flexible ‘shoot anything that moves’ ROE. How can you blame troops for behaving like barbarians when its Army policy to disregard the safety, and often the humanity, of civilians in a situation where it can be difficult to tell who’s a threat and who’s not? I accept that war is hell, but the Iraq occupation was and is a hopeless clusterfuck that should never have happened.

  1. ECA says:

    you really want us to comment on this, IN PUBLIC, and not be Patriotic??

  2. Anon says:

    We get it that people die in war, you can cut the sarcasm.

    “the Iraq occupation was and is a hopeless clusterfuck that should never have happened.”


  3. hurricanejohn says:

    While i don’t agree with the Iraq war at all there is one phrase that echos in my mind all the time when i read this and any article about wars in general is this: “There are no friendlies in a war zone” now how do you hope to identify the friendlies from enemies when they don’t wear a uniform and will kill you as soon as talk to you it’s viet-nam all over….

  4. LDA says:

    It is not difficult to sympathise with soldiers put in the position we have put them in, but that is no reason to think killing civilians is justified. I blame those that sent the soldiers (the people) and those that mingle with the civilians while armed, but the most innocent and unjustifiable victims are the civilians and if we can not avoid murdering innocent people we should leave, this is not what armies are for, their job is to protect us by destroying threats, they did that, bring them home (and help them cope with what we had them do when they come home).

  5. B. Dog says:

    It’s pretty well known that the military buys 1.5 billion rounds of ammo a year, and it’s gotta be going somewhere. Those darned insurgents drive up ammo prices, if nothing else.

  6. Fat_Anarchy says:

    As always I see the place littered with the usual “the soldiers were just doing their jobs”, and “thats war for you”, and all the rest of the apologist rhetoric. Why do we have to keep on making up these excuses to ourselves to try and justify the fact that we are aggressive invaders of a sovereign nation, and what the soldiers are doing is not “heroic”, and they are not “protecting us”, or “protecting freedom” and all the other crap that is spouted out. Iraq are not, and never were a threat. FACT. We are not, and have no real concern with “spreading freedom”. FACT. If we did we’d have invaded North Korea instead. You cant forever just keep blaming various government bodies for the individual acts of the soldiers, and waive any sense of moral responsibility. If the soldiers were really so noble, they would flat out refuse to do it, regardless of training or war. That would be a real hero.

    Are hitmen immune from any responsibility or punishment cause they were just “doing their jobs”? What about the people running nazi concentration camps? Were they just “following orders?” Just innocent pawns in a system of violence? People have this opinion that they have to constantly “support the troops” no matter what. If they dont they are unpatriotic or whatever. Well its crap. I think the reality is that if we accept that the individuals hold some responsibility, it means we can no longer make this dicotomy in our minds, of “us normal foilk”, and the “evil government”, because soldiers ARE us normal folk.

    Yes, responsiblity lies with the people in power, but you cannot just instantly waive the grunts themselves from any responsibility at all from killing innocent people (and seeming to quite enjoy it if the recent video link is anything to go by). Government bodies are just abstract concepts to describe a large group of individual “normal” people working together.

  7. jescott418 says:

    Where is this kind of crap coming from? Some idiot who has never known the fear of being killed. In every war their are awful things that happen. In the end we hope that things are better. Their are no clean wars! Even the best get their hands dirty. Its too bad some never realize this and try to make American’s out to be evil.

  8. Norman Speight says:

    Demonstrates just about as conclusively as it can, the total inadequacy of the leaders, the management – NOT the ordinary soldier on the ground. I remember very clearly the welcoming of the ‘invading’ troops, the relief of the indigenous population when the armies first arrived. I also remember quite clearly the crass stupidity of certain ‘leaders’ who insisted that all Iraqis were ‘the enemy’ and the subsequent treating of not only men, but also women and children as hostile. Face it. ALL the evidence is that the army management buggered up a victory that was made and turned it into the gory mess that it became. ALL due to Hollywood war film attitude that permeated those in charge. You still see this in the civilian (actually licenced mercenary) taxpayer financed crap gung-ho idiots that run so much today. Absolutely no doubt. You won the war but lost the peace comprehensively.
    Now the question. Just who do you lay the blame on for that?
    A dyslexic monkey could answer that one.
    The Pentagon is the worst enemy of success in history.

  9. TooManyPupies says:

    “Following orders” was not an allowed defence we provided to the Germans in WWII, and it’s not allowable now. Unless everyone wants to get all hypocritical, if that’s the case I’d have zero problems if the hypocrites all were shot in the streets.

  10. bac says:

    Some of these situations seem similar to what happened in the Vietnam war.

    Nine years from now, there will be more of the same stories about US soldiers shooting innocent people in Iraq.

    There is no win to the type of war being waged in Iraq. The only end is when one party leaves.

  11. mike says:

    You are being a willing, deluded useful idiot. Enjoy your small world-view. Trot out your lefty-bias the next time some mu$lim terrorist butchers innocents.

  12. honeyman says:

    #11 TMP

    I accept that the Nuremberg Defence is shaky ground, but what do the troops do when the Army has a policy that, according to these accounts, amounts to freely shooting and dehumanising civilians, all the while knowing that many of these civilians could have a bullet with their name on it.

    The government has no right to put troops in this position. Its criminal and immoral.

  13. Phydeau says:

    How sad that our government put our soldiers in such a no-win situation. So much death and destruction so a few right-wing wackos could indulge their fever dreams of empire.

  14. Todd Peterson says:

    The US is sooo great. And this surely stops terrorism!

  15. Troublemaker says:

    Yeah, I’ve talked to guys that have been there and were told by their CO’s to go into neighborhoods and shoot everybody.

    This isn’t done for protection or to find insurgents. It’s done to instigate the indigenous populace.

    Can’t have a war without an enemy. If you don’t have an enemy, you have to make one.

  16. The0ne says:

    This topic isn’t going to go anywhere here at DU, never has and never will.

    I’m just thankful my brothers are not serving in these pointless wars. We had enough of Father Bushs’ wars already.

  17. Guyver says:

    A comment based out of ignorance and partisan politics: “How can you blame troops for behaving like barbarians when its Army policy to disregard the safety, and often the humanity, of civilians in a situation where it can be difficult to tell who’s a threat and who’s not?

    There is NO Army policy which says anything like this. The military tries the best they can to avoid innocent casualties. And if a person is caught who KNOWINGLY does such a thing, they’re on the hook for it.

  18. honeyman says:

    #19 Guyver

    My statement was made based on the testimony of veterans in the article, who said that they were instructed to shoot civilians and without regard for the lives of civilians. WTF are you talking about?

  19. Guyver says:

    20, Honeyman,

    When you talk about “Army Policy”, you are referring to Army Regulations. THAT is Army Policy. Just because someone is given an unlawful order does not mean that is “Army Policy”.

    Therefore, “How can you blame troops for behaving like barbarians when its Army policy to disregard the safety, and often the humanity, of civilians in a situation where it can be difficult to tell who’s a threat and who’s not?” is ignorant and partisan.

    Furthermore, every recruit is taught in Basic Training that should they follow an unlawful order, that they too will be on the hook. There is no “Army Policy” for the testimony in which you based your statement.

    Now am I saying some officers don’t push the envelope or break the laws? Nope. But if they get caught, it could cost them their career at the very least. If they are in fact guilty, then they could be making little rocks out of big ones and big ones out of little ones for knowingly doing such a thing.

  20. amodedoma says:

    #13 Mikey

    You are trying to be funny right? Try a running tab on who’s butchering who. Just because our side gets better press doesn’t make us the good guys! Justifying war is like trying to justify the unjustfiable. Stop spouting somebody else’s dogma and think.

  21. static416 says:

    Off topic, but your site is taking longer and longer to load in Chrome. This time it took about 20-30 seconds.

    I don’t know what’s broken, but something is gumming up the works. Other sites load fine. It’s getting to the point where I don’t even want to bother waiting.

  22. amodedoma says:

    #23 static.

    I too use chrome ver. 5.0.342.9 beta on Ubuntu 9.04 and have no problems. You do know that chrome is still in Beta and requires continous updates, right?

  23. amodedoma says:

    #23 static

    You might also want to check your flash plugin.

  24. thatsmychin says:

    Maybe it’s time to start calling our troops baby killers and then spit on them as they come home….. Holy crap! What is wrong with this blog?

    When I was in the Corps I saw guys do some seriously crazy things just to avoid a 6 month deployment to Japan wanting to say home with new wife/baby/ whatever. How much more will servicemen do to avoid a second tour in a warzone….oh yeah, testify that they were “ordered” to kill civilians.

  25. The0ne says:

    Second service? LOL, there are plenty already beyond the 2nd service. It’s ridiculous and cruel imo. No one is paying/answering for this BS while our young are out there fighting and dying. And we have all this crap talk around blogs from people who have little to absolute no clue wtf is really going on?

    Most here can’t even fathom the emotional states familes, friends and loves ones go through when they are called the 2nd, 3rd and billionth time! Seriously, think about that for a minute. Add in the newborn child, the wife you haven’t just married and haven’t fcking seen in months and years, the comfortable life you knew in US that you can’t even begin to imagine anymore because you’ve been gone so fcking long.

    Talk about ignorance. Btw, not a insult on you…just adding to what you’ve said 😀

  26. Rectal Dysfunction says:

    Occupation that never should have happened is right. We should have nuked the place to glass early on.

  27. Awake says:

    The only thing that separates us from the terrorists is that we are supposed to follow “the rules of war”. There is more and more evidence that we have been brought down to their level.

    All of this is a consequence of the utter failure of leadership of the Bush administration. Now this comes out today:

    “George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld covered up that hundreds of innocent men were sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison camp because they feared that releasing them would harm the push for war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror, according to a new document obtained by The Times. ”


  28. RSweeney says:

    This is what happens when the enemy violates the Geneva Convention and refuses to wear uniforms and instead dresses as civilians.

    You don’t stop fighting them and defeating them, but it’s war made even uglier.

  29. shockandflaw says:

    All war is a crime.

  30. O'Really says:

    Unless you’ve been there, it’s all just conjecture and arm chair quarterbacking.

    US Army Regulations and the UCMJ is clear about the standard and so is the Oath of Enlistment that I swore. I will follow the lawful orders of the officers appointed over me.

    Should the US be there, probably not. Was the war predicated on the lies of W., yes. Was Saddam a bad guy…hell yeah. Will the people of Iraq be better when their freely elected government is on it’s feet? YES!

    Oh yeah…Fat_Anarchy, Nazi Germany and Italy were “sovereign nations” should we have not invaded them?


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