War Crimes: Fallujah

As I’ve made clear to anyone who asks… I believe that the Iraq war was an illegal action that clearly went against International treaties and conventions signed by all parties involved in the Coalition. I am obviously not alone in that belief since even the Attorney General of Great Britain thought any action without a 2nd resolution was illegal… at least up until a few days before the war started.

However… moving past the initial act of invasion… we would hope and assume that the war was conducted in a way that was within the laws of the Geneva Convention and other documents pertaining to the rules of war… or at least the conditions set out if the warring parties did not want to end up in front of a Tribunal at the Hague.

Here is one pertinent paragraph from the Geneva Conventions:

Art 3 – (1)Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

With that… I give you this report:

I will reproduce it in full… I have also saved it as a PDF for download.

by Dahr Jamail 

Baghdad , Dec 3 ” NewStandard” — Men now seeking refuge in the Baghdad area are telling horrific stories of indiscriminate killings by US forces during the peak of fighting last month in the largely annihilated city of Fallujah. 

In an interview with The NewStandard, Burhan Fasa’a, an Iraqi journalist who works for the popular Lebanese satellite TV station, LBC, said he witnessed US crimes up close. Burhan Fasa’a, who was in Fallujah for nine days during the most intense combat, said Americans grew easily frustrated with Iraqis who could not speak English. 

“Americans did not have interpreters with them,” Fasa’a said, “so they entered houses and killed people because they didn’t speak English. They entered the house where I was with 26 people, and [they] shot people because [the people] didn’t obey [the soldiers’] orders, even just because the people couldn’t understand a word of English.” 

A man named Khalil, who asked The NewStandard not to use his last name for fear of reprisals, said he had witnessed the shooting of civilians who were waving white flags while they tried to escape the city. Fasa’a further speculated, “Soldiers thought the people were rejecting their orders, so they shot them. But the people just couldn’t understand them.” 

Fasa’a says American troops detained him. They interrogated him specifically about working for the Arab media, he said, and held him for three days. Fasa’a and other prisoners slept on the ground with no blankets. He said prisoners were made to go to the bathroom in handcuffs, using one toilet in the middle of the camp. 

“During the nine days I was in Fallujah, all of the wounded women, kids and old people, none of them were evacuated,” Fasa’a said. “They either suffered to death, or somehow survived.” 

Many refugees tell stories of having witnessed US troops killing already injured people, including former fighters and noncombatants alike. 

I watched them roll over wounded people in the street with tanks,” said Kassem Mohammed Ahmed, a resident of Fallujah. “This happened so many times.” 

Other refugees recount similar stories. “I saw so many civilians killed there, and I saw several tanks roll over the wounded in the streets,” said Aziz Abdulla, 27 years old, who fled the fighting last month. Another resident, Abu Aziz, said he also witnessed American armored vehicles crushing people he believes were alive. 

Abdul Razaq Ismail, another resident who fled Fallujah, said: “I saw dead bodies on the ground and nobody could bury them because of the American snipers. The Americans were dropping some of the bodies into the Euphrates near Fallujah.” 

A man called Abu Hammad said he witnessed US troops throwing Iraqi bodies into the Euphrates River. Others nodded in agreement. Abu Hammed and others also said they saw Americans shooting unarmed Iraqis who waved white flags. 

Believing that American and Iraqi forces were bent on killing anyone who stayed in Fallujah, Hammad said he watched people attempt to swim across the Euphrates to escape the siege. “Even then the Americans shot them with rifles from the shore,” he said. “Even if some of them were holding a white flag or white clothes over their heads to show they are not fighters, they were all shot.” 

Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein reported witnessing similar events. After running out of basic necessities and deciding to flee the city at the height of the US-led assault, Hussein ran to the Euphrates. 

“I decided to swim,” Hussein told colleagues at the AP, who wrote up the photographer’s harrowing story, “but I changed my mind after seeing US helicopters firing on and killing people who tried to cross the river.” 

Hussein said he saw soldiers kill a family of five as they tried to traverse the Euphrates, before he buried a man by the riverbank with his bare hands. 

“I kept walking along the river for two hours and I could still see some US snipers ready to shoot anyone who might swim,” Hussein recounted. “I quit the idea of crossing the river and walked for about five hours through orchards.” 

A man named Khalil, who asked The NewStandard not to use his last name for fear of reprisals, said he had witnessed the shooting of civilians who were waving white flags while they tried to escape the city. “They shot women and old men in the streets,” he said. “Then they shot anyone who tried to get their bodies.” 

“There are bodies the Americans threw in the river,” Khalil continued, noting that he personally witnessed US troops using the Euphrates to dispose of Iraqi dead. “And anyone who stayed thought they would be killed by the Americans, so they tried to swim across the river. Even people who couldn’t swim tried to cross the river. They drowned rather than staying to be killed by the Americans,” said Khalil. 

US military commanders reported at least two incidents during which they say Iraqi resistance fighters used white flags to lure Marines into dangerous situations, including a well-orchestrated ambush. 

Proponents of relaxed rules of engagement for US troops engaged in “counter-insurgency” warfare have cited such incidents from last month’s experience in Fallujah as arguments for more permissive combat regulations. Some have said US forces should establish what used to be called “free-fire zones,” wherein any human being encountered is assumed to be hostile, and thus a legitimate target, relieving American infantrymen of their obligation to distinguish and protect civilians. But if the stories Fallujan witnesses have shared with TNS are accurate, it appears the policy might have preceded the argument in this case. 

US and Iraqi officials have called the “pacification” of Fallujah a success and said that the action was necessary to stabilize Iraq in preparation for the country’s planned “transition to democracy.” The military continues to deny US-led forces killed significant numbers of civilians during November’s nearly constant fighting and bombardment. 

© 2004 The NewStandard. www.newstandardnews.net 

Some pertinent Articles from the The Hague Conventions:

Article 2

The population of a territory which has not been occupied who, on the enemy’s approach, spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading troops without having time to organize themselves in accordance with Article 1, shall be regarded a belligerent, if they respect the laws and customs of war.

Article 3

The armed forces of the belligerent parties may consist of combatants and non-combatants. In case of capture by the enemy both have a right to be treated as prisoners of war.

Article 7:
“Failing a special agreement between the belligerents, prisoners of war shall be treated as regards food, quarters, and clothing, on the same footing as the troops of the Government which has captured them.”

and finally:

Article. 32.

A person is regarded as a parlementaire who has been authorized by one of the belligerents to enter into communication with the other, and who advances bearing a white flag. He has a right to inviolability, as well as the trumpeter, bugler or drummer, the flag-bearer and interpreter who may accompany him.

12 thoughts on “War Crimes: Fallujah”

  1. Actually, the cease-fire agreement Saddam agreed to, and which became the first of many UN resolutions, authorized any nation in the original coalition to use force against Iraq if Saddam failed to comply. No further resolution necessary.

    Then, what law was broken making the war “illegal”? International Law does not exist except through compliance with various treaties.

    As to the Geneva Accords, they are valid only as an agreement between warring nations who have both signed them. For example, North Vietnam felt no need to comply as they had not signed them.

    War crimes in Fallujah? Who is making the accusation? Why are they making the accusation? I can tell you first-hand, and some of the publicized cases should help you understand, that the US military does not tolerate any such activity–despite what you see in movies and on television.

  2. “No further resolution necessary.”

    If that were the case then why was that not the opinion of the UK Attorney General up until right before the invasion happened?

    “International Law does not exist except through compliance with various treaties.”

    Which is unfortunate… but one of those treaties/agreements was the UN charter which states:

    Art 1.1: To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace

    Vietnam?
    Both Iraq and the US are signatories of the Geneva Conventions, thus both sides are are bound to them… at the very least, the US, being the upstanding chaps that they are, should know better, and I know that there is rigorous training in the Geneva Conventions and rules of war… they have no excuse.

    “War crimes in Fallujah? Who is making the accusation? Why are they making the accusation?”

    Please re-read the post… it appears the civilians and reporters caught in the fighting are the ones telling the stories.

  3. civilians and reporters… some of whom could very well be “insurgents” themselves.

    Did you check on the UK Attorney General’s politics before taking his opinion as gospel?

  4. “civilians and reporters… some of whom could very well be “insurgents” themselves.”

    Yes… some could be insurgents… but really it doesn’t matter. Anyone involved in the war, civilians and warring parties on both sides have the right to point out war crimes. If one of the insurgents says that one of his wounded comrades was rolled over by a tank while a civilian or someone else hors-combat was trying to take him away then that is an act prohibited by the Conventions and the basic rules of war.

    The only thing to dispute is whether it actually happened… and that needs to be verified and investigated by an independant body.

    “Did you check on the UK Attorney General’s politics before taking his opinion as gospel?”

    In the UK his opinion effectively *is* gospel in the legal sense. That is why the military and Tony Blair asked his opinion before the war.

    He’s in the same political party as Tony Blair so his politics are effectively the same as your closest ally.

    And he wasn’t alone.. here is what the deputy legal adviser to the Foreign Office said in her March 2003 letter of resignation.

    I regret that I cannot agree that it is lawful to use force against Iraq without a second Security Council resolution to revive the authorisation given in SCR 678. I do not need to set out my reasoning; you are aware of it.

    My views accord with the advice that has been given consistently in this office before and after the adoption of UN security council resolution 1441 and with what the attorney general gave us to understand was his view prior to his letter of 7 March. (The view expressed in that letter has of course changed again into what is now the official line.)

  5. chrisale writes, “Both Iraq and the US are signatories of the Geneva Conventions, thus both sides are are bound to them…”

    The Geneva Conventions were signed by the ***government*** of Iraq. The “insurgents” do NOT belong to the government of Iraq. They do NOT wear uniforms (or any item of clothing to distinguish themselves from civilians). They do NOT have an official commander or leader. MOST of the fighting that the “insurgents” did in Fallujah was from mosques, which are NOT legitimate places from which to fight (any more than hospitals are).

    The “insurgents” are therefore NOT lawful combatants. There is absolutely no reason to afford them the protections of the Geneva Convention. They are criminals, not lawful combatants.

    Here is what the Geneva Convention(III) says relative to treatment of prisoners of war:

    http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/lawofwar/geneva03.htm#art2
    “…the present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties,…”

    There is no “war” or “armed conflict” between the government of the United States and the government of Iraq. That is, there is NO “armed conflict” between “two or more of the High Contracting Parties.” So the Geneva Convention(III) rules are not applicable.

    Some further text from the Geneva Convention(III):

    ARTICLE 4
    A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:

    (1) Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict, as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.

    (2) Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions: (a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates; (b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance; (c) that of carrying arms openly; (d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

    The insurgents:

    a) Are NOT “commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates,”

    b) Do NOT wear a “fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance,”

    c) Do NOT “carry arms openly,” and

    d) Do NOT “conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.” (Which includes items “a” through “c,” plus not firing out of mosques, and storing arms in mosques.)

    Once again, they are NOT “lawful combatants,” and are not protected by the Geneva Conventions (because they have no government that was a signer of the Geneva Convention).

  6. You conveniently left out the following article from the Hague Convention (linked in the original post):

    The population of a territory which has not been occupied who, on the enemy’s approach, spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading troops without having time to organize themselves in accordance with Article 1 (art 4 of the Geneva convention is largely identical), shall be regarded a belligerent, if they respect the laws and customs of war.

    Article 3

    The armed forces of the belligerent parties may consist of combatants and non-combatants. In case of capture by the enemy both have a right to be treated as prisoners of war.

    Yes, if insurgents use mosques as places to gather arms and launch attacks then they are not following the rules of war… but that does *not* mean “all bets are off”, it simply means that the insurgents are guilty of crimes as well as the Americans.

    Both should be dealt with appropriately…

  7. chrisale writes, “You conveniently left out the following article from the Hague convention…”

    I did not “conveniently” leave it out. I left it out because it is NOT applicable.

    You are “conveniently” failing to read it. I will emphasize what you’re failing to read, by capitalizing the appropriate portion:

    “(6) Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, WHO ON THE APPROACH OF THE ENEMY SPONTANEOUSLY TAKE UP ARMS TO RESIST THE INVADING FORCES, WITHOUT HAVING TIME TO FORM THEMSELVES INTO REGULAR ARMED UNITS…”

    It is absolutely ludicrous to claim that, in NOVEMBER 2004, the “insurgents” in Fallujah did not “have time” to “form themselves into regular armed units…!”

    To start with, the country of Iraq was invaded in MARCH 2003! Further FALLUJAH ITSELF was partially invaded in APRIL 2004. It is complete nonsense that the “insurgents” did not “have time” in all those months (either 20 months or 7 months) to “form themselves into regular armed units.”

    They did NOT form themselves into “regular armed units,” even though they had time, because they did not wish to do so. (Criminals don’t like to follow laws.) So the Geneva Convention(III) rules regarding treatment of prisoners of war clearly do NOT apply.

    You ALSO failed to read the ending:

    “…provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war.”

    They also clearly did NOT “carry arms openly” OR “respect the laws and customs of war” (including wearing uniforms or other signs that distinguished them from civilians, and not fighting out of mosques).

    So once again, the rules of the Geneva Convention(III) regarding prisoners of war do NOT apply. If you’d actually bothered to read the material you cited, you should have been able to see that.

    You also cite this paragraph, as if you think it has some meaning to Fallujah:

    “The armed forces of the belligerent parties may consist of combatants and non-combatants. In case of capture by the enemy both have a right to be treated as prisoners of war.”

    All that means is that if the “insurgents” had, for example, cooks providing them food, those cooks should be treated as prisoners of war also. But it doesn’t apply, because the “insurgents” (the belligerents) THEMSELVES were not covered, as the paragraph you cite–and the paragraphs I cited–clearly show.

    Once again, the first paragraph you cite clearly does not apply to the “insurgents.” They had PLENTY of time to organize, and they did NOT fight according to the “laws and customs of war.” And this does not even COUNT the fact that the Geneva Conventions ONLY apply when the fight is between “two or more of the High Contracting Parties.”

    The insurgents were NOT a “High Contracting Party” of the Geneva Convention. Since the battle was NOT between “two or more” governments (i.e., “High Contracting Parties”) that signed the Geneva Convention, the rules don’t apply.

    The Geneva Convention is a treaty. A treaty is a CONTRACT (that’s why the term “High CONTRACTING Party” is used). The “insurgents” do not represent any party to the contract (let alone did the insurgents follow any of the rules of the contract!), so they have none of the protections of the contract.

    You’re Canadian, right?

    Well, if Canada were to invade the United States, the Canadian (and U.S.) soldiers would be protected by the Geneva Convention. But if you and a bunch of your friends came into the United States to take over a small town (e.g., in retaliation for the War of 1812), you and your friends would NOT be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention. You would be treated as criminals. Just like the insurgents. Once again, that’s because the Geneva Convention is a CONTRACT between GOVERNMENTS. If you are NOT an official representative of the Canadian government, you are NOT protected by the Geneva Convention.

    The “insurgents” do NOT represent any government. Therefore, they are NOT protected by the Geneva Convention. Just as you would not be protected by the Geneva Convention if you and your friends decided to wage war on the United States.

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  9. having fought in fallujah in november i cant even begin to point out everything that’s wrong with this so I’m not going to. but the majority of this info is false, and it really pisses me off to see the truth so far streached its not even truth.

    Chuck
    1/8 alpha co.
    UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

  10. Chuck…

    I would not deny that you and the soldiers around you may have acted with the utmost in professionalism, but war is war and ugly things happen. I have heard too many bad things about what happened in Fallujah, and frankly, the US Army has done didley to show me any different.

    Given the option between believing civilians and/or reporters… or a military with “objectives” and “sensitivities”… I’ll take the civilians word first 9 times out of 10.

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