Aboriginal News Group Press Statement
“If certain acts and violations of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. We are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”
-- Justice Robert H. Jackson, Prosecutor, Nürnberg War Crimes Trials
To the Original Peoples of the Fourth World and all International Press Services:
At this time, the editors of the Aboriginal News Group wish to extend our condolences and solidarity to the families, friends and colleagues of Reuters journalists Namir Noor-Eldeen, Saeed Chmagh, and to the other innocent Iraqi non-combatants shot to death as the result of an unprovoked aerial assault on the civilian neighbourhood of New Baghdad on July 12th, 2007 by American military forces. It is in the spirit and desire for justice, peace and an end to the war and occupation that we present the following commentary:
As of this writing, more than 2.5 million people have viewed a copy of a classified military video that was clandestinely obtained, analysed and eventually made public on April 5th of this year, at great personal risk, by wikileaks.org,1 a citizen-journalism portal that specialises in making whistle-blower data available to the general public. Presented as a piece of evidence, this video has proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the 2007 incident was not only unnecessary but completely inconsistent with the initially-reported “dangerous conditions” on the ground that supposedly led to the attack in the first place.2
Although it is duly acknowledged that skirmishes had occurred earlier that morning in a related region, (the very reason for the presence of the two Reuters reporters) there was no visible fighting or disturbances on the street in which Noor-Eldeen, Chmagh and the other unfortunate victims were walking through. Not only does the video show in graphic detail the vicious needlessness of the initial shooting attack, but more importantly, it documents the purely sadistic second attack on the family, which included two young children, that stopped to rescue a severely wounded survivor of the initial ambush.
This is very bad business indeed, and there is little a civilised person can say about a case in which more than a dozen innocent civilians are shot and killed without reasonable cause by American military personnel other than to state what is blatantly obvious. This incident is not simply another story about the unfortunate casualties of war, it is an empirical testament as to why the United States has absolutely no business occupying, much less waging war against, the people of the nation of Iraq. This massacre is a particularly gruesome and undeniably illuminating example of a war crime in progress and it deserves due recognition as such under the established rules of international law.
Without reservation, the editors of The Aboriginal News Group roundly condemns the unprovoked attack on our fellow journalists and the other innocent Iraqi civilians wrongfully shot to death in the residential community of New Baghdad, Iraq, 06:21:09 Zulu Time, July 12th, 2007 as an act of unmitigated colonialist violence. In our view, the video documentation of this incident is empirical evidence of clear violations of the US military Rules of Engagement for Iraq; the established principles of international law as recognised by the Fourth Geneva Convention in relation to the protection of civilian persons in time of war; the “Martens Clause” addendum to the Hague Convention of 18993; the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court4 (adopted 07.17.1998); the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 33145 (adopted 12.14.1974) and Principles: IV, VI(b)(c); The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (General Assembly Resolution 260) and VII of the 1945-46 Nürnberg Trials as codified in draft by the International Law Commission6 as it concerns the definition of war crimes as acts of:
“Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation of slave labor or for any other purpose of the civilian population of or in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the Seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity”.7
While we wholeheartedly support the growing public demand that the Obama administration immediately compel the United States military to objectively reinvestigate this matter without delay or prejudice, the Aboriginal News Group does not believe that the US government can be expected to investigate or judge its own illicit use of deadly military force impartially. Instead, we call for the creation of an autonomous, citizen-led review commission based on the model of the Russell International War Crimes Tribunals of 1966-67 that would serve to critically reaffirm the rule of international law and the responsibilities of combative states to protect common citizens from unwarranted military violence.
This international commission would independently and objectively investigate the 2007 ‘New Baghdad Massacre’ by attempting to answer the following questions:
1- Did US military helicopter crews randomly and eagerly decide to attack non-aggressive human targets of a purely civilian character in a residential Iraqi neighbourhood without reasonable cause on July 12th 2007?
2- Did the US military political and public relations structure purposefully misrepresent this incident to the international press?
This citizen’s commission should also be permitted to objectively observe any official investigations into this matter as a demonstration of bureaucratic transparency and faith in the public’s right to know. This commission should also pledge that the proceedings and final report of such investigations will be made readily available, unredacted, to all interested parties and the international press.
This particular case stands out as an atrocity of historical dimensions primarily because it presents the entire western community with a direct empirical challenge to its political passivity and ethical hypocrisy in the face of a bold lie. Even in the considerable wake of the public release of this disturbing video, the Pentagon still stubbornly stands by what was originally reported to the mainstream media, including Reuters, in 2007 when Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, representing US and coalition forces in Iraq told the press:
“There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force...”8
The day after the incident, the Reuters agency described the tragedy this way:
"The cause of their deaths is unclear. The US military issued a statement describing the incident as a firefight with insurgents and said the killings were being investigated. Witnesses interviewed by Reuters said they saw no gunmen in the immediate area and that there had been a US helicopter attack, which police described as "random American bombardment"."9
This video is clearly just one example among many within an unending series of brutal war crimes brought down upon the general citizenry of Iraq. We feel that the usage of the word “random” by Iraqi police within this context is of great explanatory value, as it confirms the numerous independent news reports that described the use of indiscriminate military violence against non-combatant Iraqi civilians during the occupation. To his credit, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the current US Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Commander of the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A) recently substantiated these reports when he admitted that these incidents in fact do occur with an alarming frequency. According to Gen. McChrystal:
"I do want to say something that everyone understands. We really ask a lot of our young service people out on the checkpoints because there's danger, they're asked to make very rapid decisions in often very unclear situations. However, to my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I've been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it. That doesn't mean I'm criticizing the people who are executing. I'm just giving you perspective. We've shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force."10
While it appears unusual, the surprising candour expressed in these statements are not expressions of remorse or the acceptance of moral and professional responsibility for imperialist injustice. They are at heart examples of contemporary Orwellian banality, the expression-less American Euro-settler tolerance for xenophobic-justified atrocities in the name of “Americanism” and “democracy” against “worthwhile” victims casually identified as “The Other”. The US occupation is not about “peace”, it is attempting to create a sustainable and workable colonial social order of capitalist indoctrination in the effort to win over the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqi people. But with ever-increasing levels of war stress, stop-loss and troops unaware that they are burdened by the subconscious cultural-trauma of more than 500 years of racist, pro-Europocentric colonialist oppression, it comes as no surprise to us that American troops are losing positive control over their inner-colonialist demons while serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hostile locations where the United States has a military and economic interest.
While the New York Times has reported that under Gen. McChrystal’s command the United Nations has documented a 28 percent reduction in civilian casualties in the last year,11 this does not take away from the fact that coalition occupation forces, privately employed mercenaries and corrupt US-recruited native troops often use defenceless Iraqi citizens for target practise and occasionally as literal human punching-bags for their personal amusement and psychological ‘war-guilt’ vomitus.12 One such recent case involved the February 12th killing of two pregnant women, a teenage girl, a policeman and his brother during a raid by US forces in in Kabul, Afghanistan. There is little doubt that this story was originally suppressed by both the US military and the mainstream news media and we now know that US special forces personnel actually crudely removed their own bullets from their victims bodies and then cleansed the would with chemicals before submitting a false report about the incident. Under mounting pressure, NATO officials eventually admitted responsibility for the deaths, but continue to deny that a cover-up ever took place and maintain that there exists no credible evidence of inappropriate military conduct.
Further, international news agencies such as Reuters have repeatedly criticised the use of hostile force against their employees by the US military. Reports of journalists being detained by US forces include stories of physical and sexual abuse in their custody, and in one account from 2004, three Reuters employees were severely beaten and threatened with further violence by US military personnel in base near Fallujah. Counterpunch’s Patrick Cockburn reported in July of 2007 that:
"Soldiers laughed, taunted, abused, photographed and degraded them by forcing them to insert their fingers up their anuses and then lick them."13
Perhaps this is an obvious point, but all of this clearly illustrates that the United States military war machine has yet again shown itself to be little more than a willing agent of brutal anti-human physical destruction under the auspices of defending the laudable ideals of “freedom and democracy”. As Indigenous people we point to the painfully obvious “colonialist attitudes” displayed by the helicopter crews clearly intent on opening fire on the pedestrians milling peacefully below them. We perceive this to be nothing less than “Indian Hunting”, the colonialist practise of indiscriminately seeking out native citizenry to violently prey upon, perhaps the ugliest by-product of all wars and conflict. The audio commentary overheard during the video is without qualification disgusting as well, but it provides us with further evidence of the obvious disregard many US military personnel have developed towards the human rights and safety of Iraq’s civilian society.
The testosterone-fuelled eagerness and abject merriment of the soldiers involved in this atrocity we feel reflects much more than military insensitivity, it is indicative of the socio-political culture, history and spirit of American Euro-settler colonialist aggression. This video makes it abundantly clear that these “American” soldiers were consciously seeking out someone, anyone, to shoot at and possibly kill, simply for the mere “sport” of it. We feel that for all accounts and purposes, these troops acted as if they were playing a “Cowboys and Indians” video game in real-time and that understanding of this historical dynamic is manifestly critical towards comprehending the deeper meanings beneath both the tactless dialog overheard during this atrocity as well as the very occupation of Iraq itself.
As Indigenous people, we understand viscerally the contradictions raised by this document. It shows brazen and inexcusable conduct unbecoming of any professional army anywhere in the world, but it is exceedingly heinous when such acts are performed by the supposedly “democratic” and “moral” armies of Pax Americana. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, the Obama administration has declined to comment at length on the circumstances surrounding this incident other than to suggest that such things happen in war time. And while the Pentagon does admit that the video is an authentic document, (perhaps one day they will happen to locate their own “lost” copy)14 they still authoritatively maintain that their personnel acted appropriately and in accordance with the “rules of war”. To add further insult to injury, official sources are also insisting that no special investigations will be conducted to empirically deconstruct the root causes behind this terrible event.15 Predictably, the mainstream corporate-owned US news stream has already forgotten about the story.16
As Indigenous people, the editors of the Aboriginal News Group respectfully point to the sober observations of US Justice Robert Jackson who repeatedly reiterated during and in the years following the Nürnberg trials that the crimes in which he sat in judgment were crimes of indiscriminate violence against people, irregardless of intent and no respect to which nations in the world may happen to commit the act. However, when the Nürnberg Principles are raised in regards to the behaviour of the United States and its treatment of Indigenous and occupied peoples at home and abroad, the discourse almost always sinks into a morass of nationalistic, theological and ultimately racist Europocentric excuses for Western Empire and Judeo-Christian hegemony.
In our view it is not by chance or mistake that the helicopters used in the 2007 attack are called “Apache”, or that one of the mission crews used “Crazyhorse” as an identification monicker. As conscious Indigenous people, we understand that the imperio-colonialist’s subconscious rationale behind the utterly disrespectful use of these and other proud North American Indigenous names and symbols is concretely indicative of their lack of comprehension, compassion or sense of responsibility towards the victims of their violent belligerence.
It is not overstating the argument to insist that the United States republic suffers from its own unique form of holocaust denial. This denial is manifested in the love-hate relationship US Euro-settlers and their self-colonialised non-European lackeys have with America’s First Peoples and most of its ex-slave African population. This analysis is evidenced by the considerable social and racial unease that has emerged in the United States following the election of Barack Obama. As one of our editors has insightfully observed, the use of Indigenous names, symbolisms and racial epithets by the US military and other security-focused systems is more than simple cultural misappropriation, it is a wholly intentional and pitiful attempt to harness the actual identities of these Original Peoples and the other nations they have unsympathetically conquered through violence. He continues his Indigenist analysis by observing that:
“The Lakota were never defeated in battle with the U.S. and so with that spirit, the Americans including their military, use invocations coded in their command identifications as if they are summoning the supernatural or even Crazy Horse's diety to help them not lose in battle or any campaign. This is why the Lakota or Apache are always used because of our "never give up" spirit. They can never, ever become Lakota or Apache.”
The international Aboriginal community has been aware for some time that American military personnel and private mercenary units such as those employed by Blackwater/Xe regularly refer to Iraqis as “Indians”, “Redskins”, “Injuns”, “Savages” and “Niggers” who are receiving righteous "payback for 9/11".17 For the uninitiated, these terms are traditional racial epithets in the United States and are still used in negative reference to North America’s Original and African Peoples. In light of the undeniably colonial and imperialist nature of the US occupation of Iraq, it comes as no surprise to us that the Iraq and Afghan peoples are defined as “Indians” and “Niggers”.18 It is obvious that Iraq’s Arabs are also being viewed by some American troops as yet another sub-human “other race” that many may be misinterpreting as a license to kill.19
The Aboriginal News Group believes that the application of these specific racially derogatory terms in reference to Iraq’s Arab population more than anything else substantiates the Indigenist argument that American Euro-settler colonialism is the real US mission in Occupied Iraq, not the pursuit of western-style democratic reform. In short, the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq is nothing more than a contemporary act of “Manifest Destiny” and any honest accounting of this crisis must begin from that historical juncture. There exists no credible intellectual excuse to ignore such an analysis as it relates directly to what led to the “New Baghdad Massacre” and the current establishment’s official and unofficial disdain for transparency on this and many other similar instances of indiscriminate US, coalition and private mercenary abuses of military power.
The psychological remnants of this anti-Indigenous colonialist history can also be seen in the American campaign against the Japanese Empire in the 1940’s. US troops were known to execute, torture and mutilate the corpses of captured and surrendering Japanese troops. According to Simon Harrison, author of “Skull Trophies of the Pacific War: Transgressive objects of Remembrance”, among the Japanese war dead repatriated from the Pacific immediately following the war, nearly 60 percent of the cadavers were shipped home without their heads. 20 Once the war moved to mainland Japan, US troops began committing other atrocities such as the sexual assault of more than 4,336 Japanese women during the first few days of the US occupation.21 Numerous military officers and historians at the time, including in the contemporary era, have attributed this behaviour, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to the long-held American perception that Asians were a sinister and malevolent "Eastern subhuman race" and therefore not deserving of humane treatment or civil respect during wartime or social weakness. These dangerous anti-Asian attitudes were to emerge again in Vietnam, most notably during the 03.16.1968 massacre at My Lai (Pinkville).
If we are to understand how such things can occur in the contemporary era of international moral and legal recognition for the human rights of all peoples and the rights of sovereign states to be free from unwarranted aggression, let us begin at the beginning. To fully comprehend the nature of this particular Western Asian occupation, it is imperative to understand the earlier North American occupation that became the operational model for all others the United States would later undertake.
In sum, the “Indian Wars” are far from over, and its high time that all the militaries of the world take responsibilities for their violent actions against the human rights of all peoples. In particular the common, non-combatant civilians unwillingly caught up in the insanity of armed conflict.
Stop the violence by stopping the war.
The Aboriginal News Group
The Aboriginal News Group is an international association of Indigenist blog-journalists working to provide accurate under-reported Indigenous news items to the people of the Fourth World and others with a concern for human justice and Aboriginal political issues.
1- Dupre', Deborah. “Pentagon targets Wiki Whistblowers for exposing its dirty secrets”, Human Rights Examiner, 03. 27.2010
2- Fromm, Charles. “US-IRAQ: Leaked Video of Shooting Spurs Calls for New Probe”, Inter-Press Service, 04, 06, 2010
3- “Laws of War: Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague II); July 29, 1899. archived in the Avalon Project at Yale Law School. Source: Wikipedia.
4- Scharf, Michael P. “Results of the Rome Conference for an International Criminal Court. The American Society of International Law”, Pub: August 1998
5- United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3314 defines the crime of aggression. Acts of aggression are defined as armed invasions or attacks, bombardments, blockades, armed violations of territory, permitting other states to use one's own territory to perpetrate acts of aggression and the employment of armed irregulars or mercenaries to carry out acts of aggression. The definition's distinction between an act of aggression and a war of aggression make it clear that not every act of aggression would constitute a crime against peace; only war of aggression does. States would nonetheless be held responsible for acts of aggression. Source: Wikipedia.
6- Report: “Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nürnberg Tribunal and in the Judgement of the Tribunal”, Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1950, vol. II. Source: Wikipedia
7- Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nürnberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal, 1950.
8- Bumiller, Elisabeth. “Video Shows U.S. Killing of Reuters Employees”, NYT April 5, 2010
9- “Reuters journalists killed in Baghdad”, 2007-07-13 11:11:07. ReutersLink News : http://www.reuterslink.org/news/reuterskilledjournos.htm
10- Elliott, Justin. “Gen. McChrystal: We've Shot 'An Amazing Number Of People' Who Were Not Threats”, TPM, April 2, 2010.
11- Oppel Jr., Richard A. “Tighter Rules Fail to Stem Deaths of Innocent Afghans at Checkpoints”, NYT, March 26, 2010.
12- "'Autopsy reports reveal homicides of detainees in U.S. custody'", ACLU. 10.24.2005. (http://action.aclu.org/torturefoia/released/102405/).
13- Cockburn, Patrick. “Journalist in the Iraq War Zone”, counterpunch, 07.16.2010.
14- BBC News: “US military 'trying to retrieve' Iraq killings video” 7th, April 2010.
15- “Admin Refuses to Call for Probe of US Killing of Iraqis”, democracynow.org; 04.07.2010.
16- “Iraq Killings and Media Indifference: Leaked video mostly ignored by corporate media”, fair.org: 04.072010.
17- Schulman, Daniel. “Justice Dept.: Blackwater Contractor Saw Killing Iraqis as 9/11 Payback”, motherjones.com , Sep. 8, 2009.
18- Scahill, Jeremy. “Blackwater Accused of Racism on Its Anti-Piracy Ship”, rebelreports.com.
19- Gardner, David. “‘Ha ha, I hit 'em': Top secret video showing U.S. helicopter pilots gunning down 12 civilians in Baghdad attack leaked online”, mailonline.co.uk; last updated at 9:19 AM on 7th April 2010.
20- Simon Harrison “Skull Trophies of the Pacific War: transgressive objects of remembrance” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S) 12, 817-836 (2006) p.828 Source, Wikipedia.
21-Tanaka, Toshiyuki. Japan's Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery and Prostitution During World War II
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