NY Times: Iraqi Accuses U.S. of ‘Daily’ Attacks Against Civilians


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

June 2, 2006

Iraqi Accuses U.S. of 'Daily' Attacks Against Civilians

BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 1 ‹ Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki lashed out at the 
American military on Thursday, denouncing what he characterized as habitual 
attacks by troops against Iraqi civilians.

As outrage over reports that American marines killed 24 Iraqis in the town of 
Haditha last year continued to shake the new government, the country's senior 
leaders said that they would demand that American officials turn over their 
investigative files on the killings and that the Iraqi government would conduct 
its own inquiry.

In his comments, Mr. Maliki said violence against civilians had become a "daily 
phenomenon" by many troops in the American-led coalition who "do not respect the
Iraqi people."

"They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion," he said. 
"This is completely unacceptable." Attacks on civilians will play a role in 
future decisions on how long to ask American forces to remain in Iraq, the prime
minister added.

The denunciation was an unusual declaration for a government that remains 
desperately dependent on American forces to keep some form of order in the 
country amid a resilient Sunni Arab insurgency in the west, widespread sectarian
violence in Baghdad, and deadly feuding among Shiite militias that increasingly 
control the south.

It was also a sign of the growing pressure on Mr. Maliki, whose governing 
coalition includes Sunni Arabs who were enraged by news of the killings in 
Haditha, a city deep in Sunni-dominated Anbar Province. At the same time, he is 
being pushed by the Americans to resolve the quarreling within his fragile 
coalition that has left him unable to fill cabinet posts for the Ministries of 
Defense and the Interior, the two top security jobs in the country.

Military and Congressional officials have said they believe that an 
investigation into the deaths of two dozen Iraqis in Haditha on Nov. 19 will 
show that a group of marines shot and killed civilians without justification or 
provocation. Survivors in Haditha say the troops shot men, women and children in
the head and chest at close range.

For the second day in a row, President Bush spoke directly about the furor 
surrounding the case. "Obviously, the allegations are very troubling for me and 
equally troubling for our military, especially the Marine Corps," President Bush
said Thursday, in response to a question from a reporter after a meeting of his 
cabinet. Referring to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter 
Pace, he added, "I've spoken to General Pace about this issue quite a few 

Investigators are examining the role of senior commanders in the aftermath of 
the Haditha killings, and trying to determine how high up the chain of command 
culpability may rest.

Marine officials said Thursday that Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Johnson, who was the 
top Marine Corps commander in Iraq during the Haditha killings, had been set to 
be promoted to become the service's senior officer in charge of personnel, a 
three-star position.

General Johnson is widely respected by the Marine Corps' senior leadership, yet 
officials said it was unlikely that the Pentagon would put him up for promotion 
until the Haditha investigations were concluded.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that a parallel investigation into whether
the killings were covered up has concluded that some officers reported false 
information and that superiors failed to adequately scrutinize the reports about
the two dozen deaths.

The newspaper said that the inquiry had determined that Staff Sgt. Frank 
Wuterich, a squad leader present at Haditha, made a false statement when he 
reported that a roadside bombing had killed 15 civilians. The inquiry also said 
that an intelligence unit that later visited the site failed to highlight that 
civilians had gunshot wounds.

In Baghdad, senior Iraqi officials demanded an apology and explanation about 
Haditha from the United States and vowed their own inquiry.

"We in the ministers' cabinet condemned this crime and demanded that coalition 
forces show the reasons behind this massacre," Deputy Prime Minister Salam 
al-Zubaie, one of the most powerful Sunni Arabs in the new government, said in 
an interview.

"As you know, this is not the only massacre, and there are a lot," he said. "The
coalition forces must change their behavior. Human blood should be sacred 
regardless of religion, party and nationality."

Mr. Zubaie, also the acting defense minister, acknowledged that Iraqi officials 
would probably not be able to force the extradition of any troops suspected of 
culpability in the Haditha killings. But he said a committee of five ministers, 
including defense, interior and finance, would investigate the killings with the
expectation that American officials would turn over their files. "We do not have
the security file because it is in the hands of the coalition forces," he said. 
"We hope there will not be obstacles ahead."

The crisis over Haditha and other disputed killings in Sunni areas comes just as
it appears that military operations may be needed to retake some Sunni areas at 
risk of falling to the insurgency.

This week American forces ordered 1,500 troops from Kuwait into Anbar Province, 
a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency, in the latest sign that insurgents and 
terrorist groups including those led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi control much of the
sprawling desert region.

In interviews on Thursday, two senior Republicans ‹ Senator John W. Warner of 
Virginia, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Senator John McCain 
of Arizona, who is next in line to be committee chairman ‹ both said it was too 
soon to tell whether the episode would undermine support for the war. Still, 
both expressed concern.

Senator Warner, who has promised to hold hearings as soon as the military 
completes its investigation, said he had been urging Defense Secretary Donald H.
Rumsfeld to wrap up the inquiry as swiftly as possible.

"In the interim, frankly, the public opinion on this matter is being influenced 
by misinformation, leaks and undocumented and uncorroborated facts," he said.

Mr. McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than five years, said 
the incident harked back to the My Lai massacre during the war in Vietnam. He 
added, "It certainly is harmful, but I can't assess the extent of the damage."

Neither he nor Mr. McCain would say whether Mr. Rumsfeld should be called as a 

"I think it depends on what we find out," Mr. McCain said. "I can't say until we
really know what happened. There are allegations, and I emphasize allegations, 
that there was a cover-up. If so, then obviously more senior people would have 
to be the subject of hearings."

On Wednesday, American troops near the restive city of Samarra shot and killed 
two Iraqi women, including one who might have been pregnant and on her way to a 
hospital, after their car did not heed what the American military command said 
were repeated warnings to stop.

At a news conference in Baghdad, a senior American military spokesman, Maj. Gen.
William Caldwell, said that "about three or four, at least," allegations of 
wrongdoing by American troops were being investigated and that anyone found 
guilty of offenses in those incidents or in the Haditha case would be punished. 
"This tragic incident is in no way representative of how coalition forces treat 
Iraqi civilians," he said.

In Baghdad, the top American ground commander in Iraq ordered that all 150,000 
American and allied troops in the country receive mandatory refresher training 
on "legal, moral and ethical standards on the battlefield."

In a statement, the officer, Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, did not specifically 
cite the civilian deaths in Haditha as the reason for the unusual order.

But he said commanders would be provided with training materials and sample 
vignettes to use to instruct on professional military values and conduct in 
combat, as well as Iraqi cultural sensitivities.

Reporting for this article was contributed by Eric Schmitt, Sheryl Gay Stolberg,
Jim Rutenberg, Mark Mazzetti and David S. Cloud from Washington, and Omar 
al-Neami from Baghdad.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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