June 05, 2006

An Atrocity of Atrocities?

It is but one of several atrocity cases that you will find the press laying at the feet of American Marines in Iraq, but the death of Hashim the Lame strikes me as among the most curious, and potentially the most troubling.

Other incidents in Iraq have led to the deaths of Iraqi civilians at the hands of American Marines. Haditha was the incident that triggered the current media frenzy, and is under investigation as a possible war crime after 24 Iraqi civilians were killed by a Marine unit after an IED attack killed on of their own.

In Ishaqi, a disputed number of women and children were killed after an air strike was called in on a house that was engaging Marines with intense small arms fire. The Marines were cleared after an investigation determined that men with ties to al Qaeda, including an al Qaeda financier, initiated the firefight. The financier was pulled alive from the rubble and is now in U.S. custody.

In both of these incidents, the Marines were responding to immediate provocations. If Iraqi accounts of the death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad al-Zobaie are correct, this killing had no such immediate trigger.

The official Marine account and the version of events told by Iraqi villagers could not be more different:

Members of the Marine foot patrol under investigation in the case said they came upon Hashim digging a hole for a bomb near his home in the Sunni Arab village of about 30 homes near Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad. The Marines said they killed Hashim in a brief gun battle and that they found an AK-47 assault rifle and a shovel by his side.

According to accounts given by Hashim's neighbors and members of his family, and apparently supported by photographs, the Marines went to Hashim's home, took the 52-year-old disabled Iraqi outside and shot him four times in the face. The assault rifle and shovel next to his body had been planted by the Marines, who had borrowed them from a villager, family members and other residents said.

The family members of al-Zobaie have agreed to allow an exhumation and autopsy, which should she light onto which version of events is more accurate. I'm hoping that the Marine account is accurate for the simple reason that the alternative—that Marines singled out and premeditated the murder of a cripple for unknown reasons—is so difficult to contemplate.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at June 5, 2006 07:05 AM | TrackBack