‘Normal operating procedures’ [Archives:2006/954/Viewpoint]

June 12 2006

According to U.S. military reports, the troops who participated in the deaths of Iraqi civilians in the town of Ishaqi in March were found to have followed 'normal operating procedures' when they attacked the house. This is not the only incident of its kind, and U.S. forces in Iraq still face scrutiny for the actions of marines in two other incidents in which civilians were killed. Last November, 24 civilians were slaughtered in Haditha, a town located in north-western Iraq. On April 26, an Iraqi man in the Baghdad suburb of Hamandiyah was killed by American forces. According to media reports, the victim was dragged from his house, shot, and a firearm was planted on his person. Two weeks ago a pregnant woman in labor and her cousin were killed by gunfire in Samarra when their car failed to stop at an American checkpoint on their way to a hospital.

A rule of thumb in the media industry has it that if one incident is reported there are many others of the same kind that have not yet reached the public. I believe this is the case in Iraq, particularly when actions known to result in civilian deaths are treated simply as 'normal operating procedures'. If these are normal procedures, I can not think of abnormal ones, or rather I do not dare to. Perhaps the lectures that soldiers will be required to attend on battlefield ethics in June will make a difference and lessen the possibility that American troops “snap” when they wage war on Iraqi civilians.

I am glad that the Iraqi government finally found that its limits of toleration had been reached concerning what constitutes acceptable action on the part of coalition forces occupying its land. At least, this is the impression that Baghdad seemed to convey to the world. With journalists reporting from the field, it would be difficult to try and turn the usual blind eye on the occupiers' conduct or was it liberators?