Iraq war crimes?

Ignoring the debate to see if the war on Iraq was justified for a moment…

Is there any prosecution for any crimes of war during the Iraq war against US military personnel? I mean, in any large scale operation like this, you’ll always have with statistical certainty some hothead that break the rules. Is there any kind of justice for these cases or is the ‘good’ side always right?

Example of possible war crime:

Why are you only interested in the possibility of war crimes being committed by US troops?

The US Armed Forces are policing their own, as they have done for the past couple of centuries. Several troops have been punished to varying degrees for varying crimes.

Because they are considered the good guys this time around and I’m pretty sure the ‘bad’ guys are already getting what’s coming to them? Are you saying that there is no war crimes committed in Iraq by US troops?

Ok Brutus… cite? Is there any reference on-line to military investigations going on for alleged war crimes? Who is investigating, prosecuting? How and to whom does the average Iraqi report a war crime done by US troops? At what frequency is it happenning? Why I’ve I not heard any of it? Were the soldiers in the clip I’ve linked to even investigated at least? What is to prevent to kind of cover-up that occurred in Vietnam for example (see the almost successful My Lai cover-up)?

I’ve googled a bit and all I’ve found was an article from aljazeera back in July… If they are reporting facts (I know anything out of aljazeera will be doubted by most), it doesn’t seem to be looking good for any prosecution of US troops possible war crime.

Most other articles talk about war crime tribunal to prosecute Saddam Hussein and his cronies.

Well, there’s these four soldiers discharged for abusing Iraqi POWs.,5744,8338194%5E2703,00.html

Well, I for one don’t think the ‘good’ side is always right, but really, how can one answer the above questions without the OP actually posting some examples of assumed war crimes by US personnel that have NOT been prosecuted? The one example cited seems ambiguous at best.

Basically the OP is asking us to listen in the night and guess how many dogs didn’t bark.

Sorry, scratch the part about “ambiguous at best”, but the rest stands. IMO, it is up to the OP to provide some concrete examples of US war crimes against Iraqis if we are to discuss this sensibly.

Thanks duality for your link…

So El_Kabong, you conclude that the link I provided is unambiguously not a war crime?

My reasoning is that:

  1. there is always some small percentage of any population (including military) that is unstable or dangerous in certain high pressure situation

  2. war and occupation is the kind of situation where the worst come out

  3. thus, there will always be war crimes during a war. Even more so when a sizable number of troops in Iraq are doing a job they are not trained to do : policing an often hostile population

  4. However, the good side war crimes tend to be ignored or pushed under the rug.

  5. what’s more (reading the comments from officers in my OP link) many US officers do not seem to take the law of wars seriously

  6. possible war crimes from ‘good’ side need to be investigated throughly, and when found the people should be systematically court martialed (notice it did not happen in the article that duality linked to) to send a message that the behavior is unacceptable when on the ‘good’ side

  7. not hearing about any court martial for war crimes is a sign that punishment for (again statistically certain) war crimes is lax in Iraq when done by US troops

So yes, I think not hearing about more of this indicates there is a problem but I’ll be happy if more examples (perhaps a centralized list?) of war crimes that were investigated and dealt with fully was linked to… Or at least have some military explain to me how the punishment for the three soldiers in duality’s link is anything else then a slap on the wrist.

Another one:

Maybe an International Criminal Court would have been a good idea after all??

The US armed forces prosecute their troops for violations of the UCMJ. Our laws, our legal system. If other nations want to form some sort of ‘court club’ to try each others criminals, great! The UCMJ and US military justice system serve us well, and prevents a foreigner with a bone to pick from abusing the system to get at our troops.

For the reasons mentioned by rngadam, war crimes do tend to get committed in most conflicts.

The crimes are committed during the conflict; we don’t know who the winner is until after the conflict. For that reason, if for no other, it would be irrational to assume that all crimes, or the bulk of crimes, are committed by the losing side.

As against that, there’s no reason to assume that crimes will be proportionately distributed among all the combatant armies, so to speak. If nothing else, members of the more powerful, better-equipped, better-led army (which will, of course, tend to be the winner) are less likely to find themselves in the kind of desparate situations which can lead to the commission of war crimes. Other factors can, of course, lead to war crimes – e.g. a criminal policy by a combatant state or by the leadership of a combatant army – but confusion, danger, desparation and panic must, intuitively, form a singificant part of it.

Where crimes are committed, my guess would be that offenders on the winning side are, broadly speaking, less likely to be prosecuted and, if prosecuted, are likely to be punished less severely, than offenders on the losing side. Just a hunch, nuthin’ more. Sorry, folks, no cite. For an isolated comparison which may not be representative, consider the treatment afforded to Lt Calley, convicted in connection with the My Lai massacre of Vietnamese villagers (sentenced to life, sentence progressively reduced to twenty and then ten years, released on bond, then paroled after serving, all told, three-and-a-half years) as against that afforded to Adolf Eierman, a German civilian convicted of instigating the beating to death of a wounded American airman (hanged).

Brutus is right to say that the US Code of Military Justice proscribes war crimes, and that US service personnel can be and are prosecuted under that Code. However under that system suspicion will always remain (to put it no higher) that, where the victors are dispensing justice to their own friends, supporters and agents, impartial justice of the kind we consider essential to the rule of law is not always to be expected.

Just something I thought to add to a thread that died quickly…
(from “Dispatches From Iraq”, “What Happened to Zeidun?”)

Incident in Samarra:

The follow-up from the Army…

The unit commander, is it the Col. Frederick Rudesheim referred to earlier in the interview that says…


Another question… Since the war is officially over, does any crime committed by armed forces in Iraq fall under war crimes or not?

Incidentally, just from my own observations, if you are charged under the UCMJ, there is an exceedingly high chance of you getting convicted. If you make it through an Article 32 investigation and they charge you, you’re toast, and military justice is NOT something you want anything to do with. Think I’m kidding? I got an LOC for a little fight I had over in the desert, just a small-time Letter of Counseling, and I got confined to quarters, given additional duties for a few days as punishment, and I got torn up, down, and sideways by my Detachment Commander, First Sergeant, Senior NCO, and virtually all of the officers. Standing at attention while the Man is yelling at you is, well, bad. I’m sure some of you know what I mean, and those that don’t just thank God for that, because your parents never yelled at you like that, I assure you.

All for a fistfight. Imagine if I had actually HURT someone.

As was stated before, the reason why we don’t do the ICC is because we’re not particularly popular and nobody in authority in America wants to see a soldier busted up because someone is playing politics. What we have works just fine. Visit Fort Leavenworth if you don’t believe me.

Well, read through your cite, rngadam. Seems there are two sides of the story and appearently CID is indeed looking into it. I’m not sure exactly what you are looking for here. Is this another anti-US rant? The story is alleged and being investigated. Unless its your contention that its merely a whitewash, what more did you expect or want? You’ve already been told that the US military has its own, internal military justice system. So, unless its your contention that the system doesn’t work, isn’t used, or is simply a white wash for US military personnel’s actions, especially in times of war, I don’t see what the debate is, to be honest.

Do you have any actual cases from an unbiased source (Slate not being at the top of my list for unbiased sources) of US soldiers committing crimes but being let off the hook that we could look at? Its hard to prove a negative, and anyone can make up alleged atrocities. I’m not denying the story btw…it IS being investigated. Appearently other are as well (so you really knew the answer to your OP before you wrote it, no?).

Crimes committed by US personnel whether in peace or war fall under the same heading, as has been pointed out to you…they fall under the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) which Brutus kindly provided a link for you to (I assume…I didn’t actually look in the link being familiar with UCMJ from my own time in service). i.e. there ARE no ‘war crimes’ for US military personnel, only crimes or violations of the UCMJ…understand? The more serious ones will get you doing VERY hard time, or be shot btw.


It’s worth pointing out that the UCMJ sets out large chunks of the Geneva Conventions word for word and criminalises the acts described. So acts which are “war crimes” under the Geneva Conventions are also offences under the UCMJ.

Not necessarily a US rant, althought I admit I’m a bit miffed that the Americans got off the hook for what happenned to our Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan ;-).

Seriously, I don’t know if the unit commander that is referred in the article is the Colonel or not. And if it is, could he really ignore what the CID said and decide to do nothing?

Come on! I thought the article was balanced, giving both sides. I’m not convinced that the platoon is guilty, but I think they are obviously enough of a suspicion for a court of some kind. Why should it be biased just because of the name of the site? Anyway, that is not my fault if only liberal sites are reporting on such possible incidents in Iraq… They are certainly not coming from the “rah rah pro-war site”, are they now?

Also, I find the systematical scepticism from some of you that this could happen, in a country where Americans soldiers are constantly targetted and poorly suited to their currently assigned task (policing and nation building) extraordinary. They can be understandably miffed. In some not so exceptional cases some could be acting on the fact that they are pissed, especially if they lost some comrades to the Iraqi insurgency. Not cracking down on those few cases is what I’m talking about because it has happenned before in other wars that America was involved in.

I’m just not so convinced that if the army is investigating itself or deciding itself on the result of those investigations that leads always to appropriate prosecution. So yes, maybe I’m not so sure the system works when American are killing Iraqis (be it possible involuntary manslaughter such as in this story or suspected murder.

I find the idea that the UCMJ is enough for americans rather iffy… what if every other country thinks the same way ? How can the US charge people with war crimes then if its an american legal device… not an international one ?

Soon enough you will have 3rd world brutes writing out their own “UCMJ” that justify rape and murder and they will have the same “rationalization” as US service members.

Someone mentioned that the UCMJ includes stuff from the Geneva convention... so why exclude the US from the International Court if the "legal" aspects are already included in the UCMJ ?  Leaving the International Court sure made for some bad press and bad precendents.

I thought we already answered that.

We don’t do the International Court because it keeps some country who doesn’t particularly like our beliefs, actions, or motivations from playing politics with the servicemen and women. Take Iraq, for example. Worldwide it was a very unpopular war. If we were in the International Court what would be able to stop, say, France from indicting servicemen for war crimes simply because they didn’t like what we did?

Incidentally, the UCMJ doesn’t justify rape or murder under any circumstances, as I’m sure you already knew, so I wonder why you tried to make it sound like it did.

Also, we aren’t the sole party to a War Crimes tribunal, it’s always multiple countries involved in it.

You have some serious misconceptions here, fella. Hopefully someone more articulate than me can come in here and either elaborate or shoot me down.

The article wasn’t balanced…it went into great detail on the alleged infraction, and spent about 3 lines on rebuttal. At the end they implied that, though the case is under investigation (wink wink, nudge nudge) nothing really will come of it. Poisoning the well, wouldn’t you say? Unless there is a guilty verdict, its an obvious white wash. As to the rest, what about the main stream news cites? CNN, CNBC, etc? They aren’t ‘rah rah pro-war site’ news sites, are they? I’m sure that there are other sites out there that are reasonably unbiased that are also carrying such things…and if not, maybe its because it really isn’t news worthy?

If this was directed at me, where did I exhibit ‘systematic skepticism’ (sic) that this couldn’t happen to US soldiers?? I know for a fact that there have been US soldiers that have violated the UCMJ both during peace and during war…and been shot for it. Where did I deny this? I said the case is under review…from your own article btw…so I’ll reserve judgement on it, as I have no personal knowledge and don’t know the particulars. There are two sides to the story, though we only heard details from one of those sides. And I’m sorry, but the story itself tickled my skeptical button. Not that it couldn’t have happened just the way the Iraqi’s said it did…but that it seems unlikely to me. More likely to me is, the soldiers ran over the truck for whatever reason, and the Iraqi’s jumped into the water (probably because they thought they were going to be shot…a reasonable assumption considering who their former boss was) on their own. The soldiers then simply drove off. But its all speculation and bullshit…as I said, the whole thing is under review and I, for one, trust the UCMJ.

You seem to be assuming guilt, while trying to deny that you are. You know that this case and the other one you listed are under investigation (wink wink, nudge nudge) but seem to be implying that, because they are US soldiers and the people they violated are only Iraqis, the official establishment will simply white wash the whole thing and let them off the hook scott free. However, you offer nothing to back that up. Do you have a reasonably clear case, from a reasonably unbiased source, showing such white washing going on that we can look at and debate? Otherwise this just turns into a “The government is white washing the crimes of its soldiers!!” “UCMJ is in effect, cases are being reviewed!” back and forth.

Thats fine. I AM convinced (having been in the military) that the ‘army’ as well as the other armed forces IS investigating itself…constantly. Where does that leave us? You are convinced they are white washing things, and I’m equally convinced they aren’t.

Do they ALWAYS lead to ‘appropriate prosecution’? Don’t make me laugh. Does ANY system ever do that? If so, name this magical system that always leads to ‘appropriate prosecution’. Certainly our civil system doesn’t. Can you say OJ? UCMJ is not a perfect system…but it IS an effective system for the most part.

Do you have a cite that any other nation relies on international courts to police their own militaries, as this is what you are implying? Afaik, most other nations pretty much rely on their OWN version of UCMJ to police their soldiers in peace time and war.

How can the US (or, say, NATO during Bosnia) police war crimes from other nations using their own systems? Easy…they won. The winners ALWAYS police the losers. If the ‘winners’ happen to be a multinational alliance, then you get an ‘international one’. However, they police the LOSERS…they don’t send their own soldiers to be policed by the same international court. Think WWII…did ANY of the allies soldiers accused of war crimes go before the international court? Not as far as I’m aware. Each individual allied country policed its own.

Since when did those kinds of countries need laws to justify rape and murder. SH never bothered with such things, nor do the rest. As long as they remain soveriegn powers, they can pretty much do what they want. If they LOSE in a war though…thats another matter. They are then at the mercy of the winners, no?

Again, because, afaik, most nations police their own military in times of peace or war. No nation I’m aware of relies on outside international courts to police their militaries. If I’m wrong, lets see a cite by another country in peace time or war that, though they won relied on an international court to police its own military. There had to be war crimes committed during Bosnia (and there was no UN sanction) by NATO, so…did NATO rely on an international court to police its military? Did they even use NATO to do so, or did the individual countries police their own (I know the US policed ITS own…and I’d be willing to bet so did the other countries involved).

To me, you are setting up a false premise…that the US does something different than anyone else. Is Britian not policing THEIR own from the Iraqi war as well? Or is it your contention that only US soldiers commit war crimes or violate their own codes of military conduct? When the US is finally defeated (and the world cheers on) THEN the US will be at the mercy of the victors as far as war crimes go. We will have to bow our heads and do whatever the victors say. Thats reality.