From nobody Sat Feb 8 07:32:29 2003
From: email@example.com (Mike Buckingham)
Subject: 1991 massacre of thousands of fleeing Iraqi troops was part of U.S. 'total war'
Sender: Stanislaus Carwile
Organization: Gideon Moll
Date: Sat, 08 Feb 2003 01:07:19 GMT
It was like going down an American highwaypeople were all
mixed up in cars in trucks. People got out of their cars and ran
away. We shot them.... The Iraqis were getting
massacred.Pfc. Charles Sheehan-Miles, describing March 2,
1991, assault on retreating Iraqi column at Rumaila, Iraq, two days
after cease-fire in Gulf War.
We've blown away a busload of kids.Unidentified
platoon sergeant during March 2 assault.
We're yelling on the radio, 'They're firing at the
prisoners! They're firing at the
prisoners!'Specialist 4 Edward Walker, describing
February 27, 1991, incident during ground invasion of Iraq.
It's murder.Unidentified U.S. soldier during February
BY MAURICE WILLIAMS Washington's assault on Iraq was one of the biggest slaughters in modern history. The six-week bombardment that began in mid-January 1991 and the 100-hour ground invasion unleashed on February 24 killed an estimated 150,000 people. Millions were homeless and exposed to hunger and disease, as large sections of the country were left in ruins. The murderous effects of that war are still felt today, reinforced by the ongoing economic embargo and continued bombing attacks against Iraq.
Despite attempts by the U.S. government to lie and cover up the truth about its massacre, some of the facts have come out over the years.
An extensive article in the May 22 issue of the New Yorker magazine by journalist Seymour Hersh has exposed more facts about Washington's slaughter in the Arab-Persian Gulf.
Washington seized on Baghdad's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 to launch a war aimed at overthrowing the Iraqi government and installing a regime subservient to U.S. imperialism. In pursuing these goals the U.S. capitalist class sought to gain an edge over its imperialist rivals in Europe and Japan, bolster its domination in the Middle East, and gain greater control over the oil reserves in the Gulf. The U.S. rulers also used the war to tighten their military encirclement of the workers state in Russia.
Washington, however, did not achieve its political aims in the region. They failed to overthrow the Iraqi government. They have proven unable to crush the Palestinian struggle for a homeland. Instead, there is more volatility and instability in the region and today the Israeli government, its junior imperialist partner in the region, has been forced out of Lebanon.
The February 1991 U.S.-led ground invasion of Iraq was a one-sided
slaughter, not a war. The capitalist regime in Iraq, headed by Saddam
Hussein, did not organize a fight but simply tried to maneuver with
Washington. Baghdad abandoned the mass of workers and peasants in
Iraq's army on the battlefield of Kuwait and southern Iraq. As
these ex-soldiers tried to flee back home, the U.S. military machine
simply massacred tens of thousands of human beings. The U.S. invading
forces suffered barely a handful of casualties, mostly from
Hersh is a liberal journalist who gained a reputation for his investigative reporting on the 1968 My Lai massacre of Vietnamese by the U.S. military. For the New Yorker article, more than 300 interviews were conducted with U.S. army officers in the Gulf war and army investigators.
Hersh focuses mainly on events after the cease-fire announced by U.S. president George Bush on Feb. 28, 1991, in particular the operations directed by one of the top commanders of the Gulf War, Gen. Barry McCaffrey. The article quotes U.S. army officers and soldiers who describe several instances of Iraqis being killed as they tried to flee or surrender or even after they had given themselves up as prisoners to the U.S. forces.
Hersh views these massacres simply as an
excess of war. He
doesn't challenge the premise of Washington's bipartisan
assault on the Iraqi people, and so doesn't dwell much on the
brutality unleashed by Washington before the February 28 cease-fire,
which Bush proclaimed because he believed that by then the U.S. forces
were on the verge of achieving their goals.
Nonetheless, even the limited facts presented in this article are an indictment of Washington and shed light on the character of its assault.
McCaffrey, who commanded 26,000 troops of the 24th Infantry Division, drove his forces more than 200 miles into Iraq to block the retreat of Iraqi soldiers from the war zone in Kuwait. Abandoned by their military leadership, they offered no resistance.
Killing of hundreds of fleeing soldiers
We met the enemy,
recalled 1st Lt. Greg Downey, describing an encounter on February 25,
the second day of the ground war.
They were a sad sight with
absolutely no fight left in them. Referring to the fact their
leadership had stranded them, he added,
The hate I had for any
After the cease-fire was declared, the retreating Iraqis had been
assured safe passage. Many had thrown away their weapons. Tanks were
loaded on trucks with their cannons aimed to the rear.
Some of the
tanks were in travel formation, and their guns were not in any engaged
position, said Sgt. Stuart Hirstein of the 124th Military
On March 2, deep inside Iraq, a five-mile-long retreating column of Iraqis approached the causeway across Lake Hammar, near the Rumaila oil field west of Basra. They ran into the U.S. forces McCaffrey had deployed right across the line of retreat. McCaffrey ordered a devastating attack. The U.S. military forces sealed off the causeway with Apache attack helicopters and artillery fire, pinned the Iraqi column on the road, and pounded them for five hours with wave after wave of bomb, tank, artillery, and missile attacks.
At least 400 Iraqis were killed. Some 700 Iraqi tanks, armored cars, and trucks were destroyed. Among them was a bus with civilians and children that was hit by a rocket. No shots were fired at the U.S. forces, and there were no serious U.S. combat casualties.
No reporters were allowed in the area at the time. During the Gulf War no media representatives were permitted on the battlefields without military escorts.
The massacre of unresisting Iraqis and the deaths of children deeply
disturbed many U.S. soldiers. One platoon sergeant remarked,
We've blown away a busload of kids.
An officer in the 124th Military Intelligence Battalion said a
captured Iraqi tank commander asked his U.S. interrogators several
Why are you killing us? All we were doing was going
U.S. slaughter of Iraqi prisoners On February 27, the fourth day of the U.S. ground invasion, a large group of Iraqi soldiers had surrendered to a platoon in the 2-7 Battalion of the 24th Infantry Division. One of the first vehicles to pull up was a bus filled with wounded Iraqi soldiers. The bus was marked with a crescentthe Arab equivalent of the Red Cross sign. Doctors and male nurses were among the approximately 380 prisoners.
Specialist 4 Edward Walker was ordered to blow up weapons confiscated from the Iraqi soldiers. Shortly after destroying a truck holding these weapons, the platoon was abruptly ordered to move on. The U.S. GIs, greatly outnumbered by the Iraqis, left after giving them surrender leaflets printed in Arabic. The papers promised that those who gave up would live to see their families again. Lt. Kirk Allen, the platoon commander, notified the battalion's operations headquarters of the exact location of the Iraqi hospital bus.
As the confiscated weapons were destroyed in a massive explosion, according to Walker, several U.S. Bradley vehicles, armed with chain-driven machine guns capable of firing up to a thousand rounds a minute, rolled onto the scene. The high-intensity weapons opened up.
'They knew there were prisoners there' Walker, who was
convinced all the prisoners were mowed down, said the Bradleys also
fired on him and the other GIs who were in a marked Humvee.
knew there were prisoners there. They knew they were unarmed, said
They knew the hospital bus was there, and they knew we were
blowing the truck up.
Walker left the military in 1991, not permitted by the authorities at Fort Leonard Wood to reenlist after spilling the beans on the killing.
Another military engagement involving McCaffrey's troops from the 124th Military Intelligence Battalion occurred one day after the cease-fire. A ground-radar surveillance team joined a platoon of scouts who discovered a cache of Iraqi weapons at a deserted schoolhouse near Highway 8.
Steven Larimore, a sergeant who headed a brigade assigned to the
platoon, said his men noticed a group of villagers walking in the
One guy had a white bedsheet on a stick, Larimore
Out of the blue sky, some guy from where we're sitting
begins shooting at the Iraqis. Other machine guns opened fire. In
less than three or four minutes some 20 Iraqi civilians were mowed
Liberal reporter Hersh denounces the U.S.-organized atrocities carried out after the cease-fire under McCaffrey's command, but says little about the brutal bombing campaign and the final ground assault by the U.S. forces until thena war that was completely bipartisan.
But the events of March 2 were a continuation of the
approach unleashed by the imperialist rulers on the Iraqi people,
culminating with the annihilation of tens of thousands fleeing on the
highway from Kuwait City to Basra.
During this onslaught, described by pilots as a
U.S. military forces bombed the front and back of Iraqi convoys,
trapping thousands of vehicles in a
killing box. A reporter for
the London Independent who visited the scene of the carnage wrote,
I lost count of the Iraqi corpses crammed into the smouldering
wreckage or slumped face down in the sand.
Far from being a rogue officer, McCaffrey simply carried out the
Powell doctrinenamed for Colin Powell, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff at the timeof using maximum force at the
outset of a war to minimize U.S. casualties.
Do we understand that when we use military force decisively, we are
actually killing people and breaking up their equipment? McCaffrey
insisted in an interview published in the May 29 issue of
Do you understand that when you actually apply power, you
don't want a fair fight?
One fact Hersh does not report is that during the murderous Desert Storm assault, the U.S. army literally buried alive thousands of Iraqi soldiers in their trenches.
On February 24-25, 1991, three U.S. army brigades used tanks equipped with plows to fill in with sand 70 miles of six-foot-deep trenches defended by more than 8,000 Iraqi soldiers on the Saudi-Iraq border.
McCaffrey came under investigation after the war when an officer in his unit filed a complaint about his post-cease-fire operations. Military investigators filed a secret report and exonerated McCaffrey in 1991.
McCaffrey was promoted to four-star general in 1994 and served as
commander of the U.S. military forces in Latin America. President
William Clinton named him White House
drug czar two years
later. Today he is directly involved in Washington's escalating
military intervention in Colombia, which is being waged under the
banner of fighting drug traffickers intertwined with the
The U.S.-organized massacre in Iraq was not an aberration or an excess. It was the product of the drive by the U.S. ruling families to defend their declining capitalist world order. The Gulf War announced subsequent military assaults like the U.S.-led war against Yugoslavia.
One of the best explanations of these developments can be found in New
International no. 7, which features the article
Opening Guns of
World War III: Washington's Assault on Iraq, by Jack Barnes.