The Deadly Occupation
One day in January 2005, an elderly couple was driving down a road in Mosul, Iraq, when without realizing it they passed through a makeshift US military checkpoint. The checkpoint, recalled a sergeant who came upon the scene, was "very poorly marked." Yet, he said, the soldiers "got spooked" and opened fire. The bodies of the couple sat in the car for three days, the sergeant said, "while we drove by them day after day."
That incident was no Haditha or Abu Ghraib. It was a fairly typical day for Iraqis under US occupation. As Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian make clear in their exhaustive investigation in this issue, the degradation and killing of civilians by US troops have become commonplace in Iraq. At tense checkpoints, in futile house-to-house searches, as convoys and patrols hurtle down the roads, the official rules of engagement and unofficial day-to-day practices of the occupation often add up to shoot first and ask questions never. The results make for tough reading: a family's dog gunned down for barking, a 2-year-old shot in a spray of gunfire, the terrified scream of a father awakened in a midnight raid. Few such incidents were reported, according to most of those interviewed; even fewer resulted in discipline.