Wikileaks Cable on US Troops' Murder of Iraqi Family in Ishaqi

In Iraq in 2006, U.S. soldiers herded 11 members of a family into a room, including a 75 year old woman and five children, handcuffed them, and shot them point blank.

The story was widely reported in 2006 (we covered it here, and even I gave the soldiers the benefit of the doubt as to whether they shot the kids at point-blank range -- silly me.)

A newly released cable from Wikileaks (available here) authored by Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, a few weeks after the killings, recounts the original police report of the killings stating that the family was handcuffed and shot at close range. The cable says soldiers then called in an airstrike to bomb the house and destroy the evidence.

The U.S. had maintained that the soldiers raided the house after getting a tip that a member of al-Qaida was at the house. The U.S. said a fierce gunfight ensued that left the house in a rubble and a few people, including the al qaeda suspect, dead. It refused to conduct a further investigation. [More...]

According to the U.S. account, the house collapsed because of the heavy fire. When U.S. forces searched the rubble they found one man, the al-Qaida suspect, alive. He was arrested. They also found a dead man they believed to be connected to al-Qaida, two dead women and a dead child.

...."We're concerned to hear accusations like that, but it's also highly unlikely that they're true," he said. He added that U.S. forces "take every precaution to keep civilians out of harms' way. The loss of innocent life, especially children, is regrettable."

The original police report on the killings is quoted here. It was signed by Staff Colonel Fadhil Muhammed Khalaf, Assistant Chief of the Joint Coordination Center.

At 230 of 15/3/2006, according to the telegram (report) of the Ishaqi police directorate, American forces used helicopters to drop troops on the house of Faiz Harat Khalaf situated in the Abu Sifa village of the Ishaqi district. The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 people, including 5 children, 4 women and 2 men, then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals (map coordinates 098702).

At the time, the U.S. would not reveal which units were involved in the raid. I don't know if their identities have been released since then.

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    My lai revisited. (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by oldpro on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 02:00:22 AM EST
    Continues to make we wonder about the wisdom of an all-volunteer army as an 'improvement' over the draftees.

    No wonder post-traumatic stress and suicides are on the increase.


    Yes, this is gawdawful. (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by caseyOR on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 02:05:15 AM EST
    How do we stop it? Is it possible, in a war zone, to ensure these atrocities are not committed? Would holding commanding officers responsible, like dismissal from the service or loss of rank, for acts like this committed by troops, make a difference?

    Sure, war is hell, but murdering children? My g@d.


    Looks like we have a classic (none / 0) (#13)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 11:39:23 AM EST
    They said

    We said

    Given that we have a record of investigating and punishing I believe "we said."

    You may disagree. And I specify we both have directly opposed biases.


    Who You Gonna Believe Jim? (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by john horse on Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 06:34:34 AM EST
    This wasn't a "they said . . . we said" story as you allege.  

    This incident was investigated by Philip Alston, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.  Per McClatchy, "(Alston) said in a communication to American officials dated 12 days after the March 15, 2006, incident that autopsies performed in the Iraqi city of Tikrit showed that all the dead had been handcuffed and shot in the head. Among the dead were four women and five children. The children were all 5 years old or younger."

    . . . Iraqi TV stations broadcast from the scene and showed bodies of the victims (i.e. five children and four women) in the morgue of Tikrit. Autopsies carries (sic) out at the Tikrit Hospital's morgue revealed that all corpses were shot in the head and handcuffed.

    In addition to the doctor who performed the autopsies, we have the report from Col. Fadhil Muhammed Khalaf, the assistant chief of the Joint Coordination Center.

    So its not a case of "they said . . . we said".  Its a case of "we said" one thing in one report and are now saying something else in another report.  

    Finally, we have a photograph of the children who were shot in the head.

    But who are you going to believe Jim,the US military or your lying eyes?


    The question is (none / 0) (#20)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 09:10:34 AM EST
    who did what and when.

    The evidence of a crime being committed does not establish who did the crime.


    Who Did What (none / 0) (#27)
    by john horse on Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 03:41:44 PM EST
    re: The evidence of a crime being committed does not establish who did the crime.

    There were two groups of people who were there.  One group had their hands tied behind their backs and shot.  So who do you think committed the crime?  


    al-Qaeda or some variation (none / 0) (#28)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 04:00:38 PM EST
    When U.S. forces searched the rubble they found one man, the al-Qaida suspect, alive. He was arrested.

    So they killed 5 children, 4 women and one man.... but left the suspect alive...

    "Does not compute."


    I sometimes think a return to the draft (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by smott on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 08:39:11 AM EST
    Is the answer.

    Would the public still just "go shopping" when another war starts?

    Or might they actually push back?


    Of course (none / 0) (#14)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 11:41:25 AM EST
    We should have Universal Military Service.

    That way all can serve and we can all have a better understanding of the other.


    Also happened a few years later (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by Edger on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 08:40:39 AM EST
    in Afghanistan

    The occupied government of Afghanistan and the United Nations have both concluded that U.S.-led troops recently dragged eight sleeping children out of their beds, handcuffed some of them, and shot them all dead.

    -- Shooting Handcuffed Children

    It just (5.00 / 4) (#8)
    by lentinel on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 08:41:44 AM EST
    shows that people, including Americans, can be programmed to do anything.

    I'm certainly glad that we defeated Germany in WW2, but the horrors and fascism it represented live on. They just migrated.

    George Carlin got it... (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by Edger on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 09:03:13 AM EST
    We like war. We like war. we're a warlike people. We like war because we're good at it! And you know why we're good at it? Because we get a lot of practice!

    This country's only 200 years old and already we've had 10 major wars. We average a major war every 20 years in this country, so we're good at it.

    And it's good thing we are - we're not very good at anything else any more.

    Huh? Can't build a decent car. Can't make a TV set or a VCR worth a f--k, got no steel industry left, can't educate our young people, can't get health care to our old people, but we can bomb the sh*t out of your country alright!

    Especially if your country is full of brown people. That's our new job in the world - bombing brown people. Iraq, Panama, Grenada, Libya, you got some brown people in your country tell 'em to watch the f--k out! Or we'll go**am bomb them.

    When's the last white people that we bombed? Can you remember the last white people - do you remember any white people that we've ever bombed?

    The Germans! Those are the only ones, and that's only because they were trying to cutting on our action! They wanted to dominate the world. Bullsh-t that's our f--kin job!

    -- Memorial Day video


    Remnants of Bush Administration leadership (5.00 / 3) (#10)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 09:10:52 AM EST
    I hope this exposes what unit did this.  During the surge I know a few in M.I. who lost their hearts and still are plagued by depression just thinking about it, saying that people were killed by hit squads that were innocent but at that time it was more important to kill certain people and collateral damage didn't matter.  Let the truth be known what happened in Iraq under George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the soldiers they literally tormented into various forms of insanity, destruction, and self destruction.

    In your opinion, it the Obama-commanded (none / 0) (#12)
    by oculus on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 11:27:41 AM EST
    U.S. military a different organiztion in which such an atrocity should not happen?  if so, why?

    The Obvious... (none / 0) (#15)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 03:05:54 PM EST
    Bush, and Bush only put troops in Iraq.

    And although things under Obama seem to be the same in regards to detainees, orders from above do flow down and much, but not all, of this kind of non-sense can be curtailed.

    People are people, they are only as good as their leadership.  But this like every other war crime will be treated lightly because the leadership, and I am including Obama, feels that sweeping it under the rug, under the guise of looking forward, is more important than justice.

    What bothers me, the right is so hell bent on the death penalty being a deterrent, yet when it comes to war crimes, crickets in regards to justice and deterrents.

    And lastly, these are obviously some sick individuals, one has to wonder if Bush hadn't stretched our military so thin, and then ignored mental issues, if some of these people who obviously need help wouldn't have received it instead of sticking them on the front lines. Also worth mentioning, the low standards recruiters were forced to abide by to keep fresh bodies flowing.


    What is obvious is that there is no (none / 0) (#16)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 05:29:15 PM EST
    proof that this was done, if it was done, by US troops.

    Why do you want to immediately blame the military?

    BTW - Obama has done nothing beyond insuring that the economy remains bad and helping insure new volunteers to relieve the stress.


    Who wants to immediately blame the military? (none / 0) (#22)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 10:10:32 AM EST
    Not Jeralyn, usually not the people at TL.  The military is wrong though sometimes Jim. They commit atrocities sometimes, they did it a lot in Iraq under Bush and the lack of documentation available is a very old tired tried and true way to get away with war crimes, that the Bush administration immersed itself in fully.

    Who? (none / 0) (#25)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 12:41:10 PM EST
    And lastly, these are obviously some sick individuals, one has to wonder if Bush hadn't stretched our military so thin

    That was ScotW714 who I was responding to.

    Or did you read before asking?

    Look, I have seen no proof that this wasn't done by other Iraqi's for a variety of reasons...

    BTW - Did the troops carry handcuffs?


    Handcuffs in Iraq were zip ties at that time (none / 0) (#26)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 01:12:42 PM EST
    It was thus at the start of the conflict and remains so.  The term handcuffs isn't the steel type sort that you are probably thinking of, and yes...most troops carry the zip tie cuffs to subdue anyone they deem in need of subduing.  There is proof that American troops were involved in this though Jim, they called in the airstrike and there is that evidence.  There is also evidence that they "fired" upon the residence.

    I am no Obama apologist (none / 0) (#21)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 10:06:42 AM EST
    That's for sure.  And I don't know if the ROE our forces operate under are due to him, or his listening to David Petraeus' preachings and teachings about dealing with insurgencies or combination of both men and General Petraeus proteges.  In the end, Obama is the CIC and he is singularly responsible for those conditions.  So yes, an Obama-commanded U.S. military is a very different organization than the one that preformed the act Jeralyn posted about.

    All combat operations are heavily monitored.  The command environment is very informed and on a shared page.  But we still had atrocity show up in Afghanistan with that group of soldiers who assassinated some selected civilians...the guys who took trophy photos and kept fingers of innocent civilians that they targeted.  That shocked a lot of us in the Army, and then when the details came out and they had soldiers who had survived more than one IED blast and had severe brain injuries and brain damage leading the group, many of us were shocked again.  They were taking so many medications, heavy duty medications....they had no business being deployed.  Their commander was who was responsible for keeping them there and not sending them home.

    When I began to investigate their commander I discovered that he was a Holbrooke/Eikenberry pet.  And that was one thing that Obama had going that is no longer going on, that he should be ashamed of.  He had set up and seemed to be inspiring a constant war and fight between Petraeus/McChrystal and Holbrooke/Eikenberry.  I suppose this was his idea of thwarting military mindset dominance.  You can't judge every situation though by party rhetoric rules.  Petraeus/McChrystal were demanding ROE that would not allow for collateral damage and sadly Holbrooke/Eikenberry thought that such stringent rules of engagement held them back.  So the rhetoric that Democrats in the State Department will be kind to civilians while the military is only brutal attack dogs of war that kill indiscriminately does not always hold true.

    What ended up happening allowing an internal fight at Command level IMO destroyed the command environment and the focus on accountability instead of focus on fighting and protecting the camps.  People began protecting people who were in "their camp", and a commander of the men who committed those atrocities would allow for harsher rules of engagement if he could get away with it and this guy was looking for ways to do that and Holbrooke/Eikenberry were giving him cover to defy his military commanders.  He likely would also have embraced other harsher realities too since he is a man of HARSH MILITARY REALITY.  Like insisting that badly wounded soldiers not be sent home because that is "candy assed" and weak and they need to get out there and do their jobs.  And they did a job alright.

    But military actions are now excessively documented via cameras on helmets and drones recording overhead.  And many people and levels involved in decision making while actions are being taken.

    Obama doesn't issue illegal order either.  He doesn't give order to kill looters.  Maybe because he is a lawyer he understands a lot more and isn't prone to telling everyone he is writing history and issuing iilegal orders and allowing ROE that amount to war crimes.

    The Bush military had commanders almost never on the same page in the theater together.  In Iraq, when we had troop rotation, the people experienced total upheaval.  You lived and died under completely new rules given whichever commander you got taking your area over.  Sometimes you died before you even knew what the rules were.  It wasn't until we were about to lose Baghdad, and Bush was desperate and handed everything to Petraeus and said you run everyone, that unity took place.


    Explain to me again why we have to (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by Anne on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 11:11:20 AM EST
    keep looking forward instead of looking back and holding accountable those responsible for policies that led to these kinds of atrocities.

    Oh, wait - maybe it's so miserable, possibly non-human, creatures like Dick Cheney can write books and go on the TV and be fawned over and brag about what we did.

    Yeah, that must be it.

    Because these things are ugly (none / 0) (#24)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 10:18:01 AM EST
    And the Pentagon would argue that the bad reputation they would win would endanger their current efforts to go after terrorists.  Obama is determined though to not go after the Bush Administration or the rubber stamping Republicans.  At least not yet

    "real" men... (none / 0) (#4)
    by Edger on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 08:14:25 AM EST

    SITE VIOLATOR. (none / 0) (#5)
    by vml68 on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 08:16:52 AM EST

    Ah, Wikileaks... (none / 0) (#17)
    by diogenes on Fri Sep 02, 2011 at 08:15:28 PM EST
    From yesterday's Times by Robert Mackey
    "A WikiLeaks computer file that allows anyone to read every word of 251,287 leaked United States diplomatic cables by typing a password made public six months ago was posted online by mistake last year, potentially endangering human rights activists and other sources who spoke to American officials in confidence."

    So Why Aren't We Prosecuting? (none / 0) (#19)
    by john horse on Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 06:50:18 AM EST
    Handcuffing women and children and shooting them in the head is clearly a war crime.  Why aren't we prosecuting those who did this and investigating the coverup?  They brought dishonor to their uniform and dishonor to our country.

    Because we are looking forward (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 10:14:16 AM EST
    Bull! (none / 0) (#29)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Sun Sep 04, 2011 at 01:17:25 AM EST
    I don't believe it.

    There are layers and layers here, and reports and reports and probably a lot of self serving but the basic assertion seems to be:

    "The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 people, including 5 children, 4 women and 2 men, then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals"

    I don't believe it.

    Now if you want to say they deliberately blew up a house with those people in it.  O.K.  That happens.  It is the chaos of war.  You want to say they shot up the house with those people in it. O.K.  Chaos again.  
    War is not something that can always be "dress right, dress. Cover down."

    The niceties are usually reserved for the Parade Fields.

    I really am happy that the report didn't state that Satanic Rituals were performed for the same people that believe the first part would be eager to jump on that as well.

    Of course you don't believe it,. (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by Romberry on Sun Sep 04, 2011 at 03:07:41 AM EST
    You don't want to believe it. As a vet, neither do I. But as a vet, I know first hand that these sorts of things do happen. And I know first hand that they sometime happen under direct orders.

    You have a false idea of what the United States is. You think we're the good guys. I did too at one time. I was wrong.


    We are just guys (none / 0) (#33)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Sep 04, 2011 at 11:18:13 AM EST
    capable of great things, capable of horrible things, capable of the same things that any other people are capable of.  

    What about Haditha? (none / 0) (#32)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Sep 04, 2011 at 11:16:26 AM EST
    Horrible atrocities happened in Iraq from day one until about 2007.  Some of them were ruled okay by the military itself though due to the ROE the troops were operating under, but were atrocities none the less.

    I will go a little further. (none / 0) (#30)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Sun Sep 04, 2011 at 01:42:59 AM EST
    I have been traveling and missed this post when it first came out and that is a shame for I might have put a better initial viewpoint out.

    I was primarily an officer on board a ship and only occasionally carried a sidearm when I had special duty.  However I was friends with and worked with many marines who besides their duties on board the ships saw action ashore or were assigned to embassies in dangerous places.

    We talked about these matters.  Officers and Men.
    Every one of those gentlemen carried a weapon at all times while "on duty" and was totally proficient in its use. If somebody, no matter who, General, Admiral or President said to shoot children or women who were obviously harmless or who were in such a position such that they couldn't possibly bring about harm to our soldiers or others, I can guarantee that most if not all upon hearing such an order would release their safety and stare hard at the one who issued the order and say "What?"  "Explain that a little more Sir."  We are not unthinking Robots!"  

    Sure there may be a crazy.  There are probably a lot of crazies.  Here in America even, we occasionally have people eating other people.

    If you weren't on the ground in Iraq (none / 0) (#34)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Sep 04, 2011 at 11:27:47 AM EST
    How can you understand the daily carnage that the soldiers were trying to survive?  We have commanders complicit in some atrocities too, having lost it just as badly, not able to think clearly any longer because each day was only death, destruction.

    It is my opinion that such attitudes from commanders on the outside of the horror as you display, make it very frightening and horrible for enlisted soldiers to refuse illegal orders and report abuse and atrocities too.  Some of the earlier soldiers refusing illegal orders in Iraq were imprisoned for a time as well until the Bush Administration realized they were in danger of the world considering war criminals and that in end they may be held accountable, perhaps even arrested and standing trial.


    Looks like the military is on the brink of 360 (none / 0) (#35)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Sep 04, 2011 at 11:29:40 AM EST
    OERs though, giving those under the commander a voice in his/her officer evaluation.  It can't happen too soon IMO.

    It comes down to who do you believe? (none / 0) (#36)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Sun Sep 04, 2011 at 01:36:58 PM EST
    Consider this.

    An enemy of the US comes upon a war scene.  Destruction and people dead!  Ok, I already said it was a war scene and those aren't hard to find in a combat zone.

    The US is long gone.  
    What kind of genius does it take to get a few more bodies, children, women, pose them at the scene, tied or cuffed, place the barrel of a gun at their heads, shoot them again or even for the first time, play a little fire across the bodies and the site itself and then do some fake forensics, take some pictures, give some interviews.

    Now if you have an American soldier saying "Gee, our LT and SGT went crazy and ordered us to do it." then I will pay some attention.


    You act as if our soldiers though (none / 0) (#37)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Sep 04, 2011 at 02:19:59 PM EST
    in your earlier posting are not capable of preforming such atrocities and by God they are.  It chaps my ass too when some retired commanders refuse to understand what happened to soldiers on the ground in Iraq.  My husband DID NOT COME HOME THE SAME MAN.  He came home with scars.  He refused to preform an illegal order too and then spent his first deployment petrified because after that his commander hated him.

    That commander didn't make it though.  He is long gone because the B.S. glory he stood around spouting about before they left never came along.  It was hard, it was bloody, people died, people did horrible things.  My husband made it though and when we would fight about him staying in he said he was staying in to fight to restore sanity and restore honor.  Honor was lost though.  The Bush administration did it to them too.  I am scarred as well from surviving it all and I never set one foot in Iraq.


    I'm sorry for Mr MT's (none / 0) (#38)
    by jeffinalabama on Sun Sep 04, 2011 at 02:55:01 PM EST
    experience there, tracy. I think, were it not for my meltdown and insults to all and sundry following Desert Storm, I might have been in that rarified command atmosphere... actually, I doubt it seriously, given my penchant for shooting off my mouth and shooting myself not in the foot, but the pecker, even though SOCOM gave us a lot of leeway.

    Talking to vets who have returned, they don't talk of murders such as this one. Maybe they speak of rough treatment of prisoners, but not lining folks up and shooting them.

    I do not think this is My Lai revisited. Zip ties could be 'found' by most of the folks who cleaned conex's, martialled supplies, etc.

    Capable? The US military? Easily. all you have to do is find three 19-year-old spec-4's whose buddy just got killed or wounded, and you have suspects.
    Hell, I'm guilty of harboring such thoughts myself, and I wasn't in this long, soul-sucking war.

    Could US military do this? yes.  But I think like Jim and Donald here first. Let's see an investigation.  I don't have the confidence in accusing the US based on what I've read, but there's a possibility.

    Combat is a terrible place to live. But it can become addictive. Everything is clear.

    I wish the ROE for the time were known. Hell, I would like to read the ROE for Afghanistan present day, and Iraq present day.

    Tracy, feel free to email me for your husband. I'm not much of a grief counselor, but I know the shinola that can happen, and I certainly know the stress, and its consequences.


    Jeff, (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by NYShooter on Mon Sep 05, 2011 at 07:07:13 PM EST
    I have never spoken about my time in the jungles of Viet Nam.  And, I never will. But, I will tell you why. The person who spent all those months over there is not the person typing on his computer here tonight.

    To live every second of every day at the level of stress, anxiety, and fear that every soldier in a battle zone must endure is something that only those who have personally experienced it can understand. After a particularly hot "engagement," where I was taking 360 degree fire, if someone had told me "Charlie," or Cong, were in that farmhouse a mile away, I would've busted in, and...........

    Like I said, we're talking about two different people inhabiting one body, and anyone who sits in judgment had better understand that.

    I know you do, and I appreciate that.


    Welcome home, brother. (none / 0) (#40)
    by jeffinalabama on Tue Sep 06, 2011 at 11:07:58 AM EST
    what happens in a combat zone doesn't even relate to The World.

    Too bad there are still combat zones.