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imperialism & war

Isn't Deliberately Killing Women and Children a War Crime?

This American soldier says he was specifically ordered to kill women and children in Afghanistan. Isn't that a war crime?
Saturday, May 25, 2002

Fresh memories of war
Soldiers prepare for their second mission at the Bagram military base in East Afghanistan.
Journal Staff

ITHACA -- The stench of decaying flesh hung heavy in the air as soldiers passed blown-up bunkers and caves.
As they moved down an L-shaped corridor, the stiffened limbs of a Taliban soldier jutted from beneath piles of rock and dust in the sweltering afternoon air.

Ripped-up pages from the Koran, and booklets describing ways to kill Americans, littered the tree-lined valley that had been bombarded by U.S. air strikes before their arrival.

These recollections, marking the intensity of every hour of every day felt in combat, typify the memories that resurface for veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and other military combat this Memorial Day weekend.

For Army Private Matt Guckenheimer, who recently returned home to Tompkins County after two missions in Eastern Afghanistan, processing these memories and readjusting to American life has just begun.

Guckenheimer, who helped clear the L-shaped valley near the border of Pakistan whose twists and turns are burned into his memory, explained the nature of his company's mission. In doing so, he spoke candidly about the reality of war.

In an April interview with The Ithaca Journal at his family's Cayuga Heights home, Guckenheimer, 22, shared his experiences during Operation Anaconda. He was sent on March 6 in a company of more than 100 soldiers to participate in the largest U.S.-led ground engagement in Eastern Afghanistan.

"We were told there were no friendly forces," said Guckenheimer, an assistant gunner with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum. "If there was anybody there, they were the enemy. We were told specifically that if there were women and children to kill them."

Taliban al-Qaida soldiers had already been given about two weeks to surrender when U.S. soldiers were ordered to demolish their last strongholds and finish the operation, he said.

Guckenheimer said he loved learning about tanks and guns and watching battle scenes on TV when he was young.

As a teen-ager, he said, his desire to prepare himself to confront the challenges of war intensified despite his family's disapproval. After attending Ithaca High School his freshman year, he transferred to a boarding school in Bath, Maine.

His parents, Meredith Kusch and John Guckenheimer, attended Oberlin College in Ohio and the University of California at Berkeley during the Vietnam era. They used to joke that they would disown him if he ever joined the military, he said.

"They're just about the most passive people you could want," he said with a smile. "I just ended up not being that way."

Guckenheimer said he believed his parents had been indoctrinated with a skewed view of the Vietnam War that led them to undervalue war's place in defending the United States. But he said he has noticed a shift in their outlook since Sept. 11.

John Guckenheimer agreed, to an extent, with his son's assessment.

"I think it was necessary for the U.S. to respond militarily to the events of Sept. 11, but I don't feel completely comfortable with the way the war in Afghanistan is being conducted," he said.

He thinks that the United States is settling into a long and entrenched war in the region, and might repeat the mistakes the Russians made there.

As a Cornell math professor, he said, he has worked with members of the armed forces and has held them in high regard. Regarding the U.S. military as an institution, and his and his wife's opinion of it, he said, "I don't know that our attitudes in general have changed since Matt joined."

Matt Guckenheimer said his first combat experience in Afghanistan was enough.

"I know that I can get through it, so the challenge is gone," Guckenheimer said. "I don't think wanting to put yourself in that position is really healthy to begin with."

Because of the effectiveness of earlier U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, the number of Taliban soldiers killed during Guckenheimer's missions was minimal, he said. He knew of only about 10 enemy fighters who were killed, he said.

"Most of it (the difficulty of the missions) wasn't as much the enemy as it was the elements," he said.

Adjusting to the high altitude and low oxygen levels of the region was a struggle. Layers of Gortex and fleece couldn't shield them from the cold nights. They would wake up to find their canteens covered in ice, he said.

When he returned to the United States after spending a month either on missions or at the Bagram military base, Guckenheimer said, he remembered how alienated Americans are from each other. After living in a Third World country, where people he didn't know would smile or say hello to him on the streets, it was jarring to return home, where contact among strangers is mostly shunned.

"These people who lived through life, they seemed to be more grounded," he said. Coming home was like walking back into a "clueless" society where over-consumption is commonly regarded as the route to happiness, he said.

He said although he only interacted with Afghan men, those he spoke to looked forward to women re-entering public life. On the whole, he said, residents of the towns attached to the Bagram base had been able to achieve a measure of happiness despite living amid constant war.

Guckenheimer returned to Fort Drum on April 24. He said he looked forward to their next assignment and would like to serve in Sinai, Egypt.


If you or a member of your family has participated as a member of the armed forces in the Afghanistan/ Arabian Sea region and would like to have that service noted, please at 274-9257 or e-mail  ithjournal@clarityconnect.com.

Matt Guckenheimer holds an automatic weapon outside Camp Doha in Kuwait.
an illegal order for baby killers 05.Jun.2002 07:07

keep on asking questions

The order to kill women and children is illegal under the Uniform Code of Military Justice as well as the Geneva conventions. The soldier simply could have refused to to follow the order and turned in the commander- if he had any guts- however reading the biography it looks like he lost his long ago. Its a good thing that reporters are so bold
(or think no cares) to let slip in the quips that usually wouldnt be reported. These can be kept as records to finger units and officers when justice is eventually performed. There are some crimes for which there is no statute of limitations. So much for the US being any more honourable then the Taliban we are fighting.

The question should now be, how different are we from any other viscious government? It was weird to listen to the press start to wonder "is it ok now to target and kill non-combatants?" without saying there may be something wrong.

Maybe You should tell the truth? 05.Jun.2002 17:55


And the Indymedia considers itself to be "telling the whole story"? You are worse than CNN.

Tuesday, June 4, 2002

A soldier's story

Recently your paper quoted me as saying that my unit was ordered to kill women and children.
I would like to clarify this quote and provide more context.

Prior to the operation, we were made aware of the fact that the hostile forces of the Whaleback might include women and children. In that event, if those women and children showed hostile intent, we were ordered to kill them as hostile forces, just like any other hostile force we encountered. However, this does not mean that we were ordered to slaughter noncombatants such as babies.

We were further informed that some of these children are trained starting at a very young age to be soldiers. Knowing this, we could not afford to just dismiss them as noncombatants.

However, I do not want anyone to get the idea that we were ever sent out to kill anyone and anything that moves. We are better than that, both as a military unit and as a society.

Matt Guckenheimer

Cayuga Heights, May 31

Damn, another Indymedia lie lie shot down 05.Jun.2002 18:13


Just like your "news story" about the 10-year-old news footage of Palestinians celebrating on 9/11, and your hero Mike Ruppert, torn to ribbons by a fellow leftist.

Sucks to be you.
Damn, another Indymedia lie lie shot down
Damn, another Indymedia lie lie shot down

On Indymedia you CAN shoot down BS 05.Jun.2002 20:15

Ted Turner

unlike CNN, NY Times etc. where there is no way to counter lies. Besides the article was a reprint from a corporate newspaper.

who the hell is 'Bill'?! 05.Jun.2002 20:44

Not Bill

first of all why would "Matt Guckenheimer" post to indymedia as "Bill", and would he post to indy at all? And second, doesn't ole' Matt recall the interview that he had with "The Ithaca Journal"?

from the article:

In an April interview with The Ithaca Journal at his family's Cayuga Heights home, Guckenheimer, 22, shared his experiences during Operation Anaconda. He was sent on March 6 in a company of more than 100 soldiers to participate in the largest U.S.-led ground engagement in Eastern Afghanistan.

"We were told there were no friendly forces," said Guckenheimer, an assistant gunner with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum. "If there was anybody there, they were the enemy. We were told specifically that if there were women and children to kill them."

We were told specifically that if there were women and children to kill them."

We were told specifically that if there were women and children to kill them."

We were told specifically that if there were women and children to kill them."

this is way different than saying that they were told "to kill hostile forces of the Whaleback (that) might include women and children".

What gives here? A little coverup going on!

Exactly 05.Jun.2002 20:50

Smiling Joe

Exactly, on CNN a story with an inaccuracy or quote taken out of context would not be available for comment. Thanks for posting, that's why it's like this. All you've accomplished is to make Indymedia more respectable.

no source, of course! 05.Jun.2002 21:22

no, no, Mr. Bill!

Bill's invented comment about an alleged retraction of remarks comes without any url to support it.

Of course.
no source, of course!
no source, of course!

here's your link, retards... 05.Jun.2002 21:36


...from the very publication the original (inaccurate) story came from.


Now that we've established that I have to do your reserch for you, do I have to think for you as well?

from the 82nd 05.Jun.2002 22:27


I was in the 82nd 504th Batt in the infantry - The Ithica reporter got it right the first time.
One of our chants was "Kill the babies, rape the women". Just as there was a hatred of children and women there was a fierce hatred of anything that lived on the other side of the barrel.

Sterling work, Matt - we feel your pain !! 05.Jun.2002 22:55

Chain-Driven Daisy Chopperker

yes, they certainly 'walked through life' and were, like, really 'grounded' an' stuff, and, like, you know, shit an' all - but then the Avengeing Angels of Death dropped by, Matt and his buddies, bearing gifts of 'daisy-cutters' and other cutely-named machines designed to butcher humans cheaply en-masse.

And about 10,000 of these nice, pleasant people just kinda somehow inexplicably quit breathing, see, after their lungs had been pulled inside-out and their bowels rent asunder.

But apart from these understandable slip-ups there were also traumatic, tragic consequences for our Gameboy Heroes - several had terrifying nightmares of chilly water-bottles and quite a few suffered spontaneous sphincter dysfunction and dirtied togs when the saw an undead Arabite clutching a short pole. Luckily, an immediate precision airstrike by the LuftWaffe eliminated this threat scenario, plus the whole population of the same village.

Now Private Wank-o-Matt and his brave chums are back at base, busily licking their damaged egos, having their ringpieces tightened with intensive electro-shock-therapy and gearing up for the next war against evil meat, and grammar, in whichever lair they may hide.

Tomorrow will be a new day, so full, of Death.

Heil Bush!

Heil Blair!

Heil Sharon!

front page feature updated with this new info 05.Jun.2002 23:36

portland indy editorial guy

The front page feature has been updated to reflect the controversy exposed in these comments.

A peoples' media only tells the "whole story" when lots of people participate. What is Indymedia? Features? An organization? Press passes? No. THIS is Indymedia. The free flow and exchange of research and personal knowledge, from which the big picture can emerge.

grow up 06.Jun.2002 09:42


I ove indymedia but sometimes the immaturity of the replys makes me sick. If you want to make indymedia more respectavle then stop the immaturity. Post comments that people aren't going to take seriously and will look at and think "oh, that's just some angst filled teen".

Private Matt is covering his ass 06.Jun.2002 12:36


This soldier is a piece of shit fascist. AS IF WOMEN AND CHILDREN ARE "HOSTILE"!!

The true face of fascist America has been exposed!!

the fact of the matter is 06.Jun.2002 22:51

laffing at you

unless any of us witnessed this supposed act, it's all hearsay, regardless of the source.

you sound like pimple face school boys fighting over the prettiest girl in class. the sad part is, most of you haven't got a clue.

The saddest fact of the matter is... 07.Jun.2002 07:45

small-town activist

that an American soldier was quoted as saying that he was ordered to kil women and children, that his assertion was made in a maintream newspaper(Ithaca Journal), that the soldier subsequently modified his statement in a Lettter to the Editor of the same newspaper to allow that he was ordered to kill only women and children who might be "hostile", that everyone, even the Administration, agrees that the Afghan people are innocents, and that we are arguing over whether or not the facts are "right".

It's Vietnam all over again, only on a global scale, with a gloves-off nuclear war policy, space weapons, and ultra-sophisticated propaganda techniques promoting the godliness of belligerence and intolerance. I don't have pimples on my face anymore nor the innocence of a child(Thank goodness; what a terrible time for children), and am sad to know that people in my country are promoting hate and violence against these unfortunates whose only "crime" is living in the most devestated country on earth. THIS IS WRONG! There is a force more powerful. Killing doesn't work.

U.S. Army Private Matt Guckenheimer 09.Jun.2002 16:36

Société de Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux gregory.humanitas@ntlworld.com

The original commentary (The Ithaca Journal Saturday,
May 25, 2002) was not retracted when we contacted the Ithaca Journal.

The newspaper seemed to be under the impression that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda were equal opportunity employers and that they used used females in combat. Even by the standards of the United States we found that level of naked ignorance very surprising.

"We were told there were no friendly forces," said Guckenheimer, an assistant gunner with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum. "If there was anybody there, they were the enemy. We were told specifically that if there were women and children to kill them."

Mr. Dave Bohrer the Assistant Managing Editor of The Ithaca Journal did not find the orders ot policies unusual in the context that his newspaper understood them. In our opinion Mr. Dave Bohrer would have been perfectly aware that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda did not use females in combat.

It is difficult to see how he could have possibly failed to notice that in Afghanistan females do not fight in wars. However be that as it may he offered that prospect as an excuse for the very disturbing comments which were made by U.S. Army Private Matt Guckenheimer.

The latter made it clear in his interview that no friendly forces existed in situ and that everything was to be killed. The Ithaca Journal were unable therefore to retract the original piece or alter the context to the extent that the meaning was open to a more genteel or less criminal interpretation than the one which it currently has.

Dave Bohrer, Assistant Managing Editor, The Ithaca Journal contacted us on Thu, 6 Jun 2002. On Tuesday, June 4, 2002 Private Matt Guckenheimer contacted the same newspaper and he seemed to rule out the killing of babies, he didn't defione what a 'baby' might be in the eyes of the US military.

Guckenheim was also seemingly according to his letter of Tuesday, June 4, 2002 to The Ithaca Journal given the impression by his superoirs that the Taliban and al-Qaeda used female and child fighters.

"We were told there were no friendly forces," and "If there was anybody there, they were the enemy. We were told specifically that if there were women and children to kill them." would seem to be fairly self explanatory and were not actually retracted.

Guckenheim continued to insist that he had been told the Taliban and al-Qaeda were using female fighters and that there were no friendly forces on the Whaleback. In other words his second commentary to the newspaper largely supported his first commentary without any significant change in meaning.

Greagoir O'Cearullain
HCF (Ireland)
Société de Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux
4 Downfine Walk
Northern Ireland
BT11 8NX
2890 963 164 (ph)
845 127 5571 (fax)

(UK) 2890 963 164 (p
(UK) 845 127 5571 (fax)

like i said 10.Jun.2002 23:06

laffing at you

unless any of us (you know, YOU or I) actually witnessed this supposed act, it's all hearsay, regardless of the source.

isn't it ironic that at a site such as imc where the norm seems to be "believe and trust nothing and suspect everything" or "never believe anything you hear, half of what you see, and question the half you do see", how selective the desparity can be?

Ignorance and fantasy, a liberals tool. 02.Aug.2004 12:19


As a Veteran and an American, I can't seem to understand the reluctance of the left to see the purpose in this war. There is a fundamental difference between this and Viet Nam. This war really began when oil was found in the middle east. Both parties in this country as well as other nations, lined up and licked their lips at the prospect of profit and industrial gain. The result was an area with many interests vying to get a piece of the pie. A geo-political nightmare has enused over the last centruy and the fallout is now directed at us. The people who rant and rave against the war need to take a hard look at their lives and realize the importance petroleum products play in their daily lives. The reality is this: A couple of sick men who are really fed up with their own governmnets lack of compassion for their own Arab brethren. Why do I say this? Look at the leaders in the MIddle East. Watch the sheiks strut in and out of palaces yet their own people live in 3rd world conditons. One just neeeds to travel to Oman and see the beauty of an Islamic society embracing the world and opening its doors to prosperity and freedom. Then look at Iran, Indonesia etc. These countries lie in ruin not because of US or so called 'Anglo-Amercian' aggression. They lie in the state they are in because of their own countrymens greed and twisting of religous ideals. We as a country will once again lead and free oppressed people because the most of Europe once again doesnt have the guts to do it. We all know war is sick and twisted...but which is more sick and twisted: Showing your belly like France did in WW2 or standing up for the rights of men and woman to be free to choose and practice religous tolerance? Hitler did not do a thing to us... were we wrong in going after him? Do you think Hirohito, Hitler and Mussolini were even on the same planet when it came to 'beliefs'? They all had the same goal, world domination through fascism and genocide. Saying Iraq is an unnecessary war is like saying we could have stayed out of Europe and concentrated on Japan because.."The Germans really weren't a threat to us."