portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting global

government | imperialism & war

War Crimes and Bullshit

How did we become so fucked up...I know, I know...It was a rhetorical questions. Three Army commanders admitted Friday that soldiers were told to cover up an incident in which two Iraqi civilians were forced off a bridge over the Tigris River, where family members say one of them drowned. (why do these killers get immunity???)
Cover-Up of Iraq Bridge Incident Admitted

40 minutes ago

By ROBERT WELLER, Associated Press Writer

FORT CARSON, Colo. - Three Army commanders admitted Friday that soldiers were told to cover up an incident in which two Iraqi civilians were forced off a bridge over the Tigris River, where family members say one of them drowned.

The commanders, all testifying under immunity, said they don't believe anyone died.

Capt. Matthew Cunningham said soldiers under his command admitted forcing the Iraqis to jump into the river Jan. 3 as punishment for being out after curfew. He said the soldiers told him they had the Iraqis "get wet" and that "they wanted to make them miserable a little bit and walk home."

He said it was a bad decision, but soldiers needed non-lethal ways to make their presence felt. He called the suggestion that anyone drowned a "smear campaign" and said soldiers saw the civilians getting out of the river safely.

Cunningham also testified he and other commanders told the soldiers to clam up because they feared higher-ups would use the incident against them. "We were not covering up anything that injured anybody," he said.

The testimony came on the third and final day of a hearing to determine whether three soldiers will be court-martialed.

Family members in Iraq say Zaidoun Hassoun, 19, drowned and they will exhume his body to prove it; a cousin, Marwan Hassoun, survived. The Army's lead investigator in the case said this week that the area has been too dangerous to confirm the death through an autopsy.

Sgt. 1st Class Tracy E. Perkins, 33, and Sgt. Reggie Martinez, 24, are charged with involuntary manslaughter, as is 1st Lt. Jack M. Saville, 24, whose hearing will be held Sept. 9. The third defendant at this week's hearing, Spc. Terry Bowman, 21, is charged with assault for allegedly pushing Marwan Hassoun into the water.

The soldiers are assigned to Fort Carson's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, which is part of the 4th Infantry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas.

The hearing officer, Capt. Robert Ayers, will make a recommendation whether the men should face a court-martial. The four soldiers face 5 1/2 years to 26 1/2 years in prison if they are convicted.

Defense attorney Capt. Joshua Norris urged a recommendation against manslaughter charges. "No body, no evidence. No case. Nobody's dead," he said.

Cunningham, a company commander in the brigade, testified along with a deputy battalion commander, Maj. Robert Gwinner, and battalion commander Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman.

Gwinner said the cover-up was the result of clash between Sassaman and the brigade's then-commander, Col. Frederick Rudesheim.

Gwinner said Sassaman was concerned the investigation was "a personal vendetta between he and Col. Rudesheim." Gwinner said the brigade commander was jealous of the outspoken Sassaman because he was aggressive and getting television coverage.

Sassaman said he instructed his deputies to tell the soldiers not to mention anything about forcing Iraqis into the water. But he said he asked Saville three times if anyone had been hurt and was assured both men had made it to the shore.

"No harm, no foul if those folks walked away," he testified.

As for Rudesheim, Sassaman said only: "We differed in our views on how to prosecute the war." Rudesheim could not reached for comment Friday.

Sassaman also was critical of the investigation.

"They were much more interested in going after Capt. Cunningham, Maj. Gwinner and myself than they were in investigating a body," he said.

He said the security situation was very dangerous in Samarra when the incident occurred. He said "Samarra is not the city of the Good Samaritan. It is the Dodge City of 2004."

The mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops has become a worldwide scandal, with the military and other agencies investigating a number of deaths as well as procedures at the Abu Ghraib prison.

Sassaman has been widely quoted in news reports about fighting in the so-called Sunni Triangle. Last December, he told The Associated Press that Samarra has been a "thorn in our side," then vowed to crack down on insurgents.

"They've made a mistake to attack U.S. forces. We will dominate Samarra," he said. He also told The New York Times a "heavy dose of fear and violence" would help convince Iraqis that Americans wanted to help.


Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed, blah, blah, blah...