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Face the Music: Time to Oppose Our Troops’ Actions
by Joshua Frank
November 22, 2004

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At what point will the left have to face the music and admit that in order to fully oppose the Iraq war, we have to also oppose our troops’ actions?

On Saturday November 6, US forces pounded Fallujah and razed a civilian hospital. “Witnesses said only a facade remained of a small Emergency Hospital in the centre of the city,” reported the BBC News on the day of the bombing. “A nearby medical supplies storeroom and dozens of houses were also damaged as US forces continued preparing the ground for an expected major assault.”

The Geneva Conventions are quite clear that the bombing of hospitals constitutes as a war crime:

“Article 18: Civilian hospitals organized to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict.

“Article 19: The protection to which civilian hospitals are entitled shall not cease unless they are used to commit, outside their humanitarian duties, acts harmful to the enemy. Protection may, however, cease only after due warning has been given, naming, in all appropriate cases, a reasonable time limit and after such warning has remained unheeded. The fact that sick or wounded members of the armed forces are nursed in these hospitals, or the presence of small arms and ammunition taken from such combatants and not yet been handed to the proper service, shall not be considered to be acts harmful to the enemy.”

Clearly no warning was put forth by the US military prior to the bombing of this hospital. And now that the troops have hit the ground running, more war crimes have been committed, and in fact captured on film.

Sadly, the images taken by a NBC news crew embedded with US soldiers fighting in Fallujah which show the execution of an unarmed Iraqi prisoner -- is not an isolated incident.

Writing for his blog, ex-Navy Seal, Matthew Heidt, explains the odious rationale for executing an unarmed prisoner of war:

“The shots fired at the ‘unarmed’ terrorist in that mosque in Fallujah are called ‘security rounds.’ Its (sic) a safety issue pure and simple. After assaulting through a target, put a security round in everybody's head … There's no time to dick around in the target, you clear the space, dump the chumps…”

Amnesty International doesn’t necessarily buy the rhetoric Heidt and others use when defending the murder of an unarmed prisoner. In a statement released after the televised event, the group said they were, “deeply concerned that the rules of war protecting civilians and combatants have been violated in the current fighting between US and Iraqi forces and insurgents” in Fallujah.

The Geneva Conventions also spell it out quite clearly in the document’s opening paragraph:

“Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat (out of combat) by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely,” it says.

“The following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

-- Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture.

-- The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.”

And it adds that “the wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.”

So again, how can one oppose war but support our troops’ war crimes? Wanting our troops to come home at once is one thing. But failing to oppose the atrocities they are carrying out on behalf of the US government is another.

Sorry to say, we can’t have our cake and eat it too.

Joshua Frank is author of the forthcoming book, Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, to be published by Common Courage Press. He welcomes comments at

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