The apparent summary executions of ten Iraqis, including five children, by Multinational Forces (MNF) that raided a home on March 15, 2006, have been receiving wide media attention as a result of a previously classified US State Embassy communications log from Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. The log features Alston’s inquiry into the incident.
For those who have not read the disturbing details, here is what the Special Rapporteur calls attention to:
I have received various reports indicating that at least 10 persons, namely Mr. Faiz Hratt Khalaf, (aged 28), his wife Sumay’ya Abdul Razzaq Khuther (aged 24), their three children Hawra’a (aged 5) Aisha ( aged 3) and Husam (5 months old), Faiz’s mother Ms. Turkiya Majeed Ali (aged 74), Faiz’s sister (name unknown), Faiz’s nieces Asma’a Yousif Ma’arouf (aged 5 years old), and Usama Yousif Ma’arouf (aged 3 years), and a visiting relative Ms. Iqtisad Hameed Mehdi (aged 23) were killed during the raid.
According to the information received, American troops approached Mr. Faiz’s home in the early hours of 15 March 2006. It would appear that when the MNF approached the house, shots were fired from it and a confrontation ensued for some 25 minutes. The MNF troops entered the house, handcuffed all residents and executed all of them. After the initial MNF intervention, a US air raid ensued that destroyed the house.
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 out at the Tikrit Hospital’s morgue revealed that all corpses were shot in the head and handcuffed.
Alston notes the MNF confirmed the air raid happened. The US military says it “attacked the house to capture members of Mr. Faiz Harrat Al-Majma’ee’s family on the basis that they were allegedly involved in the killing of two MNF soldiers who were killed between 6 to 11 March 2006 in the Al Haweeja area.” However, that is no excuse for the atrocity that appears to have been carried out.
Worse, according to Jerome Taylor of The Guardian, who will be publishing a story on this 2006 incident tomorrow, the US never responded to the inquiry. “[The US] studiously avoided responding to any communications sent to it during this period,” Alston told Taylor. “The tragedy is that this elaborate system of communications is in place but the [UN] Human Rights Council does nothing to follow-up when states ignore issues raised with them.”
There are a number of communications logs where Alston’s name appears: a communications log from September 2005 on the drone killing of Haitham al-Yemeni, a communications log from July 2007 on the death of Ahmed Ali Abdullah at Guantanamo Bay and the US government’s refusal to share the results of an investigation into Abdullah’s death and a communications log from May 2007 detailing five horrific incidents of manslaughter (that really deserve just as much attention as the 2006 raid is getting). One suspects these inquiries also went unanswered or received minimal attention.
The attention that this cable has received is a story of its own.
As I document here, I tweeted this cable out as part of #wlfind (the hashtag people were using to draw attention to “scoops” or revelations in the newly released 130,000 or so cables. This communications log on the UN special rapporteur’s inquiry into the executions of these ten Iraqis was picked up by WikiLeaks, has received an immense amount of well-deserved attention. WikiLeaks drew the attention of their over 1 million followers on Twitter to the cable. Then, Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald picked it up. Academic Norman Finkelstein noticed the story. Then, thousands of other people around the world began to share the cable story.
Antiwar.com was the first to fully contextualize the communications log. Then, McClatchy, a WikiLeaks media partner, published a comprehensive article that featured an update on whether the US was taking steps to help the UN properly investigate this war crime. Matthew Schofield reported, “At the time, American military officials in Iraq said the accounts of townspeople who witnessed the events were highly unlikely to be true, and they later said the incident didn’t warrant further investigation. Military officials also refused to reveal which units might have been involved in the incident.” And, now, WikiLeaks has in the last day or two been using the cable on this 2006 raid to remind people of the value of their work.
Democracy Now! has called attention to the interview they did in 2006 with Schofield on this raid. In 2006, Democracy Now! noted the The report of the killings was “unusual because it originated with Iraqi police and because Iraqi police were willing to attach their names to it. It was compiled by the Joint Coordination Center in Tikrit, a regional security center set up with United States military assistance.”
Interestingly, the New York Times, as the media watch group FAIR notes, published a story by Scott Shane on revelations. They mention “criticism of former Philippines President Corazon Aquino, something about the Australian air safety system, human trafficking in Botswana.” Noticeably absent is any mention of details on the executions of Iraqis in this 2006 raid.
This is the power of WikiLeaks. From the crowd, it picked up one tweet and in a span of days a horrific incident received well-deserved attention. The government may finally give the UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston the answers he deserves just so they can get the world to stop talking about this atrocity.