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U.S. slaughter of Iraqi prisonersOn February 27, the fourth day of the U.S. ground invasion, a large group of Iraqi soldiers had surrendered to a platoon in the 2-7 Battalion of the 24th Infantry Division. One of the first vehicles to pull up was a bus filled with wounded Iraqi soldiers. The bus was marked with a crescent--the Arab equivalent of the Red Cross sign.Doctors and male nurses were among the approximately 380 prisoners. Specialist 4 Edward Walker was ordered to blow up weapons confiscated from the Iraqi soldiers. Shortly after destroying a truck holding these weapons, the platoon was abruptly ordered to move on. The U.S. GIs, greatly outnumbered by the Iraqis, left after giving them surrender leaflets printed in Arabic. The papers promised that those who gave up would live to see their families again.Lt. Kirk Allen, the platoon commander, notified the battalion’s operations headquarters of the exact location of the Iraqi hospital bus. As the confiscated weapons were destroyed in a massive explosion, according to Walker, several U.S. Bradley vehicles, armed with chain-driven machine guns capable of firing up to a thousand rounds a minute, rolled onto the scene.The high-intensity weapons opened up. ‘They knew there were prisoners there’ Walker, who was convinced all the prisoners were mowed down, said the Bradleys also fired on him and the other GIs who were in a marked Humvee. “They knew there were prisoners there. They knew they were unarmed,” said Walker. “They knew the hospital bus was there, and they knew we were blowing the truck up.”Walker left the military in 1991, not permitted by the authorities at Fort Leonard Wood to re-enlist after spilling the beans on the killing.Another military engagement involving McCaffrey’s troops from the 124th Military Intelligence Battalion occurred one day after the cease-fire. A ground-radar surveillance team joined a platoon of scouts who discovered a cache of Iraqi weapons at a deserted schoolhouse near Highway 8.Steven Larimore, a sergeant who headed a brigade assigned to the platoon, said his men noticed a group of villagers walking in the area. “One guy had a white bedsheet on a stick,” Larimore stated. “Out of the blue sky, some guy from where we’re sitting begins shooting” at the Iraqis. Other machine guns opened fire. In less than three or four minutes some 20 Iraqi civilians were mowed down.Liberal reporter Hersh denounces the U.S.-organized atrocities carried out after the cease-fire under McCaffrey’s command, but says little about the brutal bombing campaign and the final ground assault by the U.S. forces until then--a war that was completely bipartisan.But the events of March 2 were a continuation of the “total war” approach unleashed by the imperialist rulers on the Iraqi people, culminating with the annihilation of tens of thousands fleeing on the highway from Kuwait City to Basra. During this onslaught, described by pilots as a “turkey shoot,” U.S. military forces bombed the front and back of Iraqi convoys, trapping thousands of vehicles in a “killing box.” A reporter for the London Independent who visited the scene of the carnage wrote, “I lost count of the Iraqi corpses crammed into the smouldering wreckage or slumped face down in the sand.”Far from being a rogue officer, McCaffrey simply carried out the “Powell doctrine”--named for Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time--of using maximum force at the outset of a war to minimize U.S. casualties.“Do we understand that when we use military force decisively, we are actually killing people and breaking up their equipment?” McCaffrey insisted in an interview published in the May 29 issue of Newsweek. “Do you understand that when you actually apply power, you don’t want a fair fight?”One fact Hersh does not report is that during the murderous Desert Storm assault, the U.S. army literally buried alive thousands of Iraqi soldiers in their trenches.
On February 24-25, 1991, three U.S. army brigades used tanks equipped with plows to fill in with sand 70 miles of six-foot-deep trenches defended by more than 8,000 Iraqi soldiers on the Saudi-Iraq border. McCaffrey came under investigation after the war when an officer in his unit filed a complaint about his post-cease-fire operations. Military investigators filed a secret report and exonerated McCaffrey in 1991.
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