THERE is a defining moment in a war when military behaviour passes from just being unacceptable into a dark unacceptable underworld and when the war, and its planners, can no longer be regarded as legal but as brutally criminal. That point came for me in the Vietnam war on February 1st 1968 when Vietnam's police chief, Lt. Col. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, strode up, wordlessly drew a pistol and shot a Vietcong prisoner in the head in a busy street in Saigon's Cholon Chinese district. And, in the Iraq war, this moment occurred for me this week when I read of an atrocity which took place in Tikrit, Iraq last Wednesday.
The Reuters news agency report at first seemed like just any other tragic collateral damage story from Iraq's bloody battlefield.
SHOT IN THE HEAD
Eleven members of an Iraqi family were killed in a U.S. raid last Wednesday, during a bid to seize an al Qaeda militant from a house.
But a senior Iraqi police officer said autopsies on the bodies, which included five children, showed each had been shot in the head, the Reuter's news agency reported and carried this explanation from US spokesman Major Tim Keefe! Troops were engaged by enemy fire as they approached the building and coalition Forces returned fire utilising both air and ground assets.
And Reuters added, Iraqi policeman, Colonel Farouq Hussein, said the autopsies carried out at Tikrit hospital found all the victims had gunshot wounds to the head and that their bodies, their hands bound, had been dumped in one room before the house was destroyed. Police also had found spent American-issue cartridges in the rubble.
This is no longer war but barbaric State sanctioned murder. It is unforgivable! Meb Cutlack, S'Arraco
- Letters to the Editor should be accompanied by a name, address, and telephone number.