Thursday, September 08, 2022

Why no investigation into the THIRTEEN journalists killed by US troops in Iraq in only two years?

Axios reports:
Israel on Wednesday rejected the U.S. call for it to review the Israel Defense Forces' rules of engagement in the West Bank as part of accountability steps for the killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said on Tuesday that the Biden administration will continue to press Israel “to closely review its policies and practices on rules of engagement” of the IDF in the occupied West Bank.

He said this is needed in order “to mitigate the risk of civilian harm, protect journalists and prevent similar tragedies."

 Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid expressed "sorrow" over Abu Akleh's death on Wednesday but said "no one will dictate our rules of engagement to us, when we are the ones fighting for our lives."

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that the "IDF’s chief of the general staff, and he alone, determines, and will continue to determine the rules of engagement in accordance with our operational needs and values of the IDF."

"These instructions are implemented in a strict manner by soldiers and their commanders. There has not been, and there will not be any political involvement in the matter," Gantz said.
Is the US in a position to lecture Israel about rules of engagement and protecting journalists in wartime?

Based on statistics from the US occupation of Iraq, not at all. 

No less than 13 journalists were killed by US troops in Iraq from March 2003 to August 2005, according to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists. 

The details show a pattern of apparent recklessness and impunity that is worse than anything Israel has ever done, with investigations either finding no fault, or not released, or not done to begin with. 

Some details:

Tareq Ayyoub, Al-Jazeera, April 8, 2003, Baghdad
: Ayyoub, a Jordanian working with the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera, was killed when a U.S. missile struck the station’s Baghdad bureau. U.S. Central Command (Centcom) said that U.S. forces were responding to enemy fire in the area and that the Al-Jazeera journalists were caught in the crossfire. Al-Jazeera correspondents deny that any fire came from their building, (and) Al-Jazeera officials pointed out that the U.S. military had been given the bureau’s coordinates weeks before the war began. In October 2003, six months after the bombing, a U.S. military spokesman acknowledged to CPJ that no investigation into the incident was ever launched

Taras Protsyuk, Reuters, and José Couso, Telecinco April 8, 2003, Baghdad died after a U.S. tank fired a shell at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad where most foreign journalists were based during the war. Directly after the attack, Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, commander of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, confirmed that a single shell had been fired at the hotel from a tank in response to what he said was rocket and small arms fire from the building. Journalists at the hotel deny that any gunfire came from the building. A CPJ report concluded that the shelling of the hotel, while not deliberate, was avoidable since U.S. commanders knew that journalists were in the hotel and were intent on not hitting it.  On August 12, 2003, U.S. Central Command (Centcom) issued a news release summarizing the results of its investigation into the incident. The report concluded that the tank unit that opened fire on the hotel did so “in a proportionate and justifiably measured response.” It called the shelling “fully in accordance with the Rules of Engagement.”

Mazen Dana, Reuters, August 17, 2003, was killed by machine-gun fire from a U.S. tank while filming near Abu Ghraib Prison, outside Baghdad, in the afternoon. The soldier in the tank who fired on Dana did so without warning, while the journalist filmed the vehicle approaching him from about 55 yards (50 meters). U.S. military officials said the soldier who opened fire mistook Dana’s camera for a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher. There was no fighting in the area, and the journalists had been operating near the prison with the knowledge of U.S. troops at the prison gates. On September 22, the U.S. military announced that it had concluded its investigation into the incident. A spokesman for Centcom in Iraq told CPJ that while Dana’s killing was “regrettable,” the soldier “acted within the rules of engagement.”

Ali Abdel Aziz and Ali al-Khatib, Al-Arabiya, March 18, 2004, were shot dead near a U.S. military checkpoint in Baghdad. The crew arrived at the scene in two vehicles and parked about 110 to 165 yards (100 to 150 meters) from a checkpoint near the hotel. Technician Mohamed Abdel Hafez said that he, Abdel Aziz, and al-Khatib approached the soldiers on foot and spoke with them for a few minutes but were told they could not proceed. As the three men prepared to depart, the electricity in the area went out and a car driven by an elderly man approached U.S. troops, crashing into a small metal barrier near a military vehicle at the checkpoint. Abdel Hafez said that as the crew pulled away from the scene, one of their vehicles was struck by gunfire from the direction of the U.S. troops. Abdel Hafez said he witnessed two or three U.S. soldiers firing but was not sure at whom they were firing. He said there had been no other gunfire in the area at the time. A statement posted on the Combined Joint Task Forces 7’s Web site expressed “regret” for the deaths and said the investigation determined that the incident was an “accidental shooting.” Press reports quoted U.S. military officials saying that the soldiers who had opened fire acted within the “rules of engagement.”

Asaad Kadhim, Al-Iraqiya TV, April 19, 2004 and his driver, Hussein Saleh, were killed by gunfire from U.S. forces near a checkpoint close to the Iraqi city of Samara. On April 20, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said that coalition forces at the checkpoint signaled the journalists to stop by firing several warning shots. When the vehicle ignored those shots, Kimmitt said, forces fired at the car. Cameraman Kamel told the AP that no warning shots had been fired at their vehicle. It is unclear whether an investigation was conducted and what its outcome was.

 Maha Ibrahim,  a news producer for the Iraqi television station Baghdad TV, was shot and killed by U.S. forces fire in Baghdad as she drove to work, June 25, 2005.  Staff at the Baghdad TV station said Ibrahim’s car was hit by what they described as random fire from U.S. troops who were attempting to disperse people from a road along which they were traveling. On June 29, 2005, CPJ called on U.S. military authorities to launch an immediate inquiry into the shooting death. It is unclear whether an investigation was conducted or what its outcome was.

Ahmed Wael Bakri, a director and news producer for Al-Sharqiyah, was killed by gunfire as he approached U.S. troops June 28, 2005 according to Ali Hanoon, a station director. Hanoon said Bakri was driving from work to his in-laws’ home in southern Baghdad at the time. U.S. soldiers fired at his car 15 times, and Bakri died later at Yarmouk Hospital, he said. The Associated Press, citing another colleague and a doctor who treated the journalist, reported that Bakri had failed to pull over for a U.S. convoy while trying to pass a traffic accident. The U.S. embassy in Baghdad issued a statement of condolence to the family and the station, the BBC reported. “We were deeply saddened and hurt by Mr. Wael al-Bakri’s death and as is the case with incidents of unintentional killing, the investigation is ongoing and we are trying our best to find out the details of the accident,” the statement said. It is unclear whether an investigation was conducted or what its outcome was.

Waleed Khaled, a soundman for Reuters, was shot by U.S. forces several times in the face and chest as he drove with cameraman Haidar Kadhem.  Four days later the U.S. military confirmed its troops had killed Khaled. On September 1, the U.S. military in Iraq announced that the unit involved in the shooting of Khaled had concluded its investigation and that troops’ response was “appropriate,” Reuters reported. According to Reuters, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said that Khaled’s car “approached at a high rate of speed and then conducted activity that in itself was suspicious. There were individuals hanging outside with what looked to be a weapon. It stopped and immediately put itself in reverse. Again suspicious activity. Our soldiers on the scene used established rules of engagement and all the training received … (and they) decided that it was appropriate to engage that particular car. And as a result of that the driver was indeed killed and the passenger was hurt by shards of glass.”An army spokesman told Reuters that the report was not formally completed and was not available for release.
That is a lot of journalists killed, most of them while the US was following its own rules of engagement. Have those rules been reviewed by an independent investigation? 

I'm not saying that the US rules of engagement are inadequate. Some of the incidents appear to be very problematic. But those rules are certainly are not more stringent than Israel's. 

It is insolent for the US to demand Israel review its policies without showing any proof that the US has something to teach Israel about walking the line between the safety of its soldiers and the safety of civilians. On the contrary - the US sends its own experts to Israel to learn how to minimize civilian casualties during battles, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has praised Israel for not only that but also for adjusting and learning from experience to always do a better job. 

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