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Killing "Hajis" Where They Pray

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As soldier after soldier steps forward to reclaim his humanity in the midst of the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, we are getting a peek at the brutalization process which the Army employs to divorce young men from their natural resistance to doing the kinds of things required to maintain a brutal occupation.

In Winter Soldier Jon Michael Turner gave a deeply personal account of his time in Iraq, admitting he had his first kill in April 2006:

"This man was innocent. I don't know his name... He was walking back to his house, and I shot him in front of his friend and father."

Turner remembered:

"a lot of raids and patrols we did at night around 3:00 in the morning... And what we would do is just kick in the doors and terrorize the families... If the men of the household were giving us problems, we'd go ahead and take care of them anyway we felt necessary, whether it was choking them or slamming their head against the walls."

Why don't we see this side of the war on television? Forget about it. Turner said that, "any time we did have embedded reporters with us our actions would change drastically. We never acted the same. We were always on key with everything, did everything by the book."

Turner ended his testimony, at times struggling heroically to keep his emotions in check, by declaring:

"I am sorry for the hate and destruction that I have inflicted on innocent people.. I am no longer the monster I once was."

Now in a radio radio interview with Cindy Sheehan, Iraq veteran Ethan McCord lets slip almost as an afterthought a cadence he recalls from basic training, which is a song soldiers sing as the run or march to keep time and keep up bravado. McCord gained fame as the soldier who rescued two children who were wounded in an Apache helicopter attack on unarmed men attempting to evacuate another wounded man, in 2007 over Baghdad.

Although most media commentary has focused on the attack just prior to this one, on a group of 12 men standing on a street corner, far less analysis has been devoted to the second attack, which is a clear war crime. Article 12 of the Geneva Conventions expressly prohibits firing upon wounded or those attempting to evacuate them. This is considered one of the most serious of all war crimes.

McCord recounts the cadence on the Sheehan show:

we went to the market where all the hadji shop,
pulled out our machetes and we began to chop,

we went to the playground where all the hadji play,
pulled out our machine guns and we began to spray,

we went to the mosque where all the hadji pray,
threw in a hand grenade and blew them all away.

Now as Obama draws down what is being called the "rebranded occupation" to the 50,000-troop permanent American presence, bolstered by what Jeremy Scahill calls the "coming surge" in private security contractors, it is interesting to note what has been accomplished amid the daily grind of sectarian violence extracting horrific casualties on a daily basis.

Seumus Milne of the UK Guardian writes:

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Ralph Lopez majored in Economics and Political Science at Yale University. He writes for Truth Out, Alternet, Consortium News, Op-Ed News, and other Internet media. He reported from Afghanistan in 2009 and produced a short documentary film on (more...)

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