IslamOnline.net & News Agencies – 2004-12-09 23:31:38
TORONTO (December 8, 2004) – Two US soldiers have applied for political asylum in Canada in protest at the atrocities committed by the US army in Iraq and Afghanistan, hoping to capitalize on the country’s opposition to US President George W Bush’s foreign policy.
In graphic testimonies to a Canadian tribunal, former Marine Sergeant Jimmy Massey and fugitive paratrooper Jeremy Hinzman have argued that they could not tolerate killing innocent civilians in Iraq and treat the Iraqis as terrorists any longer, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported Wednesday, December 8. “The code of silence you take in the Marines is much like the one in organized crime,” Massey told Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).
The IRB was set up to consider the merits of refugee claims at arms length from the Canadian government. Canada has declined Bush’s request for troops in Iraq and the majority of its people are opposed to the war. “30 Plus” Civilians Killed Massey told IRB that men under his command in the 3rd battalion, Seventh Marines, killed “30 plus” civilians within 48 hours while on checkpoint duty in Baghdad. “I do know that we killed innocent civilians,” AFP quoted Massey as telling the Canadian tribunal. “We were shooting up people as they got out of their cars trying to put their hands up.”
Massey said that in some incidents, Iraqi civilians were killed by between 200 and 500 rounds pumped into four separate cars which each failed to respond to a single warning shot and respond to hand signals, at a Baghdad checkpoint.
Searches found no weapons in the vehicles or evidence that those killed were anything but innocent civilians, said Massey.
He also said marines killed four unarmed demonstrators and more Iraqis the next day during another spell of checkpoint duty in the occupied Iraqi capital. “I was never clear on who was the enemy and who was not,” said Massey.
“When you don’t know who the enemy is, what are you doing there?” Asked the 21-year-old Marine, later honorably discharged from his 7th Marine weapons company.
A study published in October by a respected British medical weekly showed that over 100,000 civilians — half of whom women and children — have lost their lives since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
“Evil People” Massey’s testimony came to bolster claims by fugitive paratrooper Jeremy Hinzman that he walked out on the 82nd Airborne Division to avoid being ordered to commit war crimes in Iraq.
Hinzman has told the IRB that the army was drilling its soldiers to think of all Arabs and Muslims as potential terrorists, the Associated Press reported. “We were being told that it was a new kind of war, that these were evil people and they had to be dealt with,” Hinzman said.
“We were told that we would be going to Iraq to jack up some terrorists.”
Hinzman fled from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on January 2 and now lives in Toronto with his 31 year-old wife, Nga Nguyen, and 2 year-old son Liam. The South Dakota-born soldier is claiming refugee status based on his contention that he was right to refuse to fight in a war which he says was illegal and violated human rights and the Geneva Conventions. Hinzman first requested conscientious objector status in 2002 before learning he was to be posted to Afghanistan, where he eventually made 18 combat parachute jumps.
The following year, the request was rejected, and late in 2003 he learned he was to be deployed to Iraq, prompting his flight to Canada.
“I was faced with being deployed to Iraq to do what the infantry does, kill people, and I had no justification for doing so,” said Hinzman.
“The military is to fight justified wars,” added his lawyer Jeffrey House, an American who first came to Canada as a draft dodger during the Vietnam War.
Some 30,000 to 50,000 Americans fled to Canada during the Vietnam War and were allowed to settle there. Eight US soldiers have begun legal action in an effort to stop the US army extending their tours of duty in Iraq.
The soldiers, seven of whom have stayed anonymous, are believed to be the first active-duty personnel to sue the army.
Since the start of the US occupation of Iraq April 9, 2003, hundreds of US marines have reportedly deserted army units and fled the country through Kuwait or Turkey under disguise, escaping unabated resistance operations.
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IN RELATED NEWS<.b><.i>
British Prime Minister Tony Blair Rejects Call
For Inquiry into Civilian Death Toll in Iraq
LONDON, December 8, 2004 (RHC) — British Prime Minister Tony Blair has rejected a call for an independent inquiry into the civilian death toll in the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. The call came in an open letter to Blair, signed by over 40 diplomats, scientists and religious leaders.
The open letter urged the British prime minister to commission an urgent probe and continue to count civilian deaths as long as British troops were inIraq. The signatories included Air Marshal Sir Timothy Garden, who spent 32 years in the military; Sir Stephen Egerton, a former British ambassador to Iraq; retired General Sir Hugh Beech; the Bishop of Oxford Richard Harris and playwright Harold Pinter.
They wrote: “Your government is obliged under international humanitarian law to protect the civilian population during military operations in Iraq, and you have consistently promised to do so. However, without counting the dead and injured, no one can know whether Britain and its coalition partners are meeting these obligations.”
The British prime minister responded to the letter during a parliamentary session, saying that he saw no need for an inquiry. Blair claimed that figures from the Iraqi Ministry of Health — which was completely revamped after last year’s invasion — provide accurate numbers of civilians killed during the military conflict.
Political analysts say that totaling Iraqi civilian war dead could embarrass Blair ahead of a general election expected next May in a country where the vast majority opposed the US-led invasion and occupation.
The health ministry in Baghdad claims that only 3853 civilians were killed between April and October this year, but critics say the lack of figures for the previous period makes a full tally imperative.
In a report released in October by the Lancet medical journal, just befor the US election that returned President George W. Bush to a second term, a group of American scientists put civilian deaths at 100,000.
One of the signers of the open letter to Blair, human rights activist Bianca Jagger, told reporters: “Since they don’t want to catalogue the deaths, they are giving the impression that ordinary Iraqi lives are worth less than those of the soldiers.”