Here's a follow-up piece I had hoped not to write. In 2006, an American soldier in the 101st Airborne -- Steven Green, of Midland, Texas -- led a group of fellow soldiers on a murder mission near Mahmoudiya, Iraq. They entered the home of a humble grocer and murdered everyone there. Green brutally raped a 14 year old girl named Abir Hamza, who was killed and set afire. (The photo to your left shows her at the age of five; the color photo below shows her at a later age.)
Here's what I wrote on an earlier occasion
I hope every American sees this girl's face. Are our red-state Jesusmaniacs so blinded by their anti-Muslim bigotry -- so blinded by the lies told by our war-loving president and his propagandists -- that they cannot recognise the humanity and innocence in that little girl's eyes? This war has had many victims; let her face represent those we cannot see.
The UK's Daily Mail has published a follow-up story on Steven Green
, who resides in a federal prison in Tucson, Arizona. A convert to Catholicism, he is now fighting his sentence on the grounds that he should not have been tried in a civilian court.
The military did not charge Green when the crime happened. He was diagnosed with a personality disorder and let go.
The new interview with Green contains important information about what happened but doesn't cover all of the mysteries that some bloggers noted at the time. Here's what the Daily Mail has to say:
The military placed Green with the Fort Campbell-based 101st Airborne. Upon arriving in Iraq, Green said, his training to kill, the rampant violence and derogatory comments by other soldiers against Iraqis served to dehumanise that country's civilian population.
A turning point came on December 10, 2005, Green said, when a previously friendly Iraqi approached a traffic checkpoint and opened fire.
The shots killed Staff Sgt. Travis L. Nelson, 41, instantly. Sgt. Kenith Casica, 32, was hit in the throat. Casica died as soldiers raced him aboard a Humvee to a field hospital.
Green said those deaths 'messed me up real bad.'
The deaths intensified Green's feelings toward all Iraqis, whom soldiers often called by a derogatory term. 'There's not a word that would describe how much I hated these people,' Green said. 'I wasn't thinking these people were humans.'
Here's the intriguing part. Green was given unspecified drugs before
he committed his crime.
Over the next four months, Green sought help from a military stress counsellor, obtaining small doses of a mood-regulating drug - and a directive to get some sleep before returning to his checkpoint south of Baghdad.
In the interview, Green described alcohol and drugs being prevalent at the checkpoint. Green said soldiers there frequently felt abandoned by the Army and were given little support after the deaths of Casica and Nelson.
Spc. James P. Barker of Fresno, California, testified that he pitched the idea of going to the al-Janabi family's home to Sgt. Paul E. Cortez of Barstow, California, who was in charge of the traffic checkpoint.
Cortez testified that Barker and Green had the idea of having sex with the girl and that he didn't know the family would be killed.
Green, then a private,saidhe had 'an altered state of mind' at the time. 'I wasn't thinking about more than 10 minutes into the future at any given time,' Green said. 'I didn't care.'
At the Iraqi home, Barker and Cortez pulled Abeer into one room, while Green held the mother, father and youngest daughter in another.
Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, stood guard in the hall. As Barker and Cortez raped the teen, Green shot the three family members, killing them.
He then went into the next room and raped Abeer, before shooting her in the head. The soldiers lit her remains on fire before leaving. Another soldier stood watch a few miles away at the checkpoint.
The article does not specify what happened to the other participants.
At the time this matter first came to light, I wondered whether this atrocity had a hidden side.
Reports at the time indicated that a much larger raiding party was involved. Eyewitnesses said that "10 to 15" men
entered the home.
The media told us that the incident came to light only after Green confessed during therapy. But that is not true. American soldier knew all about the massacre directly after it happened, and they lied about the perpetrators:
Here's the part of the story most Americans do not yet know: The authorities soon put a (rather threadbare) cover-up into place.
"After three hours the [American] occupation troops surrounded the house and told the people of the area that the family had been killed by terrorists because they were Shi'ah. Nobody in town believed that story because Abu 'Abir was known as one of the best people of the city, one of the noblest, and no Shi'i, but a Sunni monotheist. Everyone doubted their story and so after the sunset prayers the occupation troops took the four bodies away to the American base.
If Steve Green was the only guilty party -- if we must place all blame on a classic "lone nut" -- then who authorized the official lie? How can we believe the claim that the crime remained unknown until after Green was diagnosed, when an official falsehood went out within hours of the massacre? Are we really supposed to believe that four privates could initiate such a strike and put a cover-up in place?
The Americans also told the hospital workers who received the bodies that the family was killed by "terrorists." The cover story didn't work because ill-educated Americans were unclear on who was Sunni and who was Shi'ite.
In this period, the American military made many efforts to stir up tensions between Iraq's Sunnis and Shi'ites. Americans thought it better to see the nation torn apart by sectarian violence than united in opposition to the occupation.
Thus, this eight-year-old crime has direct relevance to current events in Iraq -- see, for example, this article
by Patrick Cockburn.
If I may quote again from my earlier piece:
Initial reports said that Green and the others changed into civilian clothes before the attack. Why? Obviously, they did not intend to pass as American tourists. Obviously, authorities would not give a cover story for an atrocity commit by four Americans disguised as civilians. Obviously, the soldiers hoped to pass as Iraqis -- as mujahideen.
Was this whole operation a bungled psy-op? Were the soldiers instructed to commit an atrocity while posing as insurgents? That theory may be speculative -- but to me, it makes more sense than does the official story.
Think about it. A group of Ameican soldiers leave base -- supposedly without their commanding officer's knowledge. They are dressed as insurgents. They commit a despicable act. They return. Other military men immediately come to the scene and ascribe the crime to the insurgency. The cover story falls apart because the Americans foolishly got the victims' religion wrong.
If you don't like the psy-op theory, feel free to come up with another one that covers all of these facts.
On a later occasion, I added this:
Personally, I find absurd the idea that the murder party did not include anyone of a rank higher than private. The house, it seems, is near a checkpoint; weren't there any soldiers there to investigate the sounds of gunfire? If all of the soldiers assigned to that checkpoint were involved in the crime, then why didn't someone in charge of that unit -- a corporal, a sergeant, a captain -- make sure that these men were doing their job? After the crime, wouldn't investigators ask the guys manning the checkpoint if they heard gunshots?
And I'm still trying to understand why the perpetrators dressed in dark clothing. Seems to me that they would gain entry more easily dressed as soldiers. The civilian clothing is consonant with the theory that they were trying to pass as insurgents.
We now know that Green was identified as psychologically troubled before the crime. I'd like to know just which drugs Green received, and just what kind of "therapy" he underwent before he went on his murder spree.
Even if you cannot buy the theory that Green was a manufactured
killer, it certainly seems clear that the American military tried to make opportunistic use of the crime.
If another journalist ever gains access to Green, I hope the following questions are asked: Just what kind of treatment did Green receive before the killing? How did the drug affect his thinking? Did he fall unconscious? Does he have any memories -- even hazy ones -- of receiving instructions? How many people participated in the crime? Who was in charge? Why were the soldiers dressed in black civilian clothing? Were the soldiers trying to pass as Iraqis? Why did the military try to blame the massacre on sectarian violence?