GI casualties increase in Iraq
Published Jun 15, 2005 8:23 PM
First Lt. Louis Allen and Capt. Philip
Esposito, two officers assigned to a New York National Guard unit in Tikrit,
Iraq, were killed in their sleep on June 7. The Pentagon is investigating their
deaths as a possible “fragging”—an act of retaliation by a
rank-and-file soldier or soldiers.
Four explosions destroyed the room
where Esposito, a company commander and Wall Street broker, and Allen, the
company operations officer and son of a New York City cop, were sleeping in a
presidential residence commandeered by the U.S. military. The cause of death was
initially reported as “indirect fire” from a mortar attack. But by
June 11, the New York Daily News reported, the Pentagon was investigating
“We don’t believe
their deaths were caused by an enemy combat attack,” an unnamed military
source told the Daily News. “We believe there was a crime
Such a “crime,” if it occurred, would mark a
qualitative change in the morale of G.I.s in Iraq and the level of resistance
within the U.S. military itself.
Fragging of brutal officers was a common
form of resistance by soldiers during the Vietnam War. The term came from
tossing a fragmentation grenade into a sleeping officer’s
There have been hints and rumors of fraggings in the Iraq War, but
only one officially confirmed case. On March 23, 2003, as the 101st Airborne
Division was preparing to invade Iraq, Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar carried out a
grenade and rifle attack against the 1st Brigade’s senior command staff at
Camp Pennsylvania in central Kuwait. Two were killed and 14
Akbar, who is Muslim, said he wanted to stop the United States
from killing other Muslims. In April of this year, he was convicted by a
military jury and sentenced to death.
There have been many acts of resistance to the invasion and
occupation of Iraq. These range from refusal to ship out or return to combat to
the 343rd Quarter master Company’s en-masse rejection of an October 2004
order to undertake a “suicide mission” with a convoy of fuel
On June 11, the Pentagon reported that the death toll of U.S.
military personnel in Iraq had passed 1,700, including both combat deaths and
other causes. At least 25 U.S. soldiers died in the second week of June
This may be just the tip of the iceberg, however. Many independent
reports have questioned the U.S. casualty figures, charging that the number of
deaths is actually much higher.
Most recently El Diario/La Prensa, a
mainstream Spanish-language daily newspaper in New York, reported that its
analysis of documents provided to the Puerto Rican government showed that more
than 4,000 U.S. troops had been killed by the end of May.
rank-and-file G.I.s and reservists—largely working-class youths and people
of color ensnared by the economic draft—are faced with a popular, militant
resistance movement that shows every sign of stepping up its actions in the
weeks and months to come. They know they are unwelcome and unwanted by the Iraqi
Popular anger and resistance will only grow as the Pentagon
continues to carry out acts of terror against the population, like
“Operation Lightning.” This operation has rounded up more than 1,300
men between the ages of 15 and 55 in the Baghdad region as “suspected
On June 12, U.S. forces carried out air strikes against
supposed resistance targets in Karabilah. The Pentagon claimed to have killed 40
guerrillas. But residents told Reuters that civilian homes and buildings were
the only targets.
Hamdi al-Alusi, chief of Qaim hospital, said he had
treated three civilians wounded in the attack—including a 12-year-old boy
who later died.
Even senior U.S. military brass like Maj. Gen. Joseph
Taluto are now going on record to say that “good and honest” Iraqis
are fighting the occupation, as he recently told Gulf News. Brig. Gen. Donald
Alston, the chief U.S. military spokesperson in Iraq, admitted that “there
is no long-term military solution to an insurgency.” (Knight Ridder, June
Of course, these statements are aimed at luring some sectors of the
resistance to abandon the armed struggle and join the U.S.-dominated
“political process.” But they can’t help but have an effect on
the rank-and-file troops, who were told the exact opposite for the last two-plus
By now all G.I.s are aware of the unpopularity of the occupation
around the globe and at home. A USA Today/Gallup poll published June 13 showed
that 59 percent of U.S. respondents want the troops withdrawn—a record
No military censorship can stop the snowballing revelations of
Washington’s wrongdoing from reaching their ears: how the Bush
administration and its allies deliberately lied about “weapons of mass
destruction” and carried out illegal activities to justify the brutal
invasion of a sovereign country.
The revelations keep on coming. On June
12, the Sunday Times of London reported on a leaked briefing paper from Prime
Minister Tony Blair’s cabinet. Dated July 23, 2002, the briefing paper
stated that Britain was committed to backing U.S. military action against Iraq.
Since regime change was illegal under international law, the paper noted, it was
“necessary to create the conditions” to make it legal by backing
Baghdad into a corner using the pretext of United Nations weapons
Even the likes of right-wing Rep. Walter Jones—infamous
for his bid to rename French fries as “freedom fries”—are
calling on the Bush administration to set a timetable for withdrawing the
troops. The White House pooh-poohed this latest call. (French Press Agency, June
In the midst of this hated occupation, it’s conceivable that
more acts of resistance of all kinds by G.I.s are going unreported or
For example, few in the United States will have heard that
another mysterious non-combat death—of Staff Sgt. Mark O. Edwards of
Tennessee on June 9—is under investigation. (Big News Network, June 11)
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