Mahmudiya, Iraq, March 12, 2006 * 502nd Infantry Regiment
The war, President Bush's war, in Iraq began more than three and half years ago. Number of American soldiers who have lost their lives is nearing 2900
; many times that number have suffered serious injuries. Estimates of the number of Iraqi deads range from 50,000 to more than half a million. There have been kidnappings and torture of prisoners. The images of American soldiers gleefully taking part in abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib remain indelible.
One incident that stands apart is the rape and killing of 14-year old Abeer Hamza. It took place in Mahmudiya on March 12th and five soldiers of 1st Battalion,502nd Infantry Regiment participated in it. The methodical brutality with which they planned and executed the crimes is horrifying. They raped Abeer Hamza and killed her as well as her parents and her younger sister to leave no witnesses. Perhaps killing the parents was in a way an act of kindness. For them, living with the memory of what took place would have been worse than death.
When the details began to emerge, cover-up was not an option. The facts were known to too many people -- Iraqis and American soldiers. Two soldiers of the 502nd were kidnapped , tortured and killed by Iraqis, reportedly to avenge what happened. A few soldiers came forward to report what they knew. Investigation began and charges were filed. Steven Green
, accused of being the primary culprit, had left the army (discharged for "personality disorder") before the investigation began. He is awaiting trial in Kentucky. On November 16th, Spc. James P. Barker
received a sentence of 90 years in prison for his role in the crimes.
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- A soldier who was sentenced to 90 years in prison for conspiring to rape a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and kill her and her family said he knew his actions would harm support for the U.S. military's mission in Iraq.
At his sentencing Thursday, Spc. James P. Barker, one of four Fort Campbell soldiers accused in the March 12 rape and killings, begged Iraqis not to cast judgment on other troops.
"I do not ask anyone to forgive me today," he tearfully told the judge. "I don't know how that would be possible after what I have done. I do ask the Iraqi people not to blame my brothers still fighting in Iraq."
Barker pleaded guilty Wednesday and agreed to testify against the others to avoid the death penalty.
The killings in Mahmoudiya, a village about 20 miles south of Baghdad, were among the worst in a series of alleged attacks on civilians and other abuses by military personnel in Iraq.
See: The Neocons' War and A Girl Named Abeer HamzaThe 502nd Infantry Regiment and Abeer Hamza