POWs Under Fire 

POWs Under Fire 
Posted by FoM on June 16, 2000 at 08:04:06 PT
By Jackie Judd
Three days into the massive Gulf War ground assault on Iraq, a platoon of scouts was patrolling ahead of the U.S. Army’s main forces, looking for signs of enemy troops.     It was Feb. 27, 1991, and the platoon was ordered to set up a roadblock on Highway 8 near the Jalibah airfield in Iraq, 80 miles west of the city of Basrah. The operation seemed routine, the scouts told ABCNEWS, until an Iraqi soldier emerged from a nearby bunker.
  He wanted to surrender, according to scouts who spoke to ABCNEWS. Soon, other Iraqi soldiers followed, also trying to surrender, the scouts said.   “It kept escalating,” says one of the American soldiers, Edward Walker. “I mean, it just — vehicles kept coming in and more vehicles, then more people.”   The scouts were part of the 2-7 Battalion of the 1st Brigade, and they had orders to check areas ahead of the main forces and to be on the lookout for enemy troops. Walker and three others of the six former scouts interviewed by ABCNEWS have since left the Army. Their missions were potentially dangerous. But on that day in February 1991, as Iraqi troops began to surrender, the scouts said they met no resistance as they began to confiscate the Iraqis’ weapons. They kept the Iraqi prisoners of war seated together along the roadside. About 200 to 300 Iraqis had arrived in a dozen vehicles.   At all times, the scouts said, they kept their commander informed. James Manchester, who now works for a technology company, tells ABCNEWS the scouts made it clear through radio communications that the Iraqi soldiers had surrendered and had given up their weapons. “We gave updates as to every situation as it occurred,” Manchester says. Mission Seemed Under Control:  Hours later, the scout platoon was ordered to move on to another mission, but several stayed behind to destroy the prisoners’ weapons. A situation that seemed under control, the scouts say, quickly deteriorated when about 14 Bradley fighting vehicles from the scouts’ battalion appeared on the scene.   “That’s when I saw some of the turrets on the Bradleys traverse,” says David Collatt, a scout from Arkansas.   And then, all of a sudden, their fellow soldiers started shooting, Collatt says.   According to the scouts, the Bradleys began firing in the area of the abandoned Iraqi vehicles and unarmed prisoners. Six scouts interviewed by ABCNEWS say they saw it happen. Walker, who now lives in Missouri and says he still has trouble dealing with his experiences in the Gulf War, and Collatt say they were about 200 yards away.   “I seen the rounds impacting into the bank,” Collatt says. “Dirt kicking up and people jumping up and running.”   Walker says the scouts tried to get the Bradleys to cease fire. “We’re screaming at them: ‘Tell them to stop, tell them to stop!’”   The Bradley rounds were falling dangerously close to the scouts’ Humvees as they sped away, they say.   The soldiers say they did not see whether any of the prisoners were wounded or killed. ‘Someone Must Have Died’ Given the firepower of a Bradley, several scouts are convinced it would have been impossible for everyone to emerge unscathed.   “It’d be a miracle if no one got killed, injured or maimed from what happened,” Collatt says.   Prompted by a complaint from one of the scouts who said he had witnessed a war crime, the Army launched an internal investigation. Col. John LeMoyne, commander of the 1st Brigade, oversaw the investigation. The 1st Brigade was part of the 24th Infantry Division, which was under the command of Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who is now the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the so-called drug czar.   “Nobody was killed,” LeMoyne says. “None, zero. Soldiers, the Iraqi soldiers were never shot at, ever, at that point … none of us — hundred and hundreds of us — ever saw a body. None of us.”   But ABCNEWS reviewed the investigation and found it to be flawed and incomplete.   The Army failed to interview the aide whom LeMoyne told investigators he immediately sent to the area. It also failed to interview many of the scouts.   And, ABCNEWS has learned, the Army did not interview all of the Bradley crews. While the Army did conclude there was firing by the Bradleys, it failed to establish which Bradleys were firing.   The Bradley crew members who did submit statements denied any knowledge of the incident and denied shooting at anything.   Further, the Army failed to establish why there was firing, at all, in an area known to hold disarmed prisoners. No Clear Explanation: To this day, battalion commander Lt. Col. Charles Ware does not have a clear explanation.   “Our mission and our directives were to engage the Iraqi army as they made an effort to proceed to the west,” Ware says.   But these prisoners, the scouts say, were not proceeding anywhere.   More than nine years later, the scouts say they are still tormented by what they witnessed.   “You feel like you betrayed these people that you had taken into your care,” Manchester says.   “It makes me feel so guilty,” says Walker. “It’s just like I pulled the trigger myself.”   The scouts say they do not believe the Army deliberately set out to attack unarmed prisoners. But they also believe the Army was not interested in finding out the truth — whatever it may be. Direct Link To Article: In This Series:An Index To Iraq Coverage Stories:Transcript: Slaughter on the Battlefield? Profile: Iraq Soldiers say fellow soldiers are firing in the direction of the unarmed Iraqis. “They killed those guys?” “Why are we shooting at these people when they are not shooting at us?”, June 15, 2000Copyright ©2000 ABC News Internet Related Articles: The Last Battle of the Gulf War Gulf War (Ret.) on McCaffrey Sparks Furor War Crimes? Barry McCaffrey Archives:
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #4 posted by Mike Reyes on April 12, 2001 at 19:13:13 PT:
Its easy to condem from safety
the issue that no one wants to address is this, you have troops in combat in a kill or be killed situation coming upon a group of individuals whose status they dont know. Considering the fact that it takes only 5 seconds to aim and fire a RPG 7 anti tank rocket and thus have one US crew killed can you blame the crews for overreacting? In war if you dont shoot first you WILL die first. There are no rules and no unpires to bring you back to life because the enemy did not follow the rules.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by mike reyes on April 10, 2001 at 16:37:18 PT:
16june2000 story pows under fire
Now you see what the officail US policy on war crimes is, had this been done by another nations forces we would harrange them or as in the case of kosovo and bosnia arrest them and bring them to trial but then again considering the US people have a 15 second attention span (if that long) and allow themselves to be led by political pied pipers nothing will ever change. i imagine the PRC is disgusted with us critisizing them for human rights abuses when we do far worse and point the finger of blame at others.Mike Reyes 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on June 16, 2000 at 11:35:13 PT:
What did you expect?
Nearly everyone who was breathing back then had their eyes glued to the tube during those days. They saw the crying, badly frightened, hungry, disheveled ruined wrecks of the Iraqui Army surrendering. Either in dribs and drabs, or huge crowds. Some tried to surrender to journalists! After the round the clock bombing and the blitzkrieg of the 100 hours assault, they couldn't take anymore.They were, in a word, whupped. Which makes this act doubly heinous. The war was *over*. Those Iraquis had *surrendered*. The soldiers they surrendered to were legally and morally obligated to protect them from harm. And they were prevented from doing so. By the man now entrusted with prosecuting a 'war' AGAINST HIS OWN PEOPLE.Whether McCaffrey actually gave the order to fire, or just kept silent and covered up, he's responsible. He's shown how ruthless he can be, with his mask of faux-concern and reasonable tone belying his vicious prosecution of the Drug War against harmless cannabis smokers. Did you think Klinton hired him because he was a smooth talker? I said it once before, they all have dirt on each other: Barry knew what went on in his bailiwick of Southern Command during Ollie's jaunts from Mena, Arkansas to Illopongo AFB in Honduras to Nicaragua and back. Billy knew about the Iraqui slaughter.Birds of a feaher flock together...particularly when their wings are stuck together by the same manure.None of this surprises me about 'ol Barry. What does surprise me is why this is taking so long to come out. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by dankhank on June 16, 2000 at 10:32:20 PT:
We had a saying in the Army ...War is Hell ...Peace is Worse ...
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: