I saw an AP report on this earlier today. The Army is now investigating several soldiers for allegedly raping an Iraqi woman and killing her family. Now the Washington Post has picked up the story.
No charges have yet been filed in the case, which the official said was "in the very early stages."
Maj. Gen James D. Thurman, commander of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, to which the 502nd is attached, ordered the investigation into the killings more than a week ago, according to a terse statement released by the military Friday. A preliminary inquiry "found sufficient information existed to recommend a criminal investigation into the incident," the statement said.
Also Friday, the military reported the deaths of three soldiers in insurgent attacks Thursday. One was killed by a roadside bomb while on foot patrol in Baghdad. Another died in a roadside bomb attack in Balad, north of Baghdad. The third was killed by small-arms fire in the northern city of Mosul. No further information was provided.
The case in Mahmudiyah, a rural town in a Sunni Arab region dubbed the Triangle of Death for the insurgent attacks and crimes that are common there, was the latest in a string of allegations of unlawful killings — and subsequent coverups — by U.S. forces in recent months, beginning with reports in March that Marines killed 24 unarmed civilians in the western town of Haditha. Investigations continue into that case.
This month, seven Marines and a Navy corpsman were charged with murder and other crimes related to the shooting death of a crippled man in Hamdaniya, west of Baghdad. Residents there said the soldiers planted a rifle and a shovel near the victim's body to make it look as if he had been burying roadside bombs.
Later in June, three soldiers were charged with murdering three Iraqi detainees in U.S. custody and threatening to kill another soldier who saw the incident. And last week, two Pennsylvania National Guardsmen were charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed man in the western city of Ramadi and with trying to cover up the crime.
At least 14 U.S. service members have been convicted of crimes related to the deaths of Iraqi civilians or detainees, according to the Associated Press. Investigations have intensified in recent months following the high-profile Haditha allegations, pressure from the Iraqi government on military commanders to curtail excessive force by soldiers, and an initiative by Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the top U.S. ground commander in Iraq, to cut down on civilian casualties.
But the prospect that soldiers may have committed rape could make the Mahmudiyah allegations particularly incendiary. Charges that U.S. forces have killed civilians come as little shock to many Iraqis, but sex crimes — especially those perpetrated against Muslim women by someone outside the faith — can generate greater outrage in the Islamic world. The 2004 Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal inflamed passions in large part because of the sexual humiliations detainees suffered.
Ammar Jabouri, a spokesman for the Iraqi Islamic Party, Iraq's largest Sunni Arab political organization and a frequent critic of U.S. actions against Iraqi civilians, said he was unaware of previous charges of rape against American soldiers.
Jabouri said that when he and others have spoken to U.S. officials about abuses by troops, the officials "explain it as 'reckless behavior by soldiers under stress.' They promise to investigate, but nothing comes out of that."
The unit in Mahmudiyah had attributed the deaths of the four civilians to "insurgent activity, which is common in the area," until two soldiers from the 502nd came forward June 23 to say U.S. troops were responsible, the military official said. An investigation began the next day. Three of the soldiers are still in Iraq, and one has been discharged for reasons unrelated to the case, he said. None is under confinement.
I am beginning to get a bit suspicious about this onslaught of allegations and media attention.
Are there going to be some bad actors in any military, at any time or in any place? Sure. There is always a percentage of people who break laws.
But the vast majority of Americans who wear the uniform are decent, honorable and would not – ever – commit an offense against a civilian. Yet there is suddenly a rash of these reports. One after another after another. Something smells bad about this.
I don't think it's the troops, either.