Leo Paz reports from an anti-war rally in Los Angeles supported by Iraq Veterans Against the War.

by Leo Paz

15 Apr 2010 | Truthout

Seven years on after the second US invasion of Iraq, the Americans continue slaughtering civilians, now in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Recently, the video of the massacre of 12-15 Iraqis by an US helicopter gunship in 2007 began making the rounds thanks to WikiLeaks.org. Episodes like what is shown in that video have been denounced by Iraq Veterans Against the War (I.V.A.W.) for years now.

On March 20, thousands of people marched on the streets of Los Angeles to denounce the criminal U.S. wars around the world. Among the protesters, many Iraq military vets with I.V.A.W. came out to tell their stories of the carnage of US wars.

Marine Cpl. Cameron Wood, from Minnesota, was part of a tank unit in the invasion in 2003 and in the siege of Fallujah in 2004. He talked about how U.S. Army officers gave orders to fire on any Iraqi, opposing the invasion or not. “As part of the invasion there would be a lot of times when they would have what they called a free-fire zone when we were told to shoot at anybody that we saw, whether they were shooting at us or not, they were supposed to be considered enemies because apparently they had been told to go inside,” Wood said.

Wood explained how the so-called rules of engagement came about. “On my second deployment, because a lot of incidents had happened and they were trying to keep things under wraps they were trying to implement what they called rules of engagement, where if you see someone firing at you or what you think is a gun then we engaged them,” Wood said.

Corporal Wood told about firing at buses and cars at checkpoints. He also spoke of the nightmares soldiers have to live with after shooting on Iraqi civilians. “What I experienced was seeing civilians who had been fired upon in vehicles, setting up checkpoints and you see vehicles approaching, and vehicles don’t stop and so we’d fire on vehicles, we fired on buses, buses full of civilians … part of the reason that happened is because you’re sending teenagers to go fight in a war, they’re scared and they indiscriminately fired their weapons .. so seeing the aftermath of that… those are the kind of images you carry with you and haunt you, it’s those situations that cause post traumatic stress.”

Iraqi casualties of war are not officially counted by the Pentagon. According to British N.G.O. Iraq Body Count there have been over 104,000 documented war-related Iraqi deaths. Since 2003, over 4,300 soldiers have died in the US war in Iraq.

Leo Paz is a freelance reporter with Pacifica KPFK-FM in Los Angeles.

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