US troops 'shoot civilians'

This is London | June 12, 2008
By Bob Graham, Evening Standard, in Baghdad

Specialist Anthony Castillo: "When they [civilians] were there, they were at the wrong spot, so they were considered enemy."

American soldiers in Iraq today make the astonishing admission that they regularly kill civilians.

In a series of disturbing interviews which throws light on the chaos gripping the country, GIs also confess to leaving wounded Iraqi fighters to die, and even to shooting injured enemy soldiers. They say they are frequently confronted by fighters dressed as civilians, including women.

Their response is often to shoot first and ask questions later, even when it means killing genuine civilians. Yesterday, US troops killed at least one man and injured three others during a demonstration in Baghdad by former Iraqi soldiers protesting at not being paid for two months. US troops first fired into the air and then into the crowd after the demonstrators began throwing stones and bricks.

In the worsening cycle of violence, American tactics like these are feeding the resentment of many Iraqis who object to the occupation of their country. US troops are facing a growing number of hitandrun guerrilla attacks and more than 40 soldiers have been killed since George Bush declared the war over seven weeks ago.

The threat American soldiers feel was illustrated today when a coalition-run humanitarian aid office north of Baghdad was shelled, killing one Iraqi worker and wounded 12. The attack represents a tactical shift by the guerillas as they target fellow Iraqis deemed to be too close to the allies.

One of the soldiers interviewed by the Evening Standard, Specialist Anthony Castillo, of the 3/15th US Infantry, said: "When there were civilians there, we did the mission that had to be done. When they were there, they were at the wrong spot, so they were considered enemy."

The soldiers are furious that their commanders have reneged on promises to send them home as soon as the war was won and are now forcing them into the role of peacekeepers.

The interviews will make troubling reading for US and British politicians and senior military staff desperate to pacify the country and impose order before a transfer to a civilian government run by Iraqis.