By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
In “Overwhelming Force,” you recount several instances of U.S. troops firing on unarmed or retreating Iraqis. In one case, Iraqis are led off a hospital bus, disarmed and lined up in rows in the desert. In another incident, civilians are walking toward a building carrying a white flag. You make it very clear that these Iraqis were killed, though no one you interview actually witnessed the prisoners being shot. Army investigations of both incidents found no deaths or injuries. You said recently that you didn’t go to Baghdad while working on the story because you didn’t want the Army to accuse you of consorting with the enemy. Would a trip now shed any more light on these accounts?
I’m toying with the idea. But it’s the same problem with any wartime information. One of the things I learned in doing My Lai . . . The My Lai massacre took place in the middle of March 1968. I reported about it 18 months later. But two weeks after it took place, the Paris peace talks began between the North Vietnamese and the South Vietnamese and the U.S., and on the second or third day of those talks, in 1968, [shortly] after the My Lai massacre, the North Vietnamese delegation put out a long, explicit statement about what happened and sent it out to the international press, the American press, and nobody wrote a thing. I didn’t know about it until after I did my My Lai work. The problem is, anything that’s put out by a government with which we’re at war we tend to discount, so that’s an issue for me. If I were to go to Iraq and meet some of the people who maybe were at that scene, I don’t know if that would be helpful or not. If you remember, in the article I wrote about a tape. Well, that tape’s been enhanced enormously, and ABC’s been working on it for weeks. I hope they go public with it soon. On the enhanced tape the people that did the shooting are heard speaking, talking about what they did.
What are they saying?
Well, we have a group of scout soldiers that collected around 400 prisoners who came off an Iraqi hospital bus. They took the weapons away and they were ordered to leave their prisoners. As they were pulling away, one of McCaffrey’s battalions came on line — 13 or 14 tanks — saw the prisoners and started shooting. On the tape we hear the scout platoon, as they are leaving, screaming because they were being shot at. At one point, they actually have radio contact — which is only brought out by enhancement — with various members of the shooting unit.
So what the enhancement brings to light is the actual people who were doing the shooting?
The now-enhanced tape definitely shows the follow-on company was talking about the shooting of people.
You’ve spent the last three decades digging into the murkiest depths of American politics and government. How do the incidents you describe in “Overwhelming Force” fit into that continuum?
They’re all my babies. This one bothers me the most . . . It doesn’t bother me more than My Lai. My Lai was devastating. In the end, I spent a long time talking to the kids that did the killing. And they ended up figuring out that the kids who did the killing — most of them uneducated, lower-middle-class, many not with high school degrees — were as much victims as the people they murdered. I could come to terms with it that way. In this case, what bothers me about the Gulf War is that in the 24th Division there was no war. And there was no press there, and so I just wonder what happened elsewhere. Was there much war elsewhere? I’m not sure. What was this victory? What was the war about? Those are some of the questions I don’t have answers to.