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WAR CRIMINAL ?
or HERO GENERAL ?
BARRY McCAFFREY AND THE MASSACRE AT RUMAILA
Like a ghostly finger pointing from the grave, charges that then-MG Barry McCaffrey ordered the slaughter of hundreds of Iraqi troops two days after a cease-fire ended the Gulf War in 1991, just won't go away.
BARRY McCAFFREY AND THE MASSACRE AT RUMALIA
By MAJ GLENN MacDONALD, USAR (Ret)
Like a ghostly finger pointing from the grave, charges that then-MG Barry McCaffrey ordered the slaughter of hundreds of Iraqi troops two days AFTER a cease-fire ended the Gulf War, just won't go away.
This is bad news indeed for President Bill Clinton's "drug czar." Instead of the establishment media ignoring Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent Seymour Hersh's masterful expose in the May 22 issue of The NEW YORKER, the wall of silence is crumbling.
One by one, newspaper articles and the top-notch reporting of ABC NEWS have zeroed in on what a high-ranking Army insider calls: "One of the worst war crimes by U.S. forces since the My Lai massacre in "Vietnam."
Ironically, it was war correspondent Hersh who exposed THAT sordid episode to the world some three decades ago!
Led by the on-target reporting of the always-excellent correspondent Jackie Judd, the ABC NEWS "I-Team" has gone about digging out the facts in this case with the tenacity of a pit bull.
Besides the infamous "turkey shoot" at Rumaila, where McCaffrey's 24th Division pounded retreating Iraqi troops into charred rubble while a cease-fire was in effect, ABC further corroborated Hersh's superb reportage by spotlighting another war crime, the Feb. 27, 1991 slaughter of several hundred unarmed Iraqi prisoners of war near Jalibah airfield, some 80 miles west of Basrah, Iraq.
Several former Army soldiers, part of a scout platoon patrolling ahead of the main U.S. force, told ABC they set up a roadblock on Highway 8.
The Americans reported back on the radio to their battalion commander, then-LTC Charles "Chuckie" Ware, that several hundred Iraqi soldiers had surrendered and given up their weapons. Among the group, were a number of vehicles, including a hospital bus with the Red Crescent clearly painted on the side.
Everything seemed normal. The hungry and exhausted Iraqi POWs were grateful their war was over. Or so they thought.
The scout platoon was ordered to move out on another mission but left a small handful of troops behind to blow up the surrendered weapons.
Then the bloodbath began.
"They're firing at the prisoners! They're firing at the prisoners!"
Former Army Scout, SPC David Collatt told Hersh - and later ABC NEWS - he saw a column of U.S. Bradley fighting vehicles rumble over the sand dunes, then open fire point-blank into the area of abandoned Iraqi vehicles and unarmed prisoners!
No less than six former scouts interviewed by ABC confirmed the butchery.
The scouts sped out of the line of fire in their "Humvees," but not before frantically radioing back to LTC Ware.
"We're screaming at them (over the radio): "STOP! Tell them to STOP," recalled former SPC Edward R. Walker.
Then-SGT Steven L. Mulig told Hersh he yelled on the radio: "They're firing at the prisoners! They're firing at the prisoners!"
Mulig said he was sure all the Iraqi POWs "got hit." He explained they were sitting on the sand unprotected, row after row of them. While Mulig didn't actually see bodies blown to bits, he said: "If they shot one guy in the front row, it's going to go through everything . . . I'm telling you that when a Bradley hits something, it's going to take it out.
" To this day, Collatt remains haunted by what he saw.
"We knew it (one of the parked Iraqi vehicles) was a hospital bus and we'd talked about it (on the radio)," the former scout said. "We told everybody where it was. They didn't get the word or they were trigger-happy."
" They knew there were prisoners there. They knew they were unarmed. They knew the hospital bus was there," Walker confirmed to Hersh.
"Why are we shooting at these people when they're not shooting at us?"
LT (now MAJ) Kirk Allen was the scout platoon commander that day in February 1991. His driver was SPC John Brasfield.
Brasfield is a key player in this tragedy. Not because of any crime he committed. To the contrary, Brasfield's decency, honor and courage shines through. He was sickened at the shooting of the Iraqi POWs.
The major role Brasfield plays is he had brought a cheap, little tape recorder with him on the operation. He figured some cassette tapes of the "commo radio traffic" back and forth might give his wife at home an idea of what war in the desert sounded like.
As Army combat photographer Ron Haeberle's vivid photographs of Vietnamese women and children slain in a ditch at My Lai would become the ultimate "smoking gun," Brasfield's tape would prove invaluable to investigative reporter Seymour Hersh.
The anguished words of Brasfield, Allen and fellow scout, SPC James Manchester, are heard on the recording. But perhaps most damning of all, can be heard the voice and call sign of the battalion commander, LTC Ware.
Shocked that Ware's Bradleys are apparently gunning down unarmed POWs, Allen reports on the battalion net: "There's shooting (by the Bradleys), but no one's there" - no combatants - "to shoot at!"
Ware's chilling response: "I understand." Then Ware asks a series of operational questions about maps!
Meanwhile, the scouts are frantic with the horror of what is unfolding.
As reported in The NEW YORKER, Brasfield's tape records the anguished voice of an unidentified scout: "Why are we shooting at these people when they're not shooting at us?"
Brasfield is stunned by the slaughter.
"They want to surrender," he radios Ware. "Fucking armored vehicles (the Bradleys). They don't have to blow them (the POWs) apart!"
The firing continues. A voice on the tape is heard asking Allen: "Why don't you tell them, sir, that they are willing to surrender. Tell 'em that."
And then, in pained resignation and disgust, another voice is heard amid the noise: "It's MURDER!"
More voices radio back to Ware: "We shot the guys we had gathered up." Another says: "They didn't have no weapons."
Finally, Ware calls for all firing to stop, but then - instead of inquiring about how the shooting started and why Iraqi POWs were the target - he inexplicably asks a question about routine battalion procedures.
"He heard it; he knew it," Mulig said of Ware, "but it didn't register."
What did register - with the impact of an artillery round - back at Carlisle Barracks, Pa. this June where now-COL Ware was preparing to retire as deputy commandant, was the NEW YORKER article.
Sources on the installation tell MilitaryCorruption.com that the photocopy machines - on and off post - were kept busy "discreetly" churning out copies of the Hersh article to be carefully handed out among the curious.
The pugnacious Ware was not universally loved at Carlisle Barracks, so there was little sympathy for him when the television crews and newspaper reporters arrived asking embarrassing questions.
"There's a certain aroma emanating from that office," chuckled one of Ware's colleagues, "and I can assure you, it is not a pleasant smell in the nostrils of those in charge."
It comes down to this. Either retreating Iraqi troops, faced with the overwhelming firepower of McCaffrey's 24th Division, decided to commit suicide by engaging the Americans in a one-sided "battle" that could only end in the Iraqis' utter destruction, or an over-zealous U.S. commander, eager to win glory and medals by spilling blood - and plenty of it - deliberately provoked a confrontation and over-estimated "incoming fire" to justify a slaughter of immense proportions. And this, in the face of a two-day old CEASE-FIRE and orders NOT to engage the enemy unless American forces were threatened.
Gen. McCaffrey went on TV in May, telling ABC NEWS of his devotion to his "great" and "beautiful young soldiers." The general was mightily offended that Seymour Hersh, or anyone for that matter, would deign to question his motives.
Clinton's "drug czar" claimed he was exonerated of any war crimes by several Army investigations. That is correct. But what would one expect when an institution like the Army investigates itself?
"Don't bother to check the chicken coop," says the smiling fox as he picks his teeth with a toothpick. "Take my word for it, boys. Everything's just fine back there."
Hersh's devastating article in The NEW YORKER "hits target" with each word, each paragraph, slamming home the unsavory facts about the most one-sided "battle" in modern times.
The famed investigative reporter tells it best.
"The Iraqis were driving toward a causeway over Lake Hammar, one of the five exit routes from the Euphrates River Valley to the safety of Baghdad.
"Overriding a warning from the division operations officer," McCaffrey ordered an assault in force - an all-out attack. His decision stunned some officers in the Allied command structure in Saudi Arabia, and provoked unease in Washington. Apache attack helicopters, Bradley fighting vehicles, and artillery units from the 24th Division pummeled the five mile-long Iraqi column for hours, destroying some seven hundred Iraqi tanks, armored cars, and trucks, killing not only Iraqi soldiers but civilians and children as well! Many of the dead was buried soon after the engagement, and no accurate count of the victims could be made. McCaffrey later described the carnage as "one of the most astounding scenes of destruction I have ever participated in."
NEWSWEEK reported in May that "McCaffrey showed no signs of repentance or even disquiet." The "lopsided nature" of the battle, McCaffrey told the magazine, made it "one of the happiest days of my life."
Incredible! You almost think the next voice you hear will be Colonel "Kilgore" of APOCALYPSE NOW, taking a deep breath and exclaiming how he just loves "the smell of napalm in the morning."
McCaffrey's exercise in extreme overkill did not win plaudits from some of his fellow generals who went "on the record" with Hersh.
(Retired LTG James Johnson Jr.) "There was no need to be shooting at anybody" on March 2, 1991. "They (the Iraqis) couldn't surrender fast enough."
(Retired LTG John Yeosock) "What Barry ended up doing was fighting sand dunes and moving rapidly . . . looking for a battle."
(Retired MG Ronald Griffith) "McCaffrey made it a battle when it never was one."
McCaffrey's operations officer, LTC Patrick Lamar, was more blunt. To him, the general's attack was "a giant hoax. The Iraqis were doing absolutely nothing. I told McCaffrey I was having trouble confirming the incoming fire."
Yes, there are generals and other officers who will sing McCaffrey's praises. But those are mostly sycophants who owe something to their friend and mentor.
MilitaryCorruption.com is not in the business of sending "valentines" - to McCaffrey or anyone else.
We will praise those who deserve it. But we won't pull punches either. With all due respect to McCaffrey's Vietnam war record, in the Gulf - at the very least - he exhibited recklessness and poor judgement.
In the book "THE GENERAL'S WAR" by Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, former President George Bush explained that he and his advisors were concerned about two key factors in particular.
"If we continued the fighting another day, until the ring was completely closed, would we be accused of slaughter of the Iraqis, who were simply trying to escape, not fight? In addition, the coalition was agreed on driving the Iraqis from Kuwait, not on carrying the conflict into Iraq or on destroying Iraqi forces."
The above stated policy is the exact opposite of what McCaffrey did! Some critics might contend the general, in effect, disobeyed his commander-in-chief's policy in an attempt to achieve vainglory.
Not long after McCaffrey went to work for the only President of the United States to be a certified draft-dodger, he effusively praised a Mexican Army general for his great achievements fighting drugs.
Unfortunately for McCaffrey, that general was later exposed as a drug smuggler in the pay of the Cali cartel.
With such great foresight, is McCaffrey the man we need to lead us in the (to-date) losing "War on Drugs?" Can we have confidence in him as he cheer leads Clinton's multi-billion dollar "drug-fighting" expenditures in Columbia? Or is the good general leading us into a black hole, another VIETNAM?
During the unprecedented pre-emptive strike McCaffrey launched on Hersh's investigative article, the general boasted to ABC NEWS: "Let me just say, I think his story is going to melt like a snowball this week."
That was on May 15th.
Some "week." Some "snowball."
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