Soldier's Shocking Allegation: Troops Ordered to Engage in '360 Rotational Fire' Against Civilians
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Editor’s Note: It remains Washington’s conventional wisdom that President George W. Bush’s troop “surge” in Iraq in 2007 was his finest hour, even though another 1,000 U.S. troops died along with many thousands of Iraqis. Few news media honchos accept contrary analyses for the decline in Iraqi violence, including factors that predated Bush’s surge.
So, the myth of the “successful surge” has influenced other war policies, including President Obama’s “surge” in Afghanistan. But the Iraq surge was much uglier than the U.S. media presented, including quick-trigger decisions to “engage” Iraqi targets whether threatening or not, as Ralph Lopez recounts:
If even a small fraction of what former Bravo Company 2-16 soldier Ethan McCord is saying is true, that orders were given at a battalion level in Iraq for "360 rotational fire" against civilians in order to "kill every motherfucker in the street," upon being hit by an IED, then Congress must investigate.
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This claim suggests a war crime which far surpasses errant bombs or overzealous individual soldiers in the heat of battle. This is the mass execution of civilians.
Further funding for the Iraqi and Afghan wars, presently being stalled in the House Appropriations Committee by Chairman David Obey for other reasons, could be contingent on a full investigation, including subpoenaed witnesses, and a report to Congress.
McCord told the World Socialist News Web site the implementation of an order for "360 rotational fire" in 2007 by a battalion commander was a new "SOP" (standard operating procedure). McCord said in an April 2010 interview:
"We had a pretty gung-ho commander, who decided that because we were getting hit by IEDs a lot, there would be a new battalion SOP. He goes, ‘If someone in your line gets hit with an IED, 360 rotational fire. You kill every motherfucker on the street.’
“Myself and Josh and a lot of other soldiers were just sitting there looking at each other like, ‘Are you kidding me? You want us to kill women and children on the street?’ And you couldn’t just disobey orders to shoot, because they could just make your life hell in Iraq.
“So like with myself, I would shoot up into the roof of a building instead of down on the ground toward civilians. But I’ve seen it many times, where people are just walking down the street and an IED goes off and the troops open fire and kill them."
Mass execution of civilians in retaliation for an attack on forces has been already prosecuted in the context of international law. In 1944 German SS Obersturmbannführer Herbert Kappler ordered the mass execution of civilians, prisoners of war, civilian prisoners, and a number of Jews, in the ratio of 10 to 1, ten executions for every German soldier killed in a March 1944 attack by Italian partisans.
After the war Kappler stood trial for war crimes and was sentenced to life in prison. High level orders for the killing of civilians has also been found to be a war crime in the cases of Nanking 1937, Hankow 1938, and German Invasion of Poland 1939.
McCord is one of the soldiers seen in the now-famous Wikileaks video in which two American Apache helicopters fire upon a group of men standing on a street corner in Baghdad. He is seen in the video helping two wounded children after the attack, and has subsequently stepped forward with open opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He and Josh Stieber, both now former Army specialists, have written in their OPEN LETTER OF RECONCILIATION & RESPONSIBILITY TO THE IRAQI PEOPLE: