Pentagon Covered Up 'Friendly Fire' Killing
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USA Today revealed in a front page story on Monday that a study of several hundred American deaths in Iraq turned up at least seven cases where families were given the wrong information about how their loved ones died (most of them, it turned out, were killed by friendly fire). Then the Washington Post revealed that a U.S. soldier was ambushed and murdered by our friends in the Iraqi police.
My additional digging now shows that the military willfuly covered up this significant detail in releasing the news of his death to his family and to the press.
The Post story by Amit Paley visits the Sholeh police station in Baghdad, where posters "celebrating Moqtada al-Sadr, head of the Mahdi Army militia, dot the building's walls." One rainy night this month, it seems, the Sholeh police set up an ambush and killed Army Cpl. Kenny F. Stanton Jr., 20, said to be a "budding journalist." At the time, Paley writes, Stanton and other members of the unit "had been trailing a group of Sholeh police" escorting known Mahdi Army members.
"How can we expect ordinary Iraqis to trust the police when we don't even trust them not to kill our own men?" asked Capt. Alexander Shaw, head of the police transition team of the 372nd Military Police Battalion.
This made me wonder how the Pentagon reported his murder to the press and, presumably, his family back home in his native Hemet, Calif.
Here's the Los Angeles Times account of Oct. 22: "While patrolling Baghdad on Oct. 13, Stanton was killed when a roadside bomb exploded near his Humvee just two weeks after his 20th birthday. Two others were injured." Nothing about an ambush by our U.S.-funded and -trained police allies.
Here's how the Press-Enterprise in Riverside described it: "Pfc. Kenny Francis Stanton Jr., 20, of Hemet, died Oct. 13 in Baghdad from injuries he suffered after a bomb detonated near his armored Humvee, U.S. Army spokesman Sheldon Smith said Monday.
"Smith said the incident occurred about 9:10 p.m., Baghdad time, while Stanton was inside the vehicle on patrol. He said it's uncertain if the bomb was set off after the vehicle ran over it or if it was set to explode remotely." His mother told the paper she had spoken with him just the previous week and he told her to avoid reading the news about Iraq and not to worry about him. "He wanted to protect his mom," Stanton's father said.
The Pentagon officially records it as a "hostile fire--IED attack" fatality, occuring in "southwest Baghdad."
For the victim's hometown Valley Chronicle , Lt. Col. Lee Packnett of Army media relations added the detail that Stanton was wearing body armor "when an improvised explosive device -- or IED, one of the weapons most commonly used against U.S. forces -- detonated under or near the vehicle."
All of the many accounts describe the incident similarly.
So even if it really happen that way -- ambushed by IED, not gunfire or grenade -- the official military story (and therefore the official press story) leaves out one rather key fact: that Stanton was killed not by insurgents or terrorists or "foreign fighters," but by the Iraqi police.
How many other such deaths have occurred -- and been falsely related and reported?
A Los Angeles Times piece revealed that Stanton had volunteered so he could do "some good" in Iraq, even though his father opposed the war. Now here's Gen. Salah al-Ani, chief of police for the western half of Baghdad, quoted in today's Washington Post : "None of the Iraqi police are working to make their country better. They're working for the militias or to put money in their pocket."
Here's how Stanton's hometown paper describes the murder victim, who had worked for the Bulldog, his high school paper: "By all accounts, Kenny Stanton was a likeable guy. More than likeable, actually. 'Everyone he met loved him,' said cousin Jessica Galvez. 'He always made you laugh. He wanted everyone happy around him.'
"His MySpace website immediately began streaming with messages of grief from both his civilian and Army friends.
"And they started calling, from Korea and Iraq, and even stopped at the Stanton home in Hemet, where his father and mother, Kenny Sr. and Gloria, and his brother and sisters, Mario, 17, Brandie, 13, and Terry, 12, gathered with members of their extended family to begin grieving for the son, the friend, the clown, the big brother, the best buddy."
Killed, you might say, by our own hand.
Greg Mitchell is editor at E&P and author of seven books on politics and history.