Rules of Engagement? A Social Anatomy of an American War Crime-- Operation Iron Triangle, Iraq

Rules of Engagement? A Social Anatomy of an American War Crime-- Operation Iron Triangle, Iraq

Rules of Engagement? A Social Anatomy of an American War Crime-- Operation Iron Triangle, Iraq

Rules of Engagement? A Social Anatomy of an American War Crime-- Operation Iron Triangle, Iraq

Excerpt

Nowadays, perhaps partly because of the influence of postmodernism, contemporary readers feel more free than in previous generations to read any text in any way they choose, without concern for the author’s intentions. Nevertheless, I will devote a few pages here to my intentions in writing this book, as well as to my background and experience in approaching this subject matter. Such disclosure of personal as well as professional motives in writing this book may be useful to some readers.

In its narrowest sense, this book is about a legal case that concerns the killing of four Iraqi males by US soldiers during a mission called Operation Iron Triangle that occurred on May 9, 2006, near Samarra, Iraq. The Rules of Engagement (ROE) for that mission were, in the words of the soldiers, to kill every military-aged male on sight. The soldiers applied the ROE to the killing of one elderly man but took four prisoners, three of whom they later shot and killed. Three soldiers were convicted of murder for killing the three prisoners, but not for the elderly man. I was asked to serve as an expert witness in sociology and psychology on the case. Have I given away the plot? In fact, this is not the central plot of the story at all.

In my view, the central plot concerns the ROE: whether it was related to other, similar ROE in Iraq and similar killings; the three distinct versions of what happened that are offered in sworn statements; and the ambivalence of the prosecutors and investigators in deciding exactly what was lawful versus unlawful in this case. Far from being a cut and dry legal case, it can be read as a mystery that is never fully resolved. Everything depends on which parts of the story are made central versus peripheral. I deliberately center my focus on the seemingly peripheral parts of the story.

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