A Slap on the Wrist for Murder

This culture of arrogant complicity must end. The Amerikan military will be recognized around the world for its cruelty and inhumanity if this continues.

Army Says Improper Orders by Colonel Led to 4 Deaths
By PAUL von ZIELBAUER
Published: January 21, 2007

Army investigators say that Col. Michael D. Steele, a decorated combat veteran and brigade commander in Iraq, issued improper orders to his soldiers that contributed to the deaths of four unarmed Iraqi men during a raid in May, according to military documents.

No charges have been filed against Colonel Steele in the Army’s continuing investigation. But two Defense Department officials said last week that Colonel Steele was formally reprimanded in the summer by Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the former commander in Iraq, for not reporting the deaths and other details of the raid. The action was not made public.

The reprimand and the controversy surrounding the raid have effectively ended the career of Colonel Steele, an aggressive officer known for unorthodox methods and who was portrayed in the book and movie “Black Hawk Down” as a fearless fighter during Special Operations missions in Somalia in 1993.

The four Iraqi men were killed on a channel island northwest of Baghdad on May 9 by members of the division’s Third Brigade Combat Team, which Colonel Steele commanded. Four soldiers were later charged with murder by military prosecutors, who said they captured the men, then turned them loose and killed them as part of a staged escape attempt. Over the past two weeks, two of the soldiers have pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

The military’s administrative investigation into Colonel Steele centered on how he communicated the rules of engagement, the instructions that all soldiers must follow to determine whether they may legally use lethal force against an enemy, to his soldiers before the raid.

The colonel improperly led his soldiers to believe that distinguishing combatants from noncombatants — a main tenet of the military’s standing rules of engagement — was not necessary during the May 9 mission, according to a classified report in June by Brig. Gen. Thomas Maffey, a deputy commander tapped by General Chiarelli to investigate Colonel Steele. “A person cannot be targeted on status simply by being present on an objective deemed hostile by an on-scene commander,” General Maffey wrote in his June 16 report.

Although the colonel’s “miscommunication” of the rules contributed to the deaths of four unarmed Iraqis, General Maffey wrote, formal charges were not warranted “in light of his honest belief of the correctness of the mission R.O.E.” The general recommended that Colonel Steele be admonished, a lesser punishment than the formal reprimand he eventually received.

Read the rest here.

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1 Response to A Slap on the Wrist for Murder

  1. dekerivers says:

    The character flaw of Colonel Steele, and those like him in the military, has long-term consequences for the path of American foreign policy. The way that we are viewed in Iraq and throughout the Middle East on the basis of this war is something that Steele and other soldiers like him seem all to easily to forget. Our ‘footprint’ in Iraq is a sad and shameful one. I am sure that Steele has some convoluted way to explain the deaths, and might suggest that in war bad things happen. While war is an unforgiving place, it is also true that some soldiers and in this case commanders, have severe character flaws that make them unfit to serve.

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