By Ralph Lopez
Ethan McCord, one of the soldiers seen in the now-famous Wikileaks video in which two American Apache helicopters fire upon a relaxed, unhurried gaggle of men in Baghdad, has stated in an interview with World Socialist Website that he witnessed numerous times the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians in Iraq after IED attacks. McCord is on of the soldiers seen helping two wounded children after the attack. He has stepped forward with open opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and written a letter of apology for his part in the incident to the mother of the children, who has accepted his apology. The mother’s husband was killed in the attack and found with his body shielding that of one of his children.
McCord said to reporter Bill Van Auken:
“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 [standard operating procedure]. He goes, “If someone in your line gets hit with an IED, 360 rotational fire. You kill every motherf*cker 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.”
The deliberate killing of civilians is a war crime (Nanking 1937, Hankow 1938, German Invasion of Poland 1939.) McCord is one of a growing number of soldiers and support groups who have renounced their actions in Iraq. He said:
“I was the gung-ho soldier. I thought I was going over there to do the greater good. I thought my job over there was to protect the Iraqi people and that this was a job with honor and courage and duty.
I was hit by an IED within two weeks of my being in Iraq. And I didn’t understand why people were throwing rocks at us, why I was being shot at and why we’re being blown up, when I have it in my head that I was here to help these people.”
McCord says the scenes captured in the Wikileaks video are “an every-day occurrence in Iraq.”
McCord says that when he found the two children wounded in the van, another soldier began to vomit and ran off. Then he recounts:
“That’s when I saw the boy move with what appeared to be a labored breath. So I stated screaming, “The boy’s alive.” I grabbed him and cradled him in my arms and kept telling him, “Don’t die, don’t die.” He opened his eyes, looked up at me. I told him, “It’s OK, I have you.” His eyes rolled back into his head, and I kept telling him, “It’s OK, I’ve got you.” I ran up to the Bradley and placed him inside. My platoon leader was standing there at the time, and he yelled at me for doing what I did. He told me to “stop worrying about these motherf*cking kids and start worrying about pulling security.” So after that I went up and pulled security on a rooftop.”
McCord says about his mental state afterwards:
“I went to see a staff sergeant who was in my chain of command and told him I needed to see mental health about what was going on in my head. He told me to “quit being a pussy” and to “suck it up and be a soldier.” He told me that if I wanted to go to mental health, there would be repercussions, one of them being labeled a “malingerer,” which is actually a crime in the US Army.”
McCord says the greater story is being overlooked, and that rather than blame individual soldiers, the Army itself should be examined, and its system of training soldiers.
“Instead of people being upset at a few soldiers in a video who were doing what they were trained to do, I think people need to be more upset at the system that trained these soldiers. They are doing exactly what the Army wants them to do.”
McCord echoes Major General Smedley D. Butler, the double Medal of Honor winner who resigned his commission and in 1935 became a critic of the nations wars, traveling the country with his book and famous speech “War is a Racket.”
McCord said in the interview:
“I am not part of any party. Was I hopeful? Yes. Was I surprised that we are still there? No. I’m not surprised at all. There’s something else lying underneath there. It’s not Republican or Democrat; it’s money. There’s something else lying underneath it where Republicans and Democrats together want to keep us in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
McCord talks about the ongoing effects of war:
“I still live with this every day. When I close my eyes I see what happened that day and many other days like a slide show in my head. The smells come back to me. The cries of the children come back to me. The people driving this big war machine, they don’t have to deal with this. They live in their $36 million mansions and sleep well at night.”