US explosive weapons used ‘disproportionately’ in Iraq compared to British Army – study

Reuters / Kai Pfaffenbach
The US Army’s use of explosive weapons in Fallujah, Iraq, had a disproportionally higher effect on Iraqi civilians than British military strategy in Basra, a new study into the effects of the coalition occupation has revealed.

US forces were found to be responsible for killing 1,382 civilians during two operations; 130 percent more than British forces, who were responsible for up to 593 civilian deaths, with the British firing 34 percent fewer artillery rounds than their American counterparts.

America was also responsible for using cluster bombs far more extensively than the British.

The report by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) investigated the conduct of British troops in Basra, 2003, and American forces in Fallujah, 2004, to explore the differences in the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and the way both armies conformed to the rules of engagement.

Speaking to RT, Iain Overton, editor of the report, acknowledged that while the study examined different operations in different areas of the country, “the hard truth is that Basra suffered less civilian casualties despite being a much larger city.”

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The report called the difference in use of weaponry in populated areas “marked” with American rules of engagement making it easier for commanders to authorize the use of heavy explosive weaponry.

The British, it was found, had designated Basra a ‘restricted fire zone,’ where the use of heavy explosives was strictly monitored.

The initial use of force in Iraq was grantedby the Security Council, who authorized “all necessary means”to uphold the resolution demanding Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait, and to “restore international peace and security in the area.

Critics of the US Army, however, say they maximized the interpretation of their rules of engagement to allow greater use of heavy explosives, causing much greater damage to the civilian population.

A separate reportinto the legality of US use of force called the American tactics “an interpretation of the application of the law to the facts of the case that was implausible and at odds with the interpretations of most other states and international lawyers.”

An Iraqi man cries as he runs past a burning car destroyed during an air strike in Baghdad, March 26, 2003 (Reuters)

As the AOAV report notes: “US military PR may have emphasized how their troops were avoiding ‘collateral damage,’ but US forces showed a clear presumption towards using heavy explosive weapons in populated areas, particularly in the second operation, fought between November and December 2004.”

“By their own admission, US forces substituted manpower with firepower in Fallujah,” Overton said.

Our findings contradict the image of fighting in Fallujah conveyed in the film American Sniper. The film shows the battle for Fallujah as one being fought with sniper-like accuracy and carefully targeted enemies – the reality was far different. The US’ incursion into Fallujah was heavy handed and brutal, where hundreds of civilians lost their lives and thousands of homes were destroyed.”

The report lists one example in April 2003, where US aircraft bombed a building in an attempt to kill Lieutenant General Ali Hassan al-Majid, colloquially known as ‘Chemical Ali’, killing 17 people, none of whom were Ali.

Human Rights Watch concluded that, even if such force had been authorized due to Ali’s high military value, had smaller weapons been used, civilian lives could have been spared.

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There must not, however, be any mistake that the UK also used serious force in populated areas, the report continues, as explosive weapons like aircraft bombs and artillery shells were central to ‘shock and awe’ tactics, but adds, “it is also clear that forces were largely kept from more intense escalations in engagements in Basra.”

Speaking to RT, Overton said the heavy use of force by the US Army was more a “part of their culture of warfare” rather than poor post-invasion planning.

US military engagement in Vietnam through to Afghanistan has often been one of shock and awe: what happened in Fallujah will almost surely happen again unless there is a major cultural shift in American military thinking,” he added.

Greenpeace has said, as a result of the Iraq war, “the framework of international law is currently under threat by the determination of the United States to redraw international law to allow its strategic imperatives.”

“Nations have a stark choice: they can choose multilateralism, the rule of law and respect for international law, treaties and institutions, or they can choose a unilateralist approach in which states pursue their own interests, irrespective of the will of the world community.”