The accounts are brutal: An Iraqi man dragged from his home, executed and made to look as if he were an insurgent. Three prisoners killed by their Army captors. A team of revenge-seeking Marines going home to home, shooting down unarmed Iraqi men, women, children.
The recent flurry of accusations against U.S. servicemen has stunned military analysts and experts. Many see a critical new point in the war — though few agree whether it shows the toll of combat stress, commanders resolved to stamp out war crimes, or, as some claim, an overzealous second-guessing of the troops.
But the number and gravity of the latest allegations have drawn the greatest outcry against U.S. military actions since the Abu Ghraib prison abuses.
“All of a sudden there seem to be charges right and left,” said Loren Thompson at the Lexington Institute, a defense think tank in Arlington, Va. “It clearly has happened in some cases. But it’s hard to tell whether this is a pattern of wrongdoing on our part or just a pattern of closer supervision.”
List of alleged incidents
So far, none of the troops accused in the latest cases has even been tried:
- On Friday, a Pennsylvania National Guard spokesman said two Guardsmen were being investigated in connection with the shooting death of an Iraqi earlier this year.
- On Wednesday, seven Marines and one Navy corpsman were charged in the April shooting death of an Iraqi man in the town of Hamdania. Charging documents claim the man was taken from his home, forced into a hole, shot and left with a stolen AK-47 near him to make it look as if he fought the troops.
- On Monday and Wednesday, three soldiers and a noncommissioned officer were charged in the May deaths of three unarmed Iraqis in military custody in Salahuddin province. A Pentagon official told The Associated Press that the detainees were shot while trying to flee.
Those accusations come a few months after another disturbing charge — that in Haditha, a town in the Sunni hotbed of Anbar province, members of a Marine unit killed up to two dozen unarmed Iraqis in and outside their homes after a roadside bomb killed one of the troops. Neighbors told the AP that a small group of Marines went house to house over three hours, while others stood watch.
The death penalty is a possible punishment in at least some of these cases.