The incident at Haditha – where U.S. Marines killed 24 civilians in “cold blood” – is only a story because the Pentagon says it’s a story. The accused marines had the misfortune of going on a killing spree on the doorstep of a local journalist, Taher Thabet, who filmed the aftermath the next day at the victims’ homes as well as the local morgue. The footage found its way to Time, which did a detailed investigation and presented the evidence in February to a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, who responded, “I think there’s enough here for a full and formal investigation.” End of story and beginning of scandal.

Compare this to a similar incident in Ishaqi on March 15, 2006. A report filed by local police stated that in the Abu Sifa village of the Ishaqi district. “American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 people, including 5 children, 4 women and 2 men, then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals.” The report was produced by the “Joint Coordination Center” in Tikrit, set up by the Pentagon. It included the names and ages of all those killed, which ranged from a 6-month-old infant to a 75-yearold woman.

Knight Ridder interviewed Lt. Col. Farooq Hussain, a local police commander, who stated that a hospital in Tikrit performed autopsies and “revealed that all the victims had bullet shots in the head and all bodies were handcuffed.” The Ishaqi story started to gain traction as the Haditha killings began to dominate the headlines. Then, on June 2, the Pentagon announced that an inquiry cleared troops of wrongdoing. End of story, period. There is extensive evidence of a massacre in Ishaqi – including pictures of an infant with a “gaping head wound” (see www.chrisfloyd. com/march/). But if the Pentagon says there’s no story, then the mainstream media marches in step.

Incidents like Haditha and Ishaqi are the aberrations because the counterinsurgency war has turned Iraq into a slaughterhouse. No one knows how many hundreds or even thousands of Iraqis have been killed at checkpoints or run over by military vehicles. By turning whole towns and cities into free-fire zones, the Pentagon defines anyone left as an insurgent, so anyone killed goes into the insurgent body count. In the fall of 2004 a study of 988 households in Iraq concluded that around 100,000 civilians had been killed since the war began, most caused by coalition air strikes. Les Roberts, the study’s lead author, concluded, “that over 80 percent of violent deaths were caused by U.S. forces.”

Since then, the monthly rate of U.S. bombing has increased five-fold. In a piece published on Alternet on Feb. 8, 2006, Roberts states, “Coalition forces could be responsible for as many as 200,000 Iraqi civilian deaths or more.” Roberts wrote weeks before the outbreak of open civil war, which has seen a huge increase in the daily carnage.