Our ROEs [Rules of Engagement] when the [Iraq War] kicked off were pretty simple: If you see anyone from about sixteen to sixty-five and they’re male, shoot ’em. Kill every male you see. That wasn’t the official language, but that was the idea.
Let us be perfectly clear about something here: ex-Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle fought in a war of imperialist aggression that resulted in hundreds of thousands of needless deaths. He alone killed over one hundred Iraqis while fighting on the side that initiated an illegal, unprovoked and unnecessary invasion. If we are to charitably assume that every single Iraqi he killed was actively engaged in armed hostilities against the US occupation, that still makes him an individual who killed people whose only crime was to defend the integrity and sovereignty of their own country.
It needs to be said that snipers serving in the US military were widely reported as engaging in widespread killings of unarmed Iraqis while the war was in its most heated phases. This was especially true for two of the cities Kyle served in: Fallujah and Ramadi.
Following the first offensive against Fallujah in early 2004, an Australian aid worker who was taken hostage by militants in Fallujah decried the occupation force’s brutal treatment of the city in an interview after being released:
Many families were stuck there with few supplies because US soldiers would not allow them to leave, she said. “Even during a so-called ceasefire, Fallujah was under siege with bombing, missiles and mortar attacks […] But the worst form of attack was the US snipers hiding on rooftops who kill hundreds of civilians as they tried to move about the city” (Australian Associated Press, 16 April 2004)
American journalist Aaron Glantz corroborated this description of the role played by the US snipers in terrorizing the city:
The official number killed in Fallujah is 600, but the total number of civilian casualties is likely much higher. The official tally only reflects those deaths reported by the cities mosques and clinics. But American snipers and bombers have killed many people while they [were] inside their homes.
The doctor says his ambulance was attacked multiple times as it sought to bring aid to residents stranded in their homes. Once when it was trying to retrieve dead bodies for burial and a second time when it was attempting to bring food aid to homes cut off by American snipers.
“I see people carrying a white flag and yelling for us saying ‘We are here’ just try to save us but we cannot save them because whenever we open the ambulance they will shoot us. We try to carry food or water by contrainers. As soon as you carry food or water, the snipers shot the containers of food (Pacifica Reports From Iraq, 13 April 2004).
From an interview recorded for Netherlands radio:
MR [Mindy Ran, journalist in Hilversum]: Now, we have been hearing there is a cease-fire. Is there a cease-fire in effect?
LG [Leigh Gordon, journalist and temporary paramedic in Iraq]: No, quite the opposite. Effectively they are fighting. The US has snipers around the city from the West into the center, in houses all around the main streets and are picking off people on the streets, cars and ambulances.
MR: Do you mean they are actually firing on ambulances?
LG: Yeah, I mean, indeed. My colleague and I and some international volunteers from the United Kingdom and the US had to take over the responsibility for getting patients out of bomb damaged hospitals to one of the remaining make-shift hospitals, which is actually a converted doctors surgery effectively – because the ambulances were being shot at by the US forces. In fact, my colleague who is not very far away from me at the moment, was in one of the last functioning ambulances in Fallujah when he was sniped driving. I think they fired four or five rounds at it, just missing him, I think the ambulance was destroyed. When we left, that was this morning, that was the last ambulance – more or less – in Fallujah.
MR: What’s the scene been like today? You said you left Fallujah this morning, what was it like?
LG: The hospital I was at this morning had a normal night. There were Drones and Helicopters overhead scoping targets, shelling and bombing, mainly of houses in civilian areas. The wounded trickle in, but at a slow rate, it’s what people can bring in. There aren’t any ambulances so, if anyone has a car and can make it through the snipers, they can get someone to hospital where there are some, some, equipment, but not very much. I am now standing in the office of an Italian NGO trying to rustle up some medical aid and we have boxes of surgical equipment which they desperately need in Fallujah. They don’t even have scalpels, few bandages, they don’t even have anesthetics. On the question of the cease-fire, for instance, it was called on Friday just in time for noontime prayer, about 12 – 12.30. About a half an hour after cease-fire had been called I was standing outside the hospital and I saw an Iraqi man of 28 years old who was an Iraqi nurse come from another city to try and help people in Fallujah, shot through the liver by a sniper as he was unloading an ambulance. He was dragged into the hospital and they tried to operate on him and sew up his wound. They had no painkillers, only the painkillers, um the parecetamol, that I could give them from my own bag. Um and we were told that unless we could get him to a hospital in Baghdad within an half an hour, he would die. Of course there was no way out of the city, and he did die.
MR: Do you have the feeling that American commanders are in control of their forces there?
LG: You know it’s incredibly difficult to tell. Just moving about is, is – literally just stepping out of the hospital is hazardous. There is one sniper that has been positioned a few hundred yards from the hospital on the main street, for the last few days.
MR: An American?
LG: Yeah, of course, yeah. So at the moment there are snipers in houses all around the center of Fallujah. Marines are positioned in houses just west of the center, so just moving about is extremely dangerous. Drones, unmanned aircraft, can be heard overhead, and helicopters at high altitudes spotting for targets. So people aren’t keen on moving about, so gathering information about what is going on, outside one’s own immediate neighborhood is extremely difficult (Radio Netherlands, recorded on 11 April 2004).
From an article by Dahr Jamail:
Crowded inside an empty house in the Al-Adhamiya district of Baghdad, Abu Muher, patriarch of one family that left Fallujah last Saturday, told of a harrowing journey out of his home city. “We were nearly bombed by the Americans when we tried to leave on Friday,” he said. “Bombs fell in front and behind us, so we had to turn back. Saturday we were lucky to escape.”
Abu Muher said US warplanes were bombing the city heavily last Saturday prior to his departure, and that Marine snipers continued to take their toll, shot after shot, on residents of the besieged city. “There were so many snipers, anyone leaving their house was killed,” he recalled.
Abdul Aziz, the 15 year-old son of Abu Muher, stated, “I saw two of my neighbors shot by US snipers when I went outside one time. I also saw some of the small cluster bombs on the ground that were dropped by the warplanes of the Americans. Most times, we were too afraid even to look out of our windows” (New Standard, 23 April 2004).
Here is something for us to consider whenever we are told that insurgents referred to Kyle as the “Devil of Ramadi”:
These days, Ramadi is nearly impossible to enter. Against the backdrop of the Haditha massacre, IPS has received reports of civilians killed by snipers, and homes occupied with American snipers on their roof, while families were detained downstairs.
One man, who wishes to be known simply as ‘an Iraqi friend,’ met with IPS in Amman to describe the situation in Ramadi and detail recent events there as he saw them.
“On the side of the main street you will find destroyed buildings, and military tents on the buildings for snipers. Be careful, if you hear any sound of fighting, hide in the side roads, park your car there and get in any house and hide, because snipers will kill anyone who moves, even if the fighting is in another area.”
Sheikh Majeed al-Ga’oud is from Wahaj al-Iraq village just outside Ramadi, and visits the city regularly. He also described snipers killing without discretion.
“The American snipers don’t make any distinction between civilians or fighters, anything that moves, he shoots immediately. This is a very dirty thing, they are killing lots of civilians who are not fighters.”
According to the Iraqi friend, many people have been killed in Ramadi because they simply do not know which parts of the city are now no-go zones.
One such area is the main street through Ramadi. After the first traffic light you are not allowed to proceed forward, only to the right or left.
“The way is blocked, not by concrete, but by snipers. Anyone who goes ahead in the street will be killed. There’s no sign that it’s not allowed, but it’s known to the local people. Many people came to visit us from Baghdad. They didn’t know this and they went ahead a few metres and were killed” (Inter Press Service, 5 June 2006).
Also worth mentioning is this Washington Post story (24 September 2007):
A Pentagon group has encouraged some U.S. military snipers in Iraq to target suspected insurgents by scattering pieces of “bait,” such as detonation cords, plastic explosives and ammunition, and then killing Iraqis who pick up the items, according to military court documents.
UPDATED: 1 Jan. 2015
Since this post has new found popularity due to the release of a film about Chris Kyle, I might as well add this report from the Edward Harris during the second US offensive against Fallujah:
An Iraqi journalist in the city reported seeing burned U.S. vehicles and bodies in the street, with more buried under the wreckage. He said two men trying to move a corpse were shot down by a sniper. […] “People are afraid of even looking out the window because of snipers,” he said, asking that he not be named for his own safety. “The Americans are shooting anything that moves” (Associated Press, 12 November 2004).