A Primer Concerning US Military War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity Committed in the Middle East Post-9/11


Gary G. Kohls, MD | Duty to Warn – TRANSCEND Media Service

18 Jun 2019 – Plus a Short List of Largely Unexamined, Unindicted and Unpunished Examples


War Crimes: serious breaches of international humanitarian law that have been committed against civilians or enemy combatants during an organized, international or domestic armed conflict.

(Examples of war crimes include acts of violence such as; murder, willfully causing suffering, injury to body or health, rape, attacks on civilian populations, pillage, and arbitrary destruction of civilian goods, especially those that are essential to the survival of the civilian population (farmland, food, water, clothing, shelter, etc).

Crimes Against Humanity: murder, extermination, rape, persecution and all other inhumane acts of a similar character that are committed by armed combatants as part of an organized, systematic attack directed against any civilian population.

Genocide is any of the following acts of violence committed by armed combatants with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. (Even being involved in a conspiracy to commit genocide (or inciting the public to commit genocide) is punishable in international courts of law.)

“Enhanced Interrogation” is a euphemism for the US government’s program of systematic torture of detainees by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and various components of the US Armed Forces at black sites around the world.

Atrocity: an extremely wicked or cruel act, typically involving physical violence or injury.


“If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care for human beings.” — Nelson Mandela

“CIA director George Tenet approved abusive ‘enhanced’ interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, that were designed by CIA contractor psychologists. He further instructed the agency’s health personnel to oversee the brutal interrogations – the beginning of years of controversy, still ongoing, about US torture as a violation of medical ethics.” — Spencer Ackerman. (from his Guardian article, titled CIA Torture Appears to have Broken Spy Agency Rule on Human Experimentation – June 2015)

Guantanamo is going to haunt us for a long time. The Hippocratic Oath is the oldest ethical code we have. We might abandon our morality about other professions. But the medical profession is sort of the last gasp. If we give that up, we’ve given up our core values.’” — Jonathan Moreno, The New Yorker, 2005

“Medical ethicists say that the Bush era torture program architected and overseen by psychologists will go down as one of the greatest scandals in the history of medical ethics, on a par with the Tuskegee experiments of the mid twentieth century. This will happen because a small cabal of insiders in the American Psychological Association traded honesty and ethical conduct for the kudos of the powerful. In becoming a player on the national scene, an incalculably large stain has been left on the profession of psychology.” — Geoff Gray, Weaponizing Psychology, Dec 24, 2014

“If health professionals participated in unethical human subject research and experimentation they should be held to account. Any health professional who violates their ethical codes…makes a mockery of the practice of medicine.”Scott A. Allen, MD, medical advisor to Physicians for Human Rights, and the lead medical author of the report, Experiments in Torture, June, 2010

We have to work the dark side, if you will. Spend time in the shadows of the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion.” – Vice President Dick Cheney (on NBC’s Meet the Press, September 16, 2001)


The following abbreviated list of US war crimes in the Middle East was obtained from the following website: https://github.com/dessalines/essays/blob/master/us_atrocities.md.

The examples listed by the website’s editors were obtained from well-documented articles that had been published is various major international publications. The articles had been written by investigative journalists, many of whom had witnessed the atrocities or had first-hand knowledge of them. The exact links to the original articles are all published at the website.

The most important entry in this selection of US war crimes is the one that happened in 2007. I have chosen to list it first even though it is out of sequence.

On July 12, 2007, US AH-64 Apache helicopters bombed and killed around 15 Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and wounding two children, in New Baghdad. The attacks received worldwide coverage following the leaking of 39 minutes of classified gunsight footage, in a video released by Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks publishing group, that was titled “Collateral Murder”. 22-year-old American Army intelligence analyst, Chelsea Manning (then known as Bradley Manning) was arrested for leaking the video, along with a video of another airstrike and around 260,000 diplomatic cables, to WikiLeaks. Manning was held in prison under the Espionage Act, a law used to jail dissidents, that was intended to outlaw any interference with military operations.

All anti-fascism, anti-militarism, freedom-fighting peace activists that are witnessing democracy disappear before their eyes, urges every US citizen to view the “Collateral Murder” video at


Only after viewing that important historical fact can any voter accurately decide who to vote for in the next election or feel comfortable concluding that national security, obedience to authority and ignorance about America’s perpetual warfare state is more important than being fully aware of what US Imperialism and corporate war-profiteering has done to the soul of America.


Starting in June 2017, photos and videos from Syrian civilians in Raqqa showed that the US-backed coalition in Syria was illegally using white phosphorus in civilian areas. White phosphorus can burn human flesh down to the bone, and wounds can reignite up to days later. One attack on an internet cafe killed at least 20 civilians, while other deaths are still being confirmed. One of those civilians killed was in the process of sending a report to Humans Rights Watch when the cafe was struck.

The US killed 273 Syrian civilians in April, 2017, slightly more than the number killed by ISIS. A US attack in July killed another 50 civilians. In August, the US killed another 60+ civilians.

On April 4th, 2017, Trump ordered an airstrike of 59 tomahawk cruise missiles (worth $70 million) fired at the Shayrat air base in Syria. The attack was praised by US politicians on both sides of the aisle, as well >30 countries. Over 700 children have been killed in US coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since August 2014.

On March 21st, 2017, at least 30 Syrian civilians were killed in an airstrike on a school.. The week before, 49 people were killed when US warplanes fired on a target in a village. Syrian residents said the warplanes had struck a mosque where hundreds of people had gathered for a weekly religious meeting.

On March 17th, 2017, A US airstrike killed > 100 civilians in Mosul, Iraq. In response, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said, “There is no military force in the world that is proven more sensitive to civilian casualties.”

On February 15th, 2017, US-backed Saudi planes bombed a funeral in Yemen, killing 5 women and wounding dozens more.

In the Yemeni War (between 2005 – 2017), 16,200 people have been killed including 10,000 civilians, 3 million have been displaced and left homeless, and over 200,000 people are facing shortages of food, water and medicine.

In January 2017, Trump ordered a SEAL strike, and reports on the ground stated that 30 people were killed, including 10 women and children, including: the 8-year-old sister of the 16-year-old killed in an Obama-ordered drone strike that had been accomplished a year earlier.

In 2016, the US under Obama dropped 26,171 bombs in the Middle East and North Aftica, up 3000 from the previous year. The countries bombed include Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and Somalia. Obama authorized 10 times more drone strikes than did George W Bush.

In January 2015, a US drone killed a 13-year-old boy. A month earlier, the boy had been interviewed by The Guardian. He said A lot of the kids in this area wake up from sleeping because of nightmares from them and some now have mental problems. They turned our area into hell and continuous horror, day and night, we even dream of them in our sleep.”  4 years earlier, an unmanned combat drone killed his father and teenage brother as they were out herding the family’s camels.

Since 2013, The US has intervened militarily in the ongoing Syrian Civil War, with airstrikes, naval bombardments, and funding and training Syrian Islamic and secular insurgents fighting to topple the Syrian government. Between 500-700 civilians have been killed by coalition airstrikes.

The US ousted Mummar Gaddafi in Libya, and began conducting an extensive bombing campaign (using >110 tomahawk cruise missiles) in the Libyan Civil Wars of 2011 and 2014. 7,700 air strikes were used, resulting in 30,000 -100,000 deaths. Loyalist towns were bombed to rubble and ethnically cleansed, and the country is in chaos as Western-trained and armed Islamist militias seize territory and oil facilities and vie for power.

In 2010, Chelsea Manning’s revelatory leak of the Iraq War Logs showed US army reports on civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan; 66.081 out of 109,000 recorded deaths were civilians. They show that US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers, and that US troops killed almost 700 civilians for coming too close to checkpoints, including pregnant women and the mentally ill, and countless other atrocities

From 2000 up to the present day, the US has been carrying out a campaign of drone strikes and assassinations in the Middle East and Africa, including Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia, resulting in thousands of civilian deaths, including women, children and US citizens. Drone strikes are used by the military and the CIA to hunt down and kill people that the Obama administration has deemed worthy of execution.

On 3 October 2015, a United States Air Force AC-130U gunship attacked and killed 42 people and wounded 30 more in a Afghan trauma centre that was operated by Doctors Without Borders. Attacks on hospitals are considered war crimes, and this is the first instance of one Nobel peace prize winner (Obama) bombing and killing another Nobel Peace Prize winner, Doctors Without Borders. CNN and the New York Times deliberately obscured the US’s responsibility for the bombing, with the headline, “US is blamed after bomb hits Afghan hospital”.

On 22 August 2008, A US airstrike killed 90 Afghan civilians, mostly children, in the village of Azkzabad.

On July 6 2008, the US bombed a wedding party and killed 47 Afghan civilians attending the wedding. The first bomb hit a group of children who were ahead of the main procession, killing them instantly. A few minutes later, the aircraft returned and dropped a second bomb in the center of the group, killing a large number of women. The bride and two girls survived the second bomb but were killed by a third bomb while trying to escape from the area.

On September 16, 2007, employees of Blackwater (since renamed Academi), a private military company, killed 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 more in the Nisour Square massacre, revealing a wide-spread policy to employ and enable private “security” firms to use deadly force.

On May 9, 2006, U.S. troops executed 3 male Iraqi detainees in the Iron Triangle Murders.

On March 15, 2006, 11 Iraqi civilians were bound and executed by US troops.

On March 12, 2006, US Soldiers gang raped and killed a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murdered her parents and her six-year-old sister.

On November 19, 2005, a group of US marines killed 24 unarmed men, women and children in the city of Haditha in Western Iraq. Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich admitted to telling his men to “shoot first and ask questions later”. The eight marines were found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

In 2004, accounts of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, including torture (whitewashed as enhanced interrogation techniques), rape, sodomy, and homicide of prisoners held in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq came to public attention, revealing a systemic policy of torture during the Iraq war, primarily perpetrated by US Military police and the CIA. Many of the torture techniques used were developed at Guantánamo Bay detention centre, including prolonged isolation; sensory deprivation to induce psychosis, a sleep deprivation program whereby people were moved from cell to cell every few hours so they couldn’t sleep for days, weeks, even months, short-shackling in painful positions; nudity; extreme use of heat and cold; the use of loud music and noise and preying on phobias. Many were tortured to death.

On May 20, 2004, A US airstrike killed 42 civilians attending a wedding in the “Mukaradeeb wedding party massacre”.

On April 14, 2004, Lieutenant Ilario Pantano of the United States Marine Corps, killed two unarmed captives. Lieutenant Pantano claimed that the captives had advanced on him in a threatening manner. All charges were dropped, and he received an honorable discharge.

In April, 2004, the US military lied to the family of Pat Tillman, a famous American athlete turned soldier, surrounding his death by friendly fire, and used a fake heroic story about his death as a recruiting poster. The episode is chronicled in the documentary, A Tillman Story.

Starting with the Iraq war, the Pentagon began contracting private, for-profit mercenary companies to do military operations. These companies are authorized by the US to use lethal force. Blackwater (now named Academi) was known for its ruthless reputation for killing civilians, and was involved in various atrocities, such as in Fallujah, and Nisour square. Its founder, ex-Navy SEAL Erik Prince, is the brother of Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

On December 10, 2002, US military police, aided by the CIA, tortured and killed an Afghan taxi driver, at Baghram prison, highlighting a scandal of torture and murder at the prison. The man had been chained to the ceiling of his cell and suspended by his wrists for four days. His arms became dislocated and flapped around limply whenever guards collected him for interrogation. The victim’s legs were beaten to a pulp. They would have had to have been amputated because the damage was so severe. The murder and US torture complex is chronicled in the 2007 documentary Taxi to the Dark Side. 

Since 2001, many enemy combatants have been held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba where suspected enemies are jailed indefinitely without trial. Several inmates have been severely tortured, leading much of the world to decry its existence as a human rights abuse. The military acts as interrogators, prosecutors and defense counsel, judges, and when death sentences are imposed, as executioners. All trials are held in private. Trump has vowed to keep the prison open, saying, “[…] I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding… Don’t tell me it doesn’t work—torture works… if it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing to us.”

At least 108 detainees have died while in US custody in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, with at least 20 being declared by the Army as murder.

A few sample images to consider using, if space permits:


Dr Gary Kohls is a retired physician from Duluth, MN, USA and a member of the TRANSCEND Network. In the decade prior to his retirement, he practiced what could best be described as “holistic (non-drug) and preventive mental health care”. Since his retirement, he has written a weekly column for the Duluth Reader, an alternative newsweekly magazine. His columns mostly deal with the dangers of American imperialism, friendly fascism, corporatism, militarism, racism, and the dangers of Big Pharma, psychiatric drugging, the over-vaccinating of children and other movements that threaten American democracy, civility, health and longevity and the future of the planet. Many of his columns are archived at http://duluthreader.com/search?search_term=Duty+to+Warn&p=2; http://www.globalresearch.ca/author/gary-g-kohls; or at https://www.transcend.org/tms/search/?q=gary+kohls+articles; ggkohls@gmail.com

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 24 Jun 2019.

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