Tuesday, November 15, 2005

As ‘fragging’ case worried Pentagon

U.S. offensive kills many civilians in Iraq

By John Catalinotto

Fragging: what goes around, comes around

It is no surprise then, that the Pentagon’s brutal policies are coming back to haunt them.

In a hearing in Kuwait on Nov. 1 and 2, Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez was charged with the murder of West Point graduate Capt. Philip Esposito and 1st Lt. Louis E. Allen at Forward Operating Base Danger, near Tikrit, Iraq, on June 7. Martinez may face the death penalty.

The deaths were first reported as the result of fire from Iraqi resistance forces. According to expert witnesses, however, the fatal wounds were more consistent with injuries from a Claymore anti-personnel mine and fragmentation grenades.

Soldiers killing their officers with fragmentation grenades became a regular event during the war in Vietnam. Between 1969 and 1971 alone, the Army reported 600 separate “fragging” incidents, which caused 82 deaths and 651 injuries.

It was not only personal grievances against selected officers that motivated the Vietnam-era fragging, but the overall anti-war political climate and the unwillingness of African-American troops to tolerate racism. Officers who were considered too aggressive in moving troops into battle or who had treated enlisted soldiers in a racist way were especially at risk.

Though a witness testified that Martinez said he hated Esposito, no explicit political or personal reason was given to explain Martinez’s alleged motive.
Attorneys for the accused argued that at the time of the deaths, the U.S. was not officially at war—President George W. Bush had announced over a year earlier that the war with Iraq was over. Their motion that Martinez be tried in a civilian court was denied.

The first fragging of the U.S. aggression against Iraq took place just before the March 20, 2003, invasion. Last April, Sergeant Hasan Akbar of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division was convicted of the murder of two officers and attempted murder in the wounding of 14 other soldiers. Akbar was sentenced to death.

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