ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: Clifton Hicks and Steve Casey were privates for C Troop of the 1st Squadron of the 1st US Cavalry Regiment in the Abu Ghraib neighborhood.
CLIFTON HICKS, US SOLDIER: My name is Clifton Hicks. This is Steve Casey to my left here. We were both privates in C Troop of the 1st Squadron of the 1st US Cavalry Regiment. First item, April 2004, free fire zone in Abu Ghraib neighborhood of Baghdad, during Operation Blackjack, my troop was specifically instructed by our troop commander, a captain, that a particular sector we were moving to recon enforce was now considered a free-fire zone. I specifically recall him telling us that there were, quote, “no friendlies in the area,” and then he specifically said, “Game on. All weapons free.” It’s important to understand these are not unusual orders. These are not even unnecessary orders. In the nature of war and this particular war, these are necessary whenever a situation gets unusually dangerous or confused, which happens quite often, as I’m sure you can imagine. Upon arrival in the area, we found the streets, besides being littered with wreckage of, you know, vehicles, who knows if it’s a civilian or an enemy vehicle? There’s on way to tell. But wreckage of vehicles. There wasn’t a single building in this neighborhood that hadn’t had a hole shot through it or something explode inside of it. This place was totally destroyed. The streets were littered with numerous human and animal corpses, not just men, but all manner of humanity. I personally saw no military gear or weapons of any kind on any of the bodies that I came across. I personally did not fire my weapon on this operation. But I do know that other members of my unit embraced the weapons-free order, for example by firing indiscriminately into occupied civilian vehicles and at civilians themselves, using both personal weapons, such as rifles, and cruiser vehicle-mounted weapons, such as machine guns, coaxial machine guns of various caliber.
STEVEN CASEY, US SOLDIER: I’m Steven Casey. I was in the same unit as Cliff. We went to the city, where we were supposed to secure and patrol. One of the first things that I noticed is that several buildings had been bulldozed by American engineering companies, two had been flattened and piled everything from rubble and vehicles up on the side of the road and set them ablaze. And that’s how they cleaned up the area and weeded out the bad guys. And we were sort of a cleanup crew after that. And we eyewitnessed several different occurrences where people took advantage of the free-fire order. Specifically, over 20 different vehicles were disabled. I witnessed personal weapons being fired into the radiators and windshields due to the fact that these vehicles were coming up the correct side of the road that we were going down the wrong way. Our orders at this point in time were to have one vehicle on each side of the highway and ensure there was no one on the highway besides us. So with all the hand-waving you can really do from a vehicle, those who didn’t turn around, unfortunately, were neutralized one way or another, into the vehicle there were shots fired, into the windshields, the radiators.
HICKS: It was later estimated, later reported to us by our platoon leader—Steve and I were in separate platoons. He was a scout. I was a tanker. But my platoon leader later reported to me that some whiz kid somewhere had estimated that between 700 to 800 enemy had been killed on that operation. And as you just heard, and I’ll agree to that, and I’ll agree to swear to that to the day I die, I didn’t see one enemy on that operation, but 700 to 800 of them got killed. Judging from what I saw on the ground, I’m willing to swear under oath in all honesty that while many enemy combatants were in fact killed, the majority of those so-called KIAs were in fact civilians attempting to flee the battlefield.
CASEY: I’d like to bring up something that Hicks brought up earlier, and that is the raids and the way the raids are conducted. And usually the—. What happens, to go on into raids, and typically, in many, many instances, it is what the military calls a “dry hole” or “whoops.” Several times this happened, specifically at one event I would like to talk about, and I’ll be providing some video evidence, sort of a truncated version of the raid. But you can get the gist. It was just a typical night raid. It was my platoon, a couple of Bradleys. We rolled out to this house, and the procedure for getting into the gate, ’cause typically there were concrete walls with metal gates closed and secured. So we would pivot and steer the Bradleys into the walls to knock down the wall and tear down the infrastructure, whatever security infrastructure that the person’s home had, sometimes even crushing the vehicles parked right behind it, ’cause you can’t see over it. After doing that, we dropped the ramp and continue inside. We go to the right door, which happens to be the wrong door. You can’t get into the house through this door. There was a deep freeze behind the house. So in all this chaos, everyone’s screaming and trying to find another way to get in. We go through the front door. And then we started hearing a lady screaming from the inside, her and her children. And we get to the door and bust the door in, and take her and her children to what we call the EPW Roundup Area, which is where lower enlisted soldiers would take the enemy prisoners of war, like this lady and her children, at gunpoint, hold them until the raid was complete. So moving on through there, we entered their house and destroyed it. We rummaged through her personal effects and touched things no one should ever probably touch looking for weapons, puncturing the walls, looking for soft spots. That was the new thing at that point in time, that they were putting things in the walls. So that was our order. So I guess to make this a long story short, we destroyed this lady’s house and we find nothing. We’ve scared her to death and her children. We were off by a number—it was the house across the street. And we didn’t go. [inaudible] I mean, at the time, I actually say, “Hey, we’ve got time. Why don’t we go?” However, we didn’t go. We chalked it up, as he says, [inaudible] went home and maybe went to bed.
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