Plant Trees SF Events 2005 Archive: 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021


Mystery Train 
By William Rivers Pitt 
t r u t h o u t | Perspective 
Tuesday 29 November 2005 
The Abu Ghraib images were bad enough. 
There they were, fresh-faced American soldiers presiding over the 
systematic torture and humiliation of Iraqis with big smiles and thumbs up. 
There was the Iraqi corpse, wrapped in a bag and festooned with blood, and 
a toothsome female American soldier grinning like a kid at Christmas as she 
leaned over the body. There was the man menaced by a dog being restrained 
on a leash by an American soldier, and there was the same man in a 
subsequent photo with a huge, bloody chunk ripped out of his leg. 
Now we have these videos, these so-called Aegis videos, allegedly showing 
contractors in Iraq driving the road between Baghdad and the airport. In the 
video, men speaking with Irish or Scottish accents use an assault rifle to 
indiscriminately blast other cars on the road. The video shows cars peppered 
with bullets careening to and fro, crashing into each other and rolling into 
the trees. In the background, Elvis Presley can be heard singing "Mystery 
The UK Telegraph, reporting on the video, states, "The video, which first 
appeared on a website that has been linked unofficially to Aegis Defence 
Services, contained four separate clips, in which security guards open fire 
with automatic rifles at civilian cars. All of the shooting incidents 
apparently took place on 'route Irish', a road that links the airport to 
"The video first appeared on the website," continued 
the Telegraph. "The website states: 'This site does not belong to Aegis 
Defence Ltd, it belongs to the men on the ground who are the heart and soul 
of the company.' The clips have been removed." 
The road where these videotaped attacks took place, continued the 
Telegraph report, "has acquired the dubious distinction of being the most 
dangerous in the world because of the number of suicide attacks and 
ambushes carried out by insurgents against coalition troops. In one four-
month period earlier this year it was the scene of 150 attacks." 
That last paragraph begs the obvious question: who exactly is doing the 
attacking along route Irish, and elsewhere in Iraq for that matter? The fact 
that this unspeakable act was captured on video, soundtrack and all, does not 
in any way preclude the probability that this was not the first time a non-
Iraqi decided to pass the time by slaughtering innocent people. 
An investigation into the substance of this video is onging. 
Indeed, there is a substantial body of evidence to suggest that private 
security contractors in Iraq (who can simply be called mercenaries once we 
dispense with the euphemisms), who operate beyond any rules or controls, 
have often engaged in attacks upon Iraqi civilians. One such body of 
evidence is, in fact, a body. 
His name was Ted Westhusing, and he was a colonel in the US Army. A 
scholar of military ethics and a full professor at West Point, Westhusing 
volunteered to serve in Iraq in 2004 because he believed the experience 
would help him teach his students the meaning of honor in uniform. Once in 
Iraq, he was tasked to oversee a private security company from Virginia 
called USIS, which had received a $79 million contract to train Iraqi police 
in special operations. 
As the months passed, Westhusing's mood darkened. He received reports 
that USIS contractors and their Iraqi trainees were killing Iraqi civilians, 
and that USIS was ripping off the US government by deliberately shorting 
the number of trainees in the fold so as to increase profits. Westhusing the 
ethicist became despondent, finding no honor whatsoever in his Iraq service. 
One day in June, Westhusing's body was found in a trailer with a bullet 
wound to the head. His service pistol was found beside him, along with a 
note. "I cannot support a mission that leads to corruption, human rights 
abuse and liars. I am sullied," the note read. "I came to serve honorably and 
feel dishonored. Death before being dishonored any more." 
Westhusing's body was flown home to the United States, where it was 
greeted by his wife, Michelle, and an unidentified lieutenant colonel who 
had befriended Westhusing at West Point. The lieutenant colonel asked 
Michelle what had happened to her husband. She replied, simply, "Iraq." 
An Army investigation into the allegations raised against USIS is ongoing. 
Highly-paid mercenaries are not the only ones who are apparently 
indiscriminately killing Iraqi civilians. The New York Times editorial 
board, in an article titled 'Shake and Bake,' published on Tuesday, felt the 
need to scold the US military for using horrific chemical weapons in battle - 
weapons that reportedly have caused serious civilian casualties. 
"White phosphorus, which dates to World War II, should have been banned 
generations ago," wrote the Times. "Packed into an artillery shell, it 
explodes over a battlefield in a white glare that can illuminate an enemy's 
positions. It also rains balls of flaming chemicals, which cling to anything 
they touch and burn until their oxygen supply is cut off. They can burn for 
hours inside a human body. But white phosphorus has made an ugly 
comeback. Italian television reported that American forces used it in 
Fallujah last year against insurgents." 
"At first," continued the Times, "the Pentagon said the chemical had been 
used only to illuminate the battlefield, but had to backpedal when it turned 
out that one of the Army's own publications talked about using white 
phosphorus against insurgent positions, a practice well known enough to 
have one of those unsettling military nicknames: 'shake and bake.' The 
Pentagon says white phosphorus was never aimed at civilians, but there are 
lingering reports of civilian victims. The military can't say whether the 
reports are true and does not intend to investigate them, a decision we find 
difficult to comprehend." 
The charges against Aegis have not been proven. The charges against USIS 
have not been proven. The charge that the US military aimed white 
phosphorous chemical weapons at civilians has not been proven. In each 
instance, however, the charges are supported by substantial evidence. 
Journalist Seymour Hersh, in a recent New Yorker article titled 'Up In the 
Air,' described the administration's view of the spiraling madness taking 
place in Iraq. He recounts the comments of a former defense official who 
served in Bush's first term. According to Hersh, "'The President is more 
determined than ever to stay the course,'" the former defense official said. 
"'He doesn't feel any pain. Bush is a believer in the adage "People may 
suffer and die, but the Church advances."'" 
"He said that the President had become more detached," continued Hersh, 
"leaving more issues to Karl Rove and Vice-President Cheney." "'They keep 
him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway,'" 
the former defense official said. Bush's public appearances, for example, are 
generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military 
bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also 
confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar 
public forums. "'Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House,'" the 
former official said, "'but Bush has no idea.'" 
We are all prisoners on this mystery train. God only knows where it will 

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling 
author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to 
Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence. 

For updates and info, contact scott at planttrees dot org.