Four more U.S. soldiers have been charged with the March 12th rape and murder of Abeer Qasem Hamzeh in her home in Mahmudiya, Iraq. Also murdered were her younger sister, Hadeel, her father, Qasem Hamzeh Rasheed, and her mother, Fakhariya Taja Muhassain. All were shot several times. A fifth U.S. soldier has been charged with derelection of duty for failing to report the alleged crimes.
The soldiers are in custody, along with a sixth who was discharged from the army shortly after the crimes occurred. The former soldier, now in the U.S., is subject to prosecution as a civilian under U.S. law. Those still in the army may be court-martialed. If convicted of rape and/or murder -- in either a military or civilian court – they face the death penalty.
Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, says President George W. Bush, "has full confidence in the military to investigate alleged crimes." She says, Mr. Bush "believes ninety-nine-point-nine percent of our men and women in uniform are performing their jobs honorably."
In 2005, nine U.S. soldiers were convicted of abusing Iraqis at the Abu Ghraib prison. One received a dishonorable discharge and the others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six-months to ten-years.
According to the New York Times newspaper the crimes committed at Mahmudiya came to the attention of authorities when soldiers were undergoing "a combat stress debriefing." Mouyaid Fadhill, the mayor of Mahmudiya, said that "the attackers also tried to set the rape victim's body on fire, apparently in an effort to cover up evidence."
Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, says the investigation is ongoing:
"Every allegation of wrongdoing by U.S. military forces is taken very seriously. It's investigated thoroughly, and when we find people that have done something that's inconsistent with the values and laws of this country, we take appropriate action and hold people accountable."
Zalmay Khalilizad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and General George Casey, the commander of the multinational force in Iraq, issued a statement saying, "The alleged events of that day are absolutely inexcusable." President Bush said, "These are very serious charges and we will deal with them in a very transparent way."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.