Leaked documents recount tales known by every Iraqi

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BAGHDAD
Iraqi schoolteacher Fatima Razak does not need the WikiLeaks revelations to know about the scars of the US-led occupation, because she wears them on her disfigured face.
Every morning she looks in the mirror and relives the horror of 2007, when she says a bullet fired by a US soldier sliced through her cheek. Fatima was caught in a bottleneck at one of the numerous checkpoints the Americans set up throughout Baghdad after the 2003 US-led invasion.
She waited nervously with hundreds of other cars, conscious a suicide bomber could be lurking. Also at the checkpoints were jittery US troops notorious for being ready to fire at anything that looked like a suspicious move.
“An American Humvee with mounted guns drove toward the checkpoint,” Fatima recalls, almost in a whisper. “It fired for no apparent reason and a bullet went through my face,” she told AFP, her finger tracing a deep scar from mouth to ear.
“How can I look in the mirror every morning?” asks the 42-year-old English teacher who is awaiting a seventh round of plastic surgery. “I am a woman. I have a husband. I have a child.” Graphic accounts of torture and civilian killings are detailed among nearly 400,000 US military documents made public on Friday on whistleblower website WikiLeaks.
The secret field reports covering five years up to December 2009 are the largest military leak in history. Al-Jazeera television said the major findings included revelations of “hundreds” of civilians deaths at manned American checkpoints after the invasion.
“The report did not contain any surprises, because we had already mentioned many things that happened, including at Abu Ghraib prison, and many cases involving US forces,” said Iraqi human rights ministry spokesman Kamil al-Amin.
Shocking photos of US soldiers sexually and physically humiliating Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad caused a scandal in Iraq and worldwide when revealed in 2004. In September 2007, the same year Razak was shot, the leaked papers document the killing at a checkpoint of a nine-year-old girl, Al-Jazeera said.
She was killed when an Iraqi in a car ventured too close to a US patrol in Baghdad. Soldiers honked their horns, but when the car failed to turn around one of the gunners fired a warning shot, which was meant to hit the pavement harmlessly. “Gunner fires one warning shot from his M4. The bullet ricochets and hits one local national (nine-year-old-girl). Patrol stops traffic at the intersection,” Al-Jazeera quoted one of the documents as saying.
The Qatar-based news channel’s Arabic-language service reported at least 109,000 people were killed, 63 percent of them civilians, since the invasion until the end of 2009. It said the papers included US army reports about Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who created security units loyal to him after coming to power in 2006 that prompted the reports “allegations of his association with death squads.”
No comment was available from Maliki’s office or from politicians close to him. Officially, the US military has a “consequence management” system in place for quick compensation for victims, but applicants complain that the system is hard to access and pays trivial sums.
Iraqis say tensions eased after US forces began disappearing from public view from mid-2009. They have become nearly invisible after officially ending combat operations at the start of September, and handing over control of checkpoints to Iraqi police.
The 50,000 US troops remaining in the country until a full pullout at the end of next year rarely venture out of their bases, some of them virtual cities with bowling alleys, restaurants and stores selling everything from shoes to jewellery.
Earlier this week, an officer riding in an armoured vehicle to the southern city of Basra from a nearby US base wondered aloud why the motley civilian traffic was keeping its distance behind the convoy.
“Because the gunner’s got his weapon pointed at them,” said a more experienced colleague, pointing to a soldier next to him manning the gun. The perils of getting too close are known by all Iraqis.