Combat Stress “No Excuse In Iraq Murder-Rape Case”

Prosecutors at a U.S. military hearing dismissed claims that the strain of war might have led U.S. troops to rape a 15-year-old Iraqi girl and murder her family, the BBC reported.

The hearing, to determine if the four U.S. soldiers should be court-martialed for rape and murder, had earlier been told that combat stress had driven the soldiers’ unit “nuts”.

But in closing argument, a prosecutor said the rape-murder case couldn’t be excused.

The soldiers face charges of rape and murder over the incident, which took place in the town of Mahmudiya last March.

Spc James P Barker, Sgt Paul Cortez, Pte Jesse Spielman, and Pte Bryan Howard are accused of helping a former private – Steven Green – plan, carry out and cover up the heinous crime.

Green, who was discharged from the army, faces the same charges in a U.S. federal court in Kentucky. 

If court-martialed and found guilty, the soldiers could face the death penalty.

A fifth soldier, Sgt Anthony W Yribe, is accused of lying to cover up for his colleagues.

  • “Murder, not war”

At the hearing, Spc Barker described how, on the day of the attack, the soldiers had been drinking when Green said he “wanted to go to a house and kill some Iraqis”.

The soldiers then went to Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi’s house, took turns in raping the 14-year-old girl before shooting her, along with her parents and six-year-old sister.

Some of colleagues of the accused soldiers claimed at the hearing that the troops were demoralized and emotionally drained after the frequent attacks by Iraqi fighters in the so-called Triangle of Death.

In his closing argument, Spc Barker’s lawyer, David Sheldon, also said: “When you put an individual like [ Green] in a stressful situation, he becomes a canister of gas waiting to explode.”

But prosecutor Capt. Alex Pickands said the case had nothing to do with combat stress. 

“Murder, not war. Rape, not war. That’s what we’re here talking about today,” he told the hearing.

“Cold food didn’t kill that family. Personnel assignments didn’t rape and murder that 14-year-old girl.

“They gathered together over cards and booze and came up with a plan to rape and murder that little girl,” he said.

The rape-murder investigation, the fifth involving serious crimes being probed by the U.S. military in Iraq, prompted Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to call for a review of foreign troops’ immunity from Iraqi prosecution.