6 July 2005.
Pulled this from the U.S. Army White Pages. The email for Lt Terry Jonathan Grider from the article:
terry.grider [at] us.army.mil
Phone Number: 09643-205-339
Assigned to 2-2 Infantry.
1 July 2005.
Mark Kraft responds to Lt. Grider:
I wanted to reply to http://www.roadstoiraq.com/index.php?p=361#comment-3600 the anonymous comment from roadstoiraq.com, made, apparently, by Lt. Grider.
First off, Lt. Grider seems to think that my posting of the the pictures was a personal attack on him. In fact, he was mentioned once in my original post, as being the leader of the particular unit involved at Buhriz that day. My source for this information was straight out of the newspaper reports of what happened that day, and I never said that Lt. Grider was personally involved in the pictures themselves.
Lt Grider's claim that I should have investigated this matter further before coming forward with the pictures overlooks several important things.
1. I make no claims to being a reporter. I am a weblogger who went public with pictures sent to me by a U.S. citizen in Iraq. A citizen who found the incident troubling and felt that they should be released.
2. I had no clear way to get in touch with Lt. Grider.
3. Had I gotten in touch with Lt. Grider first, I still would not know if he was telling the truth about the pictures. Denial does not equal innocence.
4. I feel that the public has a right to see the photographs in question, regardless of Lt. Grider's perceived guilt or innocence.
5. The public release of the pictures was, I felt, a necessary step in order to determine more about them.
In his account, Lt. Grider basically says that the pictures were taken according to the orders of engagement. While I do not deny that he was most certainly following his orders, the question is, why was it necessary to take the second set of pictures, showing the same weapon, an RPG launcher, being placed in front of each of the Iraqi teens, to be used, as he said, for "evidence against the surviving insurgents"? Didn't the initial pictures more accurately reflect the reality of the situaiton for the great majority of the Iraqi teens in question? Clearly, if it were simply a matter of taking an additional picture to indicate which Iraqi his men had taken the RPG launcher from, this would've better reflected the incident, right?
The implication here is that it is acceptable, standard behavior when U.S. troops clear a given area, for them to view Iraqis who are killed, wounded, or captured as insurgents, regardless of whether they are armed or not, and to take photographs which reflect this "reality". The end result is, we have two Iraqi teens in prison, presumably for firing an RPG launcher at American troops, who risk these pictures being used against them when they finally get a trial.
What is at fault here, basically, is a widespread system where U.S. military officers are under orders to collect evidence for possible future criminal cases, to be submitted to the Iraqi government. Their collection of evidence, however, would be thrown out in any respectable court of law, and doesn't comply with acceptable international standards. Arguably, the new Iraqi courts do not respect those standards either -- see this article originally printed in the L.A. Times:
If officers are going to be collecting evidence, then they should be trained in the same rules of evidence collection that police departments use every day -- nothing more, nothing less. Like any legit criminal case, bad evidence should be deemed inadmissable. Certainly most Americans would never tolerate such evidence handling techniques as being acceptable, even if the soldiers in question were just following orders.
Soldiers aren't cops. If you send them in without suitable training to do a police officer's duty, you're going to have horrible injustices take place. Given the past abuses we've seen in Iraq, this, frankly, should hardly be a lesson that we need to learn once more.
26 June 2005
The Buhriz report and photos:
June 26th, 2005 13:31
Let me start this off by stating exactly who I am. My name is 1LT TJ Grider. I led the platoon attack that resulted in those insurgents being killed. I personally killed some of them and I took the pictures that are being tossed around on the internet now.
My actions and the actions of my men that day were lawful, precise, descriminating, and completely followed the rules of engagement. They did not violate the laws of land warfare or the Geneva Conventions.
My only wish is that Mr. Mark Kraft, who apparently follows comments on this website would have tried to contact me and do a little more investigating prior to putting my name on an internet page associating me and my platoon, possibly the most decorated platoon in the 1st Infantry Division during OIF II, with war crimes.
Now I will answer a few questions that should put to rest this issue with the majority of the sensible people that read this. To those obsessed with conspiracy theories or already convinced that the U.S. is fighting an unlawful war, I doubt these comments will change your views.
On October 22 2004, my platoon received a call to aid a friendly unit in contact in Buhriz. We moved to Buhriz and fought in the city for 8 hours against over 60 RPG attacks, multiple snipers, and an array of insurgents ranging greatly in age, dress, and level of skill. Throughout the day we engaged insurgents very discriminately and never fired on anyone that was unarmed or not presenting a threat.
One example that I can think of specifically is when one of my section sergeants reported that 150 meters from him a man was video taping the fighting. He asked if he should engage and I asked if the man was armed. He replied no and that he was not presenting a threat. I told him not to engage the individual and control the fires around him to ensure only individuals with weapons or presenting a threat were engaged. He complied and the next day while eating breakfast in the chowhall we watched part of the fight on CNN as the Al Jazeera cameraman had sold the videotape to CNN. On that video insurgents were interviewed and called themselves the Friday Freedom Fighters. They described themselves as working men from the town of Buhriz who were attempting to expel the foreign invaders. So you can see we were fighting against men, boys, anyone able to grab a weapon and take up arms against us. Some were dressed in scarves and masks, others looked just like those boys in the photos.
To continue, we received an order to move to contact through the palm groves where a Kiowa Warrior helicopter had just been hit by small arms fire and had to return to base. I led my platoon of 30 men into the palm grove. The visibility was about 20 meters in the palm grove imagine something more like the jungles of Vietnam than the deserts you might think of in Iraq.
Over 4 hours we moved about 600 meters, moving slowly to watch for booby traps and insurgents hidden in the undergrowth (this was a dense palm grove you can see in the pictures, these kids were not playing soccer in there as some of you have implied) .
We saw one man during our movement who was hiding near a shack. He was a date farm owner and we obviously did not engage him. We put him inside the shack with water and his dates for food in order to protect him and told him not too come out until all the firing and explosions had stopped. He was thankful and did as we told him.
As we turned to move back to the city and complete the clearance of the palm grove we came under heavy RPG fire at a distance of less than 50 meters. The RPGs exploded on the trees and foliage around us. I set in a support by fire position with the lead squad and they returned fire to fix the insurgents position and prevent them from accurately firing on us. I got a situation report from the lead element that five or six individuals wearing civilian clothes were firing on us. I led the other two squads on a flanking movement to destroy the enemy. We moved quickly to the point of assault.
As I prepped my men to move across and assault through a soldier next to me said he had eyes on the insurgents moving towards us. They were less than 25 meters from us. I turned, identified the insurgents and began the assault by firing my weapon.
We had positive identification on the these kids. They were only the second people we had seen in four hours, they were within 20 meters of where the RPG fire had come from. They were dressed in clothing matching the clothing that my lead squadleader said the individuals that fired the RPGs had on, and they had RPGs.
I made the decision because at that point I was a seasoned combat leader and had complete control of the situation. Now I will describe the actions on the objective. After we fired on the isurgents and I felt comfortable that the situation was under control I led the assault across the objective.
As we assaulted across the objective the first thing we do is remove weapons and secure the area. We set in a perimeter. I recognized that two of the boys were still alive and we had captured one detainee uninjured and trying to flee. We were no longer taking fire (because we had just neutralized the insurgents that had fired on us) and so we called up our actions to higher and I ordered my medic and two other combat lifesaver qualified soldiers to begin treating the enemy wounded while myself and the other squad leaders established security and planned our next movement.
I then took pictures in accordance with the rules of engagement. The pictures were necessary for evidence against the surviving insurgents as well as documentation of the skirmish. The initial picutures were taken without weapons because we had consolidated the RPGs away from the individuals and were guarding them while we set up security and treated the wounded. It was the tactically right thing to do as well as the morally right thing to do by treating the wounded even though they had just tried to kill us.
In accordance with orders we then took a series of pictures of the insurgents with the weapons that they had on them. You are correct there was obviously only one RPG launcher there and a few warheads. The rest of the warheads they had were already fired at us minutes earlier. Were there more launchers that they dropped while attempting to flee as they realized the overwhelming force they had just engaged? I dont know and we didnt have time to search as we started taking fire and had audio on small arms fire from nearly every direction.
At that point I had a decision to make. We could have done the wrong thing and left the injured to die. I could have pulled out my 9mm and killed them myself. We could have threatened them to get further intelligence or beaten them for firing at us and putting our lives in danger. We did not do this because we are professional soldiers in the United States Military. I chose to do the right thing. We had security set in, I was comfortable with the situation and so we continued to treat the individuals, which you see in the pictures.
When my medic said the wounded were stable we picked them up, threw them over our backs, and moved with them and the detainee over 200 meters to the road where we had coordinated for a field ambulance, at this time we were still taking fire but could not locate the origin. We saved the lives of the very kids that had shot at us and attempted to kill us. And what you all do not realize is that the detainee admitted to an interpreter that he and his friends had attacked us and had been paid to fight by a local insurgency leader.
As far as the pictures go they were and are necessary. They will be used in the prosecution of the surviving insurgents, although their confessions, which have never been mentioned by Mr. Kraft will probably be enough to convict them.
It was not my requirement to take those pictures, but that of the new Iraqi government. They specifically instructed the military to take pictures of insurgents wit the weapons or contraband they had on them. That is what we did that day.
Yes the RPGs were initially moved to secure the area and pictures were taken. What if we had not had time because of coming under fire to take pictures with the weapons? We needed to have pictures at least confirming the days events. Because we did not come under fire immediately we had time to go back and take the pictures according to how the Iraqi government wanted them for evidence purposes. To suggest we planted them is ridiculous.
I will say that when you shoot someone at close range the scene is chaotic. Those kids did have shoes on but were literally blown out of them just as the weapons were scattered about.
The bottom line is that when we came upon the scene we couldnt be sure which individual held the launcher and which carried the rounds. A scene like that is much too chaotic to determine things like that in such a short period of time. When I took the pictures, I did so with the weapons in front of each because they were all travelling in a group and all guilty to some degree.
They will have a trial and a chance to prevent evidence showing their innocence. The only evidence I saw was that of guilt.
As I said maybe some of them ditched another launcher or some hand grenades as they tried to flee from us. The bottom line is those RPGs were on them and we had just taken fire from those kids.
I do not see at the range the fight took place any way that we could have been more discriminating with our fires. They had the weapons on them and the first priority when on the scene was to eliminate the threat by removing the weapons, securing the area, treating the wounded, then taking pictures.
What some of you dont seem to understand is that regardless of their age we took human lives that day. But it was out of necessity and self-preservation and in attempting to accomplish the missions set forth for us by our unit. That mission was to rid Iraq of insurgents and terrorist attempting to destabilize the government and terrorize the Iraqi people. We helped accomplish that mission that day.
Once an able-bodied individual picks up a weapon and employs it against U.S. Forces they give up the right to claim that their age or gender should prevent us from engaging them to protect our lives and complete the mission.
While I support freedom of the press and free speech rights, those pictures should never have been released by a soldier who was not even there. My job was to hand those pictures up the chain of command which I did. Once out of my hands I cannot be sure of who had access to them or what story they concocted to go along with the pictures.
Mr. Kraft, I am a professional soldier and a Ranger who lives my life and fights according to the Ranger Creed which I doubt you are familiar with. One stanza in particular says Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country
My men and I did the right thing out there and I will not allow you or anyone else to insinuate that we embarrassed our country by doing anything wrong. I believe that you, Mr. Kraft, should have done the right thing and attempted to contact me and do some investigation into this incident before publishing my name in conjunction with any war crime.
Although I feel it is not warranted, I welcome any investigation into the events that day. I am confident that my actions were right and in accordance with the Geneva Convention and the laws of land warfare. I hope you feel comfortable with your actions, Mr. Kraft. You have managed to skip any investigation and associated an honorable, very accomplished platoon with a crime that did not exist.
Thank you for your time and consideration of these facts from the day.