you're reading...
Australian Current Affairs

Australian soldier accused over deaths of unarmed Iraqis

Joe Day

Joe Day

A decorated Australian soldier was embroiled in a secret war- crimes investigation after two former high ranking US military officials accused him of ordering the killing of unarmed men during the invasion of Iraq.

Fairfax Media has uncovered the extraordinary allegations directed against then army warrant officer Joe Day, who was on an exchange with the US Marines at the time.

Mr Day said he was cleared of the allegations and supplied a rebuttal of them which claims his accusers, two former US Marines officers, had gone for a swim in a river, which compromised his reconnaissance position.

The incident gives an insight into the life-or-death decisions commanders were required to make as they tried to differentiate between enemy fighters and civilians during the controversial war.

Retired former major-general Ray Smith and a former assistant secretary of defence for international security affairs, Francis ”Bing” West, alleged they witnessed two unarmed Iraqi men gunned down on Mr Day’s orders on a riverbank north-east of Baghdad on April 5, 2003.

The two former soldiers, highly experienced combat veterans who had seen extensive service in Vietnam, had been embedded with the marines to write a book about the invasion.

They alleged they witnessed a light armoured vehicle under Mr Day’s command open fire with a cannon, without warning, on two unarmed Iraqi men who had driven up in a water tanker and then walked to the banks of the Diyala River.

Smith and West detailed the allegations in their book The March Up, Taking Baghdad with the 1st Marine Division but they did not name Mr Day, referring to him only as a foreign exchange officer.

Smith and West wrote that Smith confronted Mr Day after the shooting and had a heated exchange that led to Smith’s saying that the incident had been a ”cold-blooded killing”.

Smith then complained about the incident to a Marine commander who promised to investigate, the book says.

Mr Day claims the Iraqis were armed but Smith and West wrote that no one had physically checked to see if they were carrying weapons. The bodies were gone when US troops returned later.

Their allegations led to a secret US Marines investigation by a judge advocate into why the Iraqis were shot.

The investigation found the allegations were unproved and

Mr Day was later decorated for his service. Mr Day, 46, said in a statement: ”This incident was the subject of a thorough investigation and I was cleared of any unlawful acts or misconduct.”

Mr Day, who has appeared on several television programs speaking about his battles with post-traumatic stress disorder, also gave Fairfax a ”rebuttal” he says was written by his commanding officer, whom he declined to name.

The rebuttal alleges that Smith and West had compromised Mr Day’s position by bathing in the middle of a battle and that the Iraqis were armed and suspected of coming to the river to capture the authors.

It also states that the accusation led to a mid-ranking commander and Mr Day being ”hesitant in combat for the next week” and that video stills of the dead men showed a weapon beside one of the bodies.

Smith and West said they stood by what was written.

Smith said it had come down to his word against others’ although he acknowledged Mr Day might have been better able to observe if the Iraqis were armed as the Australian would have had a sighting device in the armoured vehicle.

West said: ”I didn’t see any weapon. We wrote what we saw. We were really angry about it.”

West said he had seen the Iraqis get out of a water tanker and walk to the water. One appeared frightened but his companion had persuaded him to keep walking.

”Both (Iraqi men) were shot by a .25 [cannon] and then the second [shot hit] right in the chest and the stomach and they just collapsed,” West said.

”They were two guys against five LAVs [light armoured vehicles]. If someone asked me would I have shot them, I would not [have]”.

A spokesman this week confirmed the Australian Defence Force did not carry out its own investigation into the matter.

But the spokesman said the then chief of army Peter Leahy had been informed of the US Marines investigation which had found the engagement was reasonable and that the allegations were unfounded.

”On the basis of his consideration of the USMC investigation in 2005, the then chief of army concluded that [Warrant Officer 2nd class] Day had acted correctly and the allegations were unfounded.”

A spokesman for the Marine Corps told Fairfax Media to make a freedom-of-information request if more information was sought.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald – Digger accused over Iraqi deaths

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.


One thought on “Australian soldier accused over deaths of unarmed Iraqis

  1. If someone is not on the scene AND the person needed to make a snap decision, then we can not judge the choices made in war.

    Posted by gpcox | April 13, 2013, 20:56

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

If you liked what you just read, click "Subscribe" to become a follower of the Craig Hill site. You will receive an email each time a new post is published.

Join 14,832 other followers

An archive of all my old posts

Follow me on Twitter

Most Recent Posts Post on My Blog About China: China News

China looking at expropriating foreign-held tech shares

Those foreigners who hold shares in Chinese tech companies are being warned that all is not well. It is China expert Gordon Chang who explained at Gatestone Institute, where he is a distinguished senior fellow and a member of the advisory board, that the nation controlled by a repressive Communist regime is “on the road […]

Cadence Column: Asia, July 26, 2021

Cadence Column: Asia, July 26, 2021

While a typhoon largely evaded Taiwan over the weekend, tragedy struck the mainland. Shanghai faced flooding and death while India suffered a landslide in the Himalayas. In a shocking video, one boulder took out a bridge. Several people died. But, speaking of Taiwan’s tendency to fall out of manure smelling like roses, there’s nothing like […]

On This Day In Australia: In 1950, Australia announced they would send troops to the Korean War

On This Day In Australia: In 1950, Australia announced they would send troops to the Korean War

Originally posted on Craig Hill:
Third Royal Australian Regiment Only five years after the end of the Second World War, Australia became involved in the Korean War. Personnel from the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), and the Australian Regular Army (ARA) were committed soon after the war began and would serve…

What have we learnt in the past century?

What have we learnt in the past century?

It is 100 years since we were supposedly getting over the war to end all wars, World War I, and forming the League of Nations with the purpose of preventing such a conflict and slaughter happening again. Regrettably, the only good that came out of it was the proposal to form the League of Nations; […]

China’s borders will likely remain shut for months, but some may be wary of visiting even after they reopen

China’s borders will likely remain shut for months, but some may be wary of visiting even after they reopen

Last week, the Biden administration warned American companies about the risk of doing business in Hong Kong, citing Beijing’s increasing crackdown on the city. “The bottom line is that businesses should be aware that the risks faced in mainland China are now increasingly present in Hong Kong,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. […]

China Threatens to Nuke Japan in ‘Full Scale’ War if They Intervene in Taiwan

China Threatens to Nuke Japan in ‘Full Scale’ War if They Intervene in Taiwan

In an ominous new video that was circulated by the Communist Party of China, they vow to use nuclear bombs on Japan “continuously until it’s unconditional surrender” in an all out war if they decide to intervene in China’s planned re-taking of Taiwan.   “When we ‘liberate’ Taiwan, if Japan dares to intervene by force – […]

Afghanistan: No Peace Without a Clear Vision

Afghanistan: No Peace Without a Clear Vision

Peace is the absence of war, while war is the absence of peace! A negotiated peace in Afghanistan presents a number of challenges. The duration of the war over several decades has created a number of situations, that requires an in-depth examination in light of the peace negotiations that took place between the United States […]

US-China rivalry rooted in lost trust

US-China rivalry rooted in lost trust

As early as 2005 John Gersham and Melvin Goodman alerted against the trend of an over-militarized US foreign policy. The warning has been a recurrent theme of American debate, although it gained little traction. The debate recently spilled into mainstream media with The Economist averring that “an over-militarized foreign policy that embraces unrealistic objectives is liable to fail.” […]

Overnight News Headlines (Australia): July 20, 2021

Overnight News Headlines (Australia): July 20, 2021

Originally posted on Craig Hill:
Children account for 15 per cent of Australian farm deaths, says AgHealth study – 15 per cent of farm deaths are children under 14 years old, according to an AgHealth Australia study; A Ballarat farmer says she is shocked almost one in six … Australia’s first body image program for…

China in the News: July 20, 2021

China in the News: July 20, 2021

Ford unveils lower-priced Mustang Mach-E in China to qualify for subsidies – Previously, this was the only Mach-E priced low enough to qualify for China’s EV subsidies. It was joined by Extended Range RWD and AWD versions as well as the … NZ in ‘position of vulnerability’ over China hacking accusations – New Zealand has […]

%d bloggers like this: