Merchants of Death War Crimes Tribunal

"Come War Profiteers, Give Account"

Tribunal Holds Defense Contractors Accountable For Murder of Iraqi Civilians

On March 19, 2003 the U.S. began a massive airstrike on the city of Baghdad, bombing government buildings and marking the beginning of a brutal war to open new opportunities for U.S. imperialism. [Source:]

By Jeremy Kuzmarov – April 10, 2024 – Originally published by CovertAction Magazine

Kathy Kelly is a peace activist from Chicago who was in Iraq in March 2003 when the Bush administration illegally invaded Iraq.

She directly observed the shock-and-awe bombing campaign, which deployed overwhelming destructive air power in an attempt to paralyze the will of the Iraqi people to fight.

More than 20 years later Kelly is one of the organizers of the Merchants of Death tribunal that is seeking to hold military contractors accountable for producing the aircraft that were used to kill thousands of Iraqi civilians during the shock-and-awe campaign.

In a video produced for the tribunal, Kelly recounts her experience living out of a hotel in the heart of Baghdad with a family whose two young kids were traumatized by the constant barrage of bombs going off in the background. One of the kids lost control of their bladder, while their mother, Umulade, would shudder every night from fear.

Kelly quotes New York Times journalist Anthony Shadid, who described scenes of “awesome devastation in Baghdad” during the shock-and-awe campaign in his book Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War. Rescue workers toiled around the clock to try to save victims from the bombed-out rubble, and mothers weeped at the sight of their dead children who were swarmed by flies.

Kelly was part of a peace delegation that included veterans of past American wars, such as Purple Heart winner Charlie Liteky, who tried to encourage U.S. soldiers stationed on the Saudi border to desert from the army so they would not be complicit in U.S. war crimes.

Charlie Liteky [Source:]

In the video, she emphasizes that the Bush administration’s invasion was carried out illegally based on deception of the U.S. public regarding Iraq’s mythic Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD’s).

The Iraqi people at the time of the invasion had already suffered through years of U.S. sanctions that resulted in the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children who were deprived adequate nutrition and medicine.


The U.S. first began terrorizing Iraqis during the 1st Persian Gulf War in 1991, which Kelly also witnessed directly as a peace activist.

The Bush I administration claimed that it could not allow a large country like Iraq to swallow up a small one (Kuwait), though Kelly points out that the U.S. had done just that when it illegally invaded Panama. Kuwait also was stealing Iraq’s oil after using horizontal drilling equipment provided to it by elements of the CIA.[1]

Following the Iraqi army retreat from Kuwait, U.S. gunships slaughtered Iraqi soldiers on the “highway of death” and buried Iraqis underground by pouring earth and sand over trenches that they had built.

Wreckage on “highway of death.” [Source:]

Kelly points out that the planes used for murderous bombing campaigns in 1991 and 2003 were produced by Lockheed Martin and Boeing primarily, and that these companies, therefore, were implicated in major war crimes.

The Iraq body count website estimated that 2,350 Iraqi civilians were killed in the shock-and-awe campaign in March-April 2003, though Kelly believes that the total is far higher. The U.S., she says, unleashed an “epidemic of violence and suffering in Iraq” that has lasted to the present day—all so oil companies could profit from Iraq’s lucrative oil reserves.

In a second video, Kelly quoted from General T. Michael Moseley, commander of the U.S. shock-and-awe campaign, who specified that U.S. and British aircraft carried out 20,000 bombing attacks between March 19 and April 18, 2003.

T. Michael Moseley [Source:]

In those attacks, 15,467 of the munitions deployed had been produced by Lockheed Martin, 6,689 by Boeing and 8,108 from Raytheon; companies which also manufactured much of the communications and equipment for the aircraft and amphibious strike carriers that participated in shock and awe.

The utter disregard for Iraqi lives was captured on a video published by WikiLeaks, where a U.S. GI celebrates the bombing of an apartment complex, calling out in joy “hell ya bitches,” and “sucks to be you, you muj motherfucker,” as his platoon mates laugh.

Lockheed F-16. [Source:]

Kelly points out that the U.S. Air Force dropped 1,208 cluster bombs in Iraq that each ejected 200 bomblets. On April 24, 2003, one of those bombs struck a girls’ primary school in al-Hillah.

A week earlier, three Tomahawk cruise missiles manufactured by Raytheon struck an electrical power station in Nasiriyah, forcing the city hospital to cut services to treat war wounded and prompting a water and sanitation crisis after the water purification system stopped functioning.


Raytheon continued to advertise the Tomahawk as a military wonder weapon thereafter, refusing to take any responsibility for the human lives destroyed by it.

Operation Phantom Fury

The tribunal’s third video on Iraq focused on the U.S. assault on Fallujah in the fall of 2004 under Operation Phantom Fury, which left an estimated 4,000-6,000 civilians dead, along with 1,200 to 5,000 Iraqi resistance fighters.

The operation further resulted in the destruction of 36,000 homes, 9,000 shops, 65 mosques, two major bridges and railway stations, and a major water treatment station and power plant.

Fallujah is a medium-sized city surrounded by farmland.

The video featured an interview with an Iraqi woman who weeped while stating that so many of Fallujah’s boys were lying dead in the street along with many of the city’s women, whose bodies were being eaten by dogs.

Aftermath of U.S. siege in Fallujah. [Source:]

The pretext for Operation Phantom Fury was the hanging of four Blackwater mercenaries on a Fallujah city bridge.

Brad Wolf, a former Lancaster, Pennsylvania, prosecutor who has coordinated the Merchants of Death tribunal and narrated the Fallujah video, said that these hangings had been a response to U.S. atrocities in the shock-and-awe campaign and subsequent U.S. Marine occupation of Fallujah where myriad brutalities were committed against the local population.

Four Blackwater Agents Hung in Fallujah. (March 31, 2004) [Source:]

Wolf quoted famed MIT linguist Noam Chomsky, who said that U.S. war crimes in Fallujah were carried out amidst a larger criminal war of aggression.

Brad Wolf [Source:]
Noam Chomsky [Source:]

Lockheed, Boeing and Raytheon were deeply complicit in war crimes in Fallujah because the city was laid siege by their helicopters, fighter jets and missiles.

Journalist Dahr Jamail wrote at the heart of the U.S. siege that “Fallujah is now 70 percent estimated to be bombed to the ground, no water, no electricity. People who want to get back into the city have to get retina scans, all 10 fingers fingerprinted, then they’re issued an ID card. People inside the city are referring to it as a big jail. It is a horrendous situation, and we still have hundreds of thousands of refugees as a result.”

Calling Fallujah a “monument to the brutality of the U.S. occupation of Iraq,” Jamail spoke of his visit to a makeshift clinic during the siege where he saw kids and elderly people who had been shot by U.S. snipers.

One young boy bled through and died after having been shot in the neck. Residents reported U.S. shelling of ambulances.

Jamail said he heard absolutely horrific stories as the city faced a barrage of air strikes and drone attacks carried out from Lockheed, Boeing and General Atomics planes with Raytheon bombs and guidance systems.

Dahr Jamail [Source:]

According to local doctors, the U.S. military’s use of depleted uranium shells—capable of piercing tanks and other military machines—and other toxic munitions led to a dramatic increase in cancer rates and birth defects among newly born children along with stillborn births.

Babies began to be born with congenital defects never seen before in medical history, including kids born with two heads or only one eye. The situation was so bad that people were advised not to have kids. The rate of congenital malformation was found to be 14 times more than Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the dropping of the atomic bombs in World War II.

Locals in war weary fallujah say birth defects have increased due to chemicals used in U.S. bombardments. [Source:]

Turning Mosul into a Hell on Earth

The suffering of the Iraqi people went on for years as the horrors of the U.S. invasion and occupation and implosion of Iraqi society gave rise to the Islamic State of the Levant (ISIS).

By 2016, ISIS had established a headquarters in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which was known historically for producing silk and metal work and for the diversity of its population.

Support for ISIS was fueled by the corruption of local authorities and persecution of Sunni by the regime of Nouri al-Maliki, the “Shia Saddam” who was empowered by the U.S.

Sunni protesters in Baghdad with a photo of their enemy, Nouri al-Maliki, “the Shia Saddam.” [Source:]

The Obama administration leveled Mosul through a ground invasion and large-scale aerial attack in 2016 that was designed to “liberate” the city from ISIS.

President Obama claimed that the U.S. was carrying out the most precise air campaign in history. However, much of Mosul was left in ruins and an estimated 11,000 civilians were killed over a three-month period.

Mosul in ruins. [Source:]

Journalist Azmat Khan wrote about an incident where the U.S. Air Force bombed a civilian home in West Mosul, killing 21 people, including ten children. The target was supposed to have been a chemical weapons production facility, which did not actually exist.

Fitting the norm, most of the aircraft and missiles used to pulverize Mosul were made by Lockheed and Boeing. Their CEOs made millions of dollars, as did Wall Street investment firms, like Vanguard, State Street, and BlackRock, that owned them.

An Iraqi woman, Faiza Al-Araji, told Brad Wolf that the United States and Europe were “the monsters of the world” who “put their fingers everywhere.” They had turned much of Iraq into a “hell on earth” because of a “craving for oil,” and now Iraq has no future, because “countries with no stability do not have a good future.”

  1. I was told this by a reliable source who is a CIA expert.