United States air force kills five Syrian little girls, other civilians


This grandfather cries at the graves of his five grandchildren killed by international coalition air strikes on Atmeh, Syria

From Middle East Eye:

Five sisters among 8 civilians killed in US-led strike on Syrian village

Turkey denies its airbase was used for strike on an arms depot in the village of Atmeh, killing five sisters between the ages of 4 and 10

Wednesday 12 August 2015 16:34 UTC

At least 18 people, including several children, were reportedly killed by a US-led coalition airstrike in the northern Syrian village of Atmeh on Tuesday.

The target of the strike was a weapons depot belonging to the Jaish al-Sunna group, which is part of a rebel alliance that also includes the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.

The Observatory’s Rami Abdul Rahman initially said that the strikes killed 10 members of Jaish al-Sunna, in addition to a child. He later told AFP that a total of 18 people were killed.

“Eight of them were civilians, including five children and two women,” he said.

Atmeh is close to a large refugee camp and Abdul Rahman said residential buildings were near the target.

Aid workers on the ground took to social media to say that in addition to five children killed by the strike, four more were believed to be buried under rubble.

One aid worker wrote on Facebook that he had helped a man pull his wife and daughter alive out of the rubble.

“I was amazed that people could come out of that wreckage alive. After that, the other two children were already dead. Four more are still under the ground,” he said.

Hadi al-Abdullah, a Syrian journalist on the ground, interviewed Abu Bishr, the technical supervisor of the depot that was targeted who said six missiles hit the location after sunset.

The five children killed in the attack – Noor, Asia, Aminah, Haya and Fatima Omari – are sisters, aged between 4 and 10 years. Their mother has been hospitalised for her injuries. …

[Local] Idlibi said most of the local anger was directed at Ankara, which has started to allow US warplanes targeting the Islamic State militant group to use the Incirlik air base in southeast Turkey.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has denied reports that US military planes took off from Incirlik for the strike on Atmeh.

“No manned and unmanned aircrafts using the Incirlik Air Base participated in yesterday’s [Tuesday] air operation carried out by the coalition forces,” said the ministry.

It rejected as “misleading” and “evil-minded” reports in Turkish media that said aircraft returning from the attack flew towards Turkey.

Ahead of the Atmeh strike, the US had claimed that only two civilians have been killed by US-led coalition airstrikes against IS in Iraq and Syria.

But a report released earlier this month by Airwars, a team of independent journalists, found that more than 450 civilians were killed in the air campaign.

United States Pentagon manual justifies war crimes and censorship


This video about the USA says about itself:

‘Unprivileged belligerents’: Pentagon reclassifies war zone journalists

23 June 2015

The Pentagon’s ‘The Department of Defense Law of War Manual,’ which is the explicit rules of engagement for the Pentagon, is garnering outrage from the media because it appears that the manual allows journalists to be defined as enemy combatants. Professor Chris Chambers talks to Anya Parampil about what this will mean for journalists in the field.

See also here.

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

Pentagon manual justifies war crimes and press censorship

11 August 2015

The lead editorial Monday in the New York Times has brought to the attention of the general public the Pentagon’s issuance of a major new document defining rules of conduct on the battlefield for US military personnel and their commanders.

The Law of War Manual, a massive 1,165-page document, was published in June, but was initially discussed exclusively in blogs specializing in military law and security policy.

The major US newspapers and television networks, which have full-time Pentagon correspondents and regularly review Pentagon press releases, chose to say nothing about the Law of War Manual, for reasons that become obvious when the content of the document is explored. Nor did they comment initially on the manual’s provisions for journalists until the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement July 31 under the headline, “In times of war, Pentagon reserves right to treat journalists like spies.”

The CPJ statement noted the rising number of journalists imprisoned or killed while covering the actions of armed groups in Ukraine, the Middle East and Africa. It attacked the Pentagon document for justifying the treatment of journalists as belligerents or outright spies, who may be detained, imprisoned or even killed at the discretion of battlefield commanders, as well as endorsing blanket military censorship of press reporting.

The CPJ declared, “The Obama administration’s Defense Department appears to have taken the ill-defined practices begun under the Bush administration during the War on Terror and codified them to formally govern the way US military forces treat journalists covering conflicts.”

The continuity between administrations is underscored by the identity of the Law of War Manual’s principal author, Pentagon General Counsel Stephen W. Preston. Before moving to the Department of Defense, Preston was general counsel of the CIA from 2009 to 2012, the period when the agency was ferociously resisting a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into torture at CIA secret “black site” prisons under the Bush administration.

The Times editorial complains about the guidelines for treatment of journalists and pleads with the White House to take action to force their immediate repeal. At the same time, it notes that a spokesman for the National Security Council refused even to say whether the White House had signed off on the manual.

The Times objects to the manual’s claim that “Reporting on military operations can be very similar to collecting intelligence or even spying,” and its insistence that journalists must “act openly and with the permission of relevant authorities,” a provision that would make impossible virtually any kind of war reporting other than the state propaganda provided by the notorious “embedded journalists” of the 2003 Iraq invasion.

But the editors give no explanation why the news pages of the Times have never mentioned the Law of War Manual, or why their concern is limited to the two pages of the manual that apply to journalists and not to the bulk of the document, which amounts to a green light for military atrocities including mass killings.

The World Socialist Web Site will examine the 1,165-page Pentagon document more fully in the coming days, but certain preliminary points can be made. The Law of War Manual:

* Declares legitimate the use of nuclear weapons, stating, “There is no general prohibition in treaty or customary international law on the use of nuclear weapons.” Nor is the use of nuclear weapons considered “inherently disproportionate,” even if the target is a military force that does not possess nuclear weapons.

* Authorizes the use of incendiary weapons such as napalm, herbicides (such as Agent Orange in Vietnam), laser weapons and riot control agents (tear gas, pepper spray, etc.), as well as depleted uranium munitions.

* Authorizes cluster munitions, mines and booby-traps, noting that “the United States is not a Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.”

* Authorizes the use of exploding (hollow-point) bullets, stating that the United States government was not a party to the 1868 St. Petersburg declaration banning their use or the 1899 Declaration on Expanding Bullets.

* Justifies drone missile attacks by both the Pentagon and intelligence agencies such as the CIA, declaring flatly, “There is no prohibition in the law of war on the use of remotely piloted aircraft…”

* Declares that when human rights treaties and the laws of war come into conflict, “these apparent conflicts may be resolved by the principle that the law of war… is the controlling body of law with regard to the conduct of hostilities.”

As pointed out in discussions in specialist journals, the new Law of War Manual redefines the principles set out in the most comprehensive previous such document, issued by the Pentagon in 1956, by declaring that “the main purposes of the law of war are: protecting combatants, noncombatants, and civilians from unnecessary suffering.”

The previous document did not include civilians in the concept of “unnecessary suffering,” not because it permitted greater violence against civilians, but because it assumed that any such violence was prohibited, and that any deliberate targeting of civilians was illegal and a war crime.

The new document seeks to distinguish between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” acts of military violence against civilian targets, using the criterion of military necessity. Thus, acts of mass slaughter of civilians could be justified if sufficient military advantages were gained by the operations.

It is no surprise that the New York Times and the entire American media have been silent on the issuance of the Law of War Manual. They are following orders to conceal from the American people, and from the world’s population, the Pentagon’s preparations for new and more massive war crimes, along with the destruction of democratic rights spelled out in the US Constitution.

The Times separates the Pentagon’s rejection of the First Amendment guarantee of press freedom from the eruption of American militarism, which it supports. In fact, the new manual demonstrates the incompatibility of militarism and democracy. The struggle against imperialist war is inseparable from the struggle against dictatorship. They both require the development of an international struggle of the working class against capitalism.

United States ‘anti-ISIS’ bombs kill Syrian, Iraqi civilians


This 2009 video is called Iraq War: War Victims, Civilian Casualties, collateral damage.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Hundreds of civilians killed in US-led air strikes on Isis targets – report

Airwars project details ‘credible reports’ of at least 459 non-combatant deaths, including 100 children, in 52 air strikes

Alice Ross

Monday 3 August 2015 12.03 BST

The air campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has killed more than 450 civilians, according to a new report, even though the US-led coalition has so far acknowledged just two non-combatant deaths.

More than 5,700 air strikes have been launched in the campaign, which nears its first anniversary this Saturday, with its impact on civilians largely unknown.

Now Airwars, a project by a team of independent journalists, is publishing details of 52 strikes with what it believes are credible reports of at least 459 non-combatant deaths, including those of more than 100 children.

It says there is a “worrying gulf between public and coalition positions” on the campaign’s toll on civilians.

To date the US Central Command (Centcom), the lead force in the campaign, has published one official investigation – a report in May that found two children were killed in a November 2014 strike in Syria.

The coalition’s lead commander, Lt Gen John Hesterman, has called the campaign “the most precise and disciplined in the history of aerial warfare”.

But Airwars project leader Chris Woods told the Guardian: “The emphasis on precision in our view hasn’t been borne out by facts on the ground.”

Since May, Centcom has conducted investigations into three further strikes, which found claims of civilian deaths were “unfounded”.

One of the attacks investigated was on Fadhiliya, Iraq, on 4 April. When the Guardian investigated this strike in May, witnesses and local politicians said a family of five had died, including a pregnant woman and an eight-year-old girl.

Centcom told Airwars it would only publish investigations with a “preponderance of evidence” of civilian deaths. It is understood to be examining six further incidents.

Sahr Muhamadally, from the Center for Civilians in Conflict, said: “All allegations of civilian harm, including from open sources, should be investigated by the coalition and processes should be in place to acknowledge and assist those harmed.”

However, over six months, Airwars examined 118 air strikes and identified 52 that Woods said “warrant urgent investigation”. Airwars believes there are strong indications of civilian deaths, according to multiple, reliable sources, from these attacks.

Airwars used international and local news reports in Arabic and English, social media postings including photos and videos, and the findings of monitoring groups on the ground. They cross-referenced these with coalition military reports. …

But in many cases civilian deaths are well-documented. In some attacks, multiple sources suggest that scores of civilians may have been killed.

The bloodiest was a 3 June air strike on a suspected IED [improvised explosive device] factory and storage facility in Hawija, Iraq. Videos and photos posted online after the bombing show a landscape of destroyed buildings and mangled metal. Local people told al-Jazeera and Reuters that over 70 civilians were killed.

In a press briefing shortly after the strike, Hesterman said the coalition used a “fairly small weapon on a known IED building in an industrial area”, but that this had hit a “massive amount of Daesh [Isis] high explosives”.

He added: “If there are unintended injuries, that responsibility rests squarely on Daesh.”

Centcom has since announced a formal investigation after receiving “credible” evidence of civilian deaths.

In Syria, the worst incidents include a 28 December air strike on an Isis facility in Al Bab that was being used as a temporary prison. Reports gathered by Airwars found that at least 58 prisoners – many of whom were being held for petty infractions of Isis’ rules, such as buying cigarettes – were killed. Local activists claimed that the use of the building as a prison was well known.

The coalition did not acknowledge the attack for nearly two weeks, after which it conceded, following repeated questions by news agency McClatchy, that it had conducted the strike. …

The UK is the second-most active participant in the coalition, having launched almost 250 strikes in Iraq.

As Britain’s MPs prepare to vote this autumn on expanding UK air strikes from Iraq to Syria, Labour MP Tom Watson called for thorough official investigations into claims of civilian deaths to allow an “informed debate” about the campaign. He added: “The UK should be leading in the tracking, reporting of and response to allegations of civilian casualties.”

Former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell told the Guardian he was in favour of expanding British strikes into Syria. “But if it’s our common objective to win hearts and minds and split off the terrorist thugs from the related population, then we have to acknowledge that killing innocent civilians acts as a significant recruiting sergeant for the terrorists,” he said.

Woods, from Airwars, said the US-led campaign’s focus on urban areas made civilian deaths unavoidable, despite “significant efforts” to avoid them. “What we are seeing in Iraq and Syria is the coalition is bombing where Isis is, and that’s in the cities … Unsurprisingly, that’s where we are tracking the highest number of civilian casualties.” The Isis stronghold of Mosul, Iraq, alone accounts for 40% of all civilian casualty reports in Airwars’ data.

The sheer pace of the strikes adds to the risk to civilians. Raines said that pre-planned missions made up approximately 10% of strikes.

The vast majority are on “emerging targets”. In these strikes the targeting process takes “anywhere from minutes to hours depending on collateral damage concerns, while maintaining careful consideration for each target to ensure we do our best to minimise civilian casualties and collateral damage,” Raines said. …

But Woods said Airwars’ findings suggest that the coalition’s narrative of virtually no civilian casualties may not be true. “You can’t have an air war of this intensity without civilians getting killed or injured, but they need to be more transparent,” he said.

See also here. And here.

President Barack Obama has authorized US air strikes to defend a small band of Pentagon-trained mercenaries inside Syria, including against any potential attack by Syrian government forces. The blanket permission for employing US air power, ostensibly in support of less than 60 “rebels” who have been trained, armed and paid by the US military supposedly to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), paves the way for a dramatic escalation of the war for regime change against the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad: here.

United States General Wesley Clark attacks civil liberties


This video is called The Pinochet File: How U.S. Politicians, Banks and Corporations Aided Chilean Coup, Dictatorship.

By Thomas Gaist in the USA:

General Wesley Clark calls for putting “disloyal” Americans in internment camps

21 July 2015

Retired US Army General Wesley Clark called for the internment of persons deemed “disloyal” to the United States government in an interview with MSNBC last Friday.

Warning of the threat posed by “lone wolf” attacks similar to last week’s mass shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Clark advocated stepped-up surveillance of US communities and pre-emptive detention of persons suspected of ideological or political opposition to US government policies.

“We have got to identify the people who are most likely to be radicalized. We’ve got to cut this off at the beginning,” Clark said.

“On a national policy level, we need to look at what self-radicalization means, because we are at war with this group of terrorists,” the former top military commander added. “They do have an ideology. In World War II, if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, we didn’t say that was freedom of speech, we put him in a camp, they were prisoners of war.”

He continued: “If these people are radicalized and they don’t support the United States and they are disloyal to the United States, as a matter of principle, fine. It’s their right, and it’s our right and obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict.

“And I think we’re going to have to increasingly get tough on this, not only in the United States, but our allied nations like Britain, Germany and France are going to have to look at their domestic law procedures.”

Clark’s recommendations, proclaimed openly on national television, amount to a recipe for mass detention of political opponents of the American state.

His assertion of the “right and obligation” of the US government to conduct round-ups and mass internment operations against political opposition, specifically citing as his model the methods employed against ethnic Germans and Japanese during the Second World War, provides a chilling insight into the thinking of powerful sections of the US ruling establishment.

Clark’s insistence, moreover, that such measures remain in force “for the duration” of Washington’s temporally and geographically limitless “global war on terrorism” amounts to advocacy of the permanent imprisonment of individuals deemed guilty of no actual crime, but merely being “radicalized” and “disloyal.”

These are not the ravings of some television talking head or military crackpot. Coming from a figure of Clark’s pedigree, such comments necessarily reflect views widely discussed within the US state.

As supreme commander of NATO, Clark held one of the most senior and politically influential posts in the US military. While serving as Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), Clark oversaw the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, Operation Allied Force, beginning in March 1999.

In both the 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns, Clark was considered among the Democratic Party’s leading contenders. He would likely have gained a senior position in the Obama administration had he not backed Obama’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton after dropping out of the 2008 primary campaign.

His role as a high-profile supporter of Hilary Clinton’s latest presidential bid suggests, however, that Clark’s political ambitions have only been placed on hold. Under a Clinton presidency, Clark could well get the chance to implement his proposals for mass “segregation” of dissidents.

Preparations for the sort of measures advocated by General Clark are clearly well advanced.

In recent weeks, as videos shot in locations from Arizona to New York show, US military units have conducted training exercises, practicing military internment and crowd control techniques at mock internment camps, with military personnel posing as detainees.

Clark’s statements, made last Friday on the major cable news outlet MSNBC, have been met with total silence from the corporate-controlled media, failing to receive even a passing reference in the pages of the New York Times, Washington Post, or the Wall Street Journal.

This silence in the face of an open call for internment of domestic political opponents, issued by one of the country’s leading political generals, underscores the fact that the entire political and media establishment has decisively broken with centuries-old bourgeois democratic norms. The media silence will no doubt serve to encourage forces within the US military and intelligence apparatus to intensify the drive toward dictatorship.

For decades, the military and intelligence bureaucracies have developed the administrative, infrastructural and police components of an embryonic totalitarian state. Congressional hearings in 1987 on the Iran-Contra covert operations conducted by the Reagan administration exposed the existence of a plan developed by the Pentagon, codenamed Rex 84, to detain hundreds of thousands of immigrants and political dissidents and imprison them in militarized prison camps.

One Rex 84 sub-component, Operation Cable Splicer, envisioned the replacement of existing bourgeois political institutions by a shadow dictatorship controlled by a select group of some 100 executive branch cadre.

In the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, the Bush administration staged a dry run of updated Continuity of Government (COG) plans for a “shadow government, deploying dozens of pre-selected officials to a network of secret command-and-control bunkers across America,” the Washington Post reported in March of 2002.

The George W. Bush administration made further preparations for new prison camps in 2006, signing a $400 million contract with KBR to build up the Department of Homeland Security’s “detention and processing capabilities.”

The Obama administration has expanded the authoritarian legal and policy framework developed under previous administrations. Since taking office, Obama has issued annual decrees renewing the state of emergency declared by the Bush administration after 9/11 and further entrenching emergency powers granted to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

In a series of annual National Defense Authorization Acts, the Obama administration has codified the anti-democratic measures implemented under Bush, asserting unlimited power to indefinitely detain or kill individuals without trial.

The preparations for mass detention are part of broader efforts to tighten the grip of the ruling elite over society, using the pretext of an unending “national emergency.” Plans for dictatorial rule have found concrete expression in the imposition of de facto martial law in Boston following the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013 and last year in Ferguson, Missouri following the outbreak of protests against the police murder of Michael Brown.

In March of 2012, President Obama issued an executive order, “National Defense Resources Preparedness,” that empowered the DHS to assume dictatorial control over the US economy, including any and all actions considered “necessary to ensure the availability of adequate resources and production capability, including services and critical technology, for national defense requirements.”

Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved legislation granting the US government new powers to demand regular reporting from social media platforms about individuals suspected of ties to “terrorist activity.”

Wesley Clark’s internment proposal: The specter of military dictatorship: here.

Britain: TORY Prime Minister Cameron yesterday stepped up his war against ‘extremism in all its forms’ both ‘violent and non-violent’, announcing measures to shut down organisations, facilities and even entire TV stations that do not share his system of ‘British values’: here.

United States military helicopters kill their Afghan allies


This video from the USA says about itself:

Malalai Joya Speaks at Anti-War Rally, Dolores Park, San Francisco, CA (10 April 2011)

12 April 2011

Malalai Joya, Afghan feminist (and youngest person ever elected to the Afghan parliament), speaks at the rally. Her status as a feminist/human rights activist and as an outspoken critic of the rampant corruption in the Afghan government (and its collusion with shady US interests) has gotten her suspended from Parliament and made her a target for death back home in Afghanistan–she lives underground there. She’s also been a fierce opponent and critic of Obama and his escalation of US war in Afghanistan since his inauguration, and ~coincidentally~, the US State Dept recently tried to refuse her entry into the US for a book/speaking tour until public outcry made them cave in.

Apologies in advance as the first half-minute or so of Joya’s comments are not recorded.

From the BBC:

Afghan troops ‘killed by US friendly fire‘ in Logar

18 minutes ago

At least eight Afghan soldiers have been killed in a US air strike on an army checkpoint in Logar province, south of Kabul, Afghan officials say.

They say two US helicopters attacked the checkpoint in broad daylight on Monday. Several troops were injured.

The army commander in the area told the BBC that the checkpoint was clearly flying an Afghan flag.

Logar is an unsettled area where much of the countryside is in the hands of the Taliban.

There is much confusion over the morning incident in the Baraki Barak district, says the BBC’s David Loyn in Kabul.

Afghan reinforcements deployed to the area also came under fire, a defence ministry statement said.

A spokesman for international forces said they were aware of an incident involving US forces and were investigating.

Analysis: BBC’s David Loyn in Kabul

There are still more than 13,000 international troops in Afghanistan – about half of them American. And more have remained for longer than US President Barack Obama originally ordered, after he acceded to military requests to slow down the withdrawal.

Since the Nato combat mission was wound up at the end of 2014, their principal mission is to “train, advise and assist” Afghan forces.

Most of the advice is at ministerial level and the top ranks of the armed forces, improving logistics and co-ordination.

The only active international fighting units are assisting Afghan special forces, and that is the mission that the helicopters believed to have been involved in the attack on Logar would have been engaged in.

There are air strikes, mostly from unmanned drones, somewhere in the country, every day.

Statistics recently emerged showing that more than 100 bombs were dropped in June – more than twice as many as any other month since combat operations ended.

Civilian and military deaths in coalition air strikes have been a contentious issue in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion of the country in 2001. They have provoked anger from the government and from many Afghan people.

‘Friendly fire’ from US helicopters kills 10 Afghan soldiers in Logar: here.

Afghan officials say 14 soldiers killed in US air strike: here.

Afghanistan: sharp rise in women and children casualties in first half of 2015. UN reveals 1,591 civilians killed and 3,329 wounded as war enters its 14th year, as fighting in residential areas and greater role of militias contribute to increase: here.

No warlords need apply — a call for credible peacemaking in Afghanistan: here.

US soldiers’ dead bodies dumped at landfill


The landfill where US soldiers' dead bodies were dumped

10 November 2011: The (Conservative) Daily Mail from England reports that the United States Air Force dumped body parts of soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in a landfill near Dover Air Force base.

UPDATE: the landfill is in Virginia, not in Delaware. The morturary in this affair is in Delaware.

US Air Force dumped more soldiers’ dead bodies at landfill


King George County landfill

From the Washington Post in the USA:

Air Force dumped ashes of more troops’ remains in Va. landfill than acknowledged

By Craig Whitlock and Mary Pat Flaherty, Thursday, December 8 2011, 2:01 AM

The Air Force dumped the incinerated partial remains of at least 274 American troops in a Virginia landfill, far more than the military had acknowledged, before halting the secretive practice three years ago, records show.

The landfill dumping was concealed from families who had authorized the military to dispose of the remains in a dignified and respectful manner, Air Force officials said. There are no plans, they said, to alert those families now.

The Air Force had maintained that it could not estimate how many troops might have had their remains sent to a landfill. The practice was revealed last month by The Washington Post, which was able to document a single case of a soldier whose partial remains were sent to the King George County landfill in Virginia. The new data, for the first time, show the scope of what has become an embarrassing episode for vaunted Dover Air Base, the main port of entry for America’s war dead.

The landfill disposals were never formally authorized under military policies or regulations. They also were not disclosed to senior Pentagon officials who conducted a high-level review of cremation policies at the Dover mortuary in 2008, records show.

Air Force and Pentagon officials said last month that determining how many remains went to the landfill would require searching through the records of more than 6,300 troops whose remains have passed through the mortuary since 2001.

“It would require a massive effort and time to recall records and research individually,” Jo Ann Rooney, the Pentagon’s acting undersecretary for personnel, wrote in a Nov. 22 letter to Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.).

Holt, who has pressed the Pentagon for answers on behalf of a constituent whose husband was killed in Iraq, accused the Air Force and Defense Department of hiding the truth.

“What the hell?” Holt said in a phone interview. “We spent millions, tens of millions, to find any trace of soldiers killed, and they’re concerned about a ‘massive’ effort to go back and pull out the files and find out how many soldiers were disrespected this way?” He added: “They just don’t want to ask questions or look very hard.”

Senior Air Force leaders said there was no intent to deceive. “Absolutely not,” said Lt. Gen. Darrell D. Jones, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for personnel.

This week, after The Post pressed for information contained in the Dover mortuary’s electronic database, the Air Force produced a tally based on those records. It showed that 976 fragments from 274 military personnel were cremated, incinerated and taken to the landfill between 2004 and 2008.

An additional group of 1,762 unidentified remains were collected from the battlefield and disposed of in the same manner, the Air Force said. Those fragments could not undergo DNA testing because they had been badly burned or damaged in explosions. The total number of incinerated fragments dumped in the landfill exceeded 2,700.

A separate federal investigation of the mortuary last month, prompted by whistleblower complaints, uncovered “gross mismanagement” and documented how body parts recovered from bomb blasts stacked up in the morgue’s coolers for months or years before they were identified and disposed of.

The problems also transpired at a time when the mortuary was shielded from public scrutiny. News coverage of the return of fallen troops to Dover was banned by President George H.W. Bush in 1991 before the first Persian Gulf War. The ban remained until April 2009, when the Obama administration lifted it.

The Air Force said it first cremated the remains and then included those ashes in larger loads of mortuary medical waste that were burned in an incinerator and taken to a landfill. Incinerating medical waste is a common disposal practice but including cremated human ashes is not, according to funeral home directors, regulators and waste haulers.

Air Force officials said they do not know when the landfill disposals began. They said their first record of it is Feb. 23, 2004. The mortuary database became operational in late 2003.

The Air Force said mortuary leaders decided to end the practice in May 2008 because “there was a better way to do it,” Jones said. The military now cremates unclaimed and unidentified body parts and buries the ashes at sea.

Jones said the Air Force did not need to inform relatives of troops whose remains ended up in the landfill because they had signed forms stipulating that they did not wish to be notified if additional remains were identified. The forms authorized the military to make “appropriate disposition” of those subsequent remains.

Asked if the landfill was a dignified final resting place, Jones said: “The way we’re doing it today is much better.”

Gari-Lynn Smith, the widow of an Army sergeant killed in Iraq, said she received an e-mail in July from Trevor Dean, the mortuary director, saying that incinerated remains had been taken to landfills at least since he began working at Dover in 1996. Dean is one of the officials facing discipline for his role in the reported mismanagement at the mortuary.

Smith’s husband, Sgt. 1st Class Scott R. Smith, a member of a bomb-disposal unit, was killed on July 17, 2006. In 2007, she began asking the military what happened to some of his remains that were identified after his funeral.

After four years of letters, phone calls and records requests, she received a letter from the mortuary in April stating that the military cremated and incinerated those partial remains and disposed of them in the King George landfill.

“I hope this information brings some comfort to you during your time of loss,” read the letter, signed by Dean.

Smith was infuriated. “They have known that they were doing something disgusting, and they were doing everything they could to keep it from us,” she said in a phone interview.

In May 2008, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered a detailed review of policies at Dover after an Army officer complained that the mortuary had cremated a fallen comrade at a nearby funeral home that also cremated pets in a separate chamber.

The review team ordered changes, emphasizing the need to ensure the highest levels of dignity and honor.

The Pentagon would not release the report, which was overseen by David Chu, who was undersecretary of defense for personnel. A copy obtained by The Post, however, shows that the landfill disposal practice was never reviewed or mentioned. Chu, now president of the Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria, declined to comment.

Private contractors hired by the Air Force to handle the remains’ incineration and disposal of the residue said they were unaware that they were transporting the ashes of dead troops. Records show that the Air Force hired the contractors to dispose of medical waste and did not specify that cremated body parts were included.

MedTrace Inc. of North East, Md., had Air Force disposal contracts between 2004 and 2007, records show. Don Holland, a manager for the company, said his employees picked up boxes of sealed containers from the Dover mortuary.

“They were certified as medical waste that had been properly treated — that’s it,” Holland said. “We don’t go looking at what’s in there. It’s sealed.”

MedTrace took the items to an incinerator in Baltimore, according to state records in Delaware, where the mortuary is located. Holland declined to discuss the incineration and which landfill his company used.

Lisa Kardell, a spokeswoman for Waste Management, which operates the King George landfill, said the firm has no record of a contract with MedTrace for the years 2003 through 2008.

She said that Air Force officials have not returned calls over the past two weeks from her company’s attorneys, asking which haulers would have been handling the Dover materials and the disposition of the ashes.

“Obviously, we would be opposed to taking cremated remains of our servicemen and servicewomen and putting them in our landfill,” Kardell said. “But it sounds like a lot of us were pulled in unknowingly to this unfortunate situation with the Air Force,” she added.

“It’s a moral thing,” said Jeff Jenkins, the manager of the King George landfill. “Someone killed overseas fighting for our country, I wouldn’t want them buried — any part of them — in the landfill.”

See also here. And here.