The L.A. Times has a grim front-pager today about the human and political fallout from U.S. forces (and private contractors) shooting unlucky Iraqi civilians. Excerpt:

Heavily armed private security contractors, who number in the tens of thousands, also are authorized by the U.S. government to use deadly force to protect themselves.

One contractor who works for the U.S. government and saw a colleague killed in a suicide bombing said it was better to shoot an innocent person than to risk being killed.

"I'd rather be tried by 12 than carried by six," said the contractor, who insisted that he not be identified by name because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The U.S. military says it investigates all shootings by American personnel that result in death. But U.S. Brig. Gen. Don Alston, spokesman for the multinational force in Iraq, said he was unaware of any soldier disciplined for shooting a civilian at a checkpoint or in traffic. Findings are seldom made public.

Whole thing here. A journalist friend of mine who was embedded with the Marines for a long time described to me a few weeks ago how soldiers were given orders to use deadly force against any humans digging trenches on the side of the road at night. This went on for weeks, until they kept noticing that the targets of their fire were usually, in fact, farmers.