Lieutenant General Michael Moseley told journalists at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada that air commanders were required to seek Donald Rumsfeld’s permission before launching strikes thought likely to kill more than 30 civilians.

Of the 50 such air-strikes sent to Rumsfeld for approval, all were accepted.

Moseley also revealed attacks on Iraq began before the declaration of war.

From July 2002 onwards, 606 bombs were dropped on 391 targets as part of a plan called Southern Focus before the US government confirmed its intention to invade in March 2003.

Sarhan among the first to sue the
US-led occupation administration
for damages

These pre-war attacks were justified as reactions to Iraqi violations of a no-fly zone in southern Iraq, according to the Lieutenant General.

Once the invasion began, over 20,000 further strikes were made in three weeks.

Shepherd sues Rumsfeld

Abd Allah Sarhan attended court on Sunday expecting to begin his legal action against Rumsfeld and retired general Tommy Franks, who planned the US-led invasion of Iraq.

But no representatives for Rumsfeld or Franks showed up at the court room.

An attack on 4 April resulted in the death of 17 members of the same family as well as their 200 sheep.

The shepherd had relocated his family to the desert on the advice of pamphlets dropped by US planes recommending them leave their home. But on following the advice, most of his family were destroyed.

I would have liked to have died with them.”

Abd Allah Sarhan,
Iraqi shepherd

Sarhan told journalists of his hope that “the law runs its course and the pilot who bombed our tent is brought to justice and punished”.

The shepherd added: “I would have liked to have died with them.”

Judge Sami Kamal Idan postponed the hearing to 10 August to give time for the occupation administration to provide representatives.

Defence lawyers Arif Mukhaibir al-Dulaimi and Rabah Madhi al-Aluani both expressed their disappointment at the absence. Al-Aluani commented that no one is above the law and that justice must be seen to be done.

“The Iraqis paid dearly for this war during which the United States used excessive force against the Iraqi people. And those that are responsible for that will have to take responsibility of their actions”, added al-Dulaimi.