Lieutenant General Natonski (USMC
Forces Command) was there... He said EVERY civilian kill, every
time, should be investigated -- pretty funny when the Defense
asked him if that went for the 2nd Battle for Fallujah and he
had to say "No" -- he added that all civilians had been asked to
leave so they were "pretty sure" all kills were insurgents.
-- Press release, Thomas More Law Center (read it at the
Folks, the dictionary will tell you that doctrine is
something that is taught; it is a principle or a body of
principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief. Please
take my word for it when I say the United States Marine Corps has
volumes, shelves, and libraries full of documents that establishes
and spell out Marine Corps Doctrine.
On the other hand, the dictionary defines dogma, as a point of
view, an opinion, or tenet put forth as authoritative without
adequate grounds. There is no document, order, or directive that
establishes Marine Corps “dogma” because dogma is an opinion. Oh,
by the way, in the military justice system and most other legal
systems, opinion does not substitute for evidence.
The other day at LtCol Jeff Chessani’s BOI, when General Natonski
stated “every civilian killed, everytime, should be investigated”,
we witnessed the general’s use the political expedient of
switching doctrine for dogma.
Everyone needs to remember that general officers, as a group, are
really an “old boys” club. They never like to say “no” to one
another and they are usually supportive when one of them gets into
political trouble. They even have a special communications system
call P4 (Personal For) that they use to communicate to one
another. I would sometimes think that a general’s P4 carried more
weight than a “Top Secret” message back in my active duty days.
We can see the old boys club at work when General Carpatotto
stated at the beginning of LtCol Chessani’s BOI, that his
“personal” view is investigating every civilian
is the right approach because “that’s the way to protect
Marines”. General Natonski and Carpatotto are using the same
dogmatic phrase; “investigate every civilian death”.
Politics is a tough playing field for a general but it comes with
the rank and the job. General officers are the link between the
civilian politicians (civilian authority) and the military chain
of command. Most Marines recognize that generals have to play in
the political arena. The un-written rule, however, is that general
s never play politics with their Marines. This unwritten rule
exists because general officers are the only buffer between the
politicians and those Marines that peer at the enemy through the
peep sight of their M16A4 Rifle. Generals sometimes forget that
but usually there is a smart and true SgtMajor that brings the
reality back into the general’s opinioned leadership. The reality
is that Marines; those clear eyed, foul mouthed, sweaty grunts we
love and respect, and not generals make the split second decisions
that keep them alive or gets them reported as a KIA to mothers,
wives, children and family.
Unfortunately, it looks like the generals these days are listing
more to their lawyers instead of their SgtMajors.
I know that there is no doctrine or training manual that states
every single civilian death must be investigated. I am also sure
there are standing orders, issued by generals, that all Iraqi
civilian deaths will be investigated. I have heard, second hand,
that a Marine General Officer recently stated that in 2007 over
5000 investigations were conducted by Marines in Anbar province
Iraq. I am also sure that those same orders did not exist when
LtCol Chessani and 3/1 seized Haditha from the enemy in November
Doctrine is based on things like the Laws of War and orders should
conform to doctrine and not to the dogma of politics. The Laws of
War state that civilian deaths can occur provided they happen
under the principle of military necessity. When the enemy uses
civilians as shields, and a Marine kills a civilian used as a
shield, that Marine is protected first under the principle of self
defense and the principle of military necessity. The Laws of War
also state that the person that determines military necessity is
the field commander.
The day in Haditha, when SSgt Wuterich and his squad of Marines
were ambushed, LtCol Chessani was the Haditha field commander. The
call, whether or not the civilian deaths fell under the principle
of military necessity, belonged to LtCol Chessani. Just like it
was General Natonski’s call the he was “pretty sure” that the over
2400 enemy KIA’s reported in the Battle of Fallujah contained no
I think General Natonski should get down on his hands and knees
and give thanks that he did not command 3/1 when it went into
Haditha in 2005. I also think the general should be thankful he is
not subject to the same dogma he is applying to LtCol Jeff
Bob Weimann LtCol, USMC Ret.
Former Commanding Officer, Kilo Company 3/1