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DEFEND OUR MARINES

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FINAL WORDS FROM

A HADITHA MARINE

 

by Major Jeffrey Dinsmore | Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thank you to all those who have stood in our corner throughout this six-year battle.

In early 2006, I was fortunate to come across a reporter who seemed to cover the emerging Haditha investigation with the critical eye of a fair-minded journalist. Phil Brennan of Newsmax was the first to begin exposing the NCIS abuses, the prosecution's suspect methods, and the media malpractice that marked this entire saga. I am grateful for his vanguard coverage during the earliest days of the case.

Over the past five years, David Allender provided an exhaustive evidence vault that was certainly instrumental in the exoneration of LtCol Chessani, Maj McConnell, 1stLt Grayson, LCpl Sharratt, LCpl Tatum, and Capt Stone. Nat Helms and Bob Weimann have tirelessly chronicled the case's progression, accurately identifying leadership failures within our organization, and the deleterious effect that public affairs-driven combat leadership is having on our battlefield effectiveness.

Later that year, as I observed the investigative agenda of NCIS and the resulting evidentiary shortfalls in the government's case, I made the personal decision to no longer cooperate with the government prosecution. I preserved the documentary evidence in my custody, made every legal effort to provide that evidence to the various defense teams, and assisted them in its interpretation. I hope this evidence was instrumental in the exoneration of the six Marines listed above. In hindsight, I would do nothing different.

Today, SSgt Wuterich accepted responsibility for the unlawful activity that he stipulates took place under his leadership. He has admitted guilt in a negligent dereliction of duty that resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians. While the Staff Sergeant's defense team maintained that a plea deal allowed him to move on with his life and spare his family further pain, this admission of guilt is a verdict with an unfortunate but logical conclusion.

For six years, the officers and men of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines firmly believed that no unlawful action took place on November 19th. We believed this based on the available intelligence before, during, and after November 19th, based on the enemy's stated objective of a propaganda victory that would erode our combat effectiveness, and based on our detailed knowledge of the context of November 19th's day-long, high-intensity combat. We accepted challenges to our integrity, accusations of a unit cover-up, and institutional condemnation by our Corps. Men like LtCol Chessani and 1stLt Grayson refused numerous plea offers from the government, including letters of reprimand with no punishment whatsoever. With SSgt Wuterich's admission of guilt, however, we must accept that a cover-up took place, even if unwittingly. With his admission of guilt, we must accept that some unlawful action was committed by a member of SSgt Wuterich's squad.

Today the judge handed down the maximum possible sentence. While a portion of that sentence was restricted by the terms of the plea agreement, it is right and just that Frank Wuterich no longer be a Staff Non-commissioned Officer in the Marine Corps. I wish Frank the best in his future endeavors, and empathize with his difficult personal decision to accept responsibility for the unlawful actions committed by one or more members of his squad. But any Marine who is guilty of negligence and dereliction with results on the scale of November 19th, 2005 cannot lead Marines. Ever again.

Unfortunately, the long Haditha case, and its result, have awarded the enemy one of their greatest campaign victories. The country's and Corps' leadership that expressed outrage at the "Haditha Massacre" have been vindicated. The "rush to judgment" has been proven correct. Al Qaeda in Iraq achieved their stated objective of eroding our will to fight. They successfully used the American media to infiltrate American public opinion, create outrage that reached the halls of Congress, erode our leadership's resolve, and change the way we fight. Al Qaeda effected more changes in our combat training and Rules of Engagement than if they had been on the staff at Marine Corps Combat Development Command. Sadly, they may have also produced young warfighters who hesitate at the point of decision, for fear their leadership will immediately condemn their actions in the public square.

Despite this result, I know that you who have supported these Marines will continue to do so. As we continue to send young Marines to the battlefield and expect increasingly superhuman powers of restraint and judgment, it is more critical than ever that they have vigilant defenders here at home.


Major Jeffrey Dinsmore, USMC
Camp Pendleton, California
24 January, 2012

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