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New charges arising from
action in Fallujah!:
Déjà vu all over again
July 1, 2007
Naval Criminal Investigative Service is probing allegations that eight
unarmed Iraqi men were murdered at Fallujah, Iraq in November, 2004.
They allegedly died at the hands of Marines once in the same platoon
as two Marines already under investigation for murdering 24 civilians
in Haditha 18 months ago.
alleged murders were revealed last year by former Corporal Ryan Weemer,
once a Marine rifleman from 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, Third
Battalion, 1st Marines. Weemer fought valiantly at the Hell House
during the Fallujah battle in November 2004 and sustained three
gunshot wounds. He was a fire team leader in the same squad that
accused murderers Stephen B. Tatum and Justin L. Sharratt were
assigned to at Fallujah during 2004 and Haditha in 2005.
lance corporals and their squad leader Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich
stand accused of killing 24 people. Wuterich – the squad leader - did
not fight at Fallujah.
spokesman Ed Buice said in an email from his Washington, D.C.
headquarters that the NCIS "does not comment on ongoing
allegations of murder at Fallujah originally came to light about the
same time in March 2006 that Time Magazine was trumpeting its charges
of murder against the men of 3rd Platoon. The unsettling story was
revealed by Weemer to author Nathaniel R. Helms while he was living
near Saint Louis, Missouri. He told Helms that the killings occurred
during intense combat in Fallujah in November of 2004 when 3rd Platoon
was fighting for its life, Weemer claimed. Helms wrote “My Men Are My
Heroes: The Brad Kasal Story” that details the platoon’s fight at the
legendary Hell House. Weemer was a fire team leader in 3rd Platoon,
according the book.
alleged killing reportedly occurred on November 10 or 11, 2004 along
Phase Line Henry, an imaginary line on a map bisecting the Sunni
stronghold north to south. At the time the platoon was engaged in the
fiercest fight the Marine Corps has been in since the Vietnam War.
Days run together in combat, so do recollections. But Weemer is clear
about this one, he told Helms. During the killings the back of one
man’s head flew off and his brains spilled out. It was ugly, Weemer
said, and never left his mind.
advised the penitent Marine to keep his mouth shut.
former Marine tried to but his story of murder got out anyway. He
revealed it during a polygraph examination for a uniformed Secret
Service job in early 2006. He didn’t intend to, he said. The examiner
asked if he had ever participated in a “wrongful death” during the
isn’t a liar. He is a stand up young man who excelled academically and
athletically at his rural Illinois high school. He just wanted to
guard the White House, the first step toward a career in Federal law
specialized close combat training made him a front runner, he thought.
The question about unlawful killing took him by surprise. The only
thing he could answer was “yes,” he said. Shortly after his polygraph
examination two NCIS investigators showed up at his workplace at a
Starbuck’s coffee shop in Chesterfield, Missouri to question him.
Weemer told them his story. It was very brief and went like this:
The Iraqi civilians allegedly gunned down at Fallujah were captured
while hiding in an abandoned house in close proximity to a recent
firefight, he admitted. It was a common tactic of the insurgents to
fire upon advancing Marines from one position, put down their weapons,
and then run to another position and take up arms secreted there to
resume the fight, he said. At the time the Marine's Rules of
Engagement prevented Marines from shooting unarmed Iraqis observed
fleeing areas where fire was coming down.
It was a good ploy for the insurgents as long as the Marines played by
the rules but even in the beginning that didn’t always happen. Two
days before the incident in question a group of four or five Iraqi men
disappeared in a bright flash when they stopped to rest too close to a
rifle squad from 3rd Platoon instead of running away. They were still
catching their breaths when Kilo’s Marines placed a satchel charge
against the wall of their hidey hole. The ROE is a guide, not a
mandate, one 3/1 Marine adroitly explained.
In this case the eight men were allegedly taken prisoner while
unarmed, Weemer revealed to NCIS investigators. They were of military
age, dressed in so-called "track suits" favored by the insurgents at
Fallujah, and running from a firefight, he claimed. The Iraqi men were
placed under guard by squad members while the fight raged around them.
After a brief time the squad was ordered to move out. The Marine in
charge radioed headquarters for instructions about what to do with the
suspected insurgents. The laconic response - "They’re still alive?" -
came back on the radio.
The leader took it to mean kill the Iraqis, Weemer said. Moments later
the squad was ordered to move on. Guns were aimed, triggers were
pulled, and the Iraqis died. The bodies were left where they lay. Down
the road was a nest of murderers and thugs who ran the torture
chambers and death houses the foreign fighters of Al Qaeda offered as
public services. They had to be taken out. After that fight Marines
found photographs of decapitated corpses, torture rooms, and infernal
devices in Al Qaeda’s House of Pain. It was the same house where
British civilian Kenneth Bigley was decapitated. Inside were pictures
showing local insurgents holding up the 62-year-old civilian’s severed
head as a trophy. Two days later Weemer was shot three times at point
blank range by a lurking foreign fighter and evacuated to Germany.
Before seeking medical help he emptied his pistol into an insurgent’s
chest until his enemy’s chest rig caught fire. Weemer watched him die
in the flames.
lawyers for the defense in the Haditha case are aware of the
investigation. Lt Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani’s attorney Brian Rooney, a
former Marine Staff Judge Advocate and combat veteran at Fallujah,
called it a “red herring.” He opined that the NCIS investigation could
not possibly be brought to courts-martial because of the paucity of
Attorney Jim Culp, one of Sharratt’s civilian lawyers, believes the
whole investigation is nearly valueless. He suggested its only
possible value lay as a tool to discredit potential exculpatory
witnesses from the Fallujah battle expected to be called by the
spokesman Ed Buice declined comment.
alleged shootings had happened a few days later there might not have
been an investigation. Two days after the alleged incident the ROE at
Fallujah was "liberalized" to allow fleeing Iraqis to be killed if
they refused to stop. It was only the beginning. By the end of the
fight the rules for killing insurgents were extremely liberal, Marines
who were there agree. Fallujah gave a whole new meaning to the word,
one of them said.
openly admit killing every military age male they saw at Fallujah.
They used everything in the Marine Corps arsenal to do it; Javelins,
TOWs, red phosphorous, white phosphorus, good ol Ma Deuce, and
super-futuristic thermobaric warheads that ignite the air. Next year
Harrison Ford is reportedly going to star in a movie made from Bing
West’s “No True Glory,” a personal study of the battle West
characterized by the Marine’s aggressiveness.
the Fallujah fight was over Marines fighting there expended the entire
stock of 1,000 SMAW-NE rounds in the Corps’ inventory. When that
wasn’t enough the Marines resorted to smart bombs, dumb bombs and
cluster bombs that turned everything into smoking holes. The ROE
allowed for them because that was the only way the Marines were going
to win without sustaining worse casualties they did. The hard-pressed
Marines actually cheered every time a big bomb went off. There was a
lot of cheering. 3/1 alone claimed more than 1,000 enemy kills in the
it is a secret. It is the way of the war, and the war before it, and
all the wars before that one, anyone who knows combat agrees. Old
Marines from Lebanon, Vietnam, and the wars before can only shrug and
shake their heads at the newest turn of events in political
correctness. The concept of “humane war” is hard to get one’s head
around after being in one, combat veterans say. The young Marines who
fought at Fallujah and Haditha agree. They say it is impossible to
practice restraint unless they wish to be targets waiting to be taken
out by roadside bombs and ambushes.
released by the Pentagon two months ago revealed that the majority of
contemporary Marines apparently agree with the way the Iraqis at
Fallujah were handled. In a survey of U.S. combat troops in Iraq less
than half of Marines responding said they would report a member of
their unit for killing or wounding an innocent civilian. And the
closer warriors were to the pointy end of things the more enthusiastic
they seem to be about killing the perceived enemy without hesitation.
Only 38 percent of Marines polled said noncombatants in Iraq should be
treated with dignity and respect.
was apparently the case at Haditha as well, some in the Marine Corps
believes. The three enlisted Marines are charged with gunning down the
innocent Iraqis there in retaliation for the killing of Miguel "T.J."
Terrazas, a 20-year old lance corporal who served in 3rd Platoon at
Fallujah. With him at Fallujah as well was James Crossan, another
20-year-old Marine grievously wounded in the same ambush. Terrazas was
blown in half by a carefully concealed improvised explosive device
that smashed Crossan to bits.
senior Marine officer familiar with both the Fallujah allegations and
the Marines under suspicion labeled the investigation a "fishing
expedition." All of the Marines being questioned are decorated
warriors who have been repeatedly identified as among the finest
infantrymen in this country.
senior Marine officer opined that NCIS is more interested in
discrediting potential witnesses for the defense in the Haditha case
than determining if multiple murders were committed by 3rd Platoon
Marines at Fallujah. The Haditha case is receiving international
attention as well as a focal point in the Pentagon’s latest campaign
to get American warriors to play by the “new” rules. No doubt the
Fallujah allegations will ignite more of the same reaction. The Iraqis
who instigated both fights intended it to be that way.
is no crime scene, no victims, no bodies, and no witnesses except the
unsubstantiated allegations of one and possibly two Marines. Until
they told NCIS there wasn't even a report of a crime," the officer
said. “Who does this serve?”
investigation took a startling turn in late May when NCIS
investigators contacted Navy Cross recipient Robert J. Mitchell in
Phoenix, Arizona. Up until then the story had remained under wraps.
Mitchell earned the nation's second highest award for bravery while
serving as a squad leader in 3rd Platoon, Kilo, 3/1 at Fallujah saving
Marines – lots of Marines. Appreciative Marines who fought with
Mitchell thinks NCIS took it too far this time. The story got around.
recent occasions NCIS special agents contacted Mitchell at his home,
he acknowledged. The first time two agents visited his home and talked
to his wife while he was away. That really got him angry, he said. The
second time he was contacted Mitchell agreed to meet with NCIS Special
Agent Mark Fox at a Phoenix bookstore after Fox strongly urged him to
cooperate. Fox is the same NCIS Special Agent who interviewed Weemer.
told Mitchell the nature of the allegations and confirmed who made
them. Mitchell said. Mitchell told Fox he first heard about the
alleged killings from Helms while he was writing the book. Mitchell is
a big player in the Hell House story and earned a Navy Cross there.
Helms asked Mitchell whether the allegations were true while he was
being interviewed for the book. Mitchell was unaware of them, he said
at the time.
Mitchell said he agreed to talk to Fox after hearing about threats of
recall to active duty allegedly made by NCIS agents against other
Marines for failing to cooperate. Even though NCIS agents never
threatened him with anything he feared the possibility of recall
anyway after talking to other Marines NCIS has visited. And he was
still angry about them scaring his wife. He expected the worst.
didn't threaten me," Mitchell said. "It wasn’t what I thought. He
(Fox) wanted to know our movements, where we were. Who was with me,
that kind of stuff; it is not what you think. I was not being
investigated. I think they wanted to know who was on the radio."
Fox’s knowledge Mitchell recorded the interview for his own
protection, he said.
spokesman Ed Buice told Helms his agency’s special agents are
authorized to interrogate both military members and civilians when
investigating criminal complaints. Here is his email:
“NCIS is empowered to investigate and arrest both service members and
civilians. Our clients are military---we serve, protect and interact
with the Navy and Marine Corps but, with very few exceptions, NCIS
investigators are not uniformed service members. We do have a small
cadre of investigative personnel who are active duty but primarily
NCIS investigators are sworn civilian federal Special Agents, just
like the FBI, Secret Service, etc. Cases can be tried in both civilian
and military court systems.”
said that is a crock.
3/1 is on trial at all, disenchanted Marines said. Known throughout
the Corps as the Thundering Third, the battalion is one of the most
decorated infantry battalions currently serving in the United States
Marine Corps. Now it is the most disgraced as well. In addition to
being the home of two Navy Cross recipients and a galaxy of Silver and
Bronze Star holders, it is the focus of two separate murder
exhausted from seeing their own pilloried for what they view as
political correctness say the Pentagon’s penchant for prosecuting it
own say the latent, specious NCIS investigation of the alleged
Fallujah killings are another indication the policy makers who
construct the rules want a clean war; a nice, neatly packaged war with
heroes and villains of their own invention. Their hope for a military
solution to a political problem is being painted with the blood and
souls of American warriors.
Military leaders managing the Iraq war say it can’t be won by
indiscriminately killing Iraqis. Every time an Iraqi civilian dies the
enemy gains another family of recruits. General David H. Petraeus made
a point of mentioning both Fallujah and Haditha in a recent speech
asking the Soldiers and Marines fighting under his command to make
restraint a principle element of their war fighting tactics. Senior
Marines attribute the abortive fight for Fallujah in April, 2004 to
Army Lt. Gen David Petraeus insisting on a unilateral cease fire to
give the newly minted Iraqi National Guard he trained a chance to show
their stuff. Petraeus believed minimal force was the way to go. The
Iraqis promptly started shooting at the Marines with their brand new
the investigation has done is reinforce the beliefs of those who think
the timing and tactics of the NCIS in the Fallujah matter is
conveniently related to the Haditha investigation to ensure the
appropriate outcome at the criminal trials for the Haditha Marines.
Worse, the investigation will undoubtedly create even more doubt in
the minds of America’s hard pressed warriors trying to do an almost
impossible job in an atmosphere already poisoned by suspicion. Just
read the responses to the
North County Time’s bare-boned report of last Friday.