3 June 2007
Off Your Duff and Fight Back
continues to have a field day as the star of the Haditha circus. The
story has been so distorted that it’s difficult to keep facts straight
even as the hearings unfold.
Where are the Public Affairs Officers? Has anyone in the media been reminded that the
Article 32 hearings are an investigation into the deaths of 24 Iraqis,
not "24 innocent civilians" as the media says in every opening of
Fact is that the accused have no further life as Marines--even if
exonerated. Thanks to the Corps leadership's disdain for public
opinion (except when it involves their own careers), the accused will
be hounded forever in civilian life as well.
The media slept through this part of the Capt. Stone hearing, but two
officers testified that eight insurgents were among the 24 dead that
morning. This was established through human intelligence and
Tomorrow in the Lt. Col. Chessani hearing, there will be further
testimony about this evidence. The testimony
will be closed to the media because the information is classified.
Naturally, no one (aside from the New York Times) wants insurgents to
know how we know who they are.
But the evidence, exculpatory as it will be, will never reach the
general public in any form.
Perhaps instead of dragging enlisted
men to sensitivity training,
maybe the Corps
should take a look at redefining the roles of its Public Affairs
Officers. They have signally failed throughout the entire Haditha
Back in May 2006,
when Congressman Murtha first claimed that there was no firefight in
Haditha, that Marines were cold blooded killers,
where were the PAOs to counter the slander of the Kilo Company
ironic thing is that it was a PAO who brought this entire nightmare
down on the heads of the Haditha Marines in the first place.
That PAO is Major
Jeffrey Pool (a captain at the time of the Haditha incident). He has
not been charged and, so far, has not testified in the hearings.
Nor has Pool ever
spoken out about his role in causing accusations of a massacre and
cover-up to be leveled against Marines of Kilo Company. Perhaps he’s under orders. After
all, he’s in charge of tracking media personnel in Iraq. Want to embed
with Marines? Talk to Major Pool. If his veracity was called into
question, would any of his press statements be trusted?
Whatever the reason, his lack of mea culpa handed the enemies of our
Corps and our nation the opening they needed.
So much nonsense
has been said about Haditha that it’s worth
laying out the basic facts. On December 21, 2006, the day
charges were announced, Colonel Stewart
Navarre (chief of staff, Marine Corps Installations West) made the
statement about what did, and did not happen, in Haditha:
On the morning of
19 November 2005, a four vehicle convoy of Marines from Kilo Company,
3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division was moving
through Haditha when it was ambushed by insurgents employing an
improvised explosive device and small arms fire.
One Marine was
killed and two were wounded by the explosion. Over the next several
hours, 24 Iraqi men, women and children died in the vicinity of the
On 20 November
2005, 2nd Marine Division issued a press release stating that 15 Iraqi
civilians were killed in an IED explosion, and Marines and Iraqi Army
soldiers killed eight insurgents in a follow-on fire-fight.
We now know
with certainty the press release was incorrect, and that none of the
civilians were killed by the IED explosion.
statement quietly refuted Murtha’s charge about “no firefight”. And the
colonel clearly stated that the press release was incorrect.
media interpreted this statement to mean that SSgt. Wuterich and his
squad, and the officers of Kilo Company were liars.
There was no
further statement from the Corps about the press release. And no one
asked who created
it and how an erroneous statement was released. But Major Pool did
speak to investigators on General Eldon Bargewell’s team. The
Bargewell Report is a classified document, which, means of course,
it’s been leaked to the press.
New York Times ran
a story about the Bargewell
and buried in the article was this:
Jeffrey Pool, told
Bargewell's investigators that he was given reports from battalion
commanders that accurately described the Marines' killing of
civilians, said lawyers who read the report. But Pool said he
issued a news release blaming the insurgents for the deaths because he
believed that they were ultimately the result of the roadside bombing
of the convoy that led the marines to strike back, the lawyers said.
"The way I saw it
was this," Pool told two colonels questioning him, according to a
lawyer who read the report. "A bomb blast went off, or was initiated,
that is what started, that is the reason they're getting this, is a
bomb blew up, killed people. We killed people back and that's the
So a PAO was
given a report that said 15 civilians were killed in the vicinity of
an IED and he wrote “by” an IED. It was that
preposition that jumped out at Time magazine’s Tim McGirk. Here’s how
came to their attention:
President George W. Bush announced the military's estimate that 30,000
Iraqi civilians had died since the start of the war. Time's Tim McGirk,
posted in Baghdad, began to investigate cases in which Iraqi civilians
had been killed by U.S. troops. In the course of his reporting, he
obtained a copy of [a video shot in Haditha]. There was plenty in the grisly images
to raise suspicions, including the U.S.-issued body bags into which
the victims were zipped and the scattering of shells that appeared to
have come from Marine rifles.
Marine headquarters in Ramadi to inquire about the incident. The
Marines sent back an e-mail saying there were 15 civilian deaths in
Haditha on Nov. 19 but that the victims were killed by the roadside
bomb and by a firefight that erupted when insurgents fired on the
Marines. But the videotape showed that many of the dead were
pajama-clad women and children. The bodies had wounds from bullets,
not shrapnel, and the scene suggested that they had been murdered
inside their homes.
It’s possible that
the Kilo Company Marines could have survived the Time story, published on
March 19, 2006. An
investigation was underway and it could have cleared them in Iraq. But then Congressman Murtha
seized on the story to bash President Bush as part of the Democrat's
plan to regain control of Congress.
To make headlines,
Murtha claimed that Haditha was even
worse than Time had reported. According to Murtha, 24 civilians were killed in cold blood.
And that's been the story, without even a pretense of presumption of
innocence, in the media ever since.
The media continues to cover the Haditha story
through the lens of Iraq as a lost American war. Their best ally
lately has been JAG prosecutor, Lt. Col. Paul Atterbury.
In the Lt. Col. Chessani hearing, the prosecutor
is playing to the media day after day. On Thursday, he put a DoD lawyer on
the stand. The lawyer, William Hays Parks, was asked to speculate
about the meaning of gunshot head wounds as seen in photographs. Lt.
Col. Atterbury suggested the wounds indicated execution-style killings
and the story went around the world.
In the Capt. Stone hearing, Lt. Col. Atterbury
elicited the gratuitous testimony from Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz that he
peed on a dead Iraqi after the IED blast.
Sgt. Dela Cruz was not cross-examined (neither was
William Hays Parks), and his testimony was irrelevant to Capt. Stone's
case, but the prosecution got the headlines they wanted. There were
more than 11,000 hits on Google for "urinated Haditha" last I checked.
Reuters' Marty Graham got so carried away with the spirit of things
that he lied in two stories, printed around the world, that the
peed-upon man's hands were tied as well.
Well, why not? It's open season on Marines.
And some have had enough.
There is now a campaign underway, led by retired
Marine officers, to express grave concern directly to Maj. Gen.
Conway, Lt. Gen. Mattis and his staff JAG, Lt. Col. Riggs.
One retired mustang wrote to Lt. Col. Riggs:
If this everlasting
going on with K/3/1 & K/3/5 continues
much longer, the Commandant is going to experience rough days ahead on
recruiting and I don't think these huge bonuses he's offering will
entice these young, very intelligent, Marines to extend or reenlist,
as we did years ago, when we were sure our leaders were watching our 6
o'clock & not locking us up for doing the job we enlisted to do and
that is to fight this country's wars.
When I read some of these articles
where the prosecutor gets some witness on the stand and they discuss
bullet holes in the heads of civilians, etc., that tells me that the
prosecutor or the witness has never been in a fire fight with lead
flying all around you. You put a weapon on full automatic and start
firing at enemy positions that you are receiving fire from and some
innocents are bound to get killed. War is hell.
It would now appear we have lost two
good 2nd Lt's. First, it was Patano and if Phan is smart, he will
resign his commission. His career has now been wrecked by thoughtless
actions of those who should have stood by his side.
Messages like these (via e-mail,
phone calls, and in personal meetings) may finally alert the
leadership to the danger the Corps is in. At the very least, fighting
back beats doing nothing except watch the train wreck happen.
Maybe you'd like to join in.
Defend Our Marines
Go to the