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The Haditha Test:
Rules of Engagement 101

© Nathaniel R. Helms 2007

Defend Our Marines | August 12, 2007

The Haditha Test: Rules of Engagement 101

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You are in the lead armored HMMWV escorting a four-vehicle convoy along HWY 1. There is a flash behind you followed by a loud explosion as one of the NTVs [Non Tactical Vehicles] in the convoy disappears in a cloud of dust and smoke.

You see two males 200m [meters] away from you mount a motorcycle and speed away.

Three males in a roadside stand 100m up the road run into a nearby house, but you start taking small arms fire from a different house 150m west of your position. What do you do?

A.  You should respond with deadly force to the hostile fire coming from the house, remain vigilant to the other possible threats in the area.

BYou should engage the fleeing men on the motorcycle first because they are beyond effective range if you wait.

CEngage everywhere you see movement because there’s no telling who detonated the IED.

Another question:

The convoy you are in suffers an IED attack on the unpopulated outskirts of Ramadi. As you focus your attention on the location of the IED, you notice two individuals in civilian clothes and no weapons jump up out of fighting hole 40 meters away from where the IED exploded and run away from you. You quickly ascertain the individuals were within command-detonation range of the IED. Command detonation is a common method of detonation. What can you do?

A.  Nothing because you don’t have enough information to know for certain that the fleeing men detonated the IED.

B.  You can engage with deadly force, ONLY after you fire a warning shot first.

C.  You may engage the individuals with the necessary force, including deadly force, to prevent their escape.

Stumped? The answers are:

1.) A. You should respond with deadly force to the hostile fire coming from the house, remain vigilant to the other possible threats in the area.

2.) C. You may engage the individuals with the necessary force, including deadly force, to prevent their escape, according to Bargewell Exhibits 002873 thru 002876.

Sound eerily similar to other reports you might have read about the incident at Haditha, Iraq? Not really!

The exhibits are attachments of training aids of Capt. Randy Stone. Stone was the SJA of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines’ at the time of the Haditha incident. He used them to teach 3/1 Marines the ROE in Iraq. They are found in Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell's once-secret 104-page report on his Haditha cover-up investigation leaked to the Washington Post last April. Bargewell found no specific cover-up, concluding instead that there was no interest at any level in the Marine Corps chain of command for investigating allegations of a massacre, the Post reported.

Little wonder. At the time Tim McGirk, Time magazine’s inventive reporter in Iraq, was sending emails to Stone’s superiors at 1st Marine Regiment that a berserk Marine had killed a car and a closet full of innocent Iraqi men in retaliation for killing his brother. Then his buddies lined up three households full of women and children and gunned them down execution style.  McGirk later revealed he had obtained the information from two Iraqis that Marines already knew were insurgent counter intelligence operatives looking for someone to scam. McGirk didn’t and took the bait.

“Bargewell found that Huck's division staff viewed the allegations of inappropriate killings as part of insurgent 'information operations' and an attempt to make the Marines look bad,” the Post reported.

"No one recommended an investigation until a Time magazine reporter began asking questions about the attack in January 2006. Maj. Gen. Richard A. Huck, the division commander, dismissed the allegations as insurgent propaganda," according to the Washington Post report of April 27, 2007.

No kidding!

Bargewell exhibits 002873 thru 002876 were introduced as evidence during the Article 32 hearing of Stone 18 months later. He was subsequently accused of dereliction of duty for failing to adequately investigate the matter. Last Thursday Lt. Gen. J.N. Mattis – the convening authority for the investigation - dismissed all the charges against Stone and LCpl Justin L. Sharratt, a SAW gunner accused of murdering three brothers. 

Ironically, Stone was a poster boy for President George W. Bush two years ago during a speech celebrating V-J Day.

“Captain Stone proudly wears the uniform just as his grandfathers did at Iwo Jima. He's guided by the same convictions they carried into battle. He shares the same willingness to serve a cause greater than himself. …,” Bush said in an August 30, 2005 speech at the Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, California. Less than three months later Stone would become enmeshed in the Haditha tragedy.

Stone used the PowerPoint slides Bargewell obtained to teach the Rules of Engagement (ROE) to his fellow Marines preparing to engage in combat in Iraq. Labeled “Situation 12” and “Situation 13,” they were training aides aimed at giving Marines combat scenarios to consider. Every Marine is required to know the Rules of Engagement during deployment, he testified.

Seven months later Stone was at the center of massacre allegations leveled by McGirk when he emailed the 1st Marine Regiment brass his nonsensical allegations of murder and mayhem at Haditha. By then his allegation were more refined, less hysterical in tone, Marines who read them said.

Stone, like the rest of the Regiment’s officers, dismissed McGirk’s missives as the ranting of a confused person.  They didn’t know they were doing so at their peril.

What do you do when a reporter from a nationally prominent news magazine makes inane, unsupported allegation of murder and mayhem?

A.  Ask him what he has been smoking.

B.  Rely on the truth to set you free.

C.  Depend on the knowledge your superiors will put the matter to rest with cool reflection and an appropriate response.

D.  All of the above.

E.  None of the above.

Stumped again?

 

Nathaniel Helms
Defend Our Marines
12 August 2007

 

Note: Nat Helms is a Contributing Editor to Defend Our Marines. He served three tours in Vietnam and, most recently, is the author of My Men Are My Heroes: The Brad Kasal Story (Meredith Books, 2007)

© Nathaniel R. Helms 2007

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