Defend Our Marines | July 11, 2007
Who won in Haditha?: It
won't be over till the fat lady sings
One of the most
successful counter-intelligence coups perpetrated by the Iraqi
insurgency to date happened under the very noses of the world without
anyone except the United States Marine Corps ever knowing it happened.
counter-intelligence victory was conceived and executed in Haditha,
Iraq on November 19, 2005 by Thaer al-Hadithi and Ali Omar Abrahem al-Mashadani,
two Sunni Muslims working both sides of the war.
Mr. Hadithi is
best known for videotaping the alleged murder site at Haditha after
the horrific fight that left 24 Iraqis and one Marine dead, three
Marines wounded, and seven others still fighting for their lives. Hadithi
and Mashadani subsequently founded the Hammurabi Organization for
Human Rights and Democracy Monitoring Association in January 2006,
about six weeks after the events at Haditha had passed. Coincidentally
it is the same amount time that Mr. Mashadani had been out of Abu
Mr. Mashadani was
incarcerated at Abu Gharib for five and one-half months between July
and December 2005 while Marine interrogators questioned him about his
counter-intelligence activities. A lot of his family members were
there with him, he said. Mashadani was released on a general amnesty
“kick out” along with 500 other suspects in December 2005, his warders
Three months later Mr. Mashhadani was the darling of Time
Marines immediately went ballistic when they saw the two Iraqi’s names
in the famous Time magazine story by Tim McGirk that sparked
the whole Haditha affair. They had two reasons for doing so. The
biggest was their revulsion of Time’s March 2006 story
featuring Mr. Hadithi’s videotape as prima facie evidence of a
massacre. The second reason was because they couldn’t reveal what they
knew about Mr. Hadithi and Mr. Mashadani. Marine Corps signals
interception security is a paramount concern. Not even love for
brother Marines provides for talking out of school.
The world probably
still wouldn’t know about Mr. Hadithi and Mr. Mashadani’s brilliant
intelligence coup were it not for the stalwart efforts of Mr. McGirk.
When he and his colleague put together their masterful indictment of
the Thundering Third’s Marines the insurgency had poisoned the air and
assaulted the heart of the Marine Corps in one powerful stroke. It
doesn’t get any better than that in the intelligence game.
Every element of
the alleged crime was given to McGirk by the Hammurabi Human Rights
organization. He didn’t even have to look for himself. McGirk had dead
innocents, grieving relatives, bloodstained walls, and gruesomely cast
about corpses, he said. The insurgents even provided a dismembered
Marine to create the motive McGirk would need for making his claim of
out and out massacre. Perhaps that is why he never faced those he
accused of murdering innocents. So far McGirk has declined to answer
several requests for an interview.
data was revealed during the Article 32 hearing for Lt. Col. Jeffrey
Chessani, the former commander of the 3rd Battalion, 1st
Marines. It is detailed in the signals intercept information presented
in the witness testimony of Marine Capt. Jeffrey Dinsmore. He
offered eight hours of intelligence information; precious secrets that
guard the lives of Marines. Brian Rooney, one of Chessani’s lawyers
read it, and the hearing officer read it, and so will Lt. Gen. J. N.
Mattis, the Marine general who will ultimately decide Chessani’s fate.
The entire tale is held on a still unavailable PowerPoint “story
board” Dinsmore prepared to explain the many twists and turns of the
public still can’t hear it or see Dinsmore’s evidence because some of
the information is still classified, Rooney said. Meanwhile Chessani
and his six comrades wait to discover whether they will be charged
with any crimes.
mandate for secrecy bits and pieces of the two Iraqi’s activities
began surfacing two days after the Time story appeared in
March, 2006. Some of the pieces were reports of classified signals
intercept logs. People who knew about them said they contained
overwhelming evidence that Hadithi and Mashadani were Iraqi
intelligence operatives. The Marines were listening to them on a daily
basis while they chattered on their cellular telephones, they said.
Every time their conversations were intercepted a note was made in the
log, a digital recording of the intercept was sent to interpreters,
and sometime later the S-2s and G-2s charged with knowing the enemy’s
intentions put together their intelligence estimates. In time the
Marines had enough evidence to arrest Mashadani and interrogate him
for almost six months.
By September 2006
The New York Times also had enough pieces of the story to take
a look. It is the same information being detailed in this report.
After an initial flurry of enthusiasm the Times’ Pentagon
Editor Doug Jehl said, “It’s not for the Times.”
didn’t think the Marines’ claim that Mr. Hadithi and Mr. Mashadani
were frequently encountered by Marine intelligence operators was
important enough to look into. He apparently preferred accepting the
word of the nebulous Iraqis to firm his newspapers’ own accusations of
Marine Corps mayhem and murder.
In retrospect it
doesn’t seem like it would have been too hard for the Times’
energetic reporters to find out whether the information was true or
not. They managed to obtain Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell's 104-page
investigative report before it was declassified and 13,000 pages of
sensitive Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigative documents
about Haditha before the defense attorneys did.
Times’ disregard the intelligence officers within the infantry
battalions, Regimental Combat Team-1, and the Marine Expeditionary
Force weighing the two Iraqi’s intelligence value considered both men
valuable resources. They “used their blabby conversation to keep tabs
on the al Jazeera folks” and through them “the insurgent thinkers
orchestrating the insurgent's propaganda campaign,” according to one
He said both
Iraqis were 'hands-off" Sunnis. They reportedly had family connections
to powerful Sunni sheiks in al-Anbar province that the now defunct
Coalition Provisional Authority hoped to influence through money and
favors, the Marine officer claimed.
officer, a former Intelligence officer (S-2) for an infantry battalion
that fought at Fallujah in November, 2004 could not confirm the report
although he did provide a good description of the environment the
insurgent agents worked in. Almost a year ago he wrote:
“In regards to
your question about the Hammurabi Rights Association, I can't say for
sure,” he said. “We had so many transcripts that at least this group
and this person doesn't stick.”
“I can say there
were folks that were not allowed to be touched, who I know for a fact
were playing both sides. I can also confirm that there were media that
was itching to get a story in Fallujah, there was one we detained w [ith]/
the insurgents who we were forced to release.”
reportedly listened in on the Iraqi’s unguarded conversations allege
Mr. Hadithi and Mr. Mashadani frequently spoke to each other about
intelligence matters from their respective homes in Haditha and Ramadi.
Both men were active insurgent operatives during the entire April to
December Fallujah uprising in 2004 and had relatives in Iraqi jails
for insurgent activities at the time, according to the Marines. Last
year both men acknowledged their relatives spent time in jail during
the same time frame for anti-government activities. They dismissed the
information as a sign of the times.
The Marines claim
the telephone intercepts were routinely recorded throughout 2004 and
2005 before being stored in a secured area at the headquarters of RCT
-1 near Baghdad. Because Marine units frequently rotate in and out of
Iraq on scheduled deployments the exact location of the logs and
digital recording of their telephone conversations is no longer known
to them, they said. But Capt. Dinsmore knew, and so does NCIS.
The images and
stories provided by the spurious human rights organization took the
Marine Corps by surprise, McGirk reported. He later wrote that he was
particularly gratified that the gruesome video sparked not one but two
parallel investigations into events at Haditha.
“When I heard the
news that four U.S. Marines were charged for their alleged role in the
killing of 24 Iraqi civilians in the western town of Haditha in Nov.
2005, it marked the end of a personal odyssey,” he wrote two days
before Christmas last year.
testimony and the physical evidence obtained during the subsequent
criminal investigation McGirk instigated clearly demonstrate that
Time Magazine was as much the victim as the dead civilians and
Marines in the Iraqi’s counter-intelligence coup, Rooney says. He is
not alone in that assessment. So far the prosecution’s case against
the Haditha Seven is barely more than a grim fairy tale.
One Marine officer
succinctly assessed the situation in a sentence.
“There are a lot
of disconnects around here,” he observed.
McGirk may think
his personal odyssey is over, but actually it has just begun. It won’t
be over until the fat lady sings.
Defend Our Marines
11 July 2007
Note: Nat Helms is the author of
My Men Are My Heroes: The Brad Kasal Story (Meredith Books, 2007).