Al Qaeda in Haditha: The battle the media
by Nathaniel R. Helms
October 6, 2007 – Buried in
the mountain of exhibits attached to the once secret Haditha, Iraq
murder inquiry prepared by US Army Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell is an
obscure Marine Corps intelligence summary (see
pdf) that says the deadly encounter was an intentional propaganda
ploy planned and paid for by Al Qaeda foreign fighters.
military defense attorney Gary Meyers said he never understood why the
Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agents leading the
Haditha criminal investigation didn’t “examine the linkage” between Al
Qaeda, the local insurgency and the events at Haditha. Meyers was an
attorney on the defense team that successfully defended Justin
Sharratt, a Marine infantryman accused of multiple murders at Haditha.
report – apparently overlooked by a Washington press corps awash
in leaked Bargewell documents and secret Naval Criminal Investigative
Service reports – shows that Marine Corps intelligence operatives were
advised of the scheme to demonize the Marines by an informant named
Muhannad Hassan Hamadi. The informant was snared by 3/1 Marines on
December 11 2005 and decided to cooperate.
Planning a "massacre"
attack was carried out by multiple cells of local Wahabi extremists
and well-paid local gunmen from Al Asa’ib al-Iraq [the Clans of the
People of Iraq] that were led by Al Qaeda foreign fighters, the
summary claims. Their case was bolstered by Marine signal intercepts
revealing that the al Qaeda fighters planned to videotape the attacks
and exploit the resulting carnage for propaganda purposes.
insurgents involved in the attack are identified by name and
affiliation in the details of the summary. All of them were killed or
captured in the days immediately following the Haditha incident.
the November Haditha battle, the insurgents secreted themselves among
local civilians to guarantee pursuing Marines would catch innocent
civilians in the ensuing crossfire. On January 6, 2006 six insurgents
who tried to do the same thing at another location in Haditha were
turned in to Coalition authorities before they could mount a similar
assault, the report says.
January 18, 2006, almost two months after the infamous Haditha attack,
Iraqi insurgents identified as Talal Abdullah Yusif and Omar Ramsey
“planned to attack a dismounted C[oalition] F[orces] patrol” along
with four brothers named Khalif Muhammad Hassan.
wasn’t coincidental that brother Sa’ib Khalif Muhammad Hassan lived
next to an Al Qaeda “safe house” destroyed on November 19 by Marine
jets. Sa‘ib had rented the house to the foreign fighters. That attack
was stopped by local Iraqis and Sa’ib Hassan was arrested, the report
summary also details the Marines finding three dead bodies near the
Sub Hani Mosque after the November 19 fight was over. The dead men are
described as “military-aged males” wearing “chest rigs.” Two of the
decedents were “missing parts of lower torso.” The authors opined the
victims were foreign fighters killed in one of the Marine bombings
during the day-long combat.
media, the enemy within
prosecutors in the case against eight Marines charged with murder and
cover up at Haditha still maintain the besieged infantrymen acted
solely out of malice and poor judgment when they killed 24 Iraqis
there. The prosecution’s investigation was launched after a story by
Time magazine reporter Tim McGirk on March 6, 2006 accused the Marines
of cold blooded murder in retaliation for the death of a brother
received his video “evidence” and contacts from two known Iraqi
insurgent operatives already under observation by Marine Corps counter
intelligence teams. One of the Iraqi witnesses McGirk relied on had
just been released from almost six months captivity for insurgent
activities and the other witness was considered a useful intelligence
tool by Marines listening to him talk on his cell phone. McGirk never
interviewed the Marines, who ironically had prepared a similar
intelligence summary in anticipation of his canceled visit.
Captured insurgents revealed plan to detonate IEDs
summary – labeled "Bargewell
Discovery" pages “001083” thru “001108” –- was prepared by 3rd
Battalion, 1st Marines using UAV images, statements
obtained from the informants, and intelligence gleaned from captured
insurgents to explain what happened. The information was detailed in
13 Draft Intelligence Information Reports (DIIR) from a Marine Humint
Exploitation Team (HET) operating in the area.
captured insurgents revealed the attack was planned in Albu Hyatt, a
nearby town where numerous Marines have been killed and wounded since
the beginning of the war. The two main elements of the attack were the
IED-initiated ambush on Route Chestnut and two IED ambushes planned
along the so-called River Road that parallels the Euphrates River
about 1.5 kilometers north of the Chestnut location.
prisoners claimed the multi-pronged assault on the Marines was
intended to garner local support by discrediting the Marines among the
civilian population. If the coordinated attack had gone off as planned
all three IED ambushes would have been sprung on the patrolling
Marines almost simultaneously, the prisoners said. The insurgents plan
depended on the Marines aggressively responding to the assaults to
create as much carnage as possible.
patrolling along the River Road spotted two of the IEDs in time to
avoid the danger. Marine Explosive Ordinance Demolition teams sent to
disarm the devices were then ambushed by insurgents using small arms
and rocket propelled grenades.
Air Force Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicles orbiting the area
subsequently launched a Hellfire missile attack on fleeing insurgents
running through the palm grove. Other insurgents were tracked for more
than four hours as they moved from house to house trying to escape the
the intelligence data generated by the UAVs – including the mission
reports, video, and internet messages between the UAV operators, 3/1,
Regimental Combat Team 2, and Multi-National Force headquarters in
Baghdad – was later seized by NCIS special agents. A Marine who was
there said the NCIS agents told the UAV operators on duty at VMU-2
(the Scan Eagle squadron operating the aircraft over Haditha) that
they would be interrogated as well, but it never happened, the
than a year after the coordinated attack eight Marines from Kilo
Company, 3/1 were charged with multiple murder and covering up the
incident. Four Marines have subsequently been cleared on any
wrongdoing and four more are still awaiting their fates.
"Anyone who tries to compare this event to My Lai is an absolute
Almost four decades ago
Meyers successfully defended a soldier accused of murder at My Lai,
South Vietnam while he was a captain in the US Army JAG Corps. After
Tim McGirk wrote his specious report claiming a squad of Marines
massacred 24 civilians at Haditha the world press immediately compared
the incident to the massacre at My Lai. The unwarranted comparisons
still anger Meyers.
our perspective - from a legal perspective - we knew it was a kinetic
event,” said Meyers. “We knew enough to present to the IO
(Investigating Officer) that this was not an isolated event; that the
entire city was in a kinetic state that day. Anyone who tries to
compare this event to My Lai is an absolute fool.”
DIIRs were prepared by members of a Humint Exploitation Team
identified as HET03. Marine HET units investigate and record local
intelligence-worthy activities for interpretation and consumption by
Intel officers trying to understand the enemy’s Tactics, Techniques &
Procedures (TTP) as well as divine their intentions.
the DIIRs names five other insurgents involved in setting up the IED
that killed LCpl Miguel "T.J." Terrazas. One of their number, Majid
Salah Mahdi Farraji, was killed when Marine Corps F-18s bombed the
so-called “safe house” were the battle migrated to after the initial
IED ambush decimated Wuterich’s squad.
Nathaniel R. Helms
Defend Our Marines
Note: Nat Helms is a Contributing Editor to Defend Our
Marines. He is a Vietnam veteran, former police officer, war
correspondent, and, most recently, author of
My Men Are My Heroes: The Brad Kasal Story (Meredith Books, 2007).