Sergeant (then Corporal) Sanick Dela Cruz
(Lucian Read, Vanity Fair)
20 April 2007
Congratulations, Sergeant Dela Cruz
On Tuesday, the Marine Corps announced that all charges had been dropped against Sergeant Sanick Dela Cruz. He had been charged with murder for the incident in Haditha, Iraq, on November 19, 2005.
And that was the only part of the story the media got right.
There were reports of a plea deal, that this was terrible for the defense. Lawyers said prosecutors must have had the sergeant over a barrel. He’s saving his own skin! He’s a traitor!
And no one had the facts.
There was no deal, no pretrial arrangement of any kind for testimony, sources close to Sergeant Dela Cruz’s defense told me.
Lieutenant General James Mattis ordered Sergeant Dela Cruz to cooperate and testify eleven days before the charges against Sergeant Dela Cruz were dropped.
General Mattis had come to the conclusion that, on balance, the charges against Sgt. Dela Cruz should not go forward. Still, Sergeant Dela Cruz was a witness and (like Corporals Mendoza, Salinas, and others) he will be required to testify truthfully. It would be incredible if he wasn’t.
Many have said that Sergeant Dela Cruz’s testimony regarding Sergeant Frank Wuterich firing on suspects at the taxi will convict Wuterich. More nonsense.
Here’s what some people have a hard time grasping.
Sergeant Dela Cruz only knows what he saw. He doesn’t know what Sergeant Wuterich saw.
Dela Cruz doesn’t know how the situation looked through Wuterich’s eyes when he came to a split-second decision to fire at the five Iraqis beside a white taxi.
And Dela Cruz, who likes and respects Wuterich, is not going to second-guess the way his fellow Marine saw things.
November 19, 2005 was Wuterich’s first day in combat. Dela Cruz was in Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 4th Marines. His second tour was with the 1/4 in hellholes like Najaf. His third tour (with the 1st Marines) brought Dela Cruz to Haditha that morning.
The two may have seen the situation completely differently, tell different stories about the event, and both be telling the truth as they saw it when one man saw a reason to act.
Sergeant Sanick Dela Cruz is an honorable Marine. When the full story of Haditha is known he will be recognized as a heroic Marine. His coolness in taking prisoners that day is just one instance, among many, that belies the media’s tale of Marines on a rampage.
The sergeant will testify to the truth as he saw it. So will the accused. If the cases go to courts-martial, a jury will weigh the evidence and reach a verdict.
I believe that all the accused will be exonerated, if they all get the defense they deserve.
In the meantime, here’s advice for anyone following this case. Be glad that justice prevailed for Sergeant Dela Cruz, and believe very little of what you read about the Haditha Marines. From the beginning, the media got it wrong and it’s not getting it right yet.
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