8 April 2007
Media stars of al-Qaeda propaganda video have a new role to testify against Marines
Shortly after the November 19, 2005 incident in Haditha, Marine investigators visited the scene.
Corporal Scott Jepsen spoke to residents and inspected houses where civilians had died because insurgents fought among them. Jepsen says the Iraqis he spoke to “knew that there were insurgents involved … knew that there were some houses that let insurgents in.”
That is the real story of Haditha.
Our troops are there to fight insurgents, and fights are won with overwhelming force. The blood of innocent women and children is on the insurgents, and their civilian supporters.
But in a parallel universe, where terrorists are heroes and Americans are criminals, Haditha was a massacre committed by United States Marines.
The source of that fantasy is a videotape. The day after the incident, a 43-year-old Iraqi named Thaer Thabit al-Hadithi shot scenes of bloody rooms, dead bodies at the local morgue, and Iraqis wailing and cursing America.
The media loved it. Never mind that most of the ‘witnesses’ on the tape, like al-Hadithi himself, were not witnesses at all. Most did not actually see what they were describing. They were repeating what they had been told. Except for one important omission. Not a single ‘witness’ mentioned the presence of insurgents.
Two groups with similar aims, al-Qaeda and the media, made much of this video. Al-Qaeda used the video to gain recruits. Al-Qaeda also turned the residents of Haditha into jihadist celebrities, congratulated for “exposing the crimes” of the occupiers.
he media, starting with Time magazine, used the video as evidence of a war crime, knowing it would turn Americans against the war.
Typical of the uncritical acceptance of the Haditha ‘witnesses’ was the re-creation of the incident on the NBC Nightly News on May 30, 2006:
7:25 a.m: Witnesses say Marines search the area for the bomber. They storm a house directly across from the attack, shooting as they approach. Witnesses say Marines then move to a third location a taxi parked by the side of the road. In it, residents say, were four university students and a driver. A witness watching from a nearby rooftop says Marines took the five men out of the car and executed them.
One witness says the driver screamed in English, “Please, please!” but they shot him in the body.
Around 10:30 a.m., Marines stormed the house of Eid Ahmed, where they allegedly separate his four sons from the women and children before killing the men.
Nine-year-old Khalid was in the house.
“This is my father!” he screams. “God will take my revenge!”
Khalid didn’t need Allah to take revenge when Chris Matthews and Congressman Murtha are around. ncritical acceptance of the word of our enemy, because it fit an agenda, turned Haditha into the scene of a crime for which Marines will go on trial. Pressure from the media, the public, Congress, and the government in Iraq made charges inevitable–and a dark fantasy became real.
In a little over a week, the first hearing for a Marine charged with murder in Haditha will begin. Barring delays, on April 17, Marine Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt will be brought before an investigating officer at Camp Pendleton. The Article 32 hearing (like a civilian grand jury) will determine whether this Marine will be court martialed.
The decision of whether to proceed to a court martial will rest with the convening authority, Lieutenant General James Mattis. There is sizeable doubt that he is free of command influence, notably in the form of the military’s paymaster, Congressman Murtha. Old Porky has tremendous political capital tied to convictions of these Marines.
Still, a court martial given the facts will also be unprecedented. It will be the first time in history that a serviceman is court martialed for killing combatants during a war.
Lance Corporal Sharratt fought on the sharp end of America’s war in Iraq and is now accused of murder. Not of women, not of children, not of old men, not of college students in a taxi cab. He is accused of killing three military age males who were trying to kill him.
The lance corporal’s accusers include the same witnesses who appeared in the video, who gave numerous other media interviews, and were the toast of the insurgency for speaking out against Americans.
Our government does not want these witnesses to be cross-examined, of course. That might prove extremely embarrassing for the prosecution. Instead, the witnesses will appear in the courtroom on video. New video shot by NCIS agents in Iraq.
The house of Eid Ahmed (mentioned in the NBC Nightly News broadcast quoted above) is the scene of the lance corporal’s alleged crime. It is there, asYousif Ayed, told Time magazine: “The Americans gathered my four brothers and took them inside my father’s bedroom, to a closet. They killed them inside the closet.”
Or not. Ayed wasn’t there, and the closet wasn’t big enough for one man let alone four. Nine-year-old Khalid (the one NBC said shouted, “This is my father! God will take my revenge!”) wasn’t there either, despite what NBC suggested. He was in a house next door.
Khalid’s father may have been one of the men who pointed an AK-47 at LCpl. Sharratt and Sgt. Wuterich. Sorry for your loss, Khalid. But pointing a weapon at a Marine is not a recipe for a long and happy life.
The media has moved on from the Haditha story so it’s unlikely that the lance corporal’s Article 32 will receive much media coverage. San Diego’s North County Times will be the newspaper of record. And those of us who follow the case will be depending on its daily coverage.
The burden of coverage, and analysis, of the Haditha hearings will be on the new media. This is an important task. The new media exposed the Haditha witnesses when the traditional media did not. But all that was really just groundwork. Our responsibility to follow, and analyze, this case is really only about to begin.