Haditha, continued

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 4 months ago

Time Magazine besmirches the character of the U.S. Marines in the Haditha incident without evidence for the chain of events that they profer. The Time story currently reads like this:

One of the most damning pieces of evidence investigators have in their possession, according to a U.S. military source in Iraq, are personal photos, taken immediately after the killings, by a marine who emailed a snapshot back to a friend in the U.S.

This paragraph makes no sense. Damning evidence from a photograph after the fact by an individual who was there? In fact, the teeth have been removed from this quote due to bad reporting. At the bottom of the page, the following correction appears:

In the original version of this story, TIME reported that “one of the most damning pieces of evidence investigators have in their possession, John Sifton of Human Rights Watch told Time’s Tim McGirk, is a photo, taken by a Marine with his cell phone that shows Iraqis kneeling — and thus posing no threat — before they were shot.” While Sifton did tell TIME that there was photographic evidence, taken by Marines, he had only heard about the specific content of the photos from reports done by NBC, and had no firsthand knowledge. TIME regrets the error.

Right. A retraction makes everything okay, doesn’t it? So when this was first printed, they literally charged the Marines with forcing women and children onto their knees, allowing a fellow Marine to get a snapshot of them with his cell phone, and then executing non-combatants after their brother had taken a picture of the victims.

Okay. The gloves come off on this one. We still do not have all of the fact on this incident, but it does no good to traffic in contradiction and myths so outlandish and preposterous that even the most stolid person can tell that something is wrong. Here is what someone named Matthew Cooper (the reported with Time) apparently believed (we can only suppose that he believed this account — he authored the story).

  1. After an IED explosion, the fire team (and perhaps the entire squad) had the time to go after civilians and execute them.
  2. During the events subsequent to the IED explosion, the fire team so lacked the command and control by superior officers that they felt the freedom to kill unarmed non-combatants.
  3. There is no protocol for how the Marines respond to a situation like this — they are all on their own and can take whatever action they deem appropriate.
  4. The fire team was separate from the balance of the unit.
  5. Upon arrival at the home, they forced the unarmed non-combatants to kneel.
  6. Prior to the execution of unarmed non-combatants, another Marine “brother,” rather than trying to stop the execution, instead took out his cell phone and captured an image of the unarmed non-combatants just prior to execution (“Hey mom, just wanted to let you know how things were going in Iraq today”).

All the while, (a) a Marine brother is either wounded or dead, (b) they have received fire from adjacent houses, (c) their vehicle has been destroyed, and (d) they feel threatened by the situation.

If you believe this, then Santa Claus, the Tin Man, and the Easter Bunny do exist after all!

Just a bit more background to this assessment. One of the things that you are taught in boot camp is control of potential rage and anger. You are taught this on the rifle range, with pugil stick combat, through drill instructor harassment, and in many other ways throughout your training. On the other hand, young Marines are taught always to protect other Marines. From the very beginnings of their time in the Corps, they do “fire watch,” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, for as long as Marines are together in a single location. It is the “Guardian Angel” concept. It “is expected to be ingrained to the point that it becomes a continuing action for Marines at all levels and in all circumstances.”

There are those who provide security; the question is “who will protect the protectors?” The answer: Marines protect their own. They do it with well-rehearsed skills, rules of engagement, and machine-like precision. This is what they are taught. The notion that some of the Marines would have gone off on their own, without clear guidance, and in the middle of a fire fight (with fire teams being expected to lay down a field of fire) and knowingly and purposely executed unarmed non-combatants is so ridiculous that it needs the utmost of proof for me to believe it.

The charges are so serious that no one should make them or even provide information that alleges them with the utmost of proof. Slander is a very real thing, and the media engages in it on a regular basis. It would appear that this Time story is one instance of it. Time should apologize to the Marines whose character they have maligned. Even if it turns out that the incredible did happen (and I am wrong in this post), there is still no hard evidence of it (and in fact, contrary evidence is beginning to announce itself).

Finally, with U.S. Marines, it would be equally ridiculous to expect that they not respond to protect their own. If they were being fired upon, then you can rest assurred that they responded. And here at the Captain’s Journal, we expect for them to have that right.

Good reporting is the order of the day. Trash stories are the things that trash publications publish.




You are currently reading "Haditha, continued", entry #28 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) War & Warfare and was published June 12th, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

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