Haditha Roundup #2

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 10 months ago

This is a followup to Haditha Roundup. The first post caused a lot of traffic and so it seemed good to me to make this a regular category on my site (once every two or three days or once per week, or whenever it seems prudent, ending with the disposition of these cases against the Marines — and hopefully, exhoneration of all Marines who followed protocol for clearing houses where the enemy was thought to be located).

The Wall Street Journal publishes this letter from an officer in Iraq (name withheld):

I am currently stationed here in Iraq and have been here for the past 11 months; I am an adviser to the Iraqis and meet them on a daily basis. I have been in many locations in the country and am involved on a daily basis together with the Iraqis fighting the insurgency.

The media manipulation by the insurgents is brilliant and extremely effective. The press has become a puppet for the insurgents; the insurgents know exactly what they are doing with these “massacres” (quoted here because the investigation has not been completed, nor have any charges been filed) and the political nightmare they will cause the current administration. Bodies are produced for film, and there is zero fact-checking by the media–the media eat up this “news” like there is no tomorrow. A couple of hundred bucks paid by the insurgents to a few guys/ladies in the town where this “massacre” occurred to make up some bad news and pine for the BBC’s or CBS’s or whoever’s cameras is a nice month’s salary for many and money well spent by the insurgency.

All the Arabs (Sunni and Shia), Kurds and Chaldeans I have come to know well here will tell you that Arabs are emotional people who tend to exaggerate. A lot. Experience has shown that “50 insurgents hiding out in XX location” is five, at most 10. “Three hundred dead” at the morgue is at most 40. “A huge cache with WMD” is 45-50 weapons. It is a cultural norm and is accepted over here as a norm. It is reported in the West as fact. With no fact-checking.

When we convoy, all in the town/village know when and where there is a bomb/IED/VBIED that is targeting coalition forces. This is not so true in Baghdad, but in the outlying towns all know. What is the culpability for those people in the village/town? Would the Marines be guilty in the U.S. under the same circumstances?

I do not know whether or not the Marines are guilty. A Marine’s job is to “close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver,” and I can guarantee its effectiveness. But the insurgents have the ear of the press. Hopefully the politics will be put aside for the investigation and the facts will be told, whatever they may be.

The California Conservative has a good discussion on the alleged “bribery” of civilians in Iraq (the practice comports with standard operating procedure under certain conditions). The entire post is worth the read.

Reuters released a piece focusing on personal observations of Staff Sgt. Wuterich by his wife and colleagues.

An opinion piece over at the despicable Arizona Republic professes already to know what happened at Haditha (I suppose they are in no need of an investigation). They opine that there was a moral breakdown that caused the events at Haditha.

Here is an absolute MUST READ from the Chickenhawk Express on Haditha. The civilians in the area may not be the innocent, peace-loving farmers and students they are being portrayed to be. It simply takes too long to prepare and power an IED.

Kathleen Parker has a commentary over at Townhall on the Marines of Haditha (no specific news, except a perspective by Marine Captain Andrew Lynch concerning the character and qualifications of his young Marines).

Over at NewsBusters they have a great commentary on the nature of the media coverage of Haditha. Side bar editorial remarks by me: you know, when this is all over with, if the Marines who were there are exhonerated (or at least some of them are), to use the old adage, “where will they go to get their reputations back?”

Also at NewsBusters is a great analysis of contradictory elements of the accounts of Haditha (I pointed one of the out in the first Haditha Roundup concerning the impossibility of Marines standing around while “silence reigned” while at the same time they were in the middle of a fire fight). But this analysis at NewsBusters is better and more complete than mine.

Tom Bevan has a sober and thoughtful analysis of the U.S. reaction to Haditha (contrasting the anti-American hysteria from the leftist zealots with the more sober reactions of the common man in America) entitled “The Nobility of the United States Marine Corps.”

In a humerous play on words (“Time’s massacre”), the Washington Times takes Time Magazine to task for inaccurate reporting (of course, this had already been done by me and others on the web), albeit a little late.

You want to know why Haditha might be important? Consider loss of a dam and drinking water for the Iraqi people, along with the associated flooding that would occur with loss of the dam. This is interesting information on the security associated with the area. Also see the Wikipedia discussion, which called Haditha a “center for insurgent activity following the fall of Saddam Hussein.” Haditha is situated along the Euphrates, and it not only controls an important commodity (water), but it also allows quick and easy travel across the river. The insurgents wanted it — they have wanted it all along. Also notice the proximity of Haditha to Syria where insurgents flow in across the border.

Michelle Malkin has a writeup on the the Hadji Girl song that has the left hyperventilating (no, Michelle does not have the left hyperventilating, the song does; wait, maybe they both do). The Marine Corps Times also has a more formal writeup that includes statements by the USMC. None of this is related to Haditha. I mention it only to say that the left will try to make hay of this (i.e., paint the USMC with a brush that shows a “larger, systemic and more insidious moral problem that was a catalyst for the Haditha incident,” so on and so forth, blah, blah — I can hear it now and it makes me nauseous). Did I say that I think that none of this is related to Haditha? Oh yea — one more thing. I think that none of this is related to Haditha and that the Hadji girl song is just a poor joke. Now. Enough time spent on that.

The contemptible and despicable John Murtha might just get to swear in and be cross examined by a lawyer for one of the Marines at Haditha (hat tip to Polipundit). The Washington Times reports that:

A criminal defense attorney for a Marine under investigation in the Haditha killings says he will call a senior Democratic congressman as a trial witness, if his client is charged, to find out who told the lawmaker that U.S. troops are guilty of cold-blooded murder.

Attorney Neal A. Puckett told The Washington Times that Gen. Michael Hagee, the Marine commandant, briefed Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, on the Nov. 19 killings of 24 Iraqis in the town north of Baghdad. Mr. Murtha later told reporters that the Marines were guilty of killing the civilians in “cold blood.” Mr. Murtha said he based his statement on Marine commanders, whom he did not identify.

Mr. Puckett said such public comments from a congressman via senior Marines amount to “unlawful command influence.” He said potential Marine jurors could be biased by the knowledge that their commandant, the Corps’ top officer, thinks the Haditha Marines are guilty.
“Congressman Murtha will be one of the first witnesses I call to the witness stand,” Mr. Puckett said yesterday. Mr. Puckett represents Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, an eight-year Marine who was a key participant in the Haditha operations that resulted in the 24 civilian deaths.

The Times goes on to report that:

The attorney said Sgt. Wuterich, 26, the married father of two daughters, led the squad of Kilo Company that mounted the four major combat actions on Nov. 19 that resulted in 23 deaths at a traffic stop and in three houses. The 24th Iraqi was killed while fleeing a home by a rooftop-stationed Marine or Marines, Mr. Puckett said.

The attorney said his client strongly rejects accusations in the press from Haditha residents that Marines lined up some of the civilians and executed them. Mr. Puckett said Sgt. Wuterich maintains that such an incident never occurred, and that Marines followed proper procedures in clearing the three houses.

“What’s being reported out there, it seems an awful lot of it is inaccurate,” Mr. Puckett said. He said his client, stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., has been promoted to platoon leader and is not under confinement.

“How would you feel to be falsely accused of killing innocent people,” the attorney said. “He was angered and hurt by it because he doesn’t understand how the public could think he and his Marines could do such a thing.”

Of course, here at the Captain’s Journal, this is what we suspected all along. Editorial note: Prayer — May the name of John Murtha be held up as a shameful laughingstock for all the world to see and for many generations to come.

Over at Townhall, Jeff Emanuel has a very good and thoughtful commentary on Haditha and how we assess Marines and their behavior. It is also interesting for some additional information on Haditha and its significance (i.e., the dam, potential flooding down river if the terrorists caused the dam to fail, drinking water supplies, and river crossing for those who are in control of it).

There is a good editorial here by Jonathan Keiler, who says in part:

…any Arab account of an alleged massacre has to be taken with a large grain of salt, or maybe an entire salt lick. By now it ought to be clear to any clear headed observer, that fanciful descriptions of mass killings and massacres, particularly when allegedly committed by American or Israeli troops, are a cultural commonplace, with the actual truth or falsity of the claims being almost entirely irrelevant to the locals. Witness the following recent incidents involving Israeli troops: the proven false accusation that Israeli troops killed young Mohammed al Dura; the proven false accusations of a massacre at the Jenin refugee camp; and most recently the proven false accusation that an Israeli artillery shell killed seven Gaza beach-goers. In all three cases, either neutral journalists (al Dura), pro-Palestinian international organizations, e.g., Human Rights Watch (Jenin), or Palestinian authorities themselves (the recent Gaza explosion), have demonstrated that Arab claims were simply lies. In Iraq we have seen much the same thing, from Saddam’s demented claims of victory as U.S. tanks rumbled down the streets of Baghdad, to false claims of massacres in Fallujah, to dismissal of charges against Marines like Lieutenant Ilario Pantano (falsely accused of killing two Iraqi prisoners).

Another (unrelated) instance of exaggeration comes from this story about the Taliban claiming credit for killing nine soldiers when the actual number was two. This may not be directly applicable to the claims on numbers of dead in the Haditha incident, but it does go directly to the credibility of witnesses.

Oh, by the way. Did I say it before? I can’t remember. Prayer — May John Murtha be seen by the world as an unhinged and fanatical loon. A crazy old man.

The American Thinker has a good commentary raising a number of inconsistencies and problems with the reporting that Time did.

Jeffrey Barnett (USMC) has an interesting and good commentary over at Michael Yon’s Frontline Forum (linked on my site).

The Stars and Stripes, as late as June 5, 2006, was reporting that calls for Police in Haditha are going unanswered. Here is a picture of the unoccupied and unused Police station in Haditha:

Haditha might just be one of the the most dangerous places in Iraq, right behind Ramadi. What do you think the Marines feel like when they go into Haditha?

It is reported by the Washington Post even as I am writing this that the “initial report” is complete. By complete, the WP apparently means turned over to Lt. Gen. Chiarelli. The WP also says that the report is “voluminous.” That’s okay. I will read every word of it. If I find an inconsistency in it, I will write about it and splatter it all over the internet to the best of my abilities, so help me God.

Salon is reporting the following:

“I can absolutely guarantee you that they were under small-arms fire,” said Paul Hackett, an attorney and Iraq war veteran, who is advising several Marines from Kilo Company. Hackett, who won a national following last year as an antiwar Democratic congressional candidate in Ohio, argued that civilian deaths are a routine consequence of the Iraq war. “If people don’t like that, then people should work harder on bringing the war to an end,” Hackett said. “You are not going to have a war where innocent civilians don’t get killed.”

Neil Puckett, an attorney representing Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, the Marine who led the Humvee convoy, also said that many Marine witnesses will say that gunfire followed Terrazas’ death. Puckett gave an extended account of Wuterich’s version of events to the Washington Post. Puckett, who has not coordinated his legal efforts with Hackett, said, “I don’t think anybody is going to say that they were not taking fire.”

In the scenario that Puckett described, Wuterich responded to the small-arms fire from the nearby houses by leading a four-man team to “clear” them of insurgents by using grenades and gunfire. Military experts describe clearing a house by fire as a grisly business. At the moment they kick in doors, Marines start shooting in an effort to ensure that any enemy on the other side is killed. This shoot-before-you-look approach obviously raises the chances of civilian deaths. “It is not the preferred method,” Hackett said, “but it happens.”

Hackett and Puckett say that roughly a dozen Marines from the Humvee convoy witnessed the incoming fire after the roadside bomb killed Terrazas. They further contend that members of another Marine unit, brought in as backup after the Humvee exploded, saw or heard enemy fire. A third attorney involved with the informal Haditha defense, Kevin McDermott, also says the unit took incoming fire after the blast.

In what has to be absolutely the most moronic, asinine suggestion we have heard on this whole affair, the folks at Slate recommend that the Iraqis try these Marine warriors in their courts. [Editorial Remark: What a bunch of effeminate panty-waists!] In another analysis, more wrong-headed pundits recommend that “the United States should ensure that there is sufficient Iraqi observation and participation in as many stages of the investigation and trial process as possible. Additionally, the U.S. can work closely with Iraqi police forces to get to the bottom of what might have happened at Haditha.” [Editorial Remark: See previous editorial remark.]

In what was promised to be the most in-depth analysis of this whole affair so far, the NYT (Broder) did a piece published on June 17th, 2006, entitled “Contradictions Cloud Inquiry into 24 Iraqi Deaths” (you need a login ID for the NYT). Actually, the piece is somewhat disappointing. We don’t learn much beyond what we already know (there is a lot of contradictory and inconsistent testimony), except that the Navy investigators see some of the testimony as problematic, and more specifically, (a) the details of the taxi shooting, and (b) the alleged lack of evidence of “room clearing” (bullet holes, fragmentation grenade marks, etc.). Scrutiny is being placed on one individual Marine in Wuterich’s fire team (I know the four-man group as a fire team, and for some reason, the NYT referred to it as a stack). (Editorial Note: A fire team is the smallest tactical and maneuver unit in the Marines, and was initially built around the BAR as the focal point. Today, if I am not mistaken, the fire team retains the M16A2 or M4 for all fire team members, but the fire team has at least one member who has a grenade launcher with his weapon. I believe that the SAW, true to its name, is for the squad and not retained by every fire team). Why do I go into this detail? It might be important. Apparently, Wuterich had a fire team, not a squad as most news agencies reported. So there were four men, including Wuterich, and it might be important to know what weapons they had and how the team was built (conceptually). So there you go. You heard it here first. It was a fire team that went in and cleared the rooms, not a squad as reported by most news agencies. And not a “stack” as reported by the NYT.

Over at Black Five, a Marine weights in on what he sees as the imasculation of the Marine Corps. For the family oriented, this piece has some crusty Marine language.

Our friend at Republican Pundit goes on the record saying that Haditha is a hoax. I concur that it wasn’t a “cold-blooded” execution of non-combatants (the stooge Murtha notwithstanding). The evidence simply does not point in that direction, and unless persuaded by evidence, the Marines get the benefit of the doubt. However, here is a prediction. It is a sad prediction, but I have to make it anyway. We will not see the full exhoneration of all of the Marines associated with this incident. I do not know what the final outcome will be (whether one Marine will be convicted of a crime, or the fire team will be convicted of dereliction of duty due to the killing — however unintentional — of non-combatants, or the officers in charge will be convicted of a crime associated with failure to make the rules of engagement clear, or the brass convicted of failure to have the correct rules of engagement). No. Wait. Correct that last one. The brass will never be convicted of anything. It will be the grunts who suffer. They will suffer because non-combatants were killed. It will not matter that it was a spurious result of house-clearing.

Let me make another prediction. This one is even more sad than the first. There will be a change in protocol — changes in how the Marines do business in Iraq. When the insurgents figure out what it is, our boys will be in even more danger than they are now. The Marines — as the crusty Marine over at Black Five feared — might become more PC.

Here is what I think about the Haditha incident.


Update #1 (hat tip Michelle Malkin): Bruce Kesler at the Democracy Project has an analysis of the NYT report that concurs with my opinion stated above.  More fog (I said “disappointing”).  Still better is over at Riehl World View.  He cites the NYT article I referenced above, specifically quoting as follows:

Two people briefed on the investigation said Thursday that evidence gathered on the shooting of the taxi passengers now appeared to be the most at odds with the account given by marines through their lawyers.

One Defense Department official said photographs indicated that the positions of those corpses — and the pooling of their blood — can be viewed as sharply inconsistent with the marines’ version that the Iraqi men were shot as they fled.

Then he cites a WP article that states:

The final victims of the day happened upon the scene inadvertently, witnesses said. Four male college students — Khalid Ayada al-Zawi, Wajdi Ayada al-Zawi, Mohammed Battal Mahmoud and Akram Hamid Flayeh — had left the Technical Institute in Saqlawiyah for the weekend to stay with one of their families on the street, said Fahmi, a friend of the young men.

A Haditha taxi driver, Ahmed Khidher, was bringing them home, Fahmi said.

According to Fahmi, the young men and their driver turned onto the street and saw the wrecked Humvee and the Marines. Khidher threw the car into reverse, trying to back away at full speed, Fahmi said, and the Marines opened fire from about 30 yards away, killing all the men inside the taxi.

So, just more inconsistency.

Finally, he takes the NYT article to task for other inconsistencies in both their reporting and the word on the street (coming from someone inside the investigation).

Let me make another editorial remark.  The kind of questions bloggers are asking regarding consistency are the very thing that the journalists should be working on.  A good journalist isn’t going to rehash the dry information already out there or parrot the press releases of anyone (the administration, the USMC, or anyone “inside” the investigation).  The real story is waiting to be told.  Who will be the first journalist to do it?


  1. On June 18, 2006 at 11:33 am, Republicanpundit said:

    Great article, I will be linking to it later today or tomorrow when I update my article of last week.

    Thanks for helping get the message out!!!

  2. On June 18, 2006 at 11:39 am, KnightHawk said:

    Odd no TB, I’m wondering if the trackbacks are working at PPundit. Anyway I have you linked over there, nice recap of the situation.

  3. On June 20, 2006 at 6:28 pm, Jon Keiler said:

    Great article. Best compilation I’ve seen on this issue. On the crazed Slate piece you mention calling for Americans to be tried by Iraq I comment here http://www.jonathankeiler.com/blog/_archives/2006/6/5/2008321.html

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You are currently reading "Haditha Roundup #2", entry #32 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Haditha Roundup,War & Warfare and was published June 17th, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

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