Archive for the 'Haditha Roundup' Category

Final Disposition of the Charges Against the Haditha Marines

BY Herschel Smith
16 years, 11 months ago

The Investigating Officer’s Report on accused Marine Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt contains more than mere assessment of the charges against Sharratt.  The following conclusion is transcribed from the report.

Due to the disparate accounts, it is tempting to simply conclude that this case should be tried to either exonerate LCpl Sharratt or convict him of a crime.  However, to adopt the government’s position that because there are two differing accounts, a general court-martial is warranted is an abdication of the necessary process of determining whether reasonable grounds exist to warrant a court-martial.  It is not as simple as stating there are two accounts so a trial is necessary.  Analysis of these two versions must provide reasonable grounds that the Government version of events may be true.  In analyzing the evidence, I read several hundred pages of interviews, documents and statements, (IE 33-105).  Ultimately, there is only one statement by an eye witness to the events, LCpl Sharratt, and his version of events is strongly corroborated by independent forensic analysis of the death scene.  The government version is unsupported by independent evidence and while each statement has within it corroboration, several factors together reduces the credibility of such statements to incredible.  In addition, the statements of the Iraqis are unclear, contradictory in part, and simply state self-interested conclusion as to what occurred within house 4.  Finally, to believe the government version of facts is to disregard clear and convincing evidence to the contrary and sets a dangerous precedent that, in my opinion, may encourage others to bear false witness against Marines as a tactic to erode public support of the Marine Corps and mission in Iraq.  Even more dangerous is the potential that a Marine may hesitate at the critical moment when facing the enemy.

Much effort during the Article 32 focused on whether the victims were insurgents.  Although determining if they were may have some bearing on the credibility of the Iraqi witnesses and may support that LCpl Sharratt did perceive a hostile situation within house 4, such determinations are not necessary to conclude that LCpl Sharratt is truthful in his account.  From as early as February 2006 LCpl Sharratt’s statements are supported by the forensic evidence.  It is likely that members of the Ahmed family were either insurgents on 19 November 2005, or that they were attempting to defend their house and family when Marines entered house 4 uninvited and unannounced.  On that fateful afternoon, Jasib heard someone enter house 4.  He investigated with his AK-47 in his hands.  LCpl Sharratt saw him and perceived him as a threat.  Using his training he responded instinctively, assaulting into the room emptying his pistol.  Whether this was a brave act of combat against the enemy or tragedy of misperception born out of conducting combat with an enemy that hides among innocents, LCpl Sharratt’s actions were in accord with the rules of engagement and use of force.

A reading of the document reveals that investigating officer Lt. Col. Paul Ware obviously doesn’t believe the government’s version of events.  He points to many inconsistent reports, only two of which are outlined below:

  • LCpl. Sharratt’s SAW jammed upon engagement of the men in house 4.  Jamming is a known problem in the M16A2/M4/SAW, as I have discussed before (after shooting an M16 and dealing with this problem).  The use of a 9 mm pistol to “perform an execution” means that a group of Marines decided to use the least powerful weapon in their arsenal, Lt. Col. Ware says, concluding that this is not credible.  As an editorial comment, I would add that I know a highly skilled SAW gunner who tells me that he can undo the effects of a jam in his SAW within 5 seconds or less.  To believe that a gangland style execution occurred while a SAW gunner left his weapon jammed and used his pistol is so ridiculous that one wonders why the government lawyers would have actually put such an idea in print before a military tribunal.  This surely must be embarrassing for them.
  • The Iraqis reported that the “one with the pistol” was “in charge.”  But the problem is that the one with the pistol was Lance Corporal Sharratt, and with him were a Corporal and a Staff Sergeant.  How many readers who are either former or active duty military believe that a Corporal and Staff Sergeant would take orders from a Lance Corporal?  Again, this surely must be embarrassing for the prosecuting attorney.

The relatives of the deceased Iraqis didn’t want the bodies exhumed for forensic analysis, but would rather “forgive” the Marines.  In Iraq: Land of Lies and Deceipt (a press report concerning a similar British trial), I noted a contractor’s report about his experiences with Iraqis and honesty.

In Islamic and Arab traditions, blood money is the money paid by the killer or his family or clan to the family or the clan of the victim. It is unlawful for a believer to kill a believer except if it happens by accident. And he who kills a believer accidentally must free one Muslim slave and pay ‘Diyat’ to the heirs of the victim except if they forgive him. The tradition finds repeated endorsement in Islamic tradition; several instances are recorded in the Hadith, which are the acts of the Prophet Mohammad.

The Blood – Money tradition has found its way into legislation in several Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan. Some of these countries also define, by lawful legislation, a hierarchy of (cash) rates for the lives of people….

Are lies being told to obtain blood money payments? Some insight comes in this response to the collapse of the British trial by Stephan Holland, a Baghdad-based US contractor.

I’ve been in Iraq for about 18 months now performing construction management. It is simply not possible for me to exaggerate the massive amounts of lies we wade through every single day. There is no way – absolutely none – to determine facts from bulls*** ….

It is not even considered lying to them; it is more akin to being clever – like keeping your cards close to your chest. And they don’t just lie to westerners. They believe that appearances–saving face–are of paramount importance. They lie to each other all the time about anything in order to leverage others on a deal or manipulate an outcome of some sort or cover up some major or minor embarrassment. It’s just how they do things, period.

I’m not trying to disparage them here. I get along great with a lot of them. But even among those that I like, if something happens (on the job) I’ll get 50 wildly different stories, every time. There’s no comparison to it in any other part of the world where I’ve worked. The lying is ubiquitous and constant.

Lt. Col. Ware has suspicion for the Iraqi testimony as evidenced by the report.  At the end of the investigating officer’s report, Lt. Col. Ware makes the recommendation to drop the charges, and that Lance Corporal Sharratt be given testimonial immunity and ordered to cooperate with any ongoing investigations.  This last part might be pro forma and routine.  If Lt. Col. Ware believes his account and disbelieves the government’s account, then he believes that LCpl Sharratt will not bring anything forward that would call his assessment into question.

Why?  Lt. Col. Ware goes further than merely saying that there is no case against LCpl Sharratt.  His insightful report destroys the government’s case in general, not just with respect to LCpl Sharratt.  It does not seem possible to me that after this rebuke of the government, the cases against the remaining Haditha Marines would proceed.  As defense attorney, the first thing I would do would be to trot out the report by Lt. Col. Ware and demand that his assessment be answered line by line.

This report should end the case against the Haditha Marines, but given that the prosecution was willing to embarrass themselves with the prosecution of Sharratt to begin with, anything can happen.

Understanding the Events of Haditha

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 1 month ago

With regards to the events of Haditha, on the one hand we have John Murtha’s histrionics; on the other, the forthright, deadpan observation in recent testimony at Camp Pendleton:

CAMP PENDLETON — A Marine lieutenant testified Wednesday that he had never considered that Marines might have done anything wrong in killing 24 people in the Iraqi town of Haditha, even as he found the bodies of two women and six children huddled on a bed.

Lt. Max Frank, who had been ordered to take the bodies to the city morgue, said he assumed that the Marines had “cleared” three houses of suspected insurgents according to their standing orders — by throwing in fragmentation grenades and entering with blasts of M-16 fire.

The smoke from the grenades, Frank said, would have kept the Marines from seeing that they were firing on women and children.

How can Murtha behave so hysterically, with Lt. Frank testifying that he never considered that anything wrong was done by the Marines under his charge?  Context is everything, and most discussions about the events of Haditha lack the proper context.

The events of Haditha occurred at the end of what we should consider Operation Iraqi Freedom 2: heavily kinetic operations against insurgents, with most of these operations involving military operations on urban terrain (MOUT).  The events that most poignantly mark OIF2 occurred in Fallujah, i.e., the first and second battles of Fallujah.  It is important to understand these battles.

Military doctrine can be simply described as a core set of beliefs, or a way of thinking about problems and framing military planning.  Military strategy involves the planning and conduct of war.  The two go hand in hand, with each informing the other.  Military tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) are the lowest level conduct of war, and should be seen as a function of doctrine and strategy.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom 1 (or the initial stages of the war when heavily conventional TTPs were employed), large population centers such as Fallujah were bypassed.  This strategy led to the rapid overthrow of the regime, but the congregation of insurgents in urban areas.  The battle for Fallujah in 2004 had as its strategy to force out the noncombatants, thus leaving the insurgents the (presumed) only persons left in the urban area.  This assumption was essentially correct.

At the doctrinal and strategic level, the decision could have been made, for example, to starve the insurgents out of the city.  Since there were displaced residents, there wasn’t time for this.  From the standpoint of TTPs, the decision was made to engage the insurgents in heavily kinetic operations, relying most heavily on room clearing operations.  In room clearing, the presupposition is that the room is inhabited by the enemy, and that the enemy is lying in wait to kill Marines.

The specific procedure, which will not be explained in detail here, involves first the use of a fragmentation grenade followed by fire from the firearms of the fire team (M16A2 or M4, and SAW).  This is true with the exception that the Marine cannot carry enough grenades to use on all rooms in a city the size of Fallujah, and eventually, the TTP in the battle for Fallujah involved only firing, i.e., no  use of a grenade.  Firing is immediate and aimed at all inhabitants of the room, under the assumption, once again, that all inhabitants are the enemy.

Cordon and knock and other ‘softer’ approaches to counterinsurgency came later (so-called Operation Iraqi Freedom 3), but for the time periods marked by Fallujah (and in 2005 Haditha), room clearing was the TTP relied upon when fire was taken from a location in Anbar.  It is also important to know that many veterans of the battle for Fallujah who left the theater after this battle went into the drill instructor ranks (for boot camp) or trainers for SOI (School of Infantry).  Room clearing was taught to new Marines, and is still taught to this day.

On that fateful day in Haditha, the Marines were engaging in room clearing tactics.  It isn’t any more complicated than that.  It was an approved method of battling insurgents, it was ordered, and given that fire was coming from the location of the rooms that were cleared, it was justified.  As we observed in Haditha Events Coming to a Head:

The one who led the stack into the room that day had previously been engaged in the battle for Fallujah.  The protocol was to toss in a fragmentation grenade, and follow with a stack of four Marines (a “fire team

Haditha Events Coming to a Head

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 6 months ago


CNN is reporting that the events of Haditha are coming to a head.

SAN DIEGO, California (AP) — As many as eight Marines could be charged in the biggest U.S. criminal case to emerge from the war in Iraq in terms of Iraqis killed.

Camp Pendleton officials scheduled a briefing Thursday to announce charges in the shooting deaths of 24 civilians on November 19, 2005, in the Iraqi town of Haditha.

It is unclear how many troops will be named. Lawyers for two Marines have said they expect their clients will be charged. It is believed up to six others could join them.

The case focuses on motive. What is unclear is whether the civilians were victims of wanton killing by troops angered by the death of a comrade, or people caught in a hellish battle and killed as the Marines attempted to defend themselves from a perceived threat.

The shootings occurred after a roadside bomb killed one Marine from a squad on patrol. In the aftermath of the blast, five Iraqi men were shot as they approached the scene in a taxi and others — including women and children — died as Marines opened fire on a cluster of houses in the area.

[ … ]

No statements were given by the Marines following the Haditha killings, which were investigated months later, after a Time magazine story picked holes in the Marine Corps’ account that 15 Iraqis died in a roadside bomb blast and Marines killed eight insurgents in an ensuing firefight. Later reports put the number of dead Iraqis at 24.

[ … ]

Puckett said all the Marines involved in the incident agree that the killings were a highly unfortunate result of a lawful response to a perceived threat.

Defense lawyers have said that under military rules of engagement, it can be allowable for Marines to clear houses with fragmentation grenades and machine guns if they believe the occupants are threatening their lives.

If we can back off of this giddy and hyperventilating CNN account for a moment, I would like to mention some things we don’t yet know, some things we believe that we know, and some things that are an absolute certainty.

I have tracked the Haditha case since its inception.  There is still a dearth of clear information in the public domain concerning this case.  The lawyers for Wuterich and the others have yet to begin a defense, and the Marines who might be charged have yet to speak.

In my post Iraq: Land of Lies and Deceipt, I quoted a contractor in Iraq who made the following important observation:

I’ve been in Iraq for about 18 months now performing construction management. It is simply not possible for me to exaggerate the massive amounts of lies we wade through every single day. There is no way – absolutely none – to determine facts from bulls*** ….

It is not even considered lying to them; it is more akin to being clever – like keeping your cards close to your chest. And they don’t just lie to westerners. They believe that appearances–saving face–are of paramount importance. They lie to each other all the time about anything in order to leverage others on a deal or manipulate an outcome of some sort or cover up some major or minor embarrassment. It’s just how they do things, period.

I’m not trying to disparage them here. I get along great with a lot of them. But even among those that I like, if something happens (on the job) I’ll get 50 wildly different stories, every time. There’s no comparison to it in any other part of the world where I’ve worked. The lying is ubiquitous and constant.

It would not surprise me if there were multiple “witnesses” to “atrocities” concerning this event.  There might have been a atrocity, but we won’t necessarily know it based on the testimony of the Iraqis involved in the event.

The full story must come out, including the testimony of the Marines involved that day.  What we believe we know based on the reports is that room clearing operations were conducted that day directed at rooms from which enemy fire came.  The last paragraphs of the CNN story are important, and this will form the crux of the defense.

The one who led the stack into the room that day had previously been engaged in the battle for Fallujah.  The protocol was to toss in a fragmentation grenade, and follow with a stack of four Marines (a “fire team”), one whose billet it is to carry the SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon).  This day, the SAW gunner happened to be the one experienced from Fallujah, and who led the stack.

As I have pointed out before, this protocol does not distinguish between friend and foe.  There is no capability with this tactic to delineate a combatant from a potential noncombatant.  There can never be.  It happens far too quickly.  If our rules of engagement involve Marines and Soldiers hesitating to attempt to ascertain combatants from potential noncombatants, the insurgents will learn this and use it to their advantage.  Marines and Soldiers died in Fallujah as a result of room clearing operations, and many more would have died had this been the protocol.

There is another option if there are known noncombatants in a room.  The decision can be made not to engage in room clearing operations against that target.  Simply drive or walk away.  But if the decision is made that enemy fire is coming from a room and the room must be cleared, the sad truth is that, using these necessary tactics, the occupants of the room will die.  The answer to issues such as this in the future is not to change the rules of engagement resulting in more danger for U.S. troops.  The answer is to not engage in the operations to begin with.

Now to what we know with certainty.  Again, I have followed to story, and the assertion that the Time magazine article “picked holes in the Marine Corps’ account” is flatly wrong and just plain silly.  The Time magazine article, like most of the ones since then that have discussed the Haditha event, was pathetic.

Another thing we know with certainty is this.  Just the act of bringing the Marines up on formal charges will cast a pall over other Marines currently in Iraq and make them question their their actions.  Conviction of these Marines will make it worse.  This is true no matter what the Marines did or didn’t do and no matter what happened that day.

**** UPDATE #1 ****

Fox News is reporting that Wuterich has been charged with thirteen counts of murder, for saying to his squad, “shoot first and ask questions later.”

I do not believe that he meant that his squad should fire on noncombatants.  Nor do I believe that his men thought that he meant that.  The words pertain to the tactic called “room clearing,” as discussed above.  In order words, they weren’t knocking on doors.  They were engaged in a military operation.

I predict that if Wuterich is convicted in this case, the tactic of “room clearing” will disappear from Marine training and operations, and they will be left with a scarcity of tactics for MOUT.

Prior: Haditha Roundup category.

**** UPDATE #2 ****

Eight Marines are charged, four with murder, the other four with dereliction of duty.

Lance Cpl. Sanick Dela Cruz, who was written about in the Marine Corps News as an unsung hero of an August 2004 battle with the forces of Muqtada al Sadr, is one of the Marines being charged with murder.

Just to be absolutely clear, these eight Marines, with the room clearing tactics utilized that day, were entirely consistent with the same tactics and techniques taught to this very day in SOI (School of Infantry) at Camps Lejeune and Pendleton, and at the training facility at Mohave Viper.  There are no other room clearing tactics taught at these locations for one simple reason; there are no other military room clearing tactics in existence.

Haditha Sequence of Events

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 10 months ago

Newsmax has a good writeup entitled New Evidence Emerges in Haditha Case, and yet another good one entitled Pentagon Leaders Distorting Haditha Facts.  Both articles should be studied, and the last one shows that there is (gasp!) a problem in the Pentagon.  Someone there is a turncoat and wants to see the Haditha Marines hung out to dry.  But turning our attention to a different issue, it dawned on me that even a rudimentary sequence of events has not been published by anyone.  There is various prose out there in the MSM, but I thought I would try to boil it down to a more strict “sequence of events” using both the Newsmax links above and the posts in my Haditha Roundup category.  I’ll start the sequence much earlier so that you can get a little bit of the flavor of the Haditha area (see also my posts in the Haditha Roundup category, in which I show how troublesome Haditha was to U.S. forces).

Six Marines become surrounded by insurgents in Haditha arrproximately six months prior to the alledged incident.  These six Marines die.  IEDs, RPGs, and small arms fire from insurgents are part of the daily routine for the Marines in and around the Haditha area.

On November 19, 2005, Staff Sergeant Wuterich’s unit left Firm Base Sparta at 0700 hours on a daily mission to drop off Iraqi army troops at a nearby checkpoint.

At approximately 0715 hours, an IED exploded and severely damaged the last of four Humvees, instantly killing Lance Corporal Terrazas, the driver of the vehicle.

Wuterich stopped the convoy and he and the other Marines got out of the vehicles.

While evaluating the scene, the Marines noticed a white unmarked car carrying four men lingering near the bomb site.  The Marines ordered the men to stop, and rather than stop, the men ran from the scene.  Following SOP, the Marines fired on the men.

Wuterich began briefing the Platoon leader, and AK-47 shots were heard from residences on the south side of the road.  At this point, the squad took defensive positions around the Humvees.

A Corporal with the unit said to Wuterich that he saw the fire coming from a specific house.

Stop sequence of events.  Editorial comment: A Marine fire team consists of four members, including a fire team leader (usually a Lance Corporal, Corporal or Sergeant) who carries an M16A2 with a grenade launcher (the fire team leader is the grenadier).  The main suppressing fire is laid down by the second member, the SAW gunner (Squad Automatic Weapon, or M249).  The other two members carry M16A2s (or M4s if the combat is expected to be primarily MOUT, or Military Operations on Urban Terrain).  In order properly to effect room-clearing procedures, the fire team prepares first by throwing in a fragmentation grenade (unless there are too many rooms such as in Fallujah, in which case the fire team cannot carry enough grenades and is restricted to use of firearms).  After the grenade, the team gets into a formation where each team member is aligned front to back so close that it is called a “stack.”  As I have commented before on The Captain’s Journal, this procedure is designed to save Marine lives and kill the enemy.  Once a room is designated an enemy zone, there is no protocol and no procedure for delineating friend from foe.  In fact, if the Marines redesigned the procedure to attempt to ascertain friend from foe prior to clearing the room, and the enemy learned of this revised procedure, this information would lead to the deaths of many Marines.  Hesitation kills in this procedure.  There is no provision for hesitation, nor can there ever be.  End of editorial comment and return to sequence of events.

Wuterich’s fire team then went to the house from which they had received fire, kicked in the door, and found a door to a room with people rustling behind it.  They kicked in that door, threw in a fragmentation grenade, and followed the grenade by clearing shots (Editorial comment: I am speculating that these shots were from an M249, but I have not seen any report on this.  It is noteworthy that the M16A2 can only fire in three-round bursts, and is not fully automatic).

The Marines noted that the people in the room were men, women and children, but they noticed a back door ajar and believed that the insurgents had slipped to a nearby house.

They moved to this house, kicked the door in, and then used a fragmentation grenade and more fire to clear the room.

Upon noting that they had not found the insurgents, Wuterich ordered the Marines back to the Platoon to reassess the situation.

Finally, K company was ministered to by civilian pastors of one of the Marines in that unit who were on a church-funded missions trip soon after this incident.  This pastor has said that the Marines talked very openly, and made no mention of any guilt over any alleged intentional massacre of civilians.  This fact is likely very significant, although the MSM will not tell it to you.

End of sequence of events.  Since I have a son in the Marines, I have been following this issue closely.  I know that the most undesirable outcome of this whole affair would be a revised set of rules of engagement in which the Marines have to ascertain friend from foe.  In such a condition, there will be many more dead Marines.

Tony Snow said from the White House podium that the entire report would be released.  I am counting on it, and look forward to it with eager anticipation.  When it is, I will read all 1000+ pages of it.  If these Marines are charged, I will dissect, parse, and otherwise rip apart the report and discuss my findings on TCJ.  Pentagon, you are on notice.  Take it under advisement.

Haditha Update

BY Herschel Smith
17 years, 11 months ago

By now most of you know that Wuterich has filed a complaint against the worm Murtha for his having destroyed the reputations of the Marines in the alleged Haditha incicent.  Time has this:

The complaint also provides some detail into Wuterich’s explanation of the events in Haditha. It says, contrary to Murtha, that the Marines on the ground did follow the rules of engagement, that there was a firefight that day, that the Marines were shot at, and that at least two of the Iraqis had weapons. In response, Congressman Murtha did not back off of his earlier comments and instead said Wuterich was “lashing out.”

In our Haditha Roundup category, we have tracked a lot of details on the Haditha incident, including the fact that much of the day was captured on camera by overhead drones.  Could Murtha, in addition to being a worm, be so stolid and dense that he doesn’t know this?  That there was a fire fight that day is without dispute.

Also, I have posted on room-clearing and “stacks” and the rules of engagement.  That the Marines followed the rules of engagement that they were given almost goes without saying.  What we learn from this most recent Time article, however, is just as interesting.

I had heretofore thought that there were only non-combatants in the two rooms they cleared (i.e., there was some evidence that the insurgents fired on the Marines from those rooms and then fled).  It now appears that not all of the insurgents fled (or at a minimum, the some of the individuals in the rooms had weapons and were brandishing them so that the Marines could see them).

” … at least two of the Iraqis had weapons.”

Murtha just looks more stupid as details emerge.

Haditha Hoax and Future Knee-Jerk Reactions

BY Herschel Smith
18 years ago

Newsmax (scooping the MSM news outlets) has revealing new information concerning the alleged Haditha incident.  As it turns out, an ultralight vehicle videotaped everything, including the insurgents’ retreat into nearby homes and finally to an escape car.  The actions of the Marines on site were house-clearing maneuvers in self-defense.  The entire article is a good read.  For instance, the article has more information similar to the information I provided in Haditha Roundup #2, where I showed a picture of the unused and unoccupied police station in Haditha.  I said that Haditha was the second most dangerous place in Iraq, just behind Ramadi.  Seems that this was just about right.

I have also discussed the Camp Pendleton 8 in earlier posts, and recently posted on the charging of two Gaurdsmen with a civilian death near Ramadi (in this incident with the Gaurdsmen, one is apparently being charged with putting an unloaded gun near the head of someone and threatening jail; I will comment on this in a minute).

Now.  All of this is building on a post I made concerning “New Taliban and Al Qaida Strategy.”  In it, I pointed out that there will be a proliferation of charges coming against GIs for all sorts of “atrocities.”  It is part of the new strategy.  Earlier, I posted on the “Common Man’s Perspective on Haditha,” and said that the common man (i.e., most everyone except for the lunatics over at Daily Kos) does not believe that Marines lined up unarmed non-combatants and shot them execution style.  The common man believes that there was a fight and that Marines defended themselves.

As it turns out, this is the correct perspective.  It will be fun to watch the left implode (along with Murtha) over the unraveling of the Haditha charges.  But there is a far bigger problem to deal with.  The Haditha incident was one of the first salvos in a war of propaganda.  The U.S. brass is falling for it hook, line and sinker.

I cited a Marine spokesman at Camp Pendleton who said that the charges against the 8 “showed the rest of the world our standards.”  I responded that I don’t want to show the world our standards — I want to show them that we win wars.

Let me go on record in this post and say that I would be willing to bet everything I own that there are thousands of Sunnis in Iraq and more thousands of Taliban sympathizers in Afghanistan who would be willing to be “witnesses” against U.S. troops for  “atrocities” (do my words drip with sarcasm?).

We can play their game if the brass chooses to in order to “show the world that our standards are different.”  It will paralyze the troops.  Or, we can see this for what it is.

Finally, back to the Gaurdsmen and away from the Haditha incident, let me go on record and say that if these Guardsmen had reason to believe that this individual had intelligence regarding a credible threat to their safety or the safety of other troops, I do not object to their use of an unloaded gun and the threat of jail.

This is a war, Okay?  Does everyone get it?

Haditha Roundup #2

BY Herschel Smith
18 years, 1 month 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?

Hangs on Wuterich’s Door

BY Herschel Smith
18 years, 1 month ago

This hangs on Staff Sgt. Wuterich’s door.  The final words to the pledge (on the banner) are “and justice for all.”  If Wuterich followed protocol and gets hung out to dry to appease the likes of the unhinged and loony John Murtha, then perhaps it should be “justice for some.”

Oh, by the way, before we get to the picture of the banner:  “Lord, may John Murtha’s picture be placed with the definition of buffoon in Wikipedia for a millennium.”


Hangs on Wuterich’s Door

BY Herschel Smith
18 years, 1 month ago

This hangs on Staff Sgt. Wuterich’s door.  The final words to the pledge (on the banner) are “and justice for all.”  If Wuterich followed protocol and gets hung out to dry to appease the likes of the unhinged and loony John Murtha, then perhaps it should be “justice for some.”

Oh, by the way, before we get to the picture of the banner:  “Lord, may John Murtha’s picture be placed with the definition of buffoon in Wikipedia for a millennium.”


Haditha Roundup

BY Herschel Smith
18 years, 1 month ago

I discussed Staff Sgt. Wuterich’s claims that the Marines followed the rules of engagement, as reported in the Washington Post on Sunday, June 11.  I pointed out how absurd it is to believe that the Marines acted in the way they are portrayed as acting (this does not predispose anyone to take any position on the events other than to say that it is highly improbable that the events unfolded as we have heard):

Wuterich’s version contradicts that of the Iraqis, who described a massacre of men, women and children after a bomb killed a Marine. Haditha residents have said that innocent civilians were executed, that some begged for their lives before being shot and that children were killed indiscriminately.

Wuterich told his attorney in initial interviews over nearly 12 hours last week that the shootings were the unfortunate result of a methodical sweep for enemies in a firefight. Two attorneys for other Marines involved in the incident said Wuterich’s account is consistent with those they had heard from their clients.

Kevin B. McDermott, who is representing Capt. Lucas M. McConnell, the Kilo Company commander, said Wuterich and other Marines informed McConnell on the day of the incident that at least 15 civilians were killed by “a mixture of small-arms fire and shrapnel as a result of grenades” after the Marines responded to an attack from a house.

In my post I rely somewhat on experiences and discussions with my Marine son (recently graduated as a Boot and currently in SOI) about his training.

It has become apparent that two members of the clergy were ministering to the unit that was involved with Haditha that day: Rev. Ben Mathes, and Rev. Christopher Price.  Neither reported Marines telling them about any massacre.

I also discussed Time Magazine besmirching of the character of the Marines who were involved with absolutely no evidentiary support (and then printing a small retraction at the bottom of the article).

The Haditha story that the anti-American press so badly wants to exist (and is trying to create) seems to be evaporating.  It now appears that there was quite a fire fight going on in and around the area.  Captain James Kimber reports that this particular time was a period in which Marine units were encouraged to escalate their use of force in dealing with insurgents.  He further reports that:

Nov. 19 unfolded like many other days in Iraq, Kimber said, with reports of violence. A rocket-propelled grenade was launched toward the compound of Kimber’s unit, in a school in central Haqlaniyah, a few miles south of Haditha. Other nearby units also were taking mortar and small-arms fire.

On the radio, Kimber said, he heard the report from Haditha of the blast from a roadside improvised explosive device, or IED, and the death of one Marine there. He also could hear an unfolding gun battle.

Over at Townhall, Mary Katharine Ham reports (from her sources) that:

As the situation developed, the Marines at the initial ambush site were isolated for a period of time in this hostile city and they had every right to fear for their lives.  A group of about 15-20 foreign fighters were believed to be in Haditha that day, supplemented by local insurgents.  Knowing that 6 Marines had been surrounded and killed in Haditha before help could reach them just three months before, the isolated Marines had to fear the worst as they responded to the first attack.

One Marine’s father reports that:

after the car bomb exploded the Marines took a defensive position around his son’s battered vehicle. Insurgents immediately started shooting from nearby buildings, and the insurgents were using women and children as human shields

Brit Hume picked up a story on the suspect nature of the alleged Time magazine videotape of the aftermath of the Haditha incident.  It appears that the budding young journalism student is not quite what he seems, and has a “dog in this fight.”

As this story is studied, inconsistencies and problems become apparent.  CNN reported that:

Suspecting that the four students in the taxi either triggered the bomb or were acting as spotters, the Marines ordered the men and the driver, who by then had exited the taxi, to lie on the ground. Instead, they ran, and the Marines shot and killed them. 

But do “students” really take taxis to school in Haditha, Iraq?

With the mention of “students” who ride taxis to school, little has been said about the nature of the Haditha that the Marines have seen over the last months.  Here is a good primer on the city:

Hardly mentioned at all in the hysterical coverage of Haditha is the nature of this city hard by the Syrian border. If you think Fallujah was a hornet’s nest of insurgency, you should take a look at Haditha and what the Marines have been facing there.

There is good news coming from Haditha too, even as accidently reported on CNN:

There’s been a lot of progress in Haditha, and I’ve been going back there pretty much for a year and a half. My last trip was a month before this incident. And Haditha, at the beginning of 2005 was very violent. U.S. troops would not even enter the city. And little by little, after a series of operations, and finally the last operation was before the operation in Haditha, a certain amount of stability was brought to the area, of course, that is stability on the Iraq barometer of stability. But it’s all relative. And they have brought the city under control to a certain degree, and they have set up fixed bases, both Iraqi and U.S. Army fixed bases to try and build up this relationship with the civilians. They have started the process of trying to clean the city of these roadside bombs that were just about everywhere, and trying to do these sweeping operations to clear out the city of insurgents and bring a certain amount of stability to it. 

There is a good Marine Corps Times article on Staf Sgt. Wuterich (a more personal side).  On an editorial note, it seems to me that it is entirely consistent that unarmed non-combatants were begging for their lives, while at the same time Marines were shooting (with the Marines being innocent of murder).  The reports are consistent that the insurgents used the women and children as human shields.

The Washington Post reports from a lawyer of one of the Marines that:

“There’s a ton of information that isn’t out there yet,” said one lawyer, who, like the others, would speak only on the condition of anonymity because a potential client has not been charged. The radio message traffic, he said, will provide a different view of the incident than has been presented by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) and other members of Congress. For example, he said, contrary to Murtha’s account, it will show that the Marines came under small-arms fire after the roadside explosion.

Finally, there is still something very wrong and inconsistent with this whole picture.  The Washington Post reported on May 27 that:

“A U.S. Marine and 15 civilians were killed yesterday from the blast of a roadside bomb in Haditha. Immediately following the bombing, gunmen attacked the convoy with small arms fire. Iraqi army soldiers and Marines returned fire, killing eight insurgents and wounding another.” 

Did you know that 15 civilians were also killed in this IED blast?  I have seen this reported only in the Washington Post.  Further, did you know that Iraqi soldiers were with the Marines?  Additionally, this story is consistent with the other reports of an intense fire fight.  Strangely inconsistent with this account is the statement of one Iraqi:

In the first minutes after the shock of the blast, residents said, silence reigned on the street of walled courtyards, brick homes and tiny palm groves. Marines appeared stunned, or purposeful, as they moved around the burning Humvee, witnesses said.

Then one of the Marines took charge and began shouting, said Fahmi, who was watching from his roof. Fahmi said he saw the Marine direct other Marines into the house closest to the blast, about 50 yards away.

Hmmm.  Either there was a fire fight or “silence reigned.”  Which is it?  Logic says that it cannot be both.

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