On May 18th, I was one of many bloggers on the Right to condemn Democrat Rep. John Murtha for blabbing about the still-not-complete investigation of alleged war atrocities by Marines at Haditha. (Formal findings are not expected for several weeks.) Since Murtha’s widely broadcast accusations of Marines killing civilians “in cold blood,” at least one other congressional rep–GOP Rep. John Kline of Minnesota–has jumped the gun and gone on record issuing conclusions about what happened at Haditha before reports are finalized and hearings are convened. Bad. There are also anonymous military sources leaking like crazy. And now the families of two Marines in the unit at issue have come forward with details.
I have been as outspoken as anyone about the anti-war, cut-and-run agenda, and the MSM’s abetting of it. But as military officials acknowledge the existence of not one, but two, investigations into the incident at Haditha–one into the happenings on that fateful Nov. 19 day and the other into an alleged cover-up–it’s time to move past the easy bashing of the motives of Rep. Murtha and his ilk. (Matt at Blackfive has good advice for Murtha about what to say about Haditha that should be used by every pol in Washington.)
The investigations are still ongoing. That’s not an excuse to ignore or dismiss the extensive reporting on the story. Yes, it’s mostly one-sided at this point. But if, if, even a fraction of it is true, it deserves the most vehement condemnation and most severe punishment. Toddlers are dead.
Our Marines do not deserve to be hung in the court of public opinion before an investigation is complete, before hearings are convened, or before any military court proceedings are launched. But there are knees jerking on both sides. I just can’t agree with sentiments like this one:
Jerry Alexander, the owner of G.I. Joe’s and a Navy man who served with the Marines for a dozen years, had much the same perspective, saying, “If I saw my buddy laying there dead, there is no such thing as too much retaliation.“
What? That is not the way to “win the hearts and minds” of Iraq. Or anywhere else. This is not the attitude we celebrate on Memorial Day.
Sen. John Warner struck the right tone–refusing to render a verdict before trial and avoiding Bush Derangement Syndrome, but also taking the allegations very seriously.
Dan Riehl reminds us of some important context about Haditha and countless stories of Marines doing the right thing. He provides dozens of links to stories and images involving operations of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines in and around Haditha both before and after the incident (do take the time to read them all), and writes:
None of them are meant to explain away any wrong doing. But there is a Marine history and a legacy in Haditha that’s far from negative when viewed in its totality.
Along with showing how dangerous the environment was, the stories below also depict Marines, Iraqi’s and Iraqi Security Forces working in concert to improve security and the quality of life in the city of Haditha both before and after the dates of the alleged incident.
While nothing can ever excuse a potential atrocity, it shouldn’t be viewed as the beginning and the end of the story of Haditha and the US Marines. However tragic and deserving of punishment one day’s events may prove to be, they should not erase years of dangerous, difficult and truly noble work by an overwhelming majority of good Marines.
Allah’s got links to more context-setting reportage from Haditha, an insurgent-choked snakepit, and points to this WaPo story on drone video radio traffic audio that may aid the Marine inquiry. Some of it may be exculpatory, some not:
In addition to video from the drone, investigators have records of radio message traffic between the Marines and a command center, said military defense lawyers who have discussed the investigation with Marines who were at Haditha but who have not yet been formally retained by them.
“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.
Two of the lawyers said the message traffic will show officers in higher headquarters knew early on that a large number of civilians had been killed and that they did not raise alarms.
“The chain of command knew about it,” said one, and “the number of deaths was reported” by the commander of the company involved, Capt. Lucas M. McConnell of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion of the 1st Regiment of the 1st Marine Division.
Lt. Col. Scott Fazekas, a Marine spokesman, said yesterday he could not comment on the reports of drone-aircraft video or other aspects of the case because “the investigation isn’t complete.” Last month, the Marines relieved of command the battalion commander, Lt. Jeffrey R. Chessani, as well as McConnell and another company commander, citing a lack of confidence in their leadership.
The presence of the drone is potentially significant because such surveillance craft are in high demand in Iraq and their use is supervised by senior officers — which could indicate there was interest among higher officers about what was occurring in Haditha.
One of the military lawyers said Nov. 19 was the 3rd Battalion’s “hottest day” in Iraq, and was unusually violent even for al Anbar Province, which is where the insurgency began and where it remains extremely active.
In addition to drone surveillance that day, AV-8 Harriers were dropping bombs, helicopters were evacuating wounded, and a large firefight occurred about one-third of a mile from the site of the civilian shootings, said several people familiar with the investigation…
One last bit of reporting worth quoting for now comes from Time magazine, which initially broke the story that led to the Marine probes. From a web exclusive:
Belated as the investigation was, the residents of Hay al-Sinnani say they were gratified by its thoroughness. That there have been three separate enquiries suggests the U.S. military “want to get at the truth,” says Walid Abdel Khaliq, the doctor of the Haditha morgue where the victims’ bodies were taken.
They were especially impressed by the NCIS investigators. “They must have visited the houses 15 times,” says Khalid Raseef, a spokesman for the victims’ kin and uncle of Emaan and Abdel Rahman Waleed, the children who lost almost their entire immediate family in the massacre. The investigators “asked detailed questions, examined each bullet hole and burn mark, and took all sorts of measurements. In the end, they brought all the survivors to the homes and did a mock-up of the Marines’ movements. It was a very professional investigation.”
… If the families are skeptical of U.S. military justice, they have even fewer expectations of their own government. Thabet, Raseef and Khaliq all say they have not received a single enquiry from the Iraqi government in Baghdad. “In their eyes, we are nobodies,” says Raseef, bitterly.
Curiously, no political group has sought to make capital out of the Haditha massacre. It says a great deal of the huge gap between Iraq’s politicians (who tend to restrict themselves within the safe confines of Baghdad’s highly protected Green Zone) and its people that not a single politician has bothered to visit Haditha, or even sent condolences to the bereaved families.
Alexandra at All Things Beautiful weighs in on “Pride and Prejudice.”
“My biggest concern now is, even if evidence is found that totally exonerates the group of Marines in anyone’s fair judgment, most in the media and elsewhere now already are conditioned to see them as guilty, and will have “The Fix is In” as their only reaction, no matter what.
This may be true in any case, but Murtha has just guaranteed it.”
I do not profess to know any of the facts of the case, but I wonder how long it will take before the enemy kidnaps an innocent contractor in Iraq and executes them under the guise of revenge for Haditha like they did for Abu Ghraib.
Regardless of the facts, Murtha is giving the enemy exactly what they need to feed the insurgency. Al Jazeera will take this and run with it over and over and over again feeding the frenzy and hatred of our enemies.
At the same time, atrocities like Hallabjah, where Saddam killed 5,000 kurds with chemical weapons (proof of WMD’s), or overlooked and downplayed. Saddam has now been charged for the Hallabjah atrocitiy and the press hardly said a word about it. But you can bet Haditha will be overplayed to ad nauseum by the US media and Al Jazeera.
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