Haditha killings

Haditha killings

The Haditha killings (also called the Haditha incident or the Haditha massacre) refers to the incident where 24 Iraqi men, women and children were killed on November 19 2005 in Haditha, a city in the western Iraq province of Al Anbar. At least 15 of those killed were noncombatant civilians and all were killed by a group of United States Marines. [cite web
author =
title = Censure for Haditha slayings
publisher = Al Jazeera
url = http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/6647EBFF-1D45-483B-A2C7-6A3A6BE94122.htm
date = 6 September 2007
accessdate = 2008-01-08
] It has been alleged that the killings were retribution for the attack on a convoy of United States Marines with an improvised explosive device that killed Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas. [" [http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/06/01/military.training/index.html U.S. military mourns 'tragic' Haditha deaths] ", CNN. Accessed June 1 2006.]

A Marine Corps communique initially reported that 15 civilians were killed by the bomb's blast and eight insurgents were subsequently killed when the Marines returned fire against those attacking the convoy. However, evidence uncovered by the media contradicted the Marines' account.McGirk, Tim. " [http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1174649,00.html Collateral Damage or Civilian Massacre in Haditha?] ", Time. Accessed June 1 2006.] A Time magazine reporter's questions prompted the U.S. military to open an investigation into the incident. The investigation claimed it found evidence that "supports accusations that U.S. Marines deliberately shot civilians, including unarmed women and children", according to an anonymous Pentagon official. [cite news |url= http://www.cbc.ca/story/world/national/2006/08/02/haditha-investigation.html |title=Evidence suggests Haditha killings deliberate: Pentagon source |date=Wed, 02 August 2006 |publisher=Associated Press] On December 21, 2006, eight Marines from 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines were charged in connection with the incident. ["Marines charged in Iraqi civilian deaths", Associated Press, December 21, 2006.] " [http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2006/12/21/charges-haditha.html U.S. marine faces 13 Haditha murder charges] ", CBC. Accessed December 21 2006.] As of June, 2008, charges against seven of the eight Marines had been dropped. [cite news |first=Dan |last=Whitcomb |title= Charges dropped against Marine in Haditha case|url= http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080617/us_nm/usa_iraq_haditha_dc |publisher= Reuters |date= 2008-06-18|accessdate=2008-06-19]

In the course of Article 32 hearings, conflicting testimony has been presented, some of it rebutting the case made by prosecutors and widely cited in the media. The investigating officer has told the prosecution so far, "The account you want me to believe does not support unpremeditated murder." He conceded that the central issue was who is to be believed and that he was disinclined to recommend a trial when he thought it was unlikely any Iraqi would agree to come to the U.S. to testify. cite news |url=http://nctimes.com/articles/2007/06/16/news/top_stories/1_01_090_12_00.txt |title=Hearing officer challenges Haditha prosecution |date=June 15, 2007 |publisher=North County Times] On 9 August, LtGen James Mattis dropped the charges against Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, who had been accused of murder, and against Capt. Randy Stone, accused of failing to investigate the incident.cite news |url=http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2007/08/09/news/breaking/1_00_908_7_07.txt |title=General drops charges for two Marines in Haditha shootings
date=August 9, 2007 |publisher=North County Times
] On 23 August, the investigating officer recommended charges against Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum be dropped as wellcite news |url=http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2007/08/23/news/top_stories/1_00_118_23_07.txt |title=Hearing officer recommends charges be dropped in Haditha case |date=August 23, 2007 |publisher=North County Times] but on October 19th, his commanding officer decided the charges should be lowered to involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and aggravated assault.cite news |first=Chelsea J. |last=Carter |url=http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hNUaTPsL6OBHarjCDUGxJ0EYsm9AD8SCLMR00 |title=Courts-Martial for 2 in Haditha Deaths |date=October 19, 2007 |publisher=Associated Press]

On October 3, 2007, the Article 32 hearing investigating officer recommended that Staff Sgt. Wuterich be tried for negligent homicide in deaths of two women and five children, and that charges of murder be dropped. [Mark Walker, [http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2007/10/04/military/12_03_4110_3_07.txt Officer: Drop murder charges against Haditha Marine] , "North County Times", October 3, 2007.]

As of June 17, 2008, six defendants had their cases dropped and one was found not guilty. The exception is SSgt. Wuterich, whose trial date has been postponed.



Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, U.S. military forces have been stationed in and around Haditha to control the Haditha Dam, a major hydroelectric installation. The area had seen several clashes between U.S. forces and insurgent groups since the beginning of the Iraq war with many fatalities on both sides. ["Battles rage across Saddam heartland where 70 Iraqis are killed by US forces," "The Independent", June 14 2003] " [http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/08/02/iraq.main/index.html Six snipers among seven Marines killed in Iraq] " CNN August 2 2005] [ " [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8797271/ 14 more Marines from Ohio unit die in Iraq,] " AP August 4 2005]

A contemporary "Time" magazine poll reported that 85% of Iraq's Sunnis opposed coalition forces, as compared to 65% of Iraqis overall.

Conditions in Haditha itself were known to have been deteriorating under militant rule, and attacks on U.S. troops as well as executions of suspected informants were common. [Omer Mahdhi and Rory Carroll, " [http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1553969,00.html Under US noses, brutal insurgents rule Sunni citadel,] " "Guardian UK", 22 August, 2005]

The roadside bombing

On November 19, 2005 Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas was killed in a 7:15AM roadside bombing and two other Marines were wounded.

Killings and immediate aftermath

Allegedly, five Iraqi men, a taxi driver and four teenagers, were ordered out of their car and shot dead in the street principally by Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich. After their deaths, Lt. William T. Kallop, according to his statements to investigators, arrived on the scene. Kallop and others report receiving small-arms fire, which they attributed to a nearby house. Kallop gave the order "to take the house."Josh White, " [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/19/AR2007041902862.html Marine Officer Receives Immunity in Haditha Killings Case,] " "Washington Post", April 20, 2007.] Nineteen of those killed were in three adjacent houses which U.S. Marines entered, throwing in grenades and shooting with automatic rifles. ["They entered the house as a hostile environment. The rules of engagement permitted them to proceed their entry with hand grenades exploding and going in shooting and that’s exactly what happened." Neal Puckett (Wuterich's defense attorney), " [http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/Haditha_defense_lawyer_says_killings_were_0612.html Haditha defense lawyer says killings were legal,] " CNN's "American Morning," Monday June 12, 2006.] According to Kallop,

"The Marines cleared it the way they had been trained to clear it, which is frags first. … It was clear just by the looks of the room that frags went in and then the house was prepped and sprayed like with a machine gun and then they went in. And by the looks of it, they just . . . they went in, cleared the room, everybody was down."

On November 20 2005 a Marine press release from Camp Blue Diamond in Ramadi reported the deaths of a U.S. marine and 15 civilians. It said that the death of the civilians was a consequence of a roadside bomb and Iraqi insurgents. The initial U.S. military statement read:

"A US 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." "BBC News" " [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5033648.stm Haditha: Massacre and cover-up?] " ]

Eman Waleed, a nine-year-old child who witnessed the incident, described the US marines entering their house. She said:

"I couldn't see their faces very well - only their guns sticking in to the doorway. I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head. Then they killed my granny"McGirk, Tim, " [http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1174649,00.html Collateral Damage or Civilian Massacre in Haditha?] " "Time". Accessed March 19, 2006]

The director of the local hospital in Haditha, Dr Wahid, said that the 24 bodies were brought in two American humvees [http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1002199897] to the hospital around midnight on November 19th. While the Marines claim that the victims had been killed by shrapnel from the roadside bomb and that the men "were saboteurs", Dr Wahid said that there were "no organs slashed by shrapnel in any of the bodies". He further claimed that it appeared that "the victims were shot in the head and chest from close range."

Soon after the killings, the mayor of Haditha, Emad Jawad Hamza, led an angry delegation of elders up to the Haditha Dam Marine base allegedly complaining to the base captain.

The Marine Corps paid $38,000 to the families of 15 of the dead civilians. [Eric Schmitt and David S. Cloud, "General finds senior Marines lax in Haditha killings probe," New York Times News Service, July 8 2006.]

Evidence about the killings

Video shot by the co-founder of the Hammurabi Human Rights Group, Taher Thabet, which instigated Tim McGirk's original "Time" magazine article [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1174682,00.html] , and cellphone photos reportedly taken by one of the Marines [Ghosh, Aparisim, " [http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1198977,00.html Picking up the Pieces in Haditha,] ", "Time" online. Accessed May 30, 2006] the day after the killings have been put forth as evidence that the killings were methodical and without resistance.Perry, Tony and Julian E. Barnes, "Photos Indicate Civilians Slain Execution-Style," "Los Angeles Times", May 27 2006.] In particular, the video shot by Thabet shows the bodies of the children and women with gunshot wounds, bullet holes in the interior walls of the house, and bloodstains on the floor. Insufficient evidence has come to light to account for insurgents hiding in the houses that first came under attack.

the only AK-47 that was discovered that day—apparently a household defensive weapon, of the type that is legal and common in Iraq. No one has claimed that the rifle had been fired.--William Langewiesche in "Rules of Engagement, Vanity Fair, November 2006"

McGirk's first article on this story stated that the Hammurabi Human Rights Group had "coordinated with Human Rights Watch". A correction was issued when no official links or ties could be confirmed. McGirk, who is based in Jerusalem, declined to testify at the hearings. [" [http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2007/05/22/news/top_stories/1_02_125_21_07.txt Request for generals at next Haditha hearing denied,] " "North County Times", May 22, 2007.]

Legal proceedings

The intentional killing of noncombatants is prohibited by modern laws of war derived from the UN Charter, the Hague Conventions and the Geneva Conventions, and constitutes a war crime. The Marines and officers are subject to possible courts martial under American military law, the Uniform Code of Military Justice.


On February 14 2006, a preliminary investigation was ordered by Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, after video evidence was released, which conflicted with the initial U.S. report. On March 9, a criminal investigation was launched, led by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, to determine if the troops deliberately targeted Iraqi civilians.

On March 19, 2006, U.S. military officials confirmed that contrary to the initial report, U.S. marines, not Iraqi insurgents, accidentally killed 15 civilians.

Several official investigations began. The first, under United States Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell, looked into how the incident was reported through the chain of command. A second investigation, headed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, looked into the criminal aspects of the incident. [Perry, Tony. " [http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-marines20may20,1,5869811.story?coll=la-headlines-nation&track=crosspromo House to Look Into Probe of Pendleton Marines,] , "Los Angeles Times". Accessed May 20 2006.] A third investigation was launched by the Iraqi government. The conduct of Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, the squad leader, came under scrutiny.

On June 2 2006, news outlets reported that 24 Iraqis had been killed, none as a result of the bomb explosion. [Poole, Oliver, " [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/05/27/wus27.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/05/27/ixnews.html 'Worst war crime' committed by US in Iraq,] ", Telegraph.co.uk. Accessed May 27 2006.] This news anticipated the results of the U.S. military investigation, which found that the 24 unarmed Iraqis—including children as young as two years old and women [" [http://edition.cnn.com/video/player/player.html?url=/video/world/2006/06/01/chilcote.haditha.more.info.affl&wm=10 Death certificates describe in horrific detail how Haditha civilians were killed,] ", CNN. Accessed June 1, 2006.] —were killed by 12 members of Kilo Company in the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. [" [http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/05/26/marines.haditha/ Pentagon sources: Civilians likely killed without provocation,] " CNN. Accessed May 27 2006.]

"The Times" published the result of the first investigation, under U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell, along with interviews with eye witnesses. It noted that the "official investigation has already resulted in the removal of Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Chessani, the commanding officer, and Captain Luke McConnell and Captain James Kimber, two company commanders, from their duties. Bargewell's investigation found that:

"Statements made by the chain of command during interviews for this investigation, taken as a whole, suggest that Iraqi civilian lives are not as important as U.S. lives, their deaths are just the cost of doing business, and that the Marines need to get 'the job done' no matter what it takes. These comments had the potential to desensitize the Marines to concern for the Iraqi populace and portray them all as the enemy even if they are noncombatants." [" [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/20/AR2007042002309.html 'Simple Failures' and 'Disastrous Results',] " Excerpts from Army Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell's report, "Washington Post", April 21, 2007]

On June 1, 2006, the Associated Press also reported that the Iraqi government decided to launch its own probe into the alleged killing of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines in the previous year. Adnan al-Kazimi, an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said the decision was made during a Cabinet meeting. The probe was to be carried out by a special committee made up of the Justice and Human Rights ministries, along with security officials.

The U.S. Marines investigation has avoided public pronouncements. Nevertheless, in June 17, 2006, the "New York Times" reported that "Investigators have also concluded that most of the victims in three houses died from well-aimed rifle shots, not shrapnel or random fire, according to military officials familiar with the initial findings."Broder, John M., "Contradictions Cloud Inquiry Into 24 Iraqi Deaths," "New York Times", June 17 2006.] Many of those killed have wounds from close-range fire, and their death certificates record "well-aimed shots to the head and chest" as the cause of death.

Charges leveled

On December 21, 2006, the U.S. military charged eight Marines in connection with the Haditha incident. Four of the eight, Frank Wuterich, Sanick de la Cruz, Justin Sharratt and Stephen Tatum were accused of unpremeditated murder." [http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/12/21/iraq.haditha/ 8 Marines face charges in Haditha killings,] " CNN. Accessed December 22, 2006] Tatum was further charged with negligent homicide and assault, while de la Cruz was also charged with making a false statement. Squad leader Frank Wuterich was charged with 12 counts of unpremeditated murder against individuals and one count of the murder of six people "while engaged in an act inherently dangerous to others."" [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N21200494.htm U.S. Marines charged with murder in Haditha,] " Reuters AlterNet. Accessed December 22,2006.] The battalion commander, Jeffrey Chessani, was charged with one count of violating a lawful order and two counts of dereliction of duty. First Lieutenant Andrew Grayson was charged with obstruction of justice, dereliction of duty, and making a false statement, while Captain Randy Stone and Captain Lucas McConnell were charged with dereliction of duty. Stone also faced an additional count of violating a lawful order. All charges against Stone were later dropped.cite web
first = Dan
last = Whitcomb
title = Charges dropped against 2 Marines in Haditha case
publisher = Yahoo
date = August 9, 2007
url = http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070809/us_nm/usa_marine_haditha_dc
accessdate = 2007-08-26
] Grayson was acquitted on all counts. [" [http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/05/us/05marine.html Marine Is Acquitted in Iraq Killings,] " "New York Times", June 5, 2008]

Pre-trial hearings

Testimony in an Article 32 investigation for Capt. Randy W. Stone, equivalent to a civilian grand jury proceeding, began on May 8, 2007. At the hearing, Marine Lt. William Kallop, the platoon commander who ordered Marines to "clear" four houses, testified that the rules of engagement were followed and that no mistakes had been made. He stated that a Marine on the scene had reported seeing a suspected insurgent in the vicinity. Kallop also believed that small arms fire was being directed from the first house attacked by the Marines. [Mark Walker, " [http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2007/05/08/news/top_stories/12_11_025_7_07.txt Officer testifies Marines did nothing wrong at Haditha,] " "North County Times", May 8, 2007.]

On May 9, Sergeant Sanick Dela Cruz, who received immunity in return for testimony, testified that he watched Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich shoot five Iraqis who were attempting to surrender. Cruz further testified that both he and Wuterich fired into the bodies of the five after they were dead, and that he had urinated on one of the dead Iraqis. [Mark Oliver and agencies, " [http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,2076586,00.html Haditha marine 'watched superior kill surrendering civilians',] " "Guardian Unlimited", May 10, 2007.] [" [http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/3FCC27F3-A174-4FD3-ADF7-2A88CCE958DD.htm Marine 'witnessed' Haditha killings,] " "Al Jazeera", May 10, 2007.]

No weapons were found in the white taxi. ["Members of an explosive ordnance disposal team that was summoned to the scene scoured the taxi and found no weapons or evidence of bomb-making materials, the defense official said." " [http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,242203,00.html Officials: No Support for Marines Claims in Haditha Probe,] " Associated Press, January 06, 2007.]

The US military has attempted to subpoena material from a "60 Minutes" interview with Staff Sergeant Wuterich, specifically material where Wuterich admits to ordering his men to "shoot first and ask questions later." [" [http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/02/22/iraq/main3862292.shtml Military Subpoenas CBS Haditha Video , Prosecutors: Unaired "60 Minutes" Footage Has Marine's Admission Of Crimes In Iraq Massacre,] " CBS News. ] The interview includes Wuterich insisting he perceived a threat from house 1 but saw no gun fire from that house and that he saw no insurgent enter that house. He suggests he saw the dead family in house 1 and proceeded to assault house 2 based on a guess that the gunman may have entered that house. The Marines knocked on the door of house 2 and when someone came to answer they fired through the door killing what they saw to be an unarmed man. They then assaulted the house and killed the family inside. Wuterich believes now that there was probably no threat to begin with. [" [http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/03/15/60minutes/main2574973.shtml The Killings In Haditha, Charged Marine Tells 60 Minutes He's Sorry Iraqi Civilians Were Killed, But Insists He Made Right Decision,] " CBS News. ] ]

The Article 32 investigation recommended Capt. Randy W. Stone's criminal charge be dismissed, but that he face a new lesser charge that would be handled administratively for failing to investigate the incident properly. [" [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/19/AR2007061902578.html Lesser Charge Recommended Against Marine,] " "Associated Press", June 20, 2007] The charges against Stone were dropped on August 9th.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani was recommended to face court-martial for having "failed to thoroughly and accurately report and investigate a combat action that clearly needed scrutiny." [Mark Walker, " [http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2007/07/12/news/top_stories/1_61_077_11_07.txt Hearing officer: Haditha commander should be court-martialed,] " "North County Times", July 11, 2007.] On June 17, 2008 Military Judge Colonel Steven Folsom dismissed all charges against Lt Colonel Jeffrey Chessani on the grounds that General James Mattis, who approved the filing of charges against Chessani, was improperly influenced by an investigator probing the incident. The ruling was without prejudice, which allows the prosecution to refile. [cite web |url=http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/06/17/iraq/main4185854.shtml |title=Marine Cleared In Haditha Massacre | date=2008-07-17 |publisher=CBS News | author= |accessdate=2008-06-18]

Lt. Col. Paul Ware, the Inspecting Officer for several of the enlisted Marines, recommended on July 11, 2007 that LCpl. Justin Sharratt be cleared of these charges. Ware stated, " [t] he government version is unsupported by independent evidence... To believe the government version of facts is to disregard clear and convincing evidence to the contrary." [Thomas Watkins, " [http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D8QACP0G1&show_article=1 Officer Advises Against Trial for Marine,] " "Associated Press", July 11, 2007.] The charges against Sharratt were dropped on August 9th.

Article 32 hearings for LCpl. Stephen Tatum began July 16, and for SSgt. Frank Wuterich begins in August. [Alex Roth and Rick Rogers, " [http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/military/20070712-9999-1n12haditha.html Evidence against Marines called weak,] " "San Diego Union Tribune", July 12, 2007.] The investigating officer recommended charges be dropped against Tatum.

Charges dropped

On April 17, 2007, the Marine Corps dropped all charges against Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz in exchange for his testimony. Seven other Marines involved in the incident have also been granted immunity. [cite web
title = 7 Marines granted immunity in Haditha killings
publisher = Associated Press
date = April 20, 2007
url = http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18237072/
accessdate = 2007-08-26

On August 9, 2007, all charges against Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt and Capt. Randy Stone were dropped.cite web
first = Dan
last = Whitcomb
title = Charges dropped against 2 Marines in Haditha case
publisher = Yahoo
date = August 9, 2007
url = http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070809/us_nm/usa_marine_haditha_dc
accessdate = 2007-08-26
] On October 19th, Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt's commanding officer decided the charges should be lowered to involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and aggravated assault.cite news |first=Chelsea J. |last=Carter |url=http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hNUaTPsL6OBHarjCDUGxJ0EYsm9AD8SCLMR00 |title=Courts-Martial for 2 in Haditha Deaths |date=October 19, 2007 |publisher=Associated Press]

On September 18, 2007, all charges against Captain Lucas McConnell were dropped in exchange for immunity and his cooperation with the investigation. [" [http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSN1845602020070918 U.S. officer charges dismissed in Haditha killings,] " Reuters. ] ]

On March 28, 2008, all charges against LCpl. Stephen Tatum were dropped. [" [http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080328/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/marines_haditha;_ylt=AnduL7JRIobDPe1yxGpj24tI2ocA] "]

On June 17, 2008, all charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani were dismissed by the military judge citing unlawful command influence.cite news |url=http://nctimes.com/articles/2008/06/17/military/zeca5018258ba2e208825746b005ae619.txt |title=MILITARY: Charges against Haditha battalion commander dropped |date=June 17, 2008 |publisher=North County Times] The Marine Corps has appealed that ruling.cite news |url=http://nctimes.com/articles/2008/06/18/military/zcbf483709c591cef8825746d00001c81.txt |title=MILITARY: Marine Corps appealing dismissal ruling for Chessani |date=June 18, 2008 |publisher=North County Times]


According to Sidney Blumenthal in a Salon Magazine article,

"The coverup at Haditha reportedly began instantly. However, an Iraqi journalism student shot a video the day after of the bloodstained and bullet-riddled houses where the massacre had occurred. That video made its way to an Iraqi human rights group and finally to Tim McGirk, a correspondent from "Time" magazine. When "Time" made its first queries, the Marine spokesman, Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool, who had issued the first statement on Haditha as an action against terrorists months earlier, told reporters that they were falling for al-Qaida propaganda. 'I cannot believe you're buying any of this,' [" [http://www.salon.com/opinion/blumenthal/2006/06/08/haditha/index.html George Bush Sr. asked retired general to replace Rumsfeld,] " Sidney Blumenthal, Salon, June 8, 2006] he wrote in an e-mail. Nonetheless, word reached Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the second-highest-ranking U.S. military officer in Iraq, that there had been no investigation and he ordered one immediately."

According to the "Los Angeles Times", military and congressional sources distinguished between two squads: the original Marine squad involved in the explosion and shootings, and a Marine intelligence squad that took photos shortly after the shootings. According to "LA Times" sources, no investigation occurred until after a March 2006 "Time" magazine story alleging a massacre, even though the intelligence squad's photos were inconsistent with the Marine squad's report of a firefight. According to the "Time" story, military officials blamed the delay of the investigation on the Marine squad's efforts to cover up the events:

"Military officials say they believe the delay in beginning the investigation was a result of the squad's initial efforts to cover up what happened."
However, both military and congressional sources said that the "intelligence team" that took photos after the firefight did not appear to participate in any improper action:
"... [m] ilitary and congressional sources said there was no indication that the members of the intelligence team did anything improper or delayed reporting their findings."

The same "LA Times" story quoted Republican Representative John Kline of Minnesota as follows:

"There is no question that the Marines involved, those doing the shooting, they were busy in lying about it and covering it up — there is no question about it. But I am confident, as soon as the command learned there might be some truth to this, they started to pursue it vigorously. I don't have any reason now to think there was any foot dragging."

In June 2006, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemned the killings and called for a swift investigation, saying: "The crime and misery of Haditha ... is a terrible crime where women and children were eliminated." [" [http://english.aljazeera.net/English/archive/archive?ArchiveId=23219 Maliki: Haditha a terrible crime,] " "Al Jazeera", June 4, 2006.]

John Dickerson and Dahlia Lithwick of "Slate" suggested that the Iraqis should be able to put the Marines on trial even though 85% of Iraqi Sunnis opposed coalition forces: [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1139829,00.html Poll: What Do Iraqis Want?] , "TIME", December 12, 2005.]

"Let's let the Iraqis put the Americans alleged to have committed these crimes on trial. The United States wants to encourage the fledgling Iraqi institution of democracy, right? That's why we wanted Saddam tried in Iraq, and through the Iraqi judicial system--both to build up its legitimacy and to give Iraqis the sense of ownership that comes with having control over the legal process. Why, then, shouldn't we also turn over our own soldiers who were involved in either the Haditha massacre or any of the other possible massacres for trial under the Iraqi justice system?" [John Dickerson and Dahlia Lithwick, " [http://www.slate.com/id/2142896/ Home Court Advantage,] " "Slate", June 4, 2006.]

News website NewsMax observed after the initial reporting:

"In an April report that pre-dates the uproar over the Haditha allegations, a Marine press release describes the Iraqi town as 'a hotbed of insurgent activity less than a year ago.' That would be about the time of the so-called Marine massacre.

Plainly, not all the residents of this terrorist hotbed were as innocent as Marine media critics are now claiming." [ [http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2006/5/27/124438.shtml Rush to Judgment Against Haditha Marines] , "NewsMax", May 27, 2006.]

Comments by Representative Murtha

On May 17, 2006, Democratic Representative John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a retired Marine colonel and critic of the war, stated at a news conference that an internal investigation had confirmed the story.cite web
first = Jim
last = Miklaszewski
coauthors = Viqueira, Mike
title = Lawmaker: Marines killed Iraqis ‘in cold blood’
publisher = MSNBC
date = May 17, 2006
url = http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12838343
accessdate = 2007-08-15
] [Bowman, Tom. " [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5418814 Pentagon Investigates Alleged Massacre in Iraq,] " "All Things Considered", National Public Radio Accessed May 19, 2006.] [Goldenberg, Suzanne. " [http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,1784307,00.html Marines may face trial over Iraq massacre,] " The Guardian. Accessed May 27 2006.] He was quoted as saying:

"There was no firefight, there was no IED (improvised explosive device) that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.""CNN News", " [http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/05/18/murtha.marines/index.html Lawmaker says Marines killed Iraqis 'in cold blood,'] "]

On August 22006, Marine Corps staff sergeant Frank D. Wuterich, who led the accused squad, filed suit for libel and invasion of privacy. The lawsuit is currently pending. The filing states Murtha "tarnished the Marine's reputation by telling news organizations in May that the Marine unit cracked after a roadside bomb killed one of its members and that the troops 'killed innocent civilians in cold blood.' Murtha also said repeatedly that the incident was 'covered up.' " [ Josh White " [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/01/AR2006080101345.html Marine Names Murtha in Defamation Suit] " "Washington Post" August 2 2006] As of June 2008, Wuterich is charged with nine counts of manslaughter.

On September 25, 2008 former Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, one of the Marines exonerated in the hearings, filed a slander suit against Rep. Murtha. The lawsuit states that "Sharratt, in being labeled repeatedly by Murtha as a 'cold-blooded murderer,' and by Murtha outrageously claiming that the Haditha incident was comparable to the infamous (My Lai) massacre of Vietnam, has suffered permanent, irreversible damage to his reputation." [ [http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5h5WevvJUXQrfbMEFvMlEojd7tA6wD93DVLEO1 Pa. Marine sues Rep. Murtha over Haditha comments] ]

Comparisons with My Lai Massacre and other incidents

Many news reports have compared the Haditha Killings to the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War, with some commentators describing it as "Bush's My Lai,"" [http://www.consortiumnews.com/2006/052906.html Bush's My Lai,] " Robert Parry, consortiumnews.com, May 30, 2006] " [http://www.aljazeera.com/me.asp?service_ID=11335 Haditha Massacre: Iraq's Mai Lai,] " "Al Jazeera", May 29, 2006] or "Iraq's My Lai." " [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/02/AR2006060200936.html Haditha Killings Recall Vietnam's My Lai,] " "Washington Post", June 2, 2006] Very often, the killings have been described as part of a wider pattern of perceived human rights abuses committed by coalition forces in Iraq. As a "Spiegel" reporter notes in an interview with Michael Sallah, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his investigation of atrocities committed by the Tiger Force unit in Vietnam [" [http://www.pulitzer.org/year/2004/investigative-reporting/ 2004 Pulitzer Prize Winners — Investigative Reporting,] " [http://www.pulitzer.org/ The Pulitzer Prizes] . Accessed November 27, 2006.] , "you would have difficulties finding a single newspaper in Germany, or elsewhere in Europe, that does not deal with My Lai, Abu Ghraib, and Haditha in the same commentary." [de icon " [http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/0,1518,419716,00.html "In Vietnam war es genauso,] " "Spiegel Online", Accessed June 5, 2006] It is suggested that the Haditha killings may, like the My Lai Massacre, result in further reduction of American public support for the conflict. Some reject that comparison, including Christopher Hitchens, who has written that "all the glib talk about My Lai is so much propaganda and hot air." [" [http://www.slate.com/id/2143011/ Why Haditha Is Not My Lai,] " Christopher Hitchens, "Slate", June 5, 2006] The massacre has also been compared to recent human rights violations in Afghanistan, particularly the Shinwar Massacre.

The most frequent parallel drawn between the execution of 504 Vietnamese villagers at My Lai and the two dozen Iraqis killed in Haditha is the military instinct to cover-up and whitewash civilian deaths. Martin Shaw pointed out on the analysis website OpenDemocracy [http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/conflicts/asia_pacific/my_lai_haditha] , that of the 22 officers put on trial for the My Lai massacre, all were acquitted except for Lieutenant William Calley, who served only three and a half years of his life sentence. Professor Shaw observed that "in the few cases in which soldiers have been accused over atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan, convictions have been few and far between."

Comparisons have also been made to the case of Ilario Pantano, who was initially charged with premeditated murder in Iraq but this was dropped after it was determined there was no credible evidence or testimony. Pantano himself has spoken out in defense of the "Haditha Marines," objecting to the "rush to judgement." [" [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/27/AR2006052700846_pf.html Mr. Murtha's Rush to Judgment,] " Ilario Pantano, "Washington Post", May 28, 2006]

When interviewed by the "The Nation", a group of marines who had served extensively in Iraq spoke as follows about Iraqi civilian deaths: cquote|Some participated in such killings; others treated or investigated civilian casualties after the fact. Many also heard such stories, in detail, from members of their unit. The soldiers, sailors and marines emphasized that not all troops took part in indiscriminate killings. Many said that these acts were perpetrated by a minority. But they nevertheless described such acts as common and said they often go unreported - and almost always go unpunished. [" [http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070730/hedges The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness. ] "] |cquote

Allegations of investigative failures

Family, friends, defense lawyers and conservative talk radio host Michael Savage have openly criticized the NCIS for its role in this case. They highlight the recent string of immunities granted as a sign of possible NCIS bungling. [cite web
first = Mark
last = Walker
title = Immunity grants may signal problems with Haditha prosecution
publisher = North County Times
date = April 20, 2007
url = http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2007/04/21/news/top_stories/1_02_204_20_07.txt
accessdate = 2007-08-26
] Others have lambasted the NCIS for being slow to act.Fact|date=September 2007


The 2007 film "Battle for Haditha" was based on the incident.

=See also=
*Human rights in post-invasion Iraq
*Command responsibility
*Ilario Pantano
*3rd Battalion, 1st Marines
*List of military scandals


*Hamdania incident
*Ishaqi incident
*Mahmudiyah killings
*Mukaradeeb wedding party massacre
*My Lai massacre in Vietnam


External links

* " [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5033648.stm What happened at Haditha?] " BBC Dec 26, 2006
* " [http://www.blackfive.net/main/2006/09/from_the_marine.html#more Open Letter to Gen. Mattis] Reminder of the dangers of railroading
* " [http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1002199897 Video Taken By Journalism Student Key as 12 Americans Face War Crimes Probe in Iraq] ", Editor & Publisher.
* " [http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/03/21/1418210 Radio interview with Aparisim Ghosh about Haditha] ", Democracy Now!.
* " [http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/forumy/2006/06/haditha-and-my-lai-lessons-from-law-of.php Haditha and My Lai: Lessons from the Law of War] ", JURIST.
* " [http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2006-06-23T162116Z_01_GEO237696_RTRUKOT_0_TEXT0.xml&pageNumber=0&imageid=&c
* " [http://warchronicle.com/TheyAreNotKillers/DefendOurMarines.htm Defend Our Marines] , documents and testimony on this case from warchronicle.com"
* [http://www.expose-the-war-profiteers.org/DOD/iraq_II/haditha.htm The Massacre of Haditha - "A Document Archive"]
* [http://www.crimesofwar.org/onnews/news-haditha2.html "The Crimes at Haditha: A Briefing" at the "Crimes of War Project"]
* [http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/IraqCoverage/story?id=2617653&page=1&CMP=OTC-RSSFeeds0312 "The Haditha Massacre, One Year Later"]
* [http://www.usmc.mil/lapa/Iraq/Haditha/Haditha-Preferred-Charges-061221.htm USMC Haditha, Iraq Investigation - Preferred Charges and Specifications]
* [http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2006/11/haditha200611 Rules of Engagement] - November 2006, Vanity Fair
* [http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/military/20070509-9999-7m9haditha.html "Lieutenant testifies about Haditha deaths. Officer stands by call not to investigate."] By Steve Liewer UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER, May 9, 2007. Describes the charges and the first day of Article 32 hearings of the Haditha trial.
* [http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/05/30/1332253&mode=thread&tid=25 Haditha Massacre: Was it an Isolated Event and Did the Military Try to Cover it Up?] , Democracy Now!, May 30, 2006.
* [http://www.frankwuterich.com/ Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich] "official support website"
* [http://www.justinsharratt.com/ Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt] "official support website"
* cite web
url = http://www.newsweek.com/id/57349/output/print
last = Ephron
first = Dan
title = Haditha Unraveled: In a report obtained by NEWSWEEK, the affair's investigator casts doubt on the prosecution's case.
publisher = Newsweek
date = October 22 2007
accessdate = 2007-10-23

* [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/haditha/ Rules of Engagement: What really happened at Haditha] , "Frontline PBS television", February 19, 2008

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