Haditha killings

Haditha killings

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Haditha killings
Part of the Iraq War

Location on map of Iraq

Haditha

This article documents a current event.
Information may change rapidly as the event progresses.

 
 
 


The Haditha killings (also called the Haditha massacre) occurred on November 19, 2005 in the town of Haditha, Iraq. The incident was provoked when a convoy of United States Marines was attacked with an improvised explosive device which killed Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas. Up to twenty-four Iraqis were subsequently killed; it is alleged that they were non-combatant local residents who were massacred by Marines in the aftermath of the insurgent attack.[1]

 

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, media reports contradicted this story.[2] The evidence uncovered by the media prompted the US military to open an investigation into the incident. Evidence collected by this investigation “supports accusations that U.S. Marines deliberately shot civilians, including unarmed women and children”, according to a Pentagon official. [3] On December 21, 2006, eight Marines were charged in connection with the incident. [4] [5]

 

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Events

 

 

Background

 

Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, US military forces have been stationed in and around Haditha to control the Haditha Dam, a major hydroelectric installation. The predominately Sunni-inhabited area was, from the start, a major centre of insurgent activity. As early as June 2003 American soldiers attacked an insurgent training camp near Haditha.[6] Many insurgent attacks followed in the next three years, and the area gained a reputation as one of particular danger for US and Iraqi government forces.

 

On August 1, 2005 six marine snipers were killed outside or near Haditha.[7] Two days later, on (August 3, 2005), 14 Marines were killed in their Marine amphibious assault vehicle by an IED.[8]

 

 

Killings and immediate aftermath

 

On November 20, 2005 a Marine press release from Camp Blue Diamond in Ramadi said the deaths of the civilians was a consequence of a road side bomb and Iraqi insurgents. The initial US 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[9][2]

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.[2]

 

Marines paid a total of $38,000 to families of 15 of the civilians killed. [10]

 

 

Investigations

 

On February 14, 2006, a preliminary investigation was ordered by Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, after video evidence was released, which conflicted with the initial US 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.[9]

 

On March 19, the US military officials confirmed that contrary to the initial report, 15 civilians were accidentally killed due to the US marines and not Iraqi insurgents.

 

On May 29, 2006, The Times published the result of its investigations and 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 with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.”[11] Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, the squad leader, is currently being investigated.

 

Currently several official investigations are underway. The first, under US Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell, is investigating how the incident was reported through the chain of command. A second investigation, headed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, is looking into the criminal aspects of the incident, and are expected to finish their report in June. [12] A third investigation is being launched by the Iraqi government.

 

As of June 2, 2006, news outlets had reported that 24 Iraqis were killed, none as a result of the bomb explosion.[13] The news comes in anticipation of the results of the military’s investigation, which is said to find that the 24 unarmed Iraqis—including children as young as two years and women[14]—were killed by 12 members of Kilo Company in the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.[15]

 

 

Evidence of the killings

 

Video shot by Iraqi journalist and founder of Hammurabi Human Rights Group[16] Taher Thabet and cellphone photos reportedly taken by one of the Marines[17] the day after the killings have been put forth as evidence that the killings were methodical and without resistance.[2][18] The term “execution-style” has been used by US military officials to describe the killings. [19]In particular, the video shot by Thabeth 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.

 

 

Reaction

 

According to Sidney Blumenthal in a June 8, 2006 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,’ 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, although the intelligence squad’s photos were inconsistent with the Marine squad’s report of a firefight, no investigation occurred until after a March 2006 Time Magazine story alleging a massacre. According to the 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.

In the same LA Times story, Republican Representative John Kline of Minnesota was quoted as saying:

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.[18]

Eman Waleed, a nine-year-old child who claimed to have 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[2]

The director of the local hospital in Haditha, Dr Wahid, claimed that the 24 bodies were brought to the hospital around midnight on November 19th. While the marines claim that the victims had been killed by shrapnel from the roadside bomb, Dr Whaid 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”.[2]

 

The intentional killing of civilians, or indeed of any unarmed people, 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 expected to face courts martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is U.S. military law. Due to a Status of Forces Agreement with the Government of Iraq, the troops will not be subject to Iraqi law.

 

 

Comments by Representative Murtha

 

On <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_17&#8243; title=”May 17″>May 17, 2006 U.S. Congressmember John Murtha, a retired Marine colonel and critic of the war, stated at a news conference that an internal investigation had confirmed the story.[19][20][21] 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.[22]

On August 2, 2006 Marine Corps staff sergeant Frank D. Wuterich, who led the accused squad, filed suit for libel and invasion of privacy. 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.”[23] Wuterich was charged with 13 counts of murder on December 21, 2006.

 

 

Rationales

 

James Crossen, who was sitting next to Terrazas, was also injured by the roadside bomb. In an interview with King5 television in Seattle, he alleged that children in the area often helped insurgents by counting vehicles in a convoy. Crossen suggests that it is likely women and children had given information about US patrols to insurgents, and that this information led to the roadside bomb attack. When asked whether he had any emotion about the villagers who were killed, Crossen responded “No… Probably half of them were bad guys and you just don’t know, so it really doesn’t cross my mind. […] Being so far away and it being so hot… you just lose control sort of and kind of stop caring what happened and I’m pretty sure that’s what happened over there.”[24]

 

Martin Terrazas, father of the dead Marine, has been quoted as saying that Marines his son had fought with had told him that, following the bomb explosion, the Company was attacked by insurgents who used civilians as human shields, and that the Marines had done “only what was necessary to survive.”[25]

 

 

Conditions in Kilo Company Camp

 

On June 20, 2006 the BBC ran an article alleging that conditions in the Kilo company headquarters were “feral”. The four hundred men were based at a dam three miles from Haditha. The camp was described as a “decaying rabbit-warren”. As a result, unofficial shacks had been set up outside the building to house Marines. Oliver Poole, a reporter who visited the camp, called the conditions filthy and disgusting. He said:

The fact that the officers had let conditions deteriorate to the level in which where people living [sic] in such basic environment, that says something,” he said. “Where were the officers keeping the standards that the US military keeps in the field?” [26]

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.[27]

 

 

Ethics seminars

 

The US Army has announced that coalition troops in Iraq are to undergo ethics training following the incident in Haditha.

 

 

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” [28] [29] or “Iraq’s My Lai”.[30] 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 the Pulitzer Prize for his investigation of atrocities committed by the Tiger Force unit in Vietnam [31]), “you would have difficulties finding a single newspaper in Germany or elsewhere in Europe which does not deal with My Lai, Abu Ghraib and Haditha in the same commentary.”[32] It is suggested the Haditha killings may, like the My Lai Massacre, result in further reduction of American public support for the conflict.[29] The comparison is not accepted by everyone, including Christopher Hitchens, who characterized the My Lai comparisons as “all the glib talk about My Lai is so much propaganda and hot air.”[33]

 

Comparisons have also been made to the case of Ilario Pantano, who was cleared of charges of premeditated murder in Iraq 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.” [34]

 

 

See also

 

References

 

  1. ^ U.S. military mourns ‘tragic’ Haditha deaths, CNN. Accessed June 1, 2006.
  2. ^ a b c d e f McGirk, Tim. Collateral Damage or Civilian Massacre in Haditha?, Time. Accessed June 1, 2006.
  3. ^Evidence suggests Haditha killings deliberate: Pentagon source“, Associated Press, Wed, 02 Aug 2006.
  4. ^ [1] Yahoo News
  5. ^ U.S. marine faces 13 Haditha murder charges, CBC. Accessed December 21, 2006
  6. ^ “Battles rage across Saddam heartland where 70 Iraqis are killed by US forces”, The Independent, June 14, 2003
  7. ^ Six snipers among seven Marines killed in Iraq CNN August 2, 2005
  8. ^ 14 more Marines from Ohio unit die in Iraq AP August 4, 2005
  9. ^ a b BBC News Haditha: Massacre and cover-up?
  10. ^ Eric Schmitt and David S. CloudGeneral finds senior Marines lax in Haditha killings probe New York Times News Service July 8, 2006
  11. ^ Hamdani, Ali and Ned Parker, Marines and the ‘massacre’: a neighbour tells of aftermath, Times online. Accessed May 29, 2006.
  12. ^ Perry, Tony. House to Look Into Probe of Pendleton Marines, Los Angeles Times. Accessed May 20, 2006.
  13. ^ Poole, Oliver. ‘Worst war crime’ committed by US in Iraq, Telegraph.co.uk. Accessed May 27, 2006.
  14. ^ Death certifcates describe in horrific detail how Haditha civilians were killed, CNN. Accessed June 1, 2006.
  15. ^ Pentagon sources: Civilians likely killed without provocation, CNN. Accessed May 27, 2006.
  16. ^ Haditha defense questions key videotape, Iraqi group, Reuters, June 15, 2006
  17. ^ Ghosh, Aparisim. Picking up the Pieces in Haditha, Time online. Accessed May 30, 2006
  18. ^ a b Perry, Tony and Julian E. Barnes. Photos Indicate Civilians Slain Execution-Style, Los Angeles Times. Accessed May 27, 2006.
  19. ^ a b Miklaszewski, Jim and Mike Viqueira. Lawmaker: Marines killed Iraqis ‘in cold blood’, MSNBC (NBC News). Accessed May 17, 2006.
  20. ^ Bowman, Tom. Pentagon Investigates Alleged Massacre in Iraq, All Things Considered, National Public Radio Accessed May 19, 2006.
  21. ^ Goldenberg, Suzanne. Marines may face trial over Iraq massacre, The Guardian. Accessed May 27, 2006.
  22. ^ CNN News, Lawmaker says Marines killed Iraqis ‘in cold blood
  23. ^ Josh White Marine Names Murtha in Defamation Suit Washington Post August 2, 2006
  24. ^ Video: Local marine injured Haditha talks of massacre, May 30, 2006
  25. ^ Alicia Caldwell, Father of Marine backs son’s Iraq comrades, May 31, 2006
  26. ^ BBC News, US braced for Haditha effect, 20 June 2006
  27. ^ Omer Mahdhi and Rory Carroll, Under US noses, brutal insurgents rule Sunni citadel, Guardian UK, 22 August, 2005
  28. ^ Bush’s My Lai, Robert Parry, consortiumnews.com, May 30, 2006
  29. ^ a b Haditha Massacre: Iraq’s Mai Lai, Al Jazeera, May 29, 2006
  30. ^ Haditha Killings Recall Vietnam’s My Lai, Washington Post, June 2, 2006
  31. ^ “2004 Pulitzer Prize Winners – INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING”, The Pulitzer Prizes. Accessed November 27, 2006.]
  32. ^ “In Vietnam war es genauso”, Spiegel Online, Accessed June 5, 2006
  33. ^ Why Haditha Is Not My Lai, Christopher Hitchens, Slate, June 5, 2006
  34. ^ Mr. Murtha’s Rush to Judgment, Ilario Pantano, Washington Post, May 28, 2006

 

 

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