A Presbyterian minister who was an embedded reporter with his son's U.S. Marine company, which is accused of killing 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha, said soldiers in private moments gave no indication anything horrible happened in the town. Rather, the young men in Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment talked about earlier intense fighting in Fallujah and other wartime ordeals. "I would think that if it was as bad as everybody is making it out to be, I'd have heard something about it when I was there," said the Rev. Ben Mathes, 53, whose son, 1st Lt. Adam Mathes, is Kilo company's executive officer.Red flags started went of with me as I was reading this. First, the fact that nobody in Kilo company said anything to these pastors after telling them about "things that haunt them" strikes me as odd. Secondly, doesn't it seem odd that the people of Haditha "came out on the streets and brought us bread and tea and invited us into their homes" shortly after this so-called massacre?
The father spent 12 days with the unit in January in Haditha as a reporter with the Sacramento, California-based K-Love Christian Radio Network. He also ministered to the troops. "It was freezing cold and everybody gathered around this kind of metal fireplace where we chopped up wooden pallets and burned them and we'd sit there and talk about home and family and the deepest things with these kids," he said in an interview on Thursday. "Not once did anything come up that something horrible had happened. They talked about the first battle of Fallujah and things that haunt them. They'd talk about they had mortars land right beside them that were duds and three landed right beside them and a third one went off and it injured the buddy next to them and they didn't get hit."
He said he also did not feel animosity from Iraqis he encountered while on patrol with Kilo company in Haditha. "You would think that if something horrible had happened they would just disappear or just have nothing to do with these folks," Mathes said. "They came out on the streets and brought us bread and tea and invited us into their homes. The businessmen would have them come into their shops."
Christopher Price, a Georgia-based Presbyterian minister who traveled with Mathes to Iraq, also reported he saw no signs of bad feelings between Iraqis and Kilo company. The elder Mathes, the president of a Christian ministry that focuses on areas along remote foreign rivers, said his son was overseeing the company's base during the November killings and was not facing any charges.That isn't to say that they aren't critical. Here's their target:
"We have leaders who are hired by our country to lead us, who sent my kid to war and then they are back here bad-mouthing him and saying things they have no idea if it's true or not to get a little (TV) face time," he said.Gee. Who might be a leader who was "hired by our country to lead us, who sent my kid to war and then they are back here bad-mouthing him and saying things they have no idea if it's true or not to get a little (TV) face time"? I can't imagine who'd do such a despicable thing. This I know, though: Whoever did that should be fired this November.
Such criticism hurt the morale of soldiers already under great pressure, especially those now in Iraq, Mathes said. "How do you think it makes these kids feel, to come in exhausted, scared sometimes, maybe wounded, maybe having been in some type of combat exchange and turn on the TV set and be told they are just full of crap and they snapped and are just not worth a damn?" he said. "Why in the world would any young person want to continue to defend our county if that is what they are hearing?"
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