Monday, June 12, 2006

Setting Haditha Record Straight

That's what Mary Katharine Ham has done in a masterful column. Here's a sample of her facts and logic:
There was more going on in Haditha that day than just the IED explosion that killed Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas and apparently sparked the fighting that left so many dead.
Capt. James Kimber offers his story:
But that day, at about the same time, Iraqi insurgents attacked all three Marine companies patrolling in the Haditha area, one of them commanded by Kimber. He said he could hear over his radio the shots being fired during a running gun battle in Haditha.
"They weren't just Marine weapons. You can tell from the sound," he said...
Kimber's recollections provide a valuable backdrop to the events last November, a period during which Marine units were encouraged to escalate their use of force in dealing with insurgents, according to a Marine colonel with knowledge of operations in that area.
A source I've talked to, who is involved in the potential defense cases for these Marines, said that the IED that took Terrazas' life was just the beginning of a coordinated insurgent attack on four Marine squads they knew would respond to the first IED attack. The cluster of attacks ended up hampering relief efforts and injuring about a dozen Marines.
It wasn't too long ago that Murtha said "There was no firefight. There was no IED that killed those innocent people," said Congressman John Murtha commenting on the outcome of a military investigation. "Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood." With all due respect, there seems to be plenty of exculpatory evidence available. How Murtha could say that "There was no firefight" is beyond me. If he really got detailed briefings, then why didn't he get this information? Or did he get this information and just didn't include it in his 'report'?
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.
Haditha was a hotbed of insurgency in November of last year. It's important to remember the frequency and intensity of attacks these Marines were facing. There's also another side to the story, and the accused are beginning to tell it through their lawyers:
A sergeant who led a squad of Marines during the incident in Haditha, Iraq, that left as many as 24 civilians dead said his unit did not intentionally target any civilians, followed military rules of engagement and never tried to cover up the shootings, his attorney said.
Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, 26, told his attorney that several civilians were killed Nov. 19 when his squad went after insurgents who were firing at them from inside a house. The Marine said there was no vengeful massacre, but he described a house-to-house hunt that went tragically awry in the middle of a chaotic battlefield.
As I said here, Murtha couldn't wait to play judge, jury and executioner, something that all Americans should be worried about. It's like Murtha couldn't care less about one of the foundations of our judicial system. Murtha's thinking that he can selectively ignore sections of the Constitution is shameful.

The bigger issue, though, is that the investigation should be allowed to finish before anyone acuses these soldiers.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

Cross-posted at LetFreedomRingBlog