A Marine Corps official has recommended that murder charges be dismissed against a Camp Pendleton squad leader accused in the deaths of 17 civilians killed in the Iraqi city of Haditha two years ago.
The official, Lt. Col. Paul Ware, said in a recommendation obtained by the North County Times that rather than face murder charges, squad leader Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich should be tried for the lesser offense of negligent homicide in the deaths of five children and two women.
Ware recommended 10 other murder charges against Wuterich be dismissed.
"I believe after reviewing all the evidence that no trier of fact can conclude Staff Sgt. Wuterich formed the criminal intent to kill," Ware wrote in reference to the women and children. "When a Marine fails to exercise due care and civilians die, the charge of negligent homicide, and not murder, is appropriate."
Ware's report, issued to prosecutors and defense attorneys this week, found the evidence against Wuterich contradictory. Ware's role as the case's investigating officer is akin to that of a judge presiding over a pretrial hearing.
"The case against Staff Sgt. Wuterich is simply not strong enough to conclude he committed murder beyond a reasonable doubt," Ware wrote. "Almost all witnesses have an obvious bias or prejudice."
Something else worth noting is that, if Gen. Mattis accepts Col. Ware's recommendation, the only charges pending against the Haditha Marines will be the dereliction of duty charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani and First Lt. Jeff Grayson, accused of failing to investigate the incident. Since it will have been determined that a major incident hadn't occured, it isn't likely that they'll be able to sustain charges against First Lt. Grayson or Lt. Col. Chessani.
It's worth noting that the only statement that Rep. Murtha was right about was this one:
There was no [bomb] that killed those innocent people,” Murtha explained.
“It’s much worse than was reported in Time magazine,” Murtha, a Democrat, former Marine colonel and Vietnam war veteran, told reporters on Capitol Hill. “There was no firefight. There was no [bomb] that killed those innocent people,” Murtha explained, adding there were “about twice as many” Iraqis killed than Time had reported.
Next, Rep. Murtha said that a firefight didn't happen. That's a bald-faced lie. Capt. Jeffrey Dinsmore testified that he briefed the 3/1 Marines of a planned IED explosion and that a white vehicle would play a vital role in the ambush. That information proved accurate. That's now fact because of the video from the UAV and because Capt. Dinsmore listened to the firefight coming in on his radio.
Let's fill out the timeline a bit. Here's what I've pieced together:
Asked about his sources during a midday briefing on Iraq policy in the Capitol, Murtha confidently replied, “All the information I get, it comes from the commanders, it comes from people who know what they’re talking about.” Although Murtha said that he had not read any investigative reports by the military on the incident, he stressed, “It’s much worse than reported in Time magazine.”
GIBSON: Jonathan just mentioned, there’s no charges yet filed against any of the Marines that were in this outfit, but Jonathan mentioned a moment ago, defense lawyers are already saying, well, there’s drone video and there is actual radio traffic to higher-ups that will give a different picture than you have been talking about of this incident. What do you know about that?
MURTHA: I can only tell you this, Charles. This is what the Marine Corps told me at the highest level. The Commandant of the Marine Corps was in my office just last week, so you know, I know there was a cover-up someplace. They knew about this a few days afterwards and there’s no question the chain of command tried to stifle the story. I can understand why, but that doesn’t excuse it. Something like this has to be brought out to the public, and the people have to be punished.
Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat, is being sued by one of the accused Marines for libel. He had told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Gen. Michael Hagee had given him the information on which he based his charge that Marines killed innocent civilians.
But a spokesman for the Marine Corps said Hagee briefed Murtha on May 24 about Haditha. Murtha had made comments on the case as early as May 17. On May 17, for example, he said at a news conference, “Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”
A spokeswoman for Murtha was not immediately available.
Isn't it odd that a old soldier like John Murtha would offer such contradictory verification? I find that extremely odd. My theory is that Murtha made his first claims hoping that he wouldn't get challenged. It's also my theory that he changed stories after the Marine Corps issued a statement saying that Murtha had his facts wrong.
There's more deception that Murtha is caught up in. He's also on record as saying that he "knew there was a coverup someplace." If you know that a coverup has happened, it's logical that you'd know where it happened and who was involved. Since he said that it happened "someplace", it's a fair bet that Murtha didn't knkow if a coverup had happened. At best, he might've guessed that these Marines had covered something up.
Having a hunch that something happened isn't the same as knowing that something happened, is it?
When you put all the pieces of this puzzle together, you realize that the pieces don't fit together at all. It's like Murtha borrowed puzzle pieces from other puzzles to make something work.
When a high profile case like this has this many pieces that don't fit, it's extremely likely that the puzzle will end up a disaster. That's certainly what looks likely to happen here. The only question left is whether Murtha will ever apologize to these Marines and their families and to the Marine Corps itself.
I won't hold my breath on that.
Technorati: John Murtha, Michael Hagee, USMC, Jeffrey Dinsmore, Jeffrey Chessani, Frank Wuterich, Stephen Tatum, Justin Sharratt, Paul Ware, James Mattis, Charlie Gibson, Haditha