Monday, October 13, 2008

Setting the Haditha Record Straight

I've been following John Murtha's attempted railroading of the Haditha Marines since May, 2006. After learning the details of what happened in Haditha, I then focused on what's been happening in the military injustice system. It's been difficult to watch the purely political machinations within the persecutions. This morning, the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) issued a statement that their appeal to the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals court will be this Friday. Here's part of the text of their statement:

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center, commented, “For the last two and a half years, Lt. Colonel Chessani, has been investigated and prosecuted for his involvement in the so-called "Haditha massacre", a massacre the Government now knows never happened. This loyal officer who served 20 years defending our nation, including three tours of duty in Iraq, has been made a political scapegoat to appease anti-war Congressman John Murtha and the liberal press.”
Thompson continued, “The outcome of this case could have a negative impact on our national security. If the Government succeeds with this prosecution, every combat commander will know that difficult battlefield decisions can end up with a politically motivated criminal prosecution based on insurgent-driven propaganda.”

It's time that we turned up the heat on the powers that be and force an end to this charade. That means pressuring the politicians behind this persecution.

Lt. Col. Chessani is essentially charged with covering up a military crime. As Mr. Thompson notes, the military now knows that a military crime wasn't committed. That isn't opinion. It's a finding of fact evidenced by the dropping of charges against 5 of the 8 Marines. That's evidenced by the acquittal of another of the accused Marines. The only people who haven't been officially been cleared are Lt. Col. Chessani and SSgt. Wuterich. Again, it's time for this charade to end.

Here's another important portion of TMLC's statement:

Background of LtCol Chessani’s Case
On November 19, 2005, at approximately 7:15 a.m., a Marine convoy was rolling through Haditha, Iraq, a terrorist stronghold. Suddenly, a roadside bomb went off destroying a Marine Humvee, killing one Marine, and seriously injuring two others.

The Marines immediately received fire from the ambushing insurgents, who were shooting from nearby civilian-occupied homes. A four-man fire team responded as trained; they cleared several houses occupied by the armed insurgents. In the ensuing room-by-room, house-by-house gun battle, 8 enemy insurgents were killed.

Tragically 15 civilians also died, in urban combat, where insurgents purposefully use civilians as human shields, civilian casualties are tragic, but not uncommon. In fact, sometimes the insurgents themselves kill civilians to achieve a propaganda victory by blaming the Americans.

I talked about these events in this post:

That's one of the bullet points in Phil Brennan's June 7, 2007 article. Here's the full set of bullet points:

  • Intelligence gathered by Marine S2 officers in advance of the events of Nov. 19th, 2005, revealed that it was known that an insurgent ambush was planned for the day.
  • Although exact details of the planned ambush were not known, some important details were revealed, most importantly, that some 20 insurgents would take part, and a white car would play an important role in the ambush.
  • The intelligence was made available to the officers and men of Kilo Company, including Sgt. Frank Wuterich who has been charged with, among other things, murdering the occupants of a white car that came on the scene following the IED explosion that killed one Marine and seriously wounded another. The evidence will show that Wuterich acted appropriately when he shot the passengers of the vehicle.
  • Although the media continues to report that 24 innocent civilians were killed that day, the S2's testimony shows that eight of the dead, including four of the five occupants in the white car killed by Wuterich, were known insurgents and the dead civilians therefore numbered 16, not 24.
  • The insurgents whose communications were intercepted and which revealed the planned ambush were the same two men who were the sources of the fallacious and dishonest Time magazine story, which was the source of the accusations against the Marines.
  • As previously reported by NewsMax, the battalion S2 officer made a full and complete report based on his monitoring of the day's events and the intelligence he and others had amassed then and previous days. As we wrote at the time, the PowerPoint after-action report he sent up the command ladder proved to all the higher officers that the incident warranted no further investigation. None!
Jeffrey Dinsmore's testimony at the Article 32 hearing shows two things: (a) that a massacre didn't happen and (b) that the officers reported everything that happened. Since it's now a legal finding of fact that the massacre didn't happen and that a detailed PowerPoint presentation was put together, then sent up the chain of command, it isn't a stretch to think that this continued charade is purely political theater.

If the military wants to convince us that the word justice means anything to them, they must immediately end this charade. At this point, I'm not convinced that justice is an important consideration for the military. If it was, Colonel Steven A. Folsom wouldn't have issued a ruling of unlawful command influence in the case of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani. If justice was their primary goal, they wouldn't continue this charade.

Let's recognize that Rep. Murtha first lied about this on May 17, 2006. he then lied about where he got his information from, first saying that he was getting his information "from the commanders, it comes from people who know what they’re talking about.” It didn't take long before that story changed:

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.

Rep. Murtha's version of events has changed frequently, which says he isn't telling the truth.

It's time that the military acted in the interest of justice towards Lt. Col. Chessani and SSgt. Wuterich. If they're interested in justice, they should correct their mistake ASAP.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative