A picture taken at the scene of the Haditha killings shows several dead Iraq civilians who were killed by Marines.
|Location||Haditha, Al Anbar Province, Iraq|
|Date||November 19, 2005|
|Raids against a vehicle, and several nearby houses, in response to an IED attack against U.S. Marines|
|Deaths||24 Iraqi civilians including seven children, a toddler, three women and a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair|
|Perpetrators||Squad from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion 1st Regiment, 1st Marine Division|
The Haditha incident (also called the Haditha killings or the Haditha massacre) refers to the incident in which 24 unarmed Iraqi men, women and children, all civilians, were killed by a group of United States Marines on November 19, 2005 in Haditha, a city in the western Iraqi province of Al Anbar. The dead included several children and elderly people, who were shot multiple times at close range while unarmed. It has been alleged that the killings were retribution for the attack on a convoy of Marines with an improvised explosive device that killed Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas. Many news reports have compared the incident to the My Lai massacre.
An initial Marine Corps communique 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, other evidence uncovered by the media contradicted the Marines' account. A Time magazine reporter's questions prompted the United States military to open an investigation into the incident. The investigation claimed it found evidence that "supports accusations that U.S. Marines deliberately shot civilians, including unarmed men, women and children", according to an anonymous Pentagon official. At least three officers were officially reprimanded for failing to properly initially report and investigate the killings. On December 21, 2006, eight Marines from 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines were charged in connection with the incident.
In the course of the Article 32 hearings, conflicting testimony was presented, some of it rebutting the media-cited case made by accusers and prosecutors of the Marines. At one point in the hearings, the investigating officer told prosecution lawyers, "The account you want me to believe does not support unpremeditated murder." He conceded that the central issue was who is to be believed and that he was disinclined to recommend a trial when he thought it was unlikely any Iraqi would agree to come to the U.S. to testify. On August 9, 2007, Lt. Gen. James Mattis dropped the charges against Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, who has been accused of murder, and against Capt. Randy Stone, accused of failing to investigate the incident. On August 23, the investigating officer recommended charges against Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum be dropped as well but on October 19, his commanding officer decided the charges should be lowered to involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and aggravated assault.
By June 17, 2008, six defendants had had their cases dropped and a seventh found not guilty. The exception was former Staff Sgt Frank Wuterich. On October 3, 2007, the Article 32 hearing investigating officer recommended that Wuterich be tried for negligent homicide in the deaths of two women and five children, and that charges of murder be dropped. Further charges of assault and manslaughter were ultimately dropped, and Wuterich was convicted of a single count of negligent dereliction of duty on January 24, 2012. Wuterich received a rank reduction and pay cut but avoided jail time. Iraqis expressed disbelief and voiced outrage after the six-year US military prosecution ended with none of the Marines sentenced to jail. A lawyer for the victims from Haditha said, "This is an assault on humanity." and he as well as the Iraqi government said they might bring the case to international courts.
In 2011 the New York Times found classified transcripts of military interviews from an investigation into the Haditha killings. In these interviews Marines said so many civilians were found dead after being killed by unknown factions in the Iraq conflict that civilian deaths seemed routine, and one sergeant testified that he would order his men to shoot vehicles that failed to stop at military checkpoints even if it were possible that children could be in the car.
Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, U.S. military forces had been stationed in and around Haditha to control the Haditha Dam, a major hydroelectric installation. The area had seen several clashes between U.S. forces and insurgent groups since the beginning of the Iraq War with many fatalities on both sides.
A contemporary Time magazine magazine poll reported that 85% of Iraq's Sunnis opposed coalition forces, as compared to 65% of Iraqis overall. 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.
On November 19, 2005 an improvised explosive device (I.E.D.), composed of 155mm artillery shells and explosives-filled propane tanks, was placed underneath asphalt some time before 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines (3/1) arrived in Haditha. The I.E.D. targeted a squad from 3/1 Kilo Company, 3rd Platoon while on a resupply convoy. Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas was killed instantly at 7:15 AM. Lance Corporal Terrazas was driving the Humvee which was hit by the bomb. Lance Corporal James Crossan was in the passenger seat of the Humvee and was thrown out of the vehicle and trapped under the rear passenger tire. The Humvee was split in half. Private First Class Salvador Guzman was in the back of the vehicle conducting security for the convoy and was thrown from the Humvee. Both Crossan and Guzman were taken to a Landing Zone to be picked up by helicopter and sent to get further medical attention. Guzman returned to active duty once his wounds healed and went on a 2nd deployment with 3/1 to Iraq in April 2007. Crossan was medically discharged from the United States Marine Corps due to the severe wounds he received on November 19, 2005.
Killings and immediate aftermath
|Deaths and injuries of Iraqis in Haditha
|House #1—7 killed, 2 injured (but survived), 2 escaped|
|1. Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali, 76—grandfather, father and husband. Died with nine rounds in the chest and abdomen.|
|2. Khamisa Tuma Ali, 66—wife of Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali|
|3. Rashid Abdul Hamid, 30.|
|4. Walid Abdul Hamid Hassan, 35.|
|5. Jahid Abdul Hamid Hassan, middle-aged man.|
|6. Asma Salman Rasif, 32.|
|7. Abdullah Walid, 4.|
|Injured: Iman, 8, and Abdul Rahman, 5.|
|Escaped: Daughter-in-law, Hiba, escaped with 2-month-old Asia|
|House #2—8 killed, 1 survivor: Shot at close range and attacked with grenades|
|8. Younis Salim Khafif, 43—husband of Aida Yasin Ahmed, father.|
|9. Aida Yasin Ahmed, 41—wife of Younis Salim Khafif, killed trying to shield her youngest daughter Aisha.|
|10. Muhammad Younis Salim, 8—son.|
|11. Noor Younis Salim, 14—daughter.|
|12. Sabaa Younis Salim, 10—daughter.|
|13. Zainab Younis Salim, 5—daughter.|
|14. Aisha Younis Salim, 3—daughter.|
|15. A 1-year-old girl staying with the family.|
|Survived: Safa Younis Salim, 13.|
|House #3—4 brothers killed|
|16. Jamal Ahmed, 41.|
|17. Marwan Ahmed, 28.|
|18. Qahtan Ahmed, 24.|
|19. Chasib Ahmed, 27.|
|Taxi—5 killed: Passengers were students at the Technical Institute in Saqlawiyah|
|20. Ahmed Khidher, taxi driver.|
|21. Akram Hamid Flayeh.|
|22. Khalid Ayada al-Zawi.|
|23. Wajdi Ayada al-Zawi.|
|24. Mohammed Battal Mahmoud.|
|Source: United for Peace and Justice|
Five Iraqi men, a taxi driver and four teenagers, were ordered out of their car and shot dead in the street, principally by Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich. After their deaths, Lt. William T. Kallop, according to his statements to investigators, arrived on the scene. Kallop and others report receiving small-arms fire, which they attributed to a nearby house. Kallop gave the order "to take the house." Nineteen of those killed were in three adjacent houses which U.S. Marines entered, throwing in grenades and shooting with automatic rifles. According to Kallop,
"The Marines cleared it the way they had been trained to clear it, which is frags first. ... It was clear just by the looks of the room that frags went in and then the house was prepped and sprayed like with a machine gun and then they went in. And by the looks of it, they just . . . they went in, cleared the room, everybody was down."
On November 20, 2005 a Marine press release from Camp Blue Diamond in Ramadi reported the deaths of a U.S. Marine and 15 civilians. It said that the death of the civilians was a consequence of a roadside bomb and Iraqi insurgents. The initial U.S. 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."
Eman Waleed, a nine-year-old child who witnessed the incident, described the U.S. 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."
The director of the local hospital in Haditha, Dr Wahid, said that the 24 bodies were brought in two American humvees to the hospital around midnight on November 19. While the Marines claim that the victims had been killed by shrapnel from the roadside bomb and that the men "were saboteurs", Dr Wahid 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."
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.
The Marine Corps paid $38,000 total to the families of 15 of the dead civilians.
Evidence about the killings
Video shot by the co-founder of the Hammurabi Human Rights Group, Taher Thabet, which instigated Tim McGirk's original Time magazine magazine article, and cellphone photos reportedly taken by one of the Marines the day after the killings have been put forth as evidence that the killings were methodical and without resistance. In particular, the video shot by Thabet 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. Insufficient evidence has come to light to account for insurgents hiding in the houses that first came under attack.
the only AK-47 that was discovered that day—apparently a household defensive weapon, of the type that is legal and common in Iraq. No one has claimed that the rifle had been fired.--William Langewiesche in Rules of Engagement, Vanity Fair, November 2006
McGirk's first article online stated that the Hammurabi Human Rights Group had "coordinated with Human Rights Watch". A correction was issued when no official links could be confirmed. McGirk, who is based in Jerusalem, declined to testify at the hearings.
The intentional killing of noncombatants 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 subject to possible courts martial under American military law, the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
On February 14, 2006, a preliminary investigation was ordered by Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, after video evidence which conflicted with the initial U.S. report was released. On March 9, a criminal investigation was launched, led by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, to determine if the troops deliberately targeted Iraqi civilians.
On March 19, 2006, U.S. military officials confirmed that contrary to the initial report, U.S. Marines, not Iraqi insurgents, killed 15 civilians.
Several official investigations began. The first, under United States Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell, looked into how the incident was reported through the chain of command. A second investigation, headed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, looked into the criminal aspects of the incident. A third investigation was launched by the Iraqi government. The conduct of Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, the squad leader, came under scrutiny.
On June 2, 2006, news outlets reported that 24 Iraqis had been killed, none as a result of the bomb explosion. This news anticipated the results of the U.S. military investigation, which found that the 24 unarmed Iraqis—including children as young as two years old and women—were killed by 12 members of Kilo Company in the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
The Times published the result of the first investigation, under U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell, along with 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. Bargewell's investigation found that:
"Statements made by the chain of command during interviews for this investigation, taken as a whole, suggest that Iraqi civilian lives are not as important as U.S. lives, their deaths are just the cost of doing business, and that the Marines need to get 'the job done' no matter what it takes. These comments had the potential to desensitize the Marines to concern for the Iraqi populace and portray them all as the enemy even if they are noncombatants."
On June 1, 2006, the Associated Press also reported that the Iraqi government decided to launch its own probe into the alleged killing of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines in the previous year. Adnan al-Kazimi, an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said the decision was made during a Cabinet meeting. The probe was to be carried out by a special committee made up of the Justice and Human Rights ministries, along with security officials.
The U.S. Marines investigation has avoided public pronouncements. Nevertheless, on June 17, 2006, the New York Times reported that "Investigators have also concluded that most of the victims in three houses died from well-aimed rifle shots, not shrapnel or random fire, according to military officials familiar with the initial findings." Many of those killed have wounds from close-range fire, and their death certificates record "well-aimed shots to the head and chest" as the cause of death.
On December 21, 2006, the U.S. military charged eight Marines in connection with the Haditha incident. Four of the eight, Frank Wuterich, Sanick de la Cruz, Justin Sharratt and Stephen Tatum, were accused of unpremeditated murder. Tatum was further charged with negligent homicide and assault, while de la Cruz was also charged with making a false statement. Squad leader Frank Wuterich was charged with 12 counts of unpremeditated murder against individuals and one count of the murder of six people "while engaged in an act inherently dangerous to others." The battalion commander, Jeffrey Chessani, was charged with one count of violating a lawful order and two counts of dereliction of duty. First Lieutenant Andrew Grayson was charged with obstruction of justice, dereliction of duty, and making a false statement, while Captain Randy Stone and Captain Lucas McConnell were charged with dereliction of duty. Stone also faced an additional count of violating a lawful order. All charges against Stone were later dropped. Grayson was acquitted on all counts.
Testimony in an Article 32 investigation for Capt. Randy W. Stone, equivalent to a civilian grand jury proceeding, began on May 8, 2007. At the hearing, Marine Lt. William Kallop, the platoon commander who ordered Marines to "clear" four houses, testified that the rules of engagement were followed and that no mistakes had been made. He stated that a Marine on the scene had reported seeing a suspected insurgent in the vicinity. Kallop also believed that small arms fire was being directed from the first house attacked by the Marines.
On May 9, Sergeant Sanick De la Cruz, who received immunity in return for testimony, testified that he watched Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich shoot five Iraqis who were attempting to surrender. Cruz further testified that both he and Wuterich fired into the bodies of the five after they were dead, and that he had urinated on one of the dead Iraqis.
No weapons were found in the white taxi.
The US military has attempted to subpoena material from a 60 Minutes interview with Staff Sergeant Wuterich, specifically material where Wuterich admits to ordering his men to "shoot first and ask questions later." The interview includes Wuterich insisting he perceived a threat from house 1 but saw no gun fire from that house and that he saw no insurgent enter that house. He suggests he saw the dead family in house 1 and proceeded to assault house 2 based on a guess that the gunman may have entered that house. The Marines knocked on the door of house 2 and when someone came to answer they fired through the door killing what they saw to be an unarmed man. They then assaulted the house and killed the family inside. Wuterich believes now that there was probably no threat to begin with.
The Article 32 investigation recommended Capt. Randy W. Stone's criminal charge be dismissed, but that he face a new lesser charge that would be handled administratively for failing to investigate the incident properly. The charges against Stone were dropped on August 9.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani was recommended to face court-martial for having "failed to thoroughly and accurately report and investigate a combat action that clearly needed scrutiny." On June 17, 2008 Military Judge Colonel Steven Folsom dismissed all charges against Lt Colonel Jeffrey Chessani on the grounds that General James Mattis, who approved the filing of charges against Chessani, was improperly influenced by an investigator probing the incident. The ruling was without prejudice, which allows the prosecution to refile.
Lt. Col. Paul Ware, the Investigating Officer for several of the enlisted Marines, recommended on July 11, 2007 that LCpl. Justin Sharratt be cleared of these charges. Ware stated, "[t]he government version is unsupported by independent evidence... To believe the government version of facts is to disregard clear and convincing evidence to the contrary." The charges against Sharratt were dropped on August 9.
On April 17, 2007, the Marine Corps dropped all charges against Sgt. Sanick P. De la Cruz in exchange for his testimony. Seven other Marines involved in the incident have also been granted immunity.
On August 9, 2007, all charges against Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt and Capt. Randy Stone were dropped. On October 19, Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt's commanding officer decided the charges should be lowered to involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and aggravated assault.
On September 18, 2007, all charges against Captain Lucas McConnell were dropped in exchange for immunity and his cooperation with the investigation.
On March 28, 2008, all charges against LCpl. Stephen Tatum were dropped.
On June 17, 2008, all charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani were dismissed by the military judge citing unlawful command influence. The Marine Corps appealed that ruling in 2008. On March 17, 2009, a military appeals court upheld the dismissal of the war crimes charges against Chessani. Facing an administrative Board of Inquiry, it also found no misconduct and recommended that Chessani be allowed to retire without loss of rank.
On June 5, 2008, 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson was acquitted of all charges stemming from the Haditha incident. He had been charged with deleting photos of the deceased Iraqis in order to obstruct the investigation. He had also been charged with failing to notify the Marine Corps administrative chain of command of his legal status when his term of service was expired and he was discharged from the Marine Corps.
Trial of Wuterich
The court martial of Wuterich, the only defendant to stand trial for the Haditha killings, took place in January 2012. During the trial Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz testified that he urinated on the skull of one of the dead Iraqis. He also testified, after describing how Wuterich shot the passengers of the car himself from close range, "Sergeant Wuterich approached me and told me if anyone asks, the Iraqis were running away from the car and the Iraqi army shot them". In a plea deal, Wuterich pled guilty to dereliction of duty, while charges of assault and manslaughter were dropped. He was convicted of a single count of negligent dereliction of duty on January 24, 2012, receiving a rank reduction and pay cut but avoiding jail time.
Separation Ordered for Witnesses
In Mid April 2012, The Secretary of the Navy informed the Commandant of the Marine Corps that he had reviewed the Haditha Incident and ordered Sgt Mendoza and Sgt Dela Cruz separated after they had testified in the trial of SSgt Wuterich. The Navy secretary said in the letter that his review of Dela Cruz and Mendoza's cases "revealed troubling information about their conduct." He cited false statements Dela Cruz made about the circumstances surrounding the deaths of five men found next to a white car at the scene. Mabus said Mendoza also lied and withheld information, without citing specifics. "Such conduct is wholly inconsistent with the core values of the Department of the Navy," Mabus said in the letter to Commandant Gen. Jim Amos. "You are directed to immediately initiate administrative processing for Sgt. Dela Cruz and Sgt. Mendoza for administrative separation in the best interest of the service." During Wuterich's trial, Mendoza and Dela Cruz acknowledged on the witness stand that they had lied to investigators to protect the squad. They told jurors that later they decided it was time to tell the truth. Both Marines were allowed to submit rebuttals to the separation proceeding. Both Marines were separated.
According to Sidney Blumenthal in a 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 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, no investigation occurred until after a March 2006 Time magazine story alleging a massacre, even though the intelligence squad's photos were inconsistent with the Marine squad's report of a firefight. According to the Time 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."
The same LA Times story quoted Republican Representative John Kline of Minnesota as follows:
"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."
In June 2006, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemned the killings and called for a swift investigation, saying: "The crime and misery of Haditha ... is a terrible crime where women and children were eliminated."
John Dickerson and Dahlia Lithwick of Slate suggested that the Iraqis should be able to put the Marines on trial:
"Let's let the Iraqis put the Americans alleged to have committed these crimes on trial. The United States wants to encourage the fledgling Iraqi institution of democracy, right? That's why we wanted Saddam tried in Iraq, and through the Iraqi judicial system--both to build up its legitimacy and to give Iraqis the sense of ownership that comes with having control over the legal process. Why, then, shouldn't we also turn over our own soldiers who were involved in either the Haditha massacre or any of the other possible massacres for trial under the Iraqi justice system?"
News website NewsMax suggested that the killings were not "unprovoked", and could have been "staged", and called Haditha "a hotbed of insurgent activity":
"Plainly, not all the residents of this terrorist hotbed were as innocent as Marine media critics are now claiming."
Comments by Representative Murtha
On May 17, 2006, Democratic Representative John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a retired Marine colonel and critic of the war, stated at a news conference that an internal investigation had confirmed the story. 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."
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 stated 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.' " As of June 2008, Wuterich was charged with nine counts of manslaughter. Wuterich's lawsuit against Murtha was dismissed in 2009, as the court determined Murtha was immune, having made his comments as a lawmaker.
On September 25, 2008 former Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, one of the Marines exonerated in the hearings, filed a slander suit against Rep. Murtha. The lawsuit states that "Sharratt, in being labeled repeatedly by Murtha as a 'cold-blooded murderer,' and by Murtha outrageously claiming that the Haditha incident was comparable to the infamous (My Lai) massacre of Vietnam, has suffered permanent, irreversible damage to his reputation."
Comparisons with My Lai massacre and other incidents
Many news reports have compared the Haditha Killings to the 1968 My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War, with some commentators describing it as "Bush's My Lai," or "Iraq's My Lai." Very often, the killings have been described as part of a wider pattern of perceived human rights abuses committed by American forces in Iraq. As a Spiegel reporter notes in an interview with Michael Sallah, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his investigation of atrocities committed by the Tiger Force unit in Vietnam, "you would have difficulties finding a single newspaper in Germany, or elsewhere in Europe, that does not deal with My Lai, Abu Ghraib, and Haditha in the same commentary." It is suggested that the Haditha killings may, like the My Lai Massacre, result in further reduction of American public support for the conflict. Some rejected that comparison, however, including prominent journalist Christopher Hitchens who stated in a 5 June 2006 essay that:
...all the glib talk about My Lai is so much propaganda and hot air. In Vietnam, the rules of engagement were such as to make an atrocity – the slaughter of the My Lai villagers took almost a day rather than a white-hot few minutes – overwhelmingly probable. The ghastliness was only stopped by a brave officer who prepared his chopper-gunner to fire. In those days there were no precision-guided missiles, but there were "free-fire zones, " and "body counts, " and other virtual incitements to psycho officers such as Capt. Medina and Lt. Calley. As a consequence, a training film about My Lai – "if anything like this happens, you have really, truly screwed up" – has been in use for U. S. soldiers for some time.
The most frequent parallel drawn between the execution of 504 Vietnamese villagers at My Lai and the two dozen Iraqis killed in Haditha is the military instinct to cover-up and whitewash civilian deaths. Martin Shaw pointed out on the analysis website OpenDemocracy, that of the 22 officers put on trial for the My Lai massacre, all were acquitted except for Lieutenant William Calley, who served only three and a half years of his life sentence. Professor Shaw observed that "in the few cases in which soldiers have been accused over atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan, convictions have been few and far between."
Comparisons have also been made to the case of Ilario Pantano, who was initially charged with premeditated murder in Iraq but this was dropped 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."
The killings have also been compared to killings in Afghanistan, particularly the 2007 Shinwar shooting.
Allegations of investigative failures
Family, friends, defense lawyers and conservative talk radio host Michael Savage have openly criticized the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) for its role in this case. They highlight the recent string of immunities granted as a sign of possible NCIS bungling. In mid-December 2011, 400 pages of classified notes from top-secret interviews with US soldiers about the 2005 killing of 24 civilians in Haditha were discovered in a dump on the outskirts of Baghdad. The Washington Post published NCIS photographs of the aftermath of the notorious incident.
Iraqis expressed disbelief and voiced outrage after the six-year US military prosecution ended with none of the Marines sentenced to jail. The Iraqi government said that the ruling did "not fit the crime" and that it plans legal action on behalf of families of victims killed. Survivor Awis Fahmi Hussein commented.
"I was expecting that the American judiciary would sentence this person to life in prison and that he would appear and confess in front of the whole world that he committed this crime, so that America could show itself as democratic and fair."
Youssef Ayid, who lost four brothers in the Haditha raid, said, "We are sad to see the criminals escape justice." "This is an assault on humanity," said Khalid Salman, a Haditha councillor and lawyer for the victims. He also said the sentence did not "mean the end" of his legal efforts. "There are orphans, widows and old people who are still suffering and hurting from that terrible massacre. ...If we find no way, we will go to the international courts."
The 2007 film Battle for Haditha was based on the incident.
- Tal Afar checkpoint shooting
- Ishaqi incident
- Mahmudiyah killings
- Mukaradeeb wedding party massacre
- FOB Ramrod kill team in War in Afghanistan
- Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse
- Kandahar massacre
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- Mark Walker, Officer: Drop murder charges against Haditha Marine, North County Times, October 3, 2007.
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