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Blogger extraordinaire from Gut Rumbles has lost his battle. May peace find Rob now.
His wit and charm will be missed.
I've been away, so it's time to catch up on a few missed stories over the past couple weeks.
There's a scene in "Lawrence" where the Colonel has just made it across an impossibly large swath of deadly desert. He had been accompanied by two "wogs" (the "raghead" term of the British colonial era), one of whom died in the journey. Lawrence enters the officers' club with the other, and is told that the wog can't possibly be served alongside the Brits. Lawrence gets mad, and eventually gets his way out of respect for what he's achieving with indigenous forces.He did, and the resulting story is a must read, from page one of the Wall Street Journal. The following excerpt can't capture the essence of the entire article, but highlights some of the challenges involved in building an army in Iraq.
When I was down in Maxwell speaking over the spring to the Joint Warfighters Officers Course of 3-stars, I got to spend a couple of beers talking to buddy Greg Jaffe of the Wall Street Journal, who was on the base to speak the next day to the same crowd. While we chatted, he told me of a similar divide in Iraq, right down to the colonel who couldn't bring his Iraqi counterpart to the US-only mess. I told Greg it reminded me off that scene in "Lawrence" and that he someday needed to write that sort of thing down in a piece.
Senior Iraqi officials in the Ministry of Defense were convinced Tarmiyah was a hotbed of insurgent activity. Col. Pasquarette says he was told by his commander in Baghdad to clear the city of insurgents.Both sides accept a carrot and stick approach - of note is which side favors emphasis on which option. Our Iraqi allies have repeatedly voiced the complaint that we're too soft - but such complaints get little attention from the American media. If the story is accurate, the American commander's view of his Iraqi allies approaches contempt, and that - rather than the appropriateness of any given solution to a problem - is the emphasis of the piece.
Col. Pasquarette and his team spent several days building a plan before he invited Col. Payne, Col. Saad and Col. Saad's commander to the U.S. side to explain it.
The two Iraqi officers were led through a 208-slide PowerPoint briefing, in which all the slides were written in English. The six areas the Iraqi troops were supposed to occupy were named for New England cities, such as Cranston, Bangor and Concord. The Iraqi officers, who spoke only Arabic, were dumbfounded. "I could see from their body language that both of them were not following what was going on," says Maj. Bill Taylor, Col. Payne's deputy.
Once the plan was explained to them through an interpreter, the Iraqis strongly disagreed with it. Col. Pasquarette planned to surround the city with razor wire and set up checkpoints to search all cars moving in and out of the city. U.S. and Iraqi soldiers would then begin regular foot patrols through the city to gain intelligence on insurgents. The centerpiece of the plan was $5 million in reconstruction projects.
Col. Pasquarette argued that the projects would help the U.S. win support of the city's powerful mayor, Sheik Sayid Jassem, who had been detained by U.S. forces in the early days of the occupation for supporting the insurgency. He also thought the projects would turn the people to the side of the new Iraqi government.
The Iraqis favored a harder-nosed approach. They wanted to conduct house-to-house searches and find a way to put pressure on the mayor, who they insisted was still supporting insurgents. They suggested shutting Tarmiyah's business district down for a week. Once the mayor had been cowed with the stick, they favored dangling the $5 million in reconstruction funds.
The entire thing is highly informative and well worth a read. Unfortunately, it's also behind the subscription wall. Of course, this being the internet, if you look around you'll find someplace with the full text, even if you have to scroll down a bit after following the link.
Blogging will be intermittent. Lines are still down and PCS is in the works. Will blog from where ever wireless allows.
UPDATE: Obviously not back up. Problems with lines.
Not PCSing yet but very soon. we'll update with details soon.
Computers are temporarily down in the hause of Greyhawk's. Should be up and running tomorrow, hopefully. So no posting til then. Also cannot receive or anwer email.
Moving this post up (originally posted 2006-06-09 16:13:16)
Stories of Valour-IT Recipients:
UPDATE 2: The Arsenal of Argghhh! will give a "Cluebat of Argghhh!" to the first 10 people who produce a receipt for a donation of $100 or more to Project Valour-IT.* and here's a great post on a so called Milblog
Valour-IT is in dire need of help.
Patti Bader sent out the alarm yesterday:
WE ARE BEHIND 11 LAPTOPS. NEED MONEY. PLEASE, PLEASE HELP. I cannot fail heroes. I just cannot.
There are Eleven recipients waiting and means we need at least $7,000.
I hear a blogswarm brewing.
The combined efforts of MilBlogs have raise over $100,000 in the past, let's see what we can do this round .
Here is a sample of just some of those who are waiting for a laptop :
Army SGT injured last month by VBIED: shrapnel damage to legs and right hand.
Army SGT injured in February: multiple gunshot wounds through right leg, ribs/lungs, forearm and shoulder.
Recently-injured Army SGT (cavalry scout) who experienced several IED explosions: I want to obtain a laptop so I can take online courses, and start college when I separate from the army. Thank you.
Army CPT injured last year who has received three purple hearts in 3 years and is being medically retired: needs computer for college study
(Continuing a discussion begun here.)
The Calm Before the Storm
Returning to our chronology of events.
Even after Time Magazine broke their story in March, scant attention was paid by other media outlets - perhaps in part due to Time's contention that "The available evidence does not provide conclusive proof that the Marines deliberately killed innocents in Haditha".
The day after publication of the Time story, a similar atrocity was claimed by residents of the town of Ishaqi. It too was hardly noted in the media, perhaps due to the absurd aspect of some of the claims (Americans had handcuffed and executed 11 people from one family, ranging from a 75-year old woman to a 6-month old baby, then burned their vehicles, killed their farm animals, and blew up the house to cover up the crime) and when the story was effectively debunked by Iraqi police just two days later it also faded completely. (It would return briefly to prominence once the Haditha story "caught fire" - but with the more outlandish details purged.)
The Haditha story itself would be noted briefly again on April 7, when two of the officers in command of the unit involved (along with a third from another company not relative to the Haditha incident) were relieved by Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division:
Marine Corps spokesman 2nd Lt. Lawton King said Natonski relieved the three of command because he lacked confidence in their leadership, based on their recent deployment to Iraq and a series of actions by the battalion.We covered those developments in a larger piece here.
Then, on May 17,
Rep. John Murtha, an influential Pennsylvania lawmaker and outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, said today Marines had “killed innocent civilians in cold blood” after allegedly responding to a roadside bomb ambush that killed a Marine during a patrol in Haditha, Iraq, Nov. 19.Murtha (a House Armed Services Committee member) had been briefed on the still incomplete investigations by DoD officials.
All bets were off, and now months of media silence could be used to the advantage of those who'd been scooped by Time. The story was suddenly "new", and the passage of tme since the original story broke could even be used to enhance the "cover-up" claims against the Marine Corps. While Murtha could be accused of influencing an ongoing investigation, he would instead be credited for exposing it and the Haditha story to the light. (At a minimum, he had assured that much future coverage of the story would include favorable references to or quotes by him, along with his picture.(4))
Reporters scrambled to make up for lost time. Officially the DoD could say nothing about the incomplete investigation, but quotes from "senior Defense officials who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the investigation was not yet completed" detailing the results of the investigation became common. And several news agencies interviewed Haditha residents who were willing to share their accounts (first-hand and otherwise) of the "cold blooded massacre". Some of those subjects were also quoted in the original Time story.
But as their stories were repeated, flaws began to appear.
(More to follow - note that comments will be "off" until completion of this post.)
4. Murtha: While Mr Murtha's opinions of the war in Iraq are subjective and open to debate, his abuse of facts to support them is not. A couple brief examples from a recent appearance on CBS News' Face the Nation (transcript in pdf) include claims that "...only 30 percent of the people [of Iraq are] getting water" and "We've lost almost 20,000 people in this war".
Both are broad exaggerations. If 70 percent of people in Iraq weren't getting water, they would die within days - and a check of the State Department Reports he cited as source reveals no water shortage of the sort he describes. And the number of "lost" can't be supported without including the number of wounded troops whose injuries were minor enough that they could return to duty within 72 hours. (Updated numbers can always be found in this pdf.) There are many other examples, but this post is not about Jack Murtha. However, it seems the congressman has rarely stated a fact on Iraq that he didn't feel needed to be exaggerated to make his point, and it's likely that his cold blooded killers comment may have been either a personal opinion/understanding of the results of the incomplete investigation, or another exaggeration for some unknown desired effect.
The other side of the story, from The Washington Post:
Marine Says Rules Were FollowedRead it all. The actual comments are by the Marines' lawyers, who are relating what the Marines told them.
Sergeant Describes Hunt for Insurgents in Haditha, Denies Coverup
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's detailed version of what happened in the Haditha neighborhood is the first public account from a Marine who was on the ground when the shootings occurred. As the leader of 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Wuterich was in the convoy of Humvees that was hit by a roadside bomb. He entered the house from which the Marines believed enemy fire was originating and made the initial radio reports to his company headquarters about what was going on, Puckett said.
The accounts given are actually consistent - on the broader story - with reports from Iraqi civilians (houses were entered, non-combatants were killed). But the Devil's in the details, as they say, and in this case (as with most such cases) that's where divergence occurs.
The issue will indeed be settled by a determination of whether the Marines followed rules of engagement for the circumstances. Two questions that are key to that issue are 1) did they correctly assess the situation and 2) did they respond appropriately to that assessment. On-the-scene decision makers have broad latitude to act in response to attack (this is not to imply they can shoot children with reckless abandon), must rely on training and experience to do so (the Marines had both), and obviously can't pull out an instruction manual to determine what to do in any combat situation.
It's worth noting that there are two investigations ongoing into events at Haditha, and that this report addresses both. The first is to determine what happened, the second to evaluate if a "cover up" followed. Obviously, initial reports that civilians were killed by the IED were wrong - but initial reports more often than not are wrong.
The "cover-up" investigation is complicated in that it involves individuals who were not on the scene (one of whom was the company commander of the Marines who were), and the potential for miscommunication as a story is "up-channeled" through multiple levels. According to the attorneys quoted in the Post:
Kevin B. McDermott, who is representing Capt. Lucas M. McConnell, the Kilo Company commander, said Wuterich and other Marines informed McConnell on the day of the incident that at least 15 civilians were killed by "a mixture of small-arms fire and shrapnel as a result of grenades" after the Marines responded to an attack from a house.Another question to be answered in the investigation and possible court martial (and apart from the "cover-up" charge) is whether commanders were negligent in failing to further investigate the deaths. In hindsight this may seem obvious, but the determination must be made based on information available at the time. The statement that Captain McConnell was relieved for that cause may not be completely correct - earlier reports indicated he - and his commander - were relieved by Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, "because he [Natonski] lacked confidence in their leadership, based on their recent deployment to Iraq and a series of actions by the battalion." (A third officer was relieved at the same time for unrelated reasons.)
McConnell was relieved of his command in April for "failure to investigate," according to McDermott. But the lawyer said McConnell told him that he reported the high number of civilian deaths to the 3rd Battalion executive officer that afternoon and that within a few days the battalion's intelligence chief gave a PowerPoint presentation to Marine commanders.
"It wasn't a situation that dawned on him as the captain of Kilo where it was like, 'Okay, guys, we need to conduct a more thorough investigation,' " McDermott said. "Everywhere up the chain, they had ample access to this thing."
Marine Corps public affairs officers reported that the civilians had been killed in the bomb blast, a report that Puckett [the attorney representing Wuterich in the ongoing investigation] believes was the result of a miscommunication.
The story is complex, and this is certainly not the first case where accounts of various parties conflict, or in which the accused maintain their innocence. Regardless of the feelings or opinions of others watching the story unfold, the task of determining the need for a trial (court martial) in this event falls to investigators. And if such is the outcome, the determination of guilt or innocence will be made by a panel formed for that purpose.
Capt. James Kimber, who was in command of another company nearby:
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 also comments on ROE training:
On the radio, Kimber said, he heard the report from Haditha of the blast from a roadside improvised explosive device, or IED, and the death of one Marine there. He also could hear an unfolding gun battle.
Most puzzling, Kimber and a Marine colonel said, was the fact that neither of them heard about shootings at Haditha through the Marine rumor mill or in complaints from the Iraqis with whom they had frequent interaction.
"Marines talk," Kimber said. "I'm surprised it didn't get out that way. I'm just hoping that Marines didn't do this."
"This was a huge thing that we hit on in our training," he said, "that this was not Fallujah. That there are going to be innocent people here. If you don't win the battle for the people, you're not going to win the counterinsurgency fight."Martin Terrazas, father of Miguel Terrazas, who was killed in the initial IED blast:
Miguel Terrazas' father, Martin, said the Marines his son fought with told him that after the car bomb exploded the Marines took a defensive position around his son's battered vehicle. Insurgents immediately started shooting from nearby buildings, and the insurgents were using women and children as human shields, Martin said he was told.
The Marines shot back because "it was going to be them or" the insurgents, Martin said of what his son's fellow Marines briefly described to him.
Terrazas said he has met with many from his son's unit who told him they did only what was necessary to survive. He wouldn't say when he spoke with them.
"Those Marines just did their job," he said. "Some of these kids were saying, 'We have to live with it'."
A comprehensive chronological review of the still developing story (and the many inaccuracies, rumors, and misconceptions surrounding it) can be found here.
Last week brought the first media demands that the Marines revise their original public statements (from last November) on the incident at Haditha before they complete their investigation into the event.
This week, the Washington Post's Dana Milbank joined the crowd.
"General," queried ABC News's Jonathan Karl, "all that we have, officially, on the record, from the military on the Haditha incident, is that 15 civilians were killed by a roadside bomb. Can you now correct for the record that statement and tell us if that statement was inaccurate?"Now there's more than a little pretending going on here - the reporters know that an investigation is underway, and that "the military" can't actually comment on an ongoing investigation. Witness each published report quoting an "unnamed senior Defense official" who speaks "on condition of anonymity because the investigation has not been concluded". But as Milbank's piece makes quite clear, reporters were relentless in demanding Marine Corps Commandant Michael Hagee give them the full results of the incomplete investigation right now. Since they know he can't, their line of questions serves a different purpose, and that's to serve as the basis for the sort of story Milbank delivers here - an implied "cover-up" by the military, with just a hint of tin-foil thrown in.
Hagee could not. "As I've said several times, I cannot comment on anything that has happened until the investigations are complete."
"So you're going to let stand the press release?" Karl demanded.
Hagee was. Without another word, he turned to the next questioner.
And for good measure, some sneering commentary directed at General Hagee:
There seemed to be a substantial risk that Marine Corps Commandant Michael Hagee would, at the beginning of his Pentagon press briefing yesterday, start crooning about the halls of Montezuma and the shores of Tripoli.Since those comments helpfully lead off Milbank's post, they send a loud and clear signal that the noise level in what follows will not contribute much to the discussion. But given the number of media "investigations" into the story and the number of words on the topic they've delivered to the public over the past few weeks, it could be that there are reporters who actually have difficulty understanding what's taking so long with the official inquiry. But as we'll demonstrate, an actual criminal investigation - with the purpose of uncovering evidence of guilt or innocence (and perhaps ultimately determining punishment of any guilty parties) is a bit more painstaking a process than is the typing of a news report, with the purpose of selling papers.
He was giving the first briefing by a top Pentagon official since fresh allegations surfaced three weeks ago about Marines killing two dozen Iraqi civilians in Haditha. But, unable or unwilling to provide information about that dark episode, he chose to talk "about what it is to be a Marine."
In this discussion I'd like to cut through that abundant noise, and discover if any faint signal may be currently available. But at this point in time, it seems the best we can do is identify at least some of what is clearly noise.
Some are quick to proclaim the innocence of the Marines, others just as quickly the guilt. Do not look here in hopes of finding the mystery "solved". We all agree, of course, that elusive "justice" is the desired outcome of this event. But what's particularly disturbing about this case - unfortunately like so many others civil and military - is that too many have determined - prematurely - exactly what the requirements for "justice" are.
Speaking of which, those who have little to no knowledge of the military justice system should probably take a moment to read this before proceeding.
Obviously, that's the subject of the investigation - so we won't pretend to have all the facts, or any insight into what that official investigation has turned up so far.
But the events in Haditha on November 19th, 2005, were first reported - as with so many tragedies in Iraq - in a brief military press release:
November 20, 2005Much later versions of the story would reveal additional details of that chaotic day.
II MEF Marine killed by IED
CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq – A Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 2, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), was killed in action when his vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive device attack while conducting combat operations against the enemy in the vicinity of Hadithah, Nov. 19.
The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense.
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.Shortly after the initial casualty statement, the fallen Marine would be identified as Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas.
Nov. 19 unfolded like many other days in Iraq, Kimber said, with reports of violence. A rocket-propelled grenade was launched toward the compound of Kimber's unit, in a school in central Haqlaniyah, a few miles south of Haditha. Other nearby units also were taking mortar and small-arms fire.
On the radio, Kimber said, he heard the report from Haditha of the blast from a roadside improvised explosive device, or IED, and the death of one Marine there. He also could hear an unfolding gun battle.
In the battalion briefing afterward, he said, the events of the day in Haditha were reported as an IED ambush, an account that seemed to fit with what he had overheard on the radio.
Additional information regarding the official version of what happened immediately after the IED attack that claimed Terrazas' life would be published by Reuters on November 20(1), and repeated in a March 19 Time magazine report:
The next day a Marine communique from Camp Blue Diamond in Ramadi reported that Terrazas and 15 Iraqi civilians were killed by the blast and that "gunmen attacked the convoy with small-arms fire," prompting the Marines to return fire, killing eight insurgents and wounding one other.
But in this case, the story had just begun. Time had obtained a videotape...
A day after the incident, a Haditha journalism student videotaped the scene at the local morgue and at the homes where the killings had occurred. The video was obtained by the Hammurabi Human Rights Group, which cooperates with the internationally respected Human Rights Watch, and has been shared with TIME....and statements from Iraqi citizens regarding the event. They shared that information with military officials in Baghdad. To their credit, Time didn't publish the news until a preliminary inquiry launched by the military in response to that revelation was completed. Then, a week after the military announced the case was given to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, they published:
In January, after Time presented military officials in Baghdad with the Iraqis' accounts of the Marines' actions, the U.S. opened its own investigation, interviewing 28 people, including the Marines, the families of the victims and local doctors. According to military officials, the inquiry acknowledged that, contrary to the military's initial report, the 15 civilians killed on Nov. 19 died at the hands of the Marines, not the insurgents. The military announced last week that the matter has been handed over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (ncis), which will conduct a criminal investigation to determine whether the troops broke the laws of war by deliberately targeting civilians. Lieut. Colonel Michelle Martin-Hing, spokeswoman for the Multi-National Force-Iraq, told Time the involvement of the ncis does not mean that a crime occurred. And she says the fault for the civilian deaths lies squarely with the insurgents, who "placed noncombatants in the line of fire as the Marines responded to defend themselves."That Time report also included this frequently overlooked disclaimer:
The available evidence does not provide conclusive proof that the Marines deliberately killed innocents in Haditha. But the accounts of human-rights groups that investigated the incident and survivors and local officials who spoke to Time do raise questions about whether the extent of force used by the Marines was justified—and whether the Marines were initially candid about what took place.Time's original story attracted little notice, but was reported elsewhere - including this March 20 account from the AP:
AP March 20, 2006 The charges against the Marines were first brought forward by Time magazine, which reported this week that it obtained a videotape two months ago taken by a Haditha journalism student that shows the dead still in their nightclothes.With no additional media interest and little attention being paid to Iraq over all, the story faded from view. Another couple of months passed before the story finally exploded onto front pages, prompting many to ask...
The magazine report mirrored what was told independently to The Associated Press by residents who described what happened as "a massacre." However, Time said the available evidence did not prove conclusively that the Marines deliberately killed innocents.
What took so long?
A June 3rd report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was the first to attempt an explanation of the months-long delay(2) in the appearance of the videotape
Student visiting hometown videotaped Haditha horrorNote that Time says they provided their information to the military in January, while this story says the video was given to Time in February. Before reading too much into that discrepancy, understand that months are different in the Muslim lunar calendar used in Iraq. However, a careful reading of the Time story reveals no claim to have provided the video to American officials that month: "In January, after Time presented military officials in Baghdad with the Iraqis' accounts of the Marines' actions, the U.S. opened its own investigation"
The incident in Haditha, in the long-restive Al Anbar province, became known in November with a Marine statement that 15 people were killed after a roadside bombing killed a lance corporal and a firefight ensued.
"When I heard that, I was so disgusted and angry because I had the real proof and I hoped at that moment that I could get this proof to the American people," said al-Hadithi.
Al-Hadithi, a calm, heavy-set man who lives in Baghdad as he tries to finish a journalism degree, says he had returned to his hometown for a visit for a few days in November, staying with his mother and grown siblings' families.
The next day, al-Hadithi says, he and two friends shot the video.
But he and the human rights group he works with failed to generate interest from international organizations and Arabic media, he says.
Al-Hadithi now bristles when some of the same agencies phone him for interviews.
In February, they took the video to the Time office in Baghdad and the magazine showed the scenes to U.S. officials, who began the probes.
So while Time acknowledges providing the testimony of Iraqi civilians at that point, they are actually vague regarding whether they had the video then too - it may have been provided later. (Note also that this has no bearing on the content of the film.)
But here's where other details of the story begin to unravel. Time would later correct their account:
In the original version of this story, TIME reported that "a day after the incident, a Haditha journalism student videotaped the scene at the local morgue and at the homes where the killings had occurred. The video was obtained by the Hammurabi Human Rights Group, which cooperates with the internationally respected Human Rights Watch, and has been shared with TIME." In fact, Human Rights Watch has no ties or association with the Hammurabi Human Rights Group. TIME regrets the error.So that the on-line passage now reads:
A day after the incident, a Haditha journalism student videotaped the scene at the local morgue and at the homes where the killings had occurred. The video was obtained by the Hammurabi Human Rights Group, and has been shared with TIME.And the "internationally respected Human Rights Watch" is no longer a part of the story - except, of course, in the original print edition.
Who are these people?
Time’s source, Thaer Thabit al-Hadithi, is not a "young man." He is not a "budding journalism student."More recent Time stories (such as this one from 4 June) refer to Thabet as a "budding Iraqi journalist and human-rights activist."
And al-Haditha is not separate and apart from the Hammurabi Human Rights Group. Nor is he a man who wanted to remain anonymous because he feared for his safety.
Al-Haditha is 43 years old. He "created" Hammurabi 16 months ago. (Before that he worked directly under the head of Haditha’s hospital, Dr. Walid al-Obeidi, who pronounced that all the victims had been shot at close range.)
In fact, al-Haditha is one of Hammurabi’s only two members. He serves as its "Secretary General" while the only other member, Abdul-Rahman al-Mashhadani, performs as its "Chairman."
But this AP story from 7 June abandons the "young journalist" storyline altogether:
Iraq Investigator Tells AP About HadithaNote that Thabet is also now described as a Haditha resident, instead of a Baghdad resident home from school on vacation at his mother's house.
Secretary-General of the Hammurabi Organization for Human Rights and Democracy Monitoring, and also a Haditha resident who witnessed parts of the incident, Thaer al-Hadithi, gives a detailed account of the alleged massacre of 24 Iraqis by U.S. Marines last year, to an Associated Press reporter at the offices of the group in Baghdad, Iraq Tuesday, June 6, 2006.
Tea for the Taliban
Of course, there actually is a journalist involved in this story. Once again, Time magazine from 4 June:
Then, in mid-December, President George W. Bush announced the military's estimate that 30,000 Iraqi civilians had died since the start of the war(3). TIME's Tim McGirk, posted in Baghdad, began to investigate cases in which Iraqi civilians had been killed by U.S. troops. In the course of his reporting, he obtained a copy of Thabet's VCD. There was plenty in the grisly images to raise suspicions, including the U.S.-issued body bags into which the victims were zipped and the scattering of shells that appeared to have come from Marine rifles.Note that this seemingly contradicts the January date given in the original Time account - but if the video was actually obtained later then the original testimony (as the AJC story implies) and given to the military at that later date then the stories are consistent - if confusing. We are denied any clarification on this point from Time, and it's likely that any attempt at clarification could raise more questions than it answers.
In early February, McGirk presented this evidence to, and asked for comment from, Lieut. Colonel Barry Johnson, U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad. Johnson viewed the VCD, listened to the accounts and responded straightforwardly, "I think there's enough here for a full and formal investigation."
McGirk (Berkeley, '74) has also reported from Afghanistan - even during the US invasion:
We’re summoned to tea by the local Taliban commander, Mohammed Haqqani. Along with his bodyguards and a Taliban judge, Haqqani is fiddling with a radio, trying to reach the BBC’s Pushtu service. He finds it in time to hear that the Taliban have driven the Northern Alliance out of Maidanshahr, south of Kabul. They all beam and cheer; it reminds me a little of watching the annual Lions football game back home.More recently, McGirk expressed opposition to his own magazine's characterization of the evidence ("The available evidence does not provide conclusive proof that the Marines deliberately killed innocents in Haditha") in an "off the record" interview with The New York Observer:
The Le Monde correspondent asks what it would take to reach peace in Afghanistan. “We had peace,” Haqqani insists. “The Taliban were on the verge of defeating these bandits, until America helped them out. Now, there are robberies and killings everywhere. The Taliban will have to start all over again.”
Our missing colleagues finally arrive, and I leave thinking that maybe this evening wasn’t very different from the original Thanksgiving: people from two warring cultures sharing a meal together and realizing, briefly, that we’re not so different after all.
Time correspondent Tim McGirk, who broke the Haditha story, said that in the weeks before publication, he had lobbied editors to use the word “massacre” in the March 27 story.And here's the basis for that thought:
“That was a battle I lost,” Mr. McGirk said by phone May 30 from Jerusalem, where he is currently based. “I think the editors felt ‘massacre’ was too heavy of a word. They didn’t want to use it; they felt there was some justification for what had happened.”
“I think it was definitely a massacre,” Mr. McGirk said.
McGirk and TIME's Baghdad staff members interviewed more than a dozen Haditha locals by e-mail (travel between Baghdad and Haditha is exceedingly dangerous for Iraqis, let alone foreign journalists), including the mayor, the morgue doctor and a local lawyer who negotiated a settlement between the Marines and the families under which the military agreed to pay $2,500 compensation apiece for some of the victims--mostly the women and children. Several survivors visited TIME's Baghdad bureau, including a man in his 20s whose four brothers were killed and an orphaned girl who is now the sole caretaker of her 8-year-old brother. The bureau was also pursuing leads that a 12-year-old girl had survived the attack by playing dead. In interviews, Thabet filled in details about what he witnessed before he began shooting his VCD.Before the story was completed, Time had sent another reporter to cover it.
None of this information should be construed as proof of anything regarding the facts of what happened on November 19, 2005 in Haditha. One could make the case that McGirk has an agenda, that his characterization of the "cameraman" in the story as a "young journalism student" for reasons as yet unknown casts doubt on the remainder of the charges, or that his original version of the story citing Human Rights Watch as the source of the video does the same. But that background information, along with questions about the timing of the delivery of the video or the legitimacy of the newly discovered "Hammurabi Group" has no direct bearing on what happened in Haditha that November day.
(This discussin contiinues in part II here - note that comments will be "off" until completion of this post.)
1. published by Reuters on November 20: Much has been said about a Reuters cameraman being in Haditha at the time, focused on the lack of original massacre reports from that source. However, the Reuters story says "the town has been virtually shut down for the past two days as US and Iraqi forces try to impose order", indicating limited mobility for that cameraman. Claims that the "bodies in the street" quote is inconsistent with other reports are also mistaken - there were several attacks in Haditha that day and even in this case it's known that several Iraqis were shot by coalition forces in the streets. Additional reports that this cameraman had previously been detained by coalition forces have no apparent bearing on this story.
2. ...the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was the first to attempt an explanation of the months-long delay: A December report on the Iraqi elections quotes a member of the Hammurabi Group discussing voter turn out. Several reports have questioned why the issue of the Haditha incident wasn't raised by this individual at that time. However, as should be obvious, lack of reference to that event in the election story is no evidence that he did not attempt to do so.
3. Then, in mid-December, President George W. Bush announced the military's estimate that 30,000 Iraqi civilians had died since the start of the war.
This is a media urban legend, based loosely on fact. The actual quote was a response to a question:
Q Since the inception of the Iraqi war, I'd like to know the approximate total of Iraqis who have been killed. And by Iraqis I include civilians, military, police, insurgents, translators.The next day headlines read "Bush says 30,000 Iraqi civilians dead in war" and that's been part of the mythology of the war ever since. Another implication (not specifically made here) is that this is the number killed by US troops. That would require ignoring the fact that the vast majority of Iraqis have been killed by "insurgents". In fact, their targets have frequently been soldiers and police - and often recruits waiting to enlist, whose status as "civilians" is debatable.
THE PRESIDENT: How many Iraqi citizens have died in this war? I would say 30,000, more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis.
The media description of these attacks has changed over the past few months to "sectarian violence".
Zarqawi is dead - and no one knows what to do with his rotting corpse. Maybe you could offer a suggestion here.
Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister of Iraq, sets a bold course. He declares several goals - security, reconstruction, incorporation of militias into the national security services - and declares Baghdad the focus of the counter-terror campaign:
Baghdad is home to a quarter of Iraq's population and is its financial and political center. This government of national unity will launch an initiative to secure the capital and confront the ethnic cleansing that is taking place in many areas around it. We will meet head-on the armed gangs and terrorists who we believe constitute the main threat to security. Furthermore, we will develop and strengthen the country's intelligence services, which represent the best form of defense against terrorist bombings.Obviously he's willing to lead.
We believe we will soon reach a tipping point in our battle against the terrorists as Iraqi security services increase in size and capacity, taking more and more responsibility away from the multinational forces.
Q Sir, where is that raid, please?With much more intel gained for future strikes. This may ease some of the pressure there - a decrease in bloody attacks on Shiites - the hallmark of al Qaeda - will in turn lead to a reduced need for neighborhood militias, and a chance for peace in places like Amariyah.
GEN. CALDWELL: I'll have to get that location for you. It's in and around the Baghdad area. I looked at the 17 sites today. All of them either inside Baghdad or within about a 15-mile radius right around Baghdad, but centered -- all 17 around the Baghdad area.
It appears increasingly likely that coalition operations in Anbar province, along with increased resentment by the population there, had indeed pushed al Qaeda in Iraq into an ever-constricting ring around Baghdad. While this is also evident from the death toll there, perhaps the peak has been reached.
Last Friday's news from Iraq:
The leader of al Qaeda in Iraq urged Sunnis to confront Shiites and ignore calls for reconciliation in a new audiotape posted Friday on the Web, saying Shiite militias are killing and raping the Sunni Arab minority.
The tape was a four-hour sermon by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi against Shiites, denouncing their top cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani as an "atheist," and saying the community had collaborated with invaders throughout Iraq's history.
In the background, an investigation by the DoD into charges against Marines in Haditha goes on - said investigation being another example of "doing the right thing", even as some demand its immediate conclusion.
And in a thousand other stories that few will ever hear, the yeoman's work of winning the war on terror continues.
In the department of irony, immediately prior to all this the LA Times noted:
TV Reporters Decry Drop In Iraq CoverageThat's probably an accurate and fair assessment, by the way.
The deaths of two CBS crew members have put the war back at the top of prime-time news, but journalists say they sense a growing apathy.
News of the bombing that felled a CBS news crew washed over Baghdad's tight-knit press corps like a tempest this week — evoking waves of anxiety, sadness, resolve and more than a little dismay.
American television journalists covering Iraq confronted the difficult reality that it took the deaths of a cameraman and soundman and critical injuries to correspondent Kimberly Dozier to help push Iraq back to the forefront of the nightly news back home.
ABC correspondent John Berman in Baghdad wrote in his blog recently that he and his colleagues felt like the castaways on the network's prime-time drama "Lost" — "We have come to the conclusion that no one knows we are here."
Her life saved by "military medicine", Ms Dozier is now back in the States, and we wish her a speedy and full recovery.
The other side in this war had their moments too. It's Friday again. Expect more violence in Iraq, as those who've suffered so many defeats this week will have something to prove.
Here's the video (note - no audio) released by CENTCOM, but their servers are apparently breaking under the load:
Note the house was indeed "isolated".
And here's the video of Multi-National Force-Iraq spokesman MG William Caldwell addressing reporters in Baghdad about the killing of Zarqawi.
Would have been nice if the camera could have moved to the various charts, but plenty of details here that the press hasn't covered yet.
Also includes a narrated version of the strike video - which is shown on-camera - the entire thing is a definite must see.
Heh: the remix. That didn't take long.
By al Qaeda and the American Left. They really can't stop themselves anymore.
"Sure, we're glad he's gone, BUT..."
For the record, the original MNF-I press release:
Although the designated leader of al-Qaida in Iraq is now dead, the terrorist organization still poses a threat as its members will continue to try to terrorize the Iraqi people and destabilize their government as it moves toward stability and prosperity.And comments from President Bush
"The operation against Zarqawi was conducted with courage and professionalism by the finest military in the world. Coalition and Iraqi forces persevered through years of near misses and false leads, and they never gave up. Last night their persistence and determination were rewarded. On behalf of all Americans, I congratulate our troops on this remarkable achievement.Key to self-maintenance of the delusions of the writers and commenters at the various toilets along the Left-wing information sewer is a requirement to "make believe" that these statements were never made, and that they in fact are the only people bright enough to comprehend that the war isn't over.
"Zarqawi is dead, but the difficult and necessary mission in Iraq continues. We can expect the terrorists and insurgents to carry on without him. We can expect the sectarian violence to continue."
All in all it's a day for despondency, rage, and defeat for terrorists and "progressives" alike. That last group will continue to delude themselves into thinking they don't support the enemy, they just hate America. Wait, let's be honest. They love America, but they hate George Bush. They aren't really anti-American or pro-terrorist, they just hate George Bush and that's the important thing. George Bush. George Bush, George Bush, and George Bush, and how much they hate him, because that's what progressives do. Hate George Bush. Hate hate hate. George Bush hate hate hate.
Seriously, I'm joking, right?
(A brief overview of the Iraq war from the "progressive" viewpoint in the extended section.)
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MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE - IRAQ"Terminated"
COMBINED PRESS INFORMATION CENTER
703.270.0320 / 0299
June 8, 2006
Coalition forces kill Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Multi-National Force-Iraq Commanding General, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., announced the death of al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi in the following statement during a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad June 8:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Coalition forces killed al-Qaida terrorist leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and one of his key lieutenants, spiritual advisor Sheik Abd-Al-Rahman, yesterday, June 7, at 6:15 p.m. in an air strike against an identified, isolated safe house.
“Tips and intelligence from Iraqi senior leaders from his network led forces to al-Zarqawi and some of his associates who were conducting a meeting approximately eight kilometers north of Baqubah when the air strike was launched.
“Iraqi police were first on the scene after the air strike, and elements of Multi-National Division - North, arrived shortly thereafter. Coalition forces were able to identify al-Zarqawi by fingerprint verification, facial recognition and known scars.
Al-Zarqawi and al-Qaida in Iraq have conducted terrorist activities against the Iraqi people for years in attempts to undermine the Iraqi national government and Coalition efforts to rebuild and stabilize Iraq . He is known to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iraqis. Al-Zarqawi's death is a significant blow to al-Qaida and another step toward defeating terrorism in Iraq.
“Although the designated leader of al-Qaida in Iraq is now dead, the terrorist organization still poses a threat as its members will continue to try to terrorize the Iraqi people and destabilize their government as it moves toward stability and prosperity. Iraqi forces, supported by the Coalition, will continue to hunt terrorists that threaten the Iraqi people until terrorism is eradicated in Iraq .”
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said al-Zarqawi was killed along with seven aides Wednesday evening in a house 30 miles northeast of Baghdad in the volatile province of Diyala.Iraq the Model
“Today, al-Zarqawi was terminated,” al-Maliki told a news conference, drawing loud applause from reporters as he was flanked by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and U.S. Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
Al-Maliki explained that Zarqawi (and 7 of his aides) was killed in an air raid in the little town of Hibhib 8 km north of Baquba after receiving tips from residents in the area.One of the clues that helped locate him was probably the boxes of severed heads discovered in Baquba this week. Small wonder the locals turned him in - but the fact that they did so reveals much about Iraq, where such events are happening more frequently as Iraqi troops "take the lead" and terrorists resort to increasingly heinous actions in response.
Milbloggers in Iraq:
The Will to Exist: "a monster departs the realm of the living."
Those Wacky Iraqis: This jackass is a child murderer, a torturer, a heinous villain who deserved nothing less.
4 Mile Creek: "Not the end, but a damn good thing nonetheless."
Expect lots of news, discussion and updates at MilBlogs through the day.
"Light blogging" is a distinct possibility - though that's never the case at MilBlogs.
Please excuse me, I must go find my ties.
Don't forget to check in at MilBlogs - worldwide, live, 24/7 - 365.
So Buck Sargent says, in explaining how he found time to write this blog entry from Iraq - a piece every bit as quotable as anything from Mark Steyn.
Still, the domestic Barnes & Noblesse oblige crowd -- with their claptrappucchinos and their sophisticated taste for yellow (dog) journalism -- are hardly the world-weary isolationists they pretend to be. American interventionism did not appear particularly troubling to these citizen-skeptics during the previous decade when it pertained to solely humanitarian impulses; but add American security to the mix and suddenly their travel mugs spilleth over. Within the span of one electoral cycle any prevailing charitable impulses evaporated, leaving nothing but a naked desire for America and its military might to be knocked off its pedestal; to be sent packing from the Middle East with its tail between its legs, humiliated and discredited before an Islamic world that respects only strength and routinely mistakes kindness for weakness.While you're there be sure to watch a few of his "home movies" from Iraq (in the lower right sidebar).
To believe as such is assuredly their prerogative as Americans. But with any civil liberties come civic responsibility. True, our hard-won freedoms protect the right to march on Washington, spin elaborate webs of intrigue about the powers that be, and rudely shout down invited speakers at commencement addresses. But they also protect the right to drink Zima, name your children after fruit, and wear socks with sandals. Just because you can do it doesn’t always mean it’s a good idea.
"I don't like working in Iraq. The terrain is flat and uninteresting, the food is terrible, the weather is ridiculous, and to be honest, the people are not that charming or interesting."
-- (Sorry, you'll have to read the whole thing for the attribution.)
Every once in a blue moon during the course of the war in Iraq a reporter authors a complaint that there just aren't enough photographs of corpses of American soldiers appearing in the news. Here's an example from the LA Times from March 2005.
It's not a phenomenon restricted to war - in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina members of the media complained quite vocally that restrictions placed upon them were preventing them from getting quality corpse photos of the tens of thousands of dead black people their fellow reporters were assuring them were lining the streets of New Orleans like the crowd at some ghastly Mardi Gras parade gone horribly wrong.
So it's not war per se, but something else that brings out the lust for dead flesh in journalists - but obviously a few weeks of combat present more opportunities to build a collection of such potential Pulitzer-winning "money shots" than most crime beat cub photographers will have in an entire career.
Of course, terrorists make full fledged beheading videos available to anyone who wants them, but apparently those really don't "deliver the goods" these do-it-yourselfers want desperately to provide - so non-Americans need not apply.
For the rest of us, Today's New York Times says:
Show Me The BodiesThat's just the beginning. Later you'll find a tribute to Shock Magazine's courageous theft of Mike Yon's photo:
FOR war photography, Vietnam remains the bloody yardstick. During the Tet offensive, on Feb. 9, 1968, Time magazine ran a story that was accompanied by photos showing dozens of dead American soldiers stacked like cordwood. The images remind that the dead are both the most patient and affecting of all subjects.
The Iraq war is a very different war, especially as rendered at home. While pictures of Iraqi dead are ubiquitous on television and in print, there are very few images of dead American soldiers. (We are offered pictures of the grievously wounded, but those are depictions of hope and sacrifice in equal measure.)
Shock, a new photo tabloid magazine from Hachette Filipacchi, ran a blood-red battlefield image on its cover and eight pages inside drawing parallels between Iraq and Vietnam. The photos were gruesome, but nothing that was not manifest in the pages of Life, Newsweek and Time during the Vietnam War.And ultimately a discussion with some photographers who seem to be despairing of ever obtaining a similar climactic image:
Sitting in the Getty Images' offices in downtown New York, Chris Hondros, a veteran war photographer, thinks that practical factors are limiting pictures of American battlefield dead.American journalists, fighting boredom to bring you the bloody truth.
"Unless it happens right in front of you, you can't make a picture of it," said Mr. Hondros, who has been to Iraq seven times and is currently in the United States working on a story about returning soldiers. Other than waiting 72 hours for families to be notified, he said, there are no restrictions on putting images of American dead on the wire. (Whether they get used or not is another matter.)
Ashley Gilbertson is a freelance photographer who has spent much of the last four years in Iraq and is working on a book about his time there.
"There are so many troops and so few press. You have a very small chance of witnessing a death," he said by phone from Vienna. He added that pictures he had taken of wounded soldiers had run in The New York Times and elsewhere. "Some people don't have access to the major papers, but I think that if Americans are serious about wanting to know what is going on there, they can find out."
It is worth noting that Mr. Rainey, who wrote about the paucity of images from Iraq, is currently working on stories there. Mr. Hondros remains interested in going back into Iraq — to Ramadi in particular, which at the moment has been closed off by the Marines — but he is not looking forward to it.
"I don't like working in Iraq. The terrain is flat and uninteresting, the food is terrible, the weather is ridiculous, and to be honest, the people are not that charming or interesting. And yes, it's very dangerous, even compared to other wars," he said. "But I don't feel that I have the ability to write off the Iraq war just because it isn't fun anymore."
Allah has been following the story closely.
I wonder if "domestic surveillance" was used to bust up this group? No doubt Canadians will be outraged at the threat to civil liberties if so.
¿DID YOU KNOW that the Zapatero administration (you know, the "no blood for oil", "Bush is killing innocents" and "let's get out of this illegal war" one) just gave Spain's highest military decoration to... gasp... can hardly say it... to... to the US Army Chief of Staff? Yes, the chief of staff of an army that, on behalf of Bu$hitler and his cronies, entered in Iraq and killed innocent civilians, tortured and murdered with no restraint, all based on a long stream of lies.Barcepundit's on our side, by the way - his sarcasm is directed at the Spanish government's hypocrisy.
A story on Marine Capt. James Kimber, recently relieved of command of a company of Marines in Iraq.
Kimber said he was told he was being relieved because of comments his Marines made to a British news crew that spent five weeks with his India Company. The report aired by Sky News in Britain included one Marine under his command criticizing the Iraqi security forces he was training, and another berating a subordinate after a Humvee had rolled over in a traffic accident.Any US military member who speaks to media representatives does so at great risk - the odds of their comments used in context - or even accurately reported - are exceptionally slim.
Kimber has filed a rebuttal to the decision to relieve him of his command, taking issue with the Marine Corps' interpretation of the Sky News video, which his lawyer said forms the lion's share of the case against Kimber.
But Capt Kimber was relieved a the same time as two other officers, "Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani and Capt. Luke McConnell, were directly responsible for the dozen or so Marines under investigation for the Haditha shootings".
And Kimber was involved in combat nearby:
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.Read the full story - which reinforces the fact that we don't know all the facts.
As for questions about whether battle stress affected the Marines, Kimber said his company was exhausted after its first two months in Iraq; the fighting and patrolling were non-stop, he said.
After that, however, Marines were given a three-day break every nine days.
One of those three days, he said, was devoted to sessions "on escalation of force, rules of engagement."
Training on use of force
"This was a huge thing that we hit on in our training," he said, "that this was not Fallujah. That there are going to be innocent people here. If you don't win the battle for the people, you're not going to win the counterinsurgency fight."
Fellow MilBlogger Salamander writes Acknowledge. Accept. Analyze. Act.
I believe I'm a repeated 4 in his categories of military experience. Anyone commenting on the issue should probably acknowledge their position on that scale.
Who says the media is running a smear campaign? Hopefully a lot of people will be very soon. The London Times is attempting to pass a photo of terrorist victims off as victims of American troops. This is "journalism" at it's absolute worst, and crosses a line.
Credit Joe G with this outrageous find.
Update: A Times editor responds via email at Michelle's. Short version: Surely you can't think we did that on purpose?
He's shocked. Shocked, I tell you, that she would think such a thing for one minute.
More: The photo has been removed from the Times web site. No idea if it appeared in print editions.
The odds of this being a "mistake" are slim. The carefully worded caption - "Victims in Haditha" - indicates that whoever added the shot knew damn well these weren't victims of Marines in Haditha. The London Times is not a far-left newspaper, this is probably an individual effort, not a corporate policy.
However, the Times was also the paper that was recently "hoaxed" by the Atwar Bahjat video. In her apology for that incident the reporter noted "Although the video came from a group that had been reliable in the past, the insurgent who sent it was new to me.".
The previously reliable group being what we call "terrorists".
Looks like Shocked Magazine has sent a clear message to Mike Yon - and that message seems to be "bring it on":
...when I learned of this blatant infringement of my copyright on that photograph, I issued an immediate statement clarifying that I had not given anyone authorization for this use, and never would have allowed an image which I’ve called ‘sacred to me’ to be used in a flagrant attempt to profit from discrediting and demonizing American soldiers. What outraged me the most is how the timing of this launch coincided with the Memorial Day weekend, putting 300,000 copies of a slick attack on the very same soldiers Americans were honoring across the country. I am so disgusted with what they did with that image, which to me symbolizes the true nature of our military, that I demanded the publisher take it off the shelves.Based on Yon's description of the rag, stealing content is probably their method for offering a product advertisers wouldn't be caught dead in at a price that it's "target demographic" can afford.
HFM not only refused, they intimated in writing that they may have a claim against me for defamation based on the complaints they received from third parties about their unauthorized use of my photo.
Like most illegal usages, this only came to my attention after readers found it. Once I began trying to clear my name, several bloggers wrote about it and published contact information to the publisher, who began getting a flood of complaints. That’s when the publisher turned around and threatened me, in writing, with a defamation lawsuit. That’s no misprint: they took my property, used it a vulgar way, further dishonored our military and our country by timing their inaugural launch to Memorial Day weekend, and then, when some patriotic bloggers dared to call them to complain about it, they threatened me. People who go into business deliberately seeking to offend and insult others should probably get used to complaints.
MNF-I SPOKESMAN MAKES STATEMENT ON ISHAQI RAIDDon't confuse this episode with the Haditha incident - although the Haditha allegations may have inspired the claims in this event.
Release Date: 6/2/2006
Release Number: 06-06-02P
Description: MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ
COMBINED PRESS INFORMATION CENTER
703.270.0320 / 0299
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV the Multi-National Force-Iraq spokesman, delivered the following statement June 3 on the Coalition raid that took place near Ishaqi on March 15:
“Recently there has been much attention in both the Western and Arabic media concerning reports of Coalition Soldiers killing innocent Iraqi civilians. Temptation exists to lump all these incidents together. However, each case needs to be examined individually. Let me be clear. Multi-National Force-Iraq does not and will not tolerate unethical or criminal behavior. All allegations of the loss of civilian life are thoroughly investigated.
In response to claims as many as thirteen civilians were killed in a March 15th air strike in the vicinity of Ishaqi, south of Samarra, an investigation was launched into the incident the very next day. The investigation revealed the ground force commander, while capturing and killing terrorists, operated in accordance with the rules of engagement governing our combat forces in Iraq.
Based on credible intelligence, Coalition Forces conducted a raid in the vicinity of Ishaqi on March 15th capturing Ahmad Abdallah Muhammad Na’is al-Utaybi, aka Hamza, a Kuwaiti-born, al-Qaeda cell leader, and killing Uday Faris al-Tawafi, aka Abu Ahmed, an Iraqi involved in making improvised explosive devices as well as recruiting locals to join the insurgency.
The forces, upon arrival, began taking direct fire from the building. As the enemy fire persisted, the ground force commander appropriately reacted by incrementally escalating the use of force from small arms fire to rotary wing aviation, and then to close air support, ultimately eliminating the threat.
The troops then conducted a thorough tactical search, and documented the discovery of the body of Abu Ahmed plus three noncombatants. The investigating officer concluded that possibly up to nine collateral deaths resulted from this engagement but could not determine the precise number due to collapsed walls and heavy debris. Allegations that the troops executed a family living in this safe house, and then hid the alleged crimes by directing an air strike, are absolutely false.
The investigating officer ascertained that the ground force commander properly followed the rules of engagement as he necessarily escalated the use of force until the threat was eliminated.
All loss of innocent life is tragic and unfortunate, and we regret such occurrences. We take all reports of improper conduct seriously; we investigate them thoroughly, and hold our troops accountable for their actions. ”
We noted that story when it occurred. US troops were accused of executing 11 people, ranging from a 75-year old woman to a 6-month old baby.
The US account:
According to the U.S. account, the house collapsed because of the heavy fire. When U.S. forces searched the rubble they found one man, the al-Qaeda suspect, alive. He was arrested. They also found a dead man they believed to be connected to al-Qaeda, two dead women and a dead child.And a "local" version of events:
The villagers were killed after U.S. troops herded them into a single room of the house, according to a police document obtained by Knight Ridder Newspapers, the parent company of The Inquirer. The soldiers also burned three vehicles, killed the villagers' animals, and blew up the house, the document said.The document was described as a report based on a report filed by local police. Note that current news stories on this event ignore the more unlikely allegations made at the time - handcuffed babies and slaughtered animals.
A local police commander, Lt. Col. Farooq Hussain, who was interviewed in Ishaqi, said autopsies at the hospital in Tikrit "revealed that all the victims had bullet shots in the head and all bodies were handcuffed."
But two days later:
BAGHDAD - Iraqi police investigating the deaths of 11 people in the town of Ishaqi after a U.S. military raid last week reported that each of the bodies bore multiple wounds, according to a preliminary report reviewed by Knight Ridder News Service.Current news coverage doesn't mention much of that Iraqi police report either, though the original "document based on a report" is oft-quoted.
According to the preliminary report, none of the bodies bore only a single gunshot wound, contradicting one Iraqi police officer's account that each had been shot once in the head.
One body had two gunshot wounds to the head. Five others showed signs of entrance and exit wounds to the head caused by "flying projectiles," which the report noted could be "consistent with either bullets or shrapnel." Four others showed signs of entrance and exit wounds to the chest or abdomen, also attributed to flying projectiles.
The 11th person had "crushing of the head and neck," the cause of which was undetermined.
The portion of the report that Knight Ridder reviewed made no mention of whether the bodies had been handcuffed, as an Iraqi police officer had alleged.
It's possible the media assumes everyone is already deeply familiar with the particulars in this story. Maybe they feel brevity is important, and that readers don't want to be burdened with too much information. So perhaps it's pure coincidence that all the facts that are omitted in the recent coverage are the ones that demonstrate the difference between this story and Haditha.
By the way, even back in that first report:
Neighbors who were interviewed agreed that the al-Qaeda in Iraq member was at the house.
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Whilst avoiding a larger discussion of what happened in Haditha, let's take a look at some of the media coverage of the story.
Starting with this headline - Investigators: Unprovoked Marines Killed Civilians
You've likely seen it before, perhaps heard other references to this unprovoked attack business. But regardless of what happened, unless there was no bomb, unless Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas wasn't really killed, unless Lance Cpl. James Crossan wasn't really wounded, there was a provocation that the Marines responded to. To the best of my knowledge, no one disputes the IED attack that started this incident, and no one disputes that civilians were killed. It seems indisputable that the attack was indeed provoked - a point that's actually a substantial factor in answering other questions regarding the ensuing events.
But quite clearly, according to this headline, the investigators say unprovoked.
Or do they? Here's the first paragraph of the story:
(AP) WASHINGTON Investigators believe that their criminal investigation into the deaths of about two dozen Iraqi civilians points toward a conclusion that Marines committed unprovoked murders, a senior defense official said Friday.Read that again if you didn't get it the first time. To clarify, we'll name the actual source up front: a senior defense official said investigators believe that's what their investigation points towards. But that's certainly not the stuff of good headlines, so presto change-o, eliminate the middle man and roll out the 24-point Times New Roman. "Investigators: Unprovoked Marines Killed Civilians"
But nowhere in the story are investigators quoted as saying any such thing. A "senior defense official" is.
Or is he? Skip forward one paragraph:
The official ...said the evidence developed by investigators strongly indicates the killings last November in the insurgent-plagued city of Haditha in the western province of Anbar were unjustified.That's closer to an actual quote than the first paragraph, and it says the killings were "unjustified" - something significantly different in meaning than "unprovoked". But quotation marks are noticeably absent from the story - meaning that what we really have is a reporter claiming that an unnamed senior defense official claims that people conducting an ongoing investigation currently believe that the attack was unprovoked.
All beneath a headline that reads Investigators: Unprovoked Marines Killed Civilians. As noted, you must ignore an IED, one death, and one serious injury for that to be true. ("Unjustified" may or may not be more accurate - but it certainly doesn't "sex up" the story to the same degree.)
Let's further illustrate this point. You and I are in a crowded room. Suddenly I throw a punch, and hit you quite squarely in the jaw. You go down but arise quickly, though quite shaken, and immediately throw a punch at me. I'm ready though, so I duck, and you light up the young lady standing behind me, sending her to the carpet.
No doubt at this point you are quite remorseful, but there's no one in the room who could reasonably accuse you of having launched an unprovoked attack on the young lady in question. Yes, you punched her. Yes, you were acting in anger. Yes, you lost control. But as the guy who struck first then avoided your retaliation, sane people might think I deserve most of the blame.
Unless, of course, your response was the entire point of my actions in the first place. And if the room is full of my friends who are quite willing to go along, you had best start backing towards the door. Because you hit a girl, you sumbitch. One who had done absolutely nothing to you, so it was unprovoked.
Oh by the way, Jimmy says he heard her turn you down when you asked her for a date five minutes ago.
But let's get back to the real story and watch it grow. Que The New York Times:
President Bush expressed concern today over reports that 24 Iraqi civilians may have been killed by American marines in an unprovoked attack in the city of Haditha last November.So now President Bush has used the phrase "unprovoked attack"? A careful reading of the New York Times quote reveals nothing; the only use of quotation marks in the story is here:
"I am troubled by the initial news stories," Mr. Bush said. "I am mindful that there is a thorough investigation going on." If laws were broken, the president said, "there will be punishment."and here:
The president said he had discussed the incident with Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "He's a proud marine," Mr. Bush said.But it's possible the reporter's original question used the term "unprovoked". But that question isn't included in the NY Times story. Fortunately the White House has a full transcript of the statement, which came in a question and answer session during a visit with President Kagame of Rwanda:
PRESIDENT BUSH: Welcome. The President and I will take two questions a side, starting with the Americans. Nedra.Well now, it would appear the "unprovoked" bit was an after-market construct of the New York Times. (Side note: the unreported aspect of the meeting was the discussion of US support to Rwanda, whose troops are deployed as peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region, but hey, who gives a damn?)
Q Mr. President, what have you been told about the killings at Haditha? And are you worried about the impact it could have on the situation in Iraq?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I am troubled by the initial news stories. I am mindful that there is a thorough investigation going on. If, in fact, the laws were broken, there will be punishment. I know this: I've talked to General Pete Pace about the subject, who is a proud Marine, and nobody is more concerned about these allegations than the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps is full of men and women who are honorable people who understand rules of war. And if, in fact, these allegations are true, the Marine Corps will work hard to make sure that that culture, that proud culture will be reinforced, and that those who violated the law, if they did, will be punished.
That should end the "unprovoked attack" story - but it won't. Because it's a very necessary element in getting these Marines condemned to death before their trial - and enraging certain elements of the population of Iraq to kill some more. So please do look carefully at future news stories that include that mysterious phrase from nowhere - along with all others from similar sources.
And before departing, here's the full paragraph from that "unprovoked" AP story on that "senior defense official" - I cut a bit in the first use above:
The official, who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the yet-to-be-completed investigation, said the evidence developed by investigators strongly indicates the killings last November in the insurgent-plagued city of Haditha in the western province of Anbar were unjustified.For those who weren't looking closely, here's the part I added back: "...who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the yet-to-be-completed investigation...".
Now pardon me as I slip into military jargon, but even though dipstick may have had that "unprovoked" quote falsely attributed to him by a reporter with an agenda, do you suppose if someone rammed a size-14 combat boot straight up his ass it would be called "unprovoked"?
"We love death. The U.S. loves life. That is the big difference between us."
--Osama bin Laden
Many anticipate - some eagerly - that the Haditha incident will enrage the people of Iraq, perhaps even stir the rage of the oft noted and much broader "Arab street".
Many are wrong. There are numerous reasons for this misjudgment, not the least of which is the inability to comprehend a culture that seemingly places more value on the physical incarnation of it's scriptures than it does on human life, that will rise up over cartoons of the prophet but accept the will of Allah when children are gunned down.
And in Iraq above all live a people who interact with American soldiers on a daily basis, and long ago made up their minds whether they were angels or demons, or merely fellow human beings. To assume they will consider a few individuals as representative of the whole is to assign an undeserved ignorance to the mass of humanity, the equivalent of saying they aren't ready for the benefits of free society, or other arguments made all too often by those quite wrongly confident in their personal superiority to members of a lesser race, to children of a lesser god.
But Osama was wrong too. They don't love death. But thanks to him they know it's face quite well - Baghdad's civilian death toll in the past three months is roughly 3,000, more than the US loses during three years of war.
Not from attacks by US Soldiers and Marines, but in attacks by Osama's own:
Harith says the insurgents began arriving in Amariyah after the deadly US assault on Fallujah in April 2004. The first jihadis sought haven with relatives, many of them former senior officers in Saddam Hussein's Army.""We decided it was safest to ignore them. They were leaving us alone."
The new neighbors roamed the streets at night with rifles and heavy machine guns, planting bombs targeting US patrols. "We'd peer through the blinds and watch them firing mortars at the Americans from my street,'' recalls Harith, a Shiite Arab from Amariyah who asked that his full name not be used. "We decided it was safest to ignore them. They were leaving us alone."
But that didn't last. Not content with having found a haven, the militants set about transforming the demographics and social mores of the area.
"At first it was just the outsiders, but some of the young men - surrounded by these people telling stories about what the Americans did in Fallujah and these preachers telling them it was their duty to fight - joined up,'' says Aqeel, a former resident of Amariyah who fled in February.
Soon, graffiti praising Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and promising death to traitors proliferated; new prayer leaders took over mosques, issuing strident demands for jihad over their loudspeakers every Friday; leaflets were distributed warning women not to work and to cover their hair, men not to trim their beards or wear shorts; then bodies started to appear on street corners.
But residents say hundreds have been killed here this year by Sunni extremists aligned with Al Qaeda. Shiites mostly, but Sunni shopkeepers, bus drivers, and former Baathists, too. For a while, bound and mutilated corpses were dumped frequently outside the popular Honey Sweets Shop on once-bustling Public Works Street. Most of the shops there are now closed.
Amariyah's pain demonstrates the evolution of Iraq's war, from one in which faceless Sunni Arab insurgents targeted mostly US and Iraqi forces with roadside bombs and suicide attacks to one in which killing squads - both Shiite and Sunni - are focused on unarmed fellow citizens. And they are seeking to transform neighborhoods into enclaves of fear. Baghdad's civilian death toll in the past three months is roughly 3,000, more than the US loses during three years of war.
But that didn't last."
It rarely does.
0ne Sunni Arab neighbor had joined the insurgents, and explained their choices of targets, he says. "This guy told me that 'if we focus on the Americans they grind us into dust,' " says Aqeel. "So they prefer to hit the Iraqi police, Shiites, translators, people they think are too secular. That's easy for them."But Americans have moved back in, and according to the story, "Over the past few weeks, however, conditions in the area have improved."
So perhaps there is yet hope for Amariyah.
In America we will wring our collective hands in horror as we await further word on whether our boys killed two dozen innocents in Haditha. And that is right and good, and a luxury reserved for we who don't live in a cold world beneath a burning desert sun.
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G. is a Marine assigned to 3rd LAR Bn Delta Co, Twenty-Nine Palms, California. He was deployed to Iraq on 6 March 2006. On or about the 1st week of May he was notified by a message from the Red Cross that his 11 year old son was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma cancer. As hard is it was for him to accept this information and knowing that he had to leave his fellow Marines back in Iraq to carry on the mission without him, he returned to the United States to be at his son's side for this ongoing processes of undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
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