An investigation into the Haditha Massacre is about to report its findings.
Further comment from Dahr Jamail
‘Worst war crime’ committed by US in Iraq
From The Telegraph
A US military investigation is expected to conclude that a unit of marines killed 24 civilians, among them women and children, in retaliation for the death of a comrade, reports published in America yesterday said.
If confirmed when the official findings are published next week the incident would be the worst war crime committed by US forces in Iraq.
Though on a smaller scale, it will inevitably spark comparisons with the massacre of up to 500 Vietnamese villagers at My Lai in 1968. Citing Congressional, military and Pentagon officials, the reports in US newspapers said investigators had unearthed a catalogue of abuses so serious it is likely an as yet unspecified number of marines will be charged with murder.
John Kline, the Republican Congressmen for Minnesota who is a retired marine colonel, was briefed on the findings. “This was not an accident. This was direct fire by marines at civilians,” he told the New York Times. “This was not an immediate response to an attack. This would be an atrocity.”
A new investigation is also to be launched to determine if any of the men’s superior officers tried to cover up the killings after it was first reported that the deaths were the result of a roadside bomb or a crossfire.
The commandant of the marine corps, Gen Michael Hagee, flew to Iraq on Thursday to instruct his troops that they must abide by the Geneva Convention and the US military’s own rules of engagement.
The visit is widely being interpreted as a damage limitations visit ahead of publication of the report’s findings.
The investigation focused on what happened in the town of Haditha on Nov 19, last year.
An insurgent stronghold in Anbar province in western Iraq, it has been the centre of almost continuous violence for three years.
The US military originally said that 15 civilians had died in the blast from a roadside bomb.
But in January Time magazine published the results of its investigation of the incident which concluded that the marines had instead gone on a rampage in the town after a lance corporal was killed by the bomb.
It quoted a nine-year-old child who described how the servicemen had burst into their home. “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,” she said.
The article prompted the US military to issue a new report on the incident that stated the Iraqis died in crossfire as troops battled insurgents.
That also now appears to be untrue. Investigators examining the buildings where the killings took place found there was no evidence of a firefight.
Instead they are understood to have concluded that the killings were “methodical in nature” and occurred as the unit conducted a sweep through a town lasting three to five hours.
Among the dead were five men standing near a taxi at a checkpoint and killings inside at least two homes that included women and children, unnamed officials were quoted as saying.
Inquiries have particularly focused on the actions of a marine staff sergeant in charge of the unit at the time. Although a dozen men were under his command, the bullets that killed the civilians are thought to have been fired by only two rifles.
Three marine officers – the battalion commander and two company commanders in Haditha at the time – were subsequently relieved of duty. Official statements have however declined to link their actions to the investigation.