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“The cost of doing business”


A 2005 video still shows covered bodies in the town of Haditha, western Anbar province, Iraq. A U.S. Army general concluded the Marine Corps chain of command in Iraq ignored 'obvious' signs of 'serious misconduct' in the slayings of two dozen civilians in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005, The Washington Post reported on Saturday. (Hammurabi Organisation via Reuters TV/Reuters)

Last week we talked a bit about the ACLU release of Army records of compensation payments to the relatives of Iraqi civilians killed by US troops. This week, one of the most horrific of those episodes is back in the news with Saturday's report in the Washington Post by Josh White who describes a secret report, completed in June 2006, on the conduct of the 2nd Marine Division in the Haditha massacre:

In the Haditha incident, which has become one of the most notorious alleged atrocities of the Iraq war, Marines killed two dozen civilians after a huge roadside bomb ripped through a Humvee in their convoy, killing one Marine instantly and injuring two others. A Naval Criminal Investigative Service report found that the Marines then killed five unarmed civilians whom they ordered out of a car — one Marine alleged that another got down on one knee and shot them one by one — before storming several houses and killing women and children, some of them still in their pajamas and lying in bed.


Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell's 104-page report on Haditha is scathing in its criticism of the Marines' actions, from the enlisted men who were involved in the shootings on Nov. 19, 2005, to the two-star general who commanded the 2nd Marine Division in Iraq at the time. Bargewell's previously undisclosed report, obtained by The Washington Post, found that officers may have willfully ignored reports of the civilian deaths to protect themselves and their units from blame. Though Bargewell found no specific coverup, he concluded that there also was no interest at any level in investigating allegations of a massacre.

"All levels of command tended to view civilian casualties, even in significant numbers, as routine and as the natural and intended result of insurgent tactics," Bargewell wrote. He condemned that approach because it could desensitize Marines to the welfare of noncombatants. "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."

White reports that Bargewell's analysis shows that the chain of command consistently misrepresented or refused to investigate the massacre:

Then, no one asked any further questions, Bargewell wrote, despite gruesome photographs circulating among junior Marines that showed that women and children had been killed in their beds. He cited several opportunities to investigate that were not taken, such as when more than $40,000 in condolence payments went to Iraqis after the killings.

At the same time that Bargewell's report was leaked, we learned that "at least" 7 of the Marine's involved including the commanding officer on the scene, have been granted immunity :

In exchange, the officer, First Lt. William T. Kallop, agreed to answer all questions that prosecution or defense lawyers ask him, the lawyers said. The immunity granted to Lieutenant Kallop, who gave an order to take control of a house where several civilians were killed, could bolster the defense of the three enlisted men charged with murder in the case, lawyers said, because it would show that they were following orders.

Now, I don't know the conditions of the legal case being built against the Marines in question but the idea that 7 or 8 of the alleged participants in the massacre including the commanding officer on the scene have been granted immunity certainly suggests yet another move to deny responsibility for the actions of our military. When will we see an investigation into the continuing slaughter of Iraqi civilians by US troops and the apparent inability or unwillingness of the US military command to enforce the Fourth Geneva Convention:

  • Article 3 states that even where there is not a conflict of international character the parties must as a minimum adhere to minimal protections described as: noncombatants, members of armed forces who have laid down their arms, and combatants who are hors de combat (out of the fight) due to wounds, detention, or any other cause shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, with the following prohibitions:

(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) taking of hostages;
(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples

As Pachacutec noted last night , it looks like Congress is considering backing away from any real legislative insistence that we leave Iraq.  With our troops commiting war crimes such as this, how can we stay? 

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com