Haditha - Participant's Account

Sunday, June 11, 2006
The Washington Post carries an account of the events at Haditha presented by the attorney for Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich who was the responsible NCO at the scene.

Please note that Marine Reserve Lt. Jonathan Morgenstein, who provided the obligatory spin for the WaPo was aptly described by Clarice Feldman in a comment at Just One Minute:
Guess the reporter ran out of space to tell the reader that Morgenstein was a civil affairs officer for a few months in Ramadi and since then has been employed at the U.S. Institute for Peace.
Lt. Morgenstein, meet Col. Murtha, you two have common interests.

From Sgt. Wuterich's account (as told by his attorney):
Wuterich told Puckett that no one was emotionally rattled by Terrazas's death because everyone had a job to do, and everyone was concerned about further casualties. As Wuterich began briefing the platoon leader, Puckett said, AK-47 shots rang out from residences on the south side of the road, and the Marines ducked.

A corporal with the unit leaned over to Wuterich and said he saw the shots coming from a specific house, and after a discussion with the platoon leader, they decided to clear the house, according to Wuterich's account.

"There's a threat, and they went to eliminate the threat," Puckett said.

A four-man team of Marines, including Wuterich, kicked in the door and found a series of empty rooms, noticing quickly that there was one room with a closed door and people rustling behind it, Puckett said. They then kicked in that door, tossed a fragmentation grenade into the room, and one Marine fired a series of "clearing rounds" through the dust and smoke, killing several people, Puckett said.

The Marine who fired the rounds -- Puckett said it was not Wuterich -- had experience clearing numerous houses on a deployment in Fallujah, where Marines had aggressive rules of engagement.

Although it was almost immediately apparent to the Marines that the people dead in the room were men, women and children -- most likely civilians -- they also noticed a back door ajar and believed that insurgents had slipped through to a house nearby, Puckett said. The Marines stealthily moved to the second house, kicking in the door, killing one man inside and then using a frag grenade and more gunfire to clear another room full of people, he said.
Haditha's hospitality to insurgents carried a price. Opening the door to an insurgent carrying arms wasn't a good idea and closing a door to the Marines was a worse one.

UPDATE: Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette is following this very closely and should be read in conjunction with the Clarice Feldman article that David Thomson cited.

UPDATE: Michael Yon weighs in with the best overview piece that I have seen to date.

6 comments:

terrye said...

I think that terrible things like this happen when the enemy hides behind and among the civilian population.

Haditha was the place where 20 Marines had been killed in a matter of days and where local Shia were being executed by terrorists.

To be honest I am surprised more things like this have not happened.

David Thomson said...

This investigation probably should have been completed in less than a few weeks. Sgt. Wuterich's side of the story, if accurate, vindicates the actions of the Marines. The civilian victims were merely, at the very worst, the unintended consequences of a standard military operation. Just remember this nonsense when you vote in November. Can you be nonchalant about the possibility that John Murtha might become even more influential in the U.S. Congress?

vnjagvet said...

Thankfully, these soldiers will be tried by court martial.

Thankfully as well, the typical courtmartial member will be relatively impervious to the rush to judgment by the press and such congressmen as Murtha and his acolytes.

Rick:

Thanks for the Yon reference. His articles are indeed excellent. It will be interesting to see whether the new Iraqi Defense Ministry and the departure of Zarqawi will make the rules of engagement less ambiguous.

That was a problem that never did get resolved in VN. There was a constant tension there between the "winning hearts and minds" objective and the "kill the bastards" objective.

terrye said...

vnjagvet:

Are you sure there will be a court martial?

My understanding is there was no cover up. I am not sure where the mistake came about but the marines on the scene said there had been civilians killed in the fighting, not the bombing.

It makes me think of the Rangers in Somalia. If I remember correctly hundreds of civilians were killed in the fighting with what turned out to be AlQaida. The terrorists used the civlians. From what I have read today I would say the same thing may have happened here.

AJ has quite a bit on this today and the ties the insurgents in the area had with AQ.

vnjagvet said...

Terrye:

Good point.

I should have said if any criminal charges are brought against anyone, they will be tried by cm.

If this is still truly under investigation, an Article 32 officer must investigate any offenses contemplated, and make a recommendation to the appropriate commanding general, who is known as the "convening authority".

It may be that there will be a recommendation that a court martial not be convened, and that the CG may take that recommendation.

There has been no decision made in that regard to my knowledge.

Rick Ballard said...

Vnjagvet,

I also wonder at what rules the new Iraqi government will propose. Somehow I doubt that they will be as strict as those employed by the US.

How can the NCIS investigators properly weigh evidence in this matter? Even with exhumation and examination of the bodies a lack of shrapnel wounds wouldn't be proof of execution (in the event a gunshot was the cause of death).

We'll have to wait and see but if the story recounted by the sergeant's attorney is anywhere close to the truth then it is doubtful that 'massacre' has any meaning in this instance.