Saturday, August 19, 2006

Deaths of 24 Civilians in Haditha: "Sad," but "Routine"

Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, commanding officer of the 1st Marines, 3rd Battalion, told military investigators it never occurred to him to investigate the killings of 24 civilians at Haditha, Iraq:

The Marine officer who commanded the battalion involved in the Haditha killings last November did not consider the deaths of 24 Iraqis, many of them women and children, unusual and did not initiate an inquiry, according to a sworn statement he gave to military investigators in March.

"I thought it was very sad, very unfortunate, but at the time, I did not suspect any wrongdoing from my Marines," Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, commander of the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Marines, said in the statement.

"I did not have any reason to believe that this was anything other than combat action," he added.

The implication being, of course, that dozens of civilian deaths in "combat action" was routine: hence the title of the WaPo article.

And what's wrong with that? asks Curt of Flopping Aces:

And why would he [have reason to believe that 24 civilians killed by U.S. Marines was anything that needed investigating]? The Marines were engaged with bombs and small arms fire in a town. They defended themselves and ended the threat to their lives. As he said, it was sad that civilians died but what should the Marines have done? Not defended themselves?

There you go. It's perfectly normal to find 24 unarmed civilians, including women and children, shot at close range, execution-style. Clear case of self-defense, obviously.

Obviously, Curt hasn't read today's New York Times article in which David S. Cloud reports that an unreleased Department of Defense report points to evidence that Marines withheld and even destroyed incriminating evidence relating to the Haditha killings:

A high-level military investigation into the killings of 24 Iraqis in Haditha last November has uncovered instances in which American marines involved in the episode appear to have destroyed or withheld evidence, according to two Defense Department officials briefed on the case.

The investigation found that an official company logbook of the unit involved had been tampered with and that an incriminating video taken by an aerial drone the day of the killings was not given to investigators until Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the second-ranking commander in Iraq, intervened, the officials said.

Those findings, contained in a long report that was completed last month but not made public, go beyond what has been previously reported about the case. It has been known that marines who carried out the killings made misleading statements to investigators and that senior officers were criticized for not being more aggressive in investigating the case, in which most or all of the Iraqis who were killed were civilians. But this is the first time details about possible concealment or destruction of evidence have been disclosed.

Allahpundit -- definitely not a liberal source -- is taking this seriously.

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