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Officer In Charge: Haditha Didn’t Warrant Inquiry

From the DNC's house organ, the Washington Post:

Officer Called Haditha Routine

Marine Said Deaths Didn't Merit Inquiry

By Thomas E. Ricks
August 19, 2006

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.

Chessani's statement, provided to The Washington Post by a person sympathetic to the enlisted Marines involved in the case, helps explain why there was no investigation of the incident at the time, despite the large number of civilian deaths, and why it took several months for the U.S. military chain of command to react to the event.

It also provides a glimpse of the mind-set of a commander on the scene who, despite the carnage, did not stop to consider whether Marines had crossed a line and killed defenseless civilians.

It suggests that top U.S. commanders have been unsuccessful in urging subordinate leaders to focus less on killing insurgents and more on winning the support of the Iraqi people, especially by providing them security.

Chessani told investigators he concluded that insurgents had staged a "complex attack" that began with a roadside bomb, followed by a small-arms ambush that was intended to provoke the Marines to fire into houses where civilians were hiding.

"I did not see any cause for alarm," especially because several firefights had occurred in the area the same day — Nov. 19, 2005 — Chessani said. Because of that conclusion, the commander added, he did not see any reason to investigate the matter, or even to ask how many women and children had been killed. "I just saw this as a large combat action that had been staged by the enemy," he told investigators…

Chessani's statement, which was given at a base in Iraq starting at midnight on March 20, is the first formal evidence to emerge in the case. Until now, media reports contain accounts provided by Iraqis and Marines rather than those from official documents produced by the investigatory process.

The statement provides the first public look at comments from a key commander who oversaw the action there and bolsters the defense argument that troops involved in the Haditha incident saw the events as part of the normal course of combat…

At one point, Col. John Ewers, the Marine lawyer who took the statement, seemed almost exasperated with Chessani's passive approach to the incident. Using a profanity, he told Chessani his own reaction was "15 civilians dead, 23 or 24 total dead, with no real indication of how it was that we arrived at the enemy KIA number."

Ewers asked: "Did it occur to you that you needed to do an investigation simply so you could go to the locals and say, 'This was righteous'? . . . And be confident that you were speaking with certainty?"

Chessani responded: "Sir, I did not think about it like that. . . . Enemy has picked the place, he had picked the time, and the location for a reason. . . . [H]e wanted to make us look bad."

Apart from the armchair psychoanalysis, the article is another rare example of the Washington Post providing some of the other side of the story.

Still, one wonders why they felt obliged to tell us this:

Chessani's statement, provided to The Washington Post by a person sympathetic to the enlisted Marines involved in the case…

Does the media tell us when they report information provided by those who are unsympathetic?

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, August 19th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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