Saturday, December 23, 2006

US Marines charged in Haditha massacre of Iraqi civilians

This is reprinted from World Socialist Website, the most read socialist website online.

By Jerry White

Four US Marines were charged Thursday with multiple counts of murder in connection with the massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha on November 19, 2005. Military officials also charged four officers with dereliction of duty and other counts relating to the cover-up of the rampage. The killings in the predominately Sunni town, 200 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, were carried out after a roadside bomb struck a convoy, claiming the life of one marine.

Four enlisted men from the Kilo Company of the First Marine Regiment’s Third Battalion were charged with unpremeditated murder. Squad leader Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, 26, of Meriden, Connecticut was charged with 13 counts of murder relating to the deaths of 18 people. Three other marines—Sgt. Sanick De La Cruz, 24 of Chicago; Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt, 22 of Carbondale, Pennsylvania; and Lance Corporal Stephen Tatum, 25 of Edmund, Oklahoma—also face homicide charges.

These charges will be followed by an Article 32 hearing—similar to a civilian grand jury investigation—after which an investigating officer makes a recommendation and commanders decide whether to proceed to courts martial. The four marines face possible life sentences if found guilty. The four officers being charged—a lieutenant colonel, two captains and a lieutenant—face lesser sentences ranging from ten years to six months in prison. The latter officers helped to conceal the killings, which the marines initially claimed had been caused by a bomb blast and a subsequent firefight with Iraqi insurgents.

The official whitewash continued until Time magazine presented military officials with video footage taken by an Iraqi journalism student showing the grisly aftermath of the massacre and the statements of surviving witnesses, who said the marines went house-to-house, systematically executing innocent men, women and children during a killing spree that lasted up to five hours. President Bush remained silent on the killings—which revived memories of the Vietnam War’s infamous 1968 My Lai massacre—for more than six months after the incident, and two months after Time magazine published a detailed exposure.

According the charges, the first deaths occurred when Sgt. Wuterich and Sgt. Sanick De La Cruz, 24 of Chicago, stopped a taxi some 100 yards away from the stalled convoy and ordered the driver and the four passengers, all college students, out of the vehicle. The two marines have been charged with murdering the five men on the spot. Wuterich is also being charged with falsely telling an investigator that the men from the taxi fired at the convoy, and with urging Sgt. De La Cruz to report that Iraqi Army soldiers at the scene had killed the men.

Wuterich and several other marines then attacked a home nearby killing several membets of the family inside. According to the charges Wuterich, who is implicated in killing six people in the house, told his unit to “shoot first and ask questions later.” Lance Corporal Stephen Tatum, 25 of Edmund, Oklahoma, is being charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of four people in the first house, including an elderly man in a wheel chair.

Squad members then proceeded to a second home where Wuterich is charged with killing six more people—two adults and four children, including three who were 4, 6 and 11 years old—and Tatum is charged with killing a 15-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl. At least two hours later, squad members attacked a third house, where Wuterich is charged with killing one person and Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt, 22 of Carbondale, Pennsylvania, is charged with killing three brothers who came to the home to find out what was happening.

Nine-year-old Eman Waleed and her younger brother Abdul Rahman survived the attack, as the adults shielded the small children with their bodies. Hours after the massacre, Iraqi soldiers found Eman and Abdul under a pile of corpses, wounded but alive. The older child recalled the marines shouting, breaking down doors, and murdering her terrified grandparents as they emerged in their bedclothes. Witnesses interviewed by the Washington Post last May testified that victims pleaded for their lives, insisting that they were not insurgents, moments before they were shot.

The cover-up of this crime began immediately after the killings. Photographs taken by a marine intelligence officer after incident revealed that the many of the victims had been shot at close range, in the head and chest, execution-style. Video taken by a US aerial drone immediately after the bomb attack on the convoy showed no evidence of a “firefight.” Nevertheless military officials maintained the lie that 15 people had been killed in the initial blast, and that the rest were caught in a crossfire between the marines and insurgents. Wuterich was even recommended for an award for heroism because his actions supposedly prevented further injury or death to marines and civilians.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, the marines’ battalion commander—who is being charged with one count of violating an order and two counts of dereliction—told investigators that he believed the marines’ actions followed a complex attack meant to draw them into firing on civilian houses, according to a transcript cited by the Post. “I thought it was very sad, very unfortunate, but at the time I did not suspect any wrongdoing from my marines. I saw it as a combat action.”

Neal Puckett, one of Wuterich’s civilian attorneys, told the newspaper that the allegations do not contradict his client’s versions of events. “It’s what happens in wartime,” he said, “You intend to kill the people you’re shooting at.” Wuterich and his men “did everything they were supposed to that day to protect themselves.”

The prosecution of the eight Marines and officers for the Haditha massacre brings to a total of 64 the number of US soldiers charged in connection with the deaths of Iraqi civilians since the war began in March 2003. Eighteen have been sentenced to prison time, including a 90-year term for an Army soldier who later admitted his role in raping an Iraqi teenager and murdering her and her family.

These prosecutions, however, are largely a matter of damage control. They are aimed at concealing the fact that such wanton brutality is the evitable byproduct of the colonial-style counter-insurgency campaign the US military is carrying out to crush popular resistance to the US occupation.

While those who executed 24 people should be punished for their crimes, they are victims as well. Sent to Iraq on the basis of lies, with little or no knowledge about the population they have been instructed to subjugate, they are forced to kill and witness the deaths and maiming of other American troops. This makes such monstrous acts inevitable.

Such atrocities as those carried out in Haditha flow from far greater crimes. Those responsible for the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq—Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the Democratic Party leaders and war propagandists in the media who paved the way for it—have never been held accountable for their war crimes. If the murder of 24 innocents in Haditha warrants the prosecution of eight soldiers and officers, then why haven’t the leading architects of the war against Iraq been prosecuted for the deaths of an estimated 650,000 Iraqis who have perished as a result of it?

Since launching its “war of choice” nearly four years ago the Bush administration bears responsibility for the deaths of far more Iraqis than the number who died during a quarter of a century of the regime of Saddam Hussein. Yet the US occupation authorities have placed the former Iraqi president on trial for war crimes, while Bush and his co-conspirators have never been held responsible for far greater acts of mass murder.

In the face of popular opposition to the continuation of the war by the American people—expressed in the November elections as well as subsequent opinion polls—both the Bush administration and the incoming Democratic Party congressional majority are determined to continue the war and escalate the violence against the Iraqi people.

At the same time, they are preparing future wars against Iran and countries as yet unnamed in the continuing drive by America’s ruling corporate elite to assert global hegemony by means of military force. This makes further Hadithas and even bloodier massacres inevitable.


? said...

a very merry xmas my friend...very interesting post, i need to digest before making further comments

Tina said...

Wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas... and while I am personally hoping and praying for the new year to bring peace, good health and happiness to all, I sadly fear that 2007 will just be yet another year of bloodshed, carnage, and disappointment.

Mike Ballard said...

My Lai all over again, Ren. Of course, these kinds of tragedies happen in every war and war can only be uprooted at its core: class society.

I think the US has shown this year that Super Powers can be brought down to Earth...which is of course getting hotter all the time.

"Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation," said Karl Marx.

Our tasks have been set. Are we up to them?

Nicholas said...

“…they are victims as well. Sent to Iraq on the basis of lies, with little or no knowledge about the population they have been instructed to subjugate…” so more knowledge about Iraq would stop soldiers from killing? Speculating on the amount of education needed for a person not to kill while in the seems like a waste of time.

While the predominantly poor/rural working class military with disproportional representation by Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans (more than their share of the population) are in many ways victims of different oppressions stemming from US capitalism, they are not all the same, and their victim status is not equal to that of their victims. From the names given, there is only one minority in the bunch of the accused. I think this is more than coincidence, but stems from America’s racial order. Many of those joining the military have been primed by years of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim propaganda in civilian life, not to mention in the military brainwashing system. The military, despite large representation by minorities, is a repository of reactionary and often white/male chauvinist attitudes, supported by American culture, media, church and state. This is what also makes these atrocities happen, not just the situation. The ICFI, which is behind the World Socialist Website, though it was unnecessary to mention this, and was satisfied with equating the victim hood of imperialist soldiers (drawn from the proletariat and petty bourgeoisie) and their colonially oppressed victims, women, children and the elderly, not equal at all!

In their choice of only mentioning that the US is threatening Iran and not the North Korean deformed workers state, the ICFI displays not a little bit of turning its back on serious internationalism. Sure, you cannot mention everything, but one should mention the important instances of US threats.

Mike: what is the source of the Marx quote, German Ideology?

Mike Ballard said...

The quote is from the Preface to A CONTRIBUTION TO THE CRITIQUE OF POLITICAL ECONOMY....1859

MC Fanon said...

Merry Christmas, Ren! And Happy New Year.

LeftyHenry said...

The only justified result of this case would be a guilty verdict.

Happy Holidays

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, Leftist Holiday Spirit!

Vying for victim status, blaming the US, class and race distinctions, income disparities...what joy!

How many trials were held for Sadaam prior to our intervention? Did Mullah Omar hold a counsel over the improper beheading of Afghan women by the Taliban? How many tortured, jailed, raped Persian men, women and children has the Iranian Republican guard been held accountable for? How about in Cuba, Venezuela, China (there was one trial last year because of the huge public outcry)?

Has Putin been called to account for his excesses? While it is unacceptable for atrocities to occur, WE hold they that carry out these offenses accountable. Trials are public and justice is administered, because WE won't tolerate anything else.

celticfire said...

I'm back!

Graeme said...

why is it when ever some annoyomous person goes off on a crazy diatribe they add Venezuela in the list with the likes of China and the Taliban? Is our media that bad? At any rate, with all the crimes our presidents have been involved in, I don't recall seeing any trials here either

troutsky said...

Answer to anonymous: This blog has been critical of Sadaams cruelty, Afghan and Iranian injustice, if you check it out you will see there are no fans of religious or totalitarian intolerance here.Pointing out US crimes is an effort to combat the destructive narrative of American Exceptionalism. I don't see where right wing blogs feel a need to always balance reports of Muslim cruelty with a report about atrocities committed by US troops, though maybe yours does.

Nicholas said...

Everybody should remember that Saddam Hussein's crimes were aided, abetted, and covered up by US imperialism and its junior partners. The very fact of the Bath Party's power is part of the anti-communist cold war imperialist policy. Saddam's first crimes of murder were against Communists, leftists, and trade unionists. By disarming the working class the path was opened for crimes against others, such as the criminal war with Iran, again supported by the US. No one should act as if the US is some innocent and benevolent force, coming in to clean up the mess. They made the mess!

Frank Partisan said...

Nicholas: You are technically correct, but not practically correct.

There are many incidents like the above, that will be unreported. Soldiers will come home from the war, with great mental disturbances as depression, alcoholism etc. That will present another contradiction in the symptom, it being unable and unwilling to care for its own soldiers.

Mark Prime (tpm/Confession Zero) said...


I will call to you when the shredded spirits
On this day’s light gaze back at slaughter
And thunder their liquid wheels to the moon.
And I will ask you to kill yet again and again.
I will call to you from the arid cusp of charity,
And when the slaughtered fortitude cries out,
Howls to the moon sipping of the sun’s blood,
You shall collect tokens on the streets of Haditha.


Do not speak weary soldier!
Your ears are not yours! Your mouth no more!
Your eyes are not your eyes!
Your feet are not your feet
They each belong to me!
Traded for your sweat and tears,
Bartered for your flesh and bone,
Given me by men of bold vision!


I will call to you when the tattered spirits
Upon the diminishing light stare back at murder
And thunder their liquid wheels to the moon.

Nicholas said...

Please clearify the last comment to me. You can put it at my site if you wish.

Mike b: yes I remember the quote now thanks.

Brik D said...

These soldiers should, after a fair and balanced trial, face the stiffest penalties allowed if they are guilty. There is no excuse for committing the same act against people your supposed to be saving them from.

However, blaming the abhorrent actions of those men on capitalism is like blaming a mudslide in California on the invention of the assembly line.

If you seriously believe that the US is the only nation with race/class issues, then you're ignoring quite a lot. Most of the fighting in the world is due to ethnic/racial differences. The US has long had universal suffrage. Recently, the government is busy falling all over itself to become "politically correct" passing equal rights programs to appease those who think that everyone BUT white males should get an advantage. Look beyond America though. There are genocides happening in Africa, the Middle East, Russia, Southeast Asia that are based on ethnicity, race or religion. You want some Muslims being wronged? France floated a law that orders Muslims to take off their head coverings while in school. That violates at least two basic laws of Islam. Yet in America you cannot ask someone who's name translates to "Death to the American Satan" a couple of extra questions in an airport for fear of pissing somebody off.

As for removing the class separation that Capitalism creates, India has long accepted the caste system as the way things should be. Of course now, the west is breaking that system with an influx of new money and people are bitching because western culture "is ruining India's heritage". Western civilization is what those who don't have it hate because it's what they want.

Don't misunderstand, I share the opinion that America has got issues. Any nation with a population larger than a few million is going to. I also don't have any love for Bush II, his administration, it's foreign policy, or what has become of the political process in this country. I do think;however, that blaming the US for all the world's ills is a little shortsighted and too simple to be true.

BTW, the statement "From the names given, there is only one minority in the bunch of the accused." is a racist statement in itself. So thanks for perpetuating that. There's no way to know from a list of names what some one's race or heritage is. I've known people from many different skin tones with a last name that starts with a MC or ends in a dez. Think they were all Irish or Hispanic?

Oh and for the Marx quote, it sounds very deep, but it's a circular and redundant statement. As soon as you begin the search for a solution the formation of the solution has started. It's tantamount to saying reality is real.

'Course, that's only one way to look at it.

Anonymous said...