‘Wash Post’ Gets Scathing Military Report on Haditha Massacre

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By: E&P Staff

In a front-page report by Josh White today, The Washington Post reveals today that a probe of the 2005 incident in Haditha, Iraq, finds that the The Marine Corps chain of command ignored “obvious” signs of “serious misconduct” in the slayings of two dozen civilians.

Further, it charges that commanders, in the Post’s summary, “fostered a climate that devalued the life of innocent Iraqis to the point that their deaths were considered an insignificant part of the war, according to an Army general’s investigation.

“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.’

“Bargewell’s sharp criticism of the Marine command appears to have been a contributing factor in subsequent efforts by top leaders to ensure that U.S. troops exercise appropriate restraint around civilians. Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, who was the top field commander in Iraq last year, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, now the top U.S. commander there, have emphasized the importance of protecting the civilian population in counterinsurgency operations and have ordered aggressive investigations of alleged wrongdoing.”

The coverup had continued even after the first press report: “No one recommended an investigation until a Time magazine reporter began asking questions about the attack in January 2006. Maj. Gen. Richard A. Huck, the division commander, dismissed the allegations as insurgent propaganda, according to the report. The battalion commander, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, also refused to investigate, saying, ‘My marines are not murderers,’ according to two of his top subordinates. Bargewell called this ‘an unwillingness, bordering on denial,’ to examine an incident that could be harmful to his unit.”

The rest of the article can be found at www.washingtonpost.com.

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