Mar 24, 2013

Haditha Massacre: Was it an Isolated Event and Did the Military Try to Cover it Up?

Haditha Massacre: Was it an Isolated Event and Did the Military Try to Cover it Up?

An internal military investigation has found that U.S. marines killed as many as 24 Iraqis–including women and children–in the city of Haditha last November and then tried to cover it up. We speak with an attorney and researcher at Human Rights Watch, an independent journalist who spent months unembedded in Iraq and we go to Baghdad to speak with the bureau chief for Knight Ridder. 

We take a look at the Haditha massacre and the aftermath, which has continued to rock the military and political establishments. Last November, a roadside bomb struck a Humvee carrying US troops in the western Iraqi town of Haditha. The bomb killed one marine and injured two others. The next day, the Marines said in a statement that 15 Iraqi civilians died in the initial blast. They said that after the explosion, gunmen attacked the US convoy with small arms fire, prompting the Marines to return fire, killing eight insurgents. But eyewitnesses contradicted this account. They said the men, women and children were killed when marines burst into their houses after the blast and shot them dead in their nightclothes. Early this year, a videotape of the aftermath of the incident, showing the bodies of women and children, was obtained by Time magazine. The video verified the eyewitness accounts and prompted an investigation by the military. There are now 2 investigations–one into the encounter itself and another into whether it was the subject of a cover-up by the military.

Last week, the Pentagon concluded one of its investigations. Members of Congress who were briefed said that at least some members of the Marine unit may be charged with murder, which carries the death penalty.
Abdul Salam Al-Kubaissi, spokesman of the Muslim Clerics Association spoke at news conference in Baghdad on Sunday:
  • Abdul Salam Al-Kubaissi: "The situation has reached a level when the U.S. soldier becomes a professional killer, who kills with premeditation and deliberation. This should be among war crimes and the ones who should be put on trial are the U.S. commanders and not the U.S. soldier because the commanders are the ones who instruct those (soldiers) and justify their acts as it happened in Abu Ghraib’s scandal."
One of the reporters who broke the Haditha story, Aparisim Ghosh, joined us in our firehouse studio in March. He is the chief international correspondent for Time Magazine. He spoke about his article titled "One Morning in Haditha."
On Saturday, the Marines released their first official statement about the Haditha events. It reads in part, All Marines are trained in the Law of Armed Conflict and our core values of honor, courage and commitment. We take allegations of wrong-doing by Marines very seriously and are committed to thoroughly investigating such allegations. We also pride ourselves on holding our Marines to the highest levels of accountability and standards. The Marines in Iraq are focused on their mission. They are working hard on doing the right thing in a complex and dangerous environment. It is important to remember that the vast majority of Marines today perform magnificently on and off the battlefield. Tens of thousands have served honorably and with courage in Iraq and Afghanistan."
We invited a representative from the Military to be on the program but they declined our request.
  • Nancy Youssef , Baghdad Bureau Chief for Knight Ridder.
  • Dahr Jamail, independent journalist who was based for a time in Baghdad. He was one of the only independent, unembedded journalists in Iraq at the time. Dahr publishes his reports on a blog called
  • John Sifton, researcher at Human Rights Watch.
A few days after the Haditha story broke, the military launched another investigation into the killing of Iraqi civilians by American troops. In March, the Knight Ridder news agency obtained an Iraqi police report accusing U.S forces of of murdering 11 civilians by rounding them up them up into one room of a house near the city of Balad and shooting them. The US military stated that only four civilians were killed in the raid and that they came under fire while trying to capture an al-Qaeda suspect.
The reporter who broke the story for Knight Ridder, Matthew Schofield, was interviewed by Democracy Now.

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