a Someone should care, maybe not you....: Haditha .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Someone should care, maybe not you....

My thoughts on many things including the army, war, politics, the military corrections system, chaos, life, books, movies, and why there is no blue food. Feel free to comment on what I say. Feedback is nice.

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40+ year old former teacher, linguist, interrogator, soldier, and lastly convict. We all do stupid things every once and awhile. I am an economic conservative and a firm believer in civil rights. Starting a new life now and frankly not sure what I am going to be doing.

19 March 2007

Haditha

I watched part of 60 minutes last night. There was an interview with the Marine sergeant who is being charged with murder after the killing in the city of Haditha in Iraq. For those of you who may not be following this I will sum up the vents without the hyperbole of the reporter or the antiwar faction of the US.
Basically a Marine convoy on it’s way back from a resupply run was hit by a huge IED that blew one of it’s vehicle into pieces. The driver was killed instantly and the other two Marines in the vehicle were injured. There is a white vehicle about 100 yards down the road with people in it. The Sergeant in question orders the men out of the vehicle and when they start to run he shoots them. The Marines then begin to take fire from the south. They do not see where the fire is coming from but one house has the best line of sight and they think it is coming from there. A superior officer shows up and gives the ok to assault this house. The Marines, led by the Sergeant, do so, clearly by fire. (This means you throw a grenade into the room then go in shooting. They do not find the shooter in this house although several (5 if I recall correctly) civilians are killed. There is an open door and they decide the shooter fled into the next house (they did not see him) and they clear it in the same manner. Several (maybe 8) more people are killed. Later a man with a rifle is found in a nearby house and he is killed. Several other armed men are killed in the area later by an air strike.

So, did the Sergeant commit murder? Probably not. (Oh I can hear the screaming beginning now) And here is my reasoning. For it to be murder he had to have voluntarily killed them without military justification for his actions. (I.E. followed the Rules of Engagement) Now many, like the reporter who did the interview, will say murder because he shot the first 5 men when they tried to run away. They say this is not a hostile act or hostile intent. My reasoning, and the Sergeant’s according to what he said in the interview, is that the first IED was a remote detonation. This means someone was watching and pushed a button to set off the bomb. Why is this suspected? Because the vehicle that went up was the third in the convoy. If the bomb and just been sitting in the road odds are vehicle one or two would have set it off. So if it was a remote detonation the white vehicle was an obvious place for the observer(s) to be. Clear line of sight and easy escape in the vehicle. Why didn’t they drive away? Who knows, panic, stalled the car, it could have been a variety of things. But when they were ordered from the vehicle they did not lay down and surrender, they began to flee. The vehicle could be a remote detonated car bomb, they could be armed, a hostile act had obviously occurred so he and another Marine (also charged with murder) shot them. Were the men in car guilty of anything other than running from an armed Marine? Who knows? I certainly don’t and neither does anyone else. I rather suspect that I might have done the same thing in the same situation.

The houses where the civilians including, as the press loves to point out, “women and children” were killed are a bit different. Here no obvious hostile act had been committed. Shots had been fired but they weren’t SURE if they had come from the house. Here the fault lies with training. When clearing a house in a hostile/combat situation it is SOP for grenades to be used. This is one of the truly ugly and little known facts of military life. But a soldier who opens a door and sticks his head in to see who is in the room is going tob e a dead soldier pretty damn fast. This was known in the Second World War too. There are numerous accounts in the city fighting in France of soldiers tossing grenades and then firing into a basement only to find the remains of a French family when they looked in after the smoke cleared. It sucked but for all they knew there could have been a German (or Iraqi in this case) squad hiding in there waiting to come out once they were past. And as I said before, you can’t exactly look to see unless you have a bullet proof head. Now in training there is a lot of PC talk about always your target, and they had a Marine reservist captain who had fought in Iraq on the program running that line. But sometimes fast hard choices have to be made. And unfortunately, people get killed when things like this happen. It sucks. But that is how war is.

Was the Marine wrong in how he went about it? Well yes and no. The clearing procedures were pretty much standard for the situation. He is reported to have said. “Kill them all and ask questions later.” before going into the first house which implies a certain malice aforethought although it sums up the practicalities of clearing a house by fire. Grenades are not picky. And frankly, they probably shouldn’t have gone on a house clearing assault until they were real certain where the shooting was coming from.

The anti war folks howl about “innocent civilian deaths” (how do you know this “civilian” was “innocent”. In fact prove the “civilian” wasn’t an insurgent. Yes, women and children can be insurgents too) but at the same time they howl about how many American casualties there have been. (3000 +, which really isn’t all that bad considering we conquered a country and occupied it against a rather serious resistance for 4 years) Unfortunately, in attempts to keep troop deaths down, civilian deaths have gone up. That kind of thing happens when you are fighting an enemy that hides among the innocent.

One lat note, the CBS reporter who did the interview was a smarmy bastard. He went out of his way to make the Sergeant look bad and play up the charges. The ultimate for me was when at the end the Sergeant said that if he had to do it over again he would have done it the same way and the reporter interrupted, with “Oh no Sergeant, that can’t be, what about all those children?” Sorry buckwheat. Once you go to clear the houses, that is what happens. I’d have been hard put not to smack him.

One further note on the issue. A week or so after the incident there was a press release by the Corp saying that civilians had been killed in an IED detonation. There is no evidence though that the Sergeant or his squad did anything to cover up their actions. That was someone higher up playing CYA.

A further further note before posting. I do not support the killing of civilians. In fact, in my line of military work I was generally opposed to killing just about anyone. Dead folks couldn’t be interrogated. It is obvious that mistakes were made in Haditha by a lot of people. IF, as the prosecution alleges, the soldiers went on a vengeance killing spree then they deserve to be punished. But they certainly do not deserve to have been convicted by the press, the anti war movement, and by John “I won’t take your money now” Murtha. Innocent until proven guilty is still the standard in this country despite the left’s rush to judgment here and the right’s rush to judgment in other cases.

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