NYT on Haditha: Investigation looks bad for Marines

posted at 12:29 pm on June 17, 2006 by Allahpundit

The shootings inside the homes aren’t even the worst of it, their sources say. It’s the evidence from the killing of the first five men, who the Marines claimed were fleeing the scene in a “taxi,” that’s most damning.

The overview:

[I]nvestigators have found evidence that the men in the taxi were not fleeing the bombing scene, as the marines have told military officials. Investigators have also concluded that most of the victims in three houses died from well-aimed rifle shots, not shrapnel or random fire, according to military officials familiar with the initial findings…

[A]ccording to two people briefed on the investigation, one member of the Marine squad at Haditha, himself closely tied to some of the deaths, is now cooperating with investigators.

The taxi:

Two people briefed on the investigation said Thursday that evidence gathered on the shooting of the taxi passengers now appeared to be the most at odds with the account given by marines through their lawyers.

One Defense Department official said photographs indicated that the positions of those corpses — and the pooling of their blood — can be viewed as sharply inconsistent with the marines’ version that the Iraqi men were shot as they fled.

The houses (Colonel Watt conducted the preliminary investigation):

For several reasons, Colonel Watt does not believe the marines’ version is accurate, according to a military official who has been briefed on the investigation but who would not discuss it on the record because it was not yet complete…

Some marines told Colonel Watt they were let into the houses they entered; others said they conducted forced entries, the military official said… The wounds of the dead Iraqis, as seen in photographs and viewed by the morgue director, were not consistent with attacks by fragmentation grenades and indiscriminate rifle fire, Colonel Watt found.

The opinion of the Iraqi medical expert, for reasons elsewhere explained, might not be credible. The photographs, which I wrote about here, are more worrisome. Then there’s this:

In addition, if the marines had violently cleared the houses using automatic weapons and fragmentation grenades, there would be lots of damage and bullet marks in the walls. Early investigators said they found no such evidence, although the walls may have been patched before they arrived.

You think? From Time’s original story on Haditha: “The video was obtained by the Hammurabi Human Rights Group, and has been shared with TIME… The scenes from inside the houses show that the walls and ceilings are pockmarked with shrapnel and bullet holes as well as the telltale spray of blood.” The fact that the investigators are citing the paucity of blemishes on the walls when there’s infamous video evidence to the contrary makes me wonder.

Here’s the last of it. The firefight:

Members of this squad gave differing accounts of their actions. One said that they quickly came under fire. “All we knew was, there’s a big firefight,” one marine in this group told his lawyer, Paul L. Hackett, a major in the Marine Reserves and an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress from Ohio in a special election last fall. “You just heard it everywhere, medium, heavy machine gun fire.”…

But a corporal from this same group, who had been badly wounded in Falluja but was able to return for a second deployment, said there was intermittent small-arms fire that did not appear to him to be directed at his patrol. The other marine may have been hearing the First Squad’s action about 700 yards up the road at the bombing site and thought they were under fire, he suggested.

Assuming all this can be explained away, there’s the separate question about the rules of engagement: namely, whether blind-fire room-clearing tactics were appropriate in an environment with civilians scattered about. They were used successfully in Fallujah — but the citizens there had all been evacuated before the operation began.

Needless to say, the blockquotes above aren’t exhaustive. Read the whole article. The Times has a graphic up too about which victims were in which houses, which I really should compare to Dan Riehl‘s post about the media inconsistencies on that point. I’m worn out right now, though, and I’m sure Dan himself will be tackling this later, so keep your eye on his site.

Update: Regarding the firefight, the Marines’ lawyers seem pretty confident.

Update: Dan responds. Check out what he found in a Washington Post article from late May — an Iraqi eyewitness on record as saying the men in the taxi were trying to flee.

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Okay so we have Iraqi citizens from the city who claim to have been eye witnesses that can’t agree on their versions of what happened, we have video tape from a suspicious source, and some of the most zig-azg lines to connect the dots on the part of reporters. In the courtroom they call this reasonable doubt.
Here my theory, which is no better informed then this version.
The bodies contained in those houses came from various parts of Haditha. The good doctor working in collaboration with the Human Rights documentarian, the Iraqi Michael Moore, took bodies from his hospital which had not been claimed by relatives yet and placed them in the houses for filming. I do not know if foresenic analysts can determine from the film if some of the bodies may have indeed several days old or not. Remember the film was mad the day after I believe. Given the Muslim propensity to bury their deceased quickly I find this hard to swallow.
The documentarian just released from jail probably convinced some of the residents to tell his version of the story.
Were the Marines involved in a battle in the neighborhood? Sure that is not in question.
Did the Marines brutally murder innocents? I don’t think so.
In the words of Johnny Cochran “If the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit”.

LakeRuins on June 17, 2006 at 12:48 PM

Debka, al-Jazeera, the New York Times…

Let’s wait for a reliable source.

Pablo on June 17, 2006 at 1:48 PM

What bothers me the most is this little gem,in the New York times article

“For several reasons, Colonel Watt does not believe the marines’ version is accurate, according to a military official who has been briefed on the investigation but who would not discuss it on the record because it was not yet complete.”

Where are all of these leaks coming from and correct me it I am wrong,it is illegal for these so called investigators to be talking to the press about an investigation. For that matter, how are the so called investigator sources allowed to disclose any of the details of this investigation to the New York Times.

It seems to me this is a violation of the code of ethics for active military personnel. Why are they risking their careers to talk to these traitors at the New York Times?

Something stinks about this article based of their sources.

ScottyDog on June 17, 2006 at 1:51 PM

Remember…you are reading this in the NYT…any questions?

Sandys Beach on June 17, 2006 at 1:58 PM

I’m with Pablo, let’s wait until we hear from more reliable sources. Knowing the NY Slimes, the article is more than likely further from the truth than closer to it.

darwin on June 17, 2006 at 1:58 PM

The New York Times exposes it’s bias again; hoping, praying and predicting our troops are guilty of killing innocent civilians. Once again, bad for America, bad for our brave troops …. good for the NYT, the rest of the MSM and cut-and-run Democrats.


realitychick on June 17, 2006 at 2:36 PM

I think they should check out the identities of the dead Iraqis first. They could be insurgents. How come I have not seen any report on the backgrounds of the owner of the house or the victims.

There were fire fights. In view of this I think the least they should do is to check out who were in the house…..what the F%$K is worng with the military investigators??????

easy87us on June 17, 2006 at 3:28 PM

The NYT has absolutely zero credibility on these issues. For all we know they were talking to British investigators thinking they were US investigators.

Pinch and Co., are hell bent on getting Dems back into power and any story that would impede that effort gets: a)correctively edited, b) burried on D23, or c) spiked.

NYT a credible news source on the war? Rubbish.


Moose Dung on June 17, 2006 at 5:10 PM

My nephew in the Marines thinks this is more B.S.
He says the way they do things and the story has too many wrong elements in it. Considering the source(NYT-MSM), I’m inclined to agree with him. Let’s see what NCIS makes of this. I can wait until then to form an opinion.

tormod on June 17, 2006 at 5:39 PM

“Let’s see what NCIS makes of this. I can wait until then to form an opinion.”

Agreed. Right now I’m seeing more speculation and opinion than known facts. In my heart, I hope the accused are innocent and will be fully exonerated. The sad thing is that if they are, this will an albatross hanging from their neck for the rest of their lives.

However, if they evidence proves their guilt, they deserve everything they get.


GT on June 17, 2006 at 6:05 PM

Hmmm…. and Rove is going to be indicted???

Any reasonable defense if going to chew so many holes in this “case” that its pathetic.

Pictures and evidence from very suspect sources a DAY after it happened??? That didn’t surface for months?

Exhume the bodies… bring in CSI…

And find the Tresonous A hole who is leaking this… this WILL lead to more Moslems taking up arms…

Romeo13 on June 17, 2006 at 6:31 PM

I just noticed that Paul Hackett is representing one of these guys.

I wonder where Murtha and Co are going to go with that.

Pablo on June 17, 2006 at 6:35 PM

No offense to Allah, but, The New York Times? When was it ever fit to wrap fish in let alone read?

calnevari on June 17, 2006 at 9:17 PM

Everyone should remember just where this crap is springing up from, the NEW YORK TIMES! Any questions as to why every gun is pointing at the heads of the US Military? Pinch and his boys are up late at night twisting, tangling, and doing what ever they can to place our military right in the middle of the circle. Please don’t let yourself forget that!

NEMETI IN SYRACUSE on June 17, 2006 at 10:19 PM

Be very wary of unnamed sourses.

birdman on June 18, 2006 at 12:57 AM

I see that I don’t need to pile on about crediblity of anything comming from the NYT so I’ll just add something that bothers me. This ‘report’ has been apparently written by John M. Broder reporting from Los Angeles and Camp Pendleton, Calif., David S. Cloud, Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker seem to have added information from Washington, John Kifner from Cincinnati, and Carolyn Marshall did the same from Camp Pendleton. I don’t see how they could have formed a coherent view of the situation but I do see that there are plenty of reporters to blame if this turns out to be another Rather report. Indeed, if someone had to investigate who it was that reported what it would take months to unravel.

I shall continue to believe in our troops innocence until it is proven conclusively to be otherwise. ;o)

DannoJyd on June 18, 2006 at 1:07 AM

If I had a bird, I’d line the cage with the NYT. That’s about the best thing to do with the rag. I don’t buy it as a credible source and no one else should either.

pullingmyhairout on June 18, 2006 at 1:09 PM

Maybe we can get around this problem of ROE by doing what LBJ did in ‘Nam. We just issue rifles in the proper caliber and then don’t give the troops any ammo and tell them to accomplish the mission. A simple fix, and then in two years and 58,000 dead we can come home like the Democrats want and everyone will be happy. The Vietnam vets will be happy because tradition has been upheld. Charlie…uh… able quebec will be happy because they get to slaughter half the population, the Shia will be happy because their innermost feelings about the US will be shown to be true. A win-win-win situation. And no ‘civilians’ in the sunni triangle will have been killed (except for these at the moment). The only thing better would be to stand the platoons up in a line just before the mission and shoot them, then the ROE would really have been followed to the letter. War should be a hygenic operation, no mistakes, no surprises.

Mike H. on June 18, 2006 at 11:18 PM

Why is anyone quoting from the NYT, much less reading it? Are you simply trying to justify continuing to receive the remainder of your LAST subscription?

Dread Pirate Roberts VI on June 19, 2006 at 9:07 AM

Count me in with Pablo. Just where was the NYT on Rathergate?

dman on June 19, 2006 at 6:12 PM