Haditha: Marines destroyed/withheld evidence? (Update: Wuterich denies the charge)

posted at 2:34 pm on August 19, 2006 by Allahpundit

Usual caveats apply: no prejudgment, anonymous leaks are sometimes wrong (and have already been wrong in this case), we’re still waiting for Gen. Bargewell’s report, etc.

But this warrants a post. According to the Times’s DoD sources, the official company logbook appears to have been tampered with. And video of the incident taken by a drone — which, sources told Newsmax a few weeks ago, would clear the Marines — seems to incriminate them, and was withheld for months until investigators demanded it.

Bad moon rising:

The report … says that the logbook, which was meant to be a daily record of major incidents the marines’ company encountered, had all the pages missing for Nov. 19, the day of the killings, and that those portions had not been found, the officials said.

No conclusions are drawn about who may have tampered with the log. But the report says that Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, the leader of the squad involved in the killings, was on duty at the unit’s operations center, where the logbook was kept, shortly after the killings occurred, the officials said.

Even worse:

The video taken by the overhead drone was very limited, according to one of the officials. The aircraft was not flying over the site until after the bomb attack, so it only captured the aftermath. Even so, the video appears to contradict statements by marines about what occurred, the officials said.

In particular, it has raised doubts about a claim by enlisted marines that five Iraqis were shot as they were running away after the roadside bombing.

The officials said the video showed the bodies of the five Iraqis on the ground close to the car that they had been riding in, the officials said. In one case, the video appears to show one body stacked on top of another, which the officials said was inconsistent with the account that the men had been shot while fleeing.

WaPo’s got a story out this morning too about testimony given in March by Lt. Col. Chessani, who commanded the battalion. They’re jumping all over him for having not found the deaths of 24 Iraqis sufficiently unusual to warrant an investigation — a dark hint, according to WaPo, that incidents like Haditha were routine. Read it and judge for yourself. The AP has called Haditha “one of the toughest cities in Iraq,” famously hostile to U.S. troops; is a firefight with jihadis killing 24 people all that unlikely under those circumstances? Street battles probably are “routine.” Why would Chessani have doubted them this one time?

Update: Time magazine got hold of Sgt. Wuterich’s lawyers and asked them about the NYT’s allegations. Quote:

Through his lawyers, Wuterich, the Marine who was the unit leader in Haditha on Nov. 19, says that, while he was on duty in the makeshift operations center the following day, he never handled the radio operator’s green logbook. The logbook, he said, is usually kept by a low-ranking enlisted Marine and simply tracks the time of radio calls in and out of the center. Wuterich says he never took any pages out of the logbook and never “tampered” with it.

Wuterich says he also never saw any other more substantial logbook that would have contained so-called after-action reports — detailed descriptions of incidents. Other Marines with experience in Iraq say that such battlefield operation centers are often confused and informal settings where the rush of events prevents methodical record keeping. They say it would be highly unusual to have so-called “after-action reports” kept there.

He also insists that they did recover an AK-47 from one of the Iraqis killed and remembers putting it in a Humvee. The Times’s article suggests the weapon never existed.

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Innocent until PROVEN guilty.

Do these Marines not deserve the same consideration given to Jose Padilla or Sami Arian? The media has already judged this case and pronounced them guilty. The only evidence against them is hearsay, as far as I’ve heard, and hearsay of a particularly smelly sort, brought by members of a hostile force.

Rowane on August 19, 2006 at 3:39 PM

Consider the source. I always do, and thus treat stories from the NYT as propaganda until actual proof is provided.

Would the Slimes give much page space if/when these Heroes are found to be innocent?

DannoJyd on August 19, 2006 at 4:00 PM

BTW, the code is messed up again on the Hot Air front page [for me at least], and that effectively buries this, and other stories from easy viewing.

DannoJyd on August 19, 2006 at 4:03 PM

“a dark hint, according to WaPo, that incidents like Haditha were routine”

I’ve been to Iraq twice and this thing is not routine. Mass murder is a tool of the insurgents and islamofascist extremists, not the US. And our lovely military-hating press is going to milk this and blow this out of proportion with distortions and lies like they have from the beginning of this conflict.

The WaPo is a propaganda rag, like all the other lamestream liberal media

stm on August 19, 2006 at 4:40 PM

I am an ex-Marine, though there is no such thing as an ex-Marine; My war was Vietnam, my grandson and nephew are Marines in Iraq today.

1. I don’t believe this report at all!
2. Even if there is some truth in it, I don’t care! I am tired of our soldiers being told to fight a politically correct war. They are fighting murderers and by all that is holy they need to kill the bastards anyway they can!
3. Until and unless these Marines are convicted in a General Court Martial of war crimes, I will defend them every step of the way

Semper Fi to my grandson, nephew and all the brave Marines fighting there today!

Umnumzana on August 19, 2006 at 7:55 PM

Amen UM & STM! I am afraid though that a PC jury in a Courts Martial may convict them regardless of what really happened. Once again the MSM will ignore the good that our military does and only focus on crap like this which may not be true no matter how badly they want it to be. I know the NYT or the WAPO could care less about those who serve that they hurt. Got to talk to my hubby today for the first time in about 2 weeks and he said at least where he is it continues to get better. I don’t know where he is though. Aloha

Catie96706 on August 19, 2006 at 11:01 PM

I am an ex-Marine, though there is no such thing as an ex-Marine; My war was Vietnam, my grandson and nephew are Marines in Iraq today.

1. I don’t believe this report at all!
2. Even if there is some truth in it, I don’t care! I am tired of our soldiers being told to fight a politically correct war. They are fighting murderers and by all that is holy they need to kill the bastards anyway they can!
3. Until and unless these Marines are convicted in a General Court Martial of war crimes, I will defend them every step of the way

Semper Fi to my grandson, nephew and all the brave Marines fighting there today!

Umnumzana on August 19, 2006 at 7:55 PM

If you don’t care if the Marines destroyed evidence relating to a criminal investigation, you do not deserve to be called a Marine.

honora on August 21, 2006 at 10:03 AM

Honora: “INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY.”

Allegations that one or more Marines destroyed evidence is nothing BUT an allegation at this time. Allegations levied by the anti-war, anti-Bush, agenda-driven media are worthless unless and until substantiated by evidence produced at a court martial.

georgej on August 21, 2006 at 1:48 PM

Honora: “INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY.”

Allegations that one or more Marines destroyed evidence is nothing BUT an allegation at this time. Allegations levied by the anti-war, anti-Bush, agenda-driven media are worthless unless and until substantiated by evidence produced at a court martial.

georgej on August 21, 2006 at 1:48 PM

Well obviously. My point is : saying it doesn’t matter if evidence was deliberately destroyed is foolish.
Of course it matters.

honora on August 21, 2006 at 1:55 PM