June 17, 2006

New York Times Weighs in on Haditha

and surprise surprise they can't resist portraying the story in the most negative light possible. The article headline reads Contradictions Cloud Inquiry Into 24 Iraqi Deaths. Six journalists contributed to the report John M. Broder, David S. Could, John Kifner, Carolyn Marshall, Eric Schmitt, and Thom Shanker. Mr. Broder write the article.

The piece lays out what it calls several contradictions. I will point out several facts they have left out, and several facts they have misrepresented.

Lets start with paragrpah 3:

Investigators and townspeople have said that marines overreacted to a fatal roadside bombing and shot the civilians, only one of whom was armed, in cold blood.

Which investigators? Marine investigators or the Iraqi human rights group who's founder is connected to the insurgency?

Paragraph 6:

The 24 Iraqis killed included 5 men in a taxi and 19 other civilians in several houses, where, marines have contended, their use of grenades and blind fire was permitted under their combat guidelines when they believed their lives were threatened.

and the beginning of paragraph 7:

However, investigators have found evidence that the men in the taxi were not fleeing the bombing scene

The Marines contend there were no markings on what the NYT and several other news organizations are reporting to be a taxi. It was just a car with a bunch of guys standing around it who then tried to run away from the scene after a road side bome exploded. Here is an excerpt from a June 11th Washington Post article where Staff Sargeant Frank D. Wutterich who led a squad of Marines that day was qouted:

Puckett said that while Wuterich was evaluating the scene, Marines noticed a white, unmarked car full of "military-aged men" lingering near the bomb site. When Marines ordered the men to stop, they ran; Puckett said it was standard procedure at the time for the Marines to shoot suspicious people fleeing a bombing, and the Marines opened fire, killing four or five men.

In Paragraph 13 the NYT article gets around to acknowledging that the car was unmarked but only in passing and for someone paying attention admits they and other news organizations have been incorrectly describing the vehicle in question:

Wuterich, the leader of the squad, told his lawyer, Neal A. Puckett, that he had quickly set up a defensive perimeter around the convoy and called in the casualty report. He said he had seen a white car, now usually referred to as a taxi, containing a driver and four young men. The marines suspected that those men were spotters for the bomb.

Do you call un marked white cars taxis? I don't. Why are the NYT, TIME, and other media organizations calling it a taxi?

and then there is this from the Washington Post article from Iraqis who claimed to witness the events:

Iraqis in the Haditha neighborhood interviewed in recent weeks said the vehicle was a taxi carrying a group of students to their homes and that the driver tried to back away from the site, fleeing in fear.

So the un named investigators have concluded that both the Marines and the Iraqis were lying and that these men were not attempting to flee the scene?

Let's move on to the rest of Paragraph 7 of the NYT article:

However, investigators 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.

How did they make this determination? the bodies were buried long before any investigation started. The families of the dead have refused to allow the bodies to be exhumed. How can they determine the cause of death, let alone if they claim the victims were killed by rifle fire what type of rifle was used. Couldn't insurgents have killed them with AK-47s as some have speculated?

Or even fired "well aimed" shots to the head after the victims were already killed by Fragmentation grenades to stage a masacre?

The NYT admits as much in the next paragraph:

The bodies have not yet been exhumed for autopsies, and defense lawyers can be expected to challenge the narrow use of photographic evidence on these points.

Next Paragraph:

The houses where the killings took place show no evidence of the violent room-clearing assault described by the marines and their lawyers, the officials said.

Again the investigation did not begin until months after the incident. Either this conclusion was based on photographs or by inspecting these houses several months after the fact. Why would anyone leave the houses un repaired for that long?

On the second page of the article the NYT reports the conflicting Iraqi accounts:

Some described the men as students on their way to a technical college in Baghdad, and said they had been shot while still sitting in the car. Others said they had been pulled from the car, ordered to lie on the ground and then executed.

Obviously some of these Iraqi eyewitnesses if not all are lying. Now its just a matter of degree.

The article then goes on to give some uncontested background about Haditha being a hot bed of insurgent activity, and hostile to US forces.

The next serious error comes in paragraph 36:

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 civilian survivors said the victims were shot at close range, some while trying to protect their children or praying for their lives. The death certificates Colonel Watt examined were chillingly succinct: well-aimed shots to the head and chest.

Photographic evidence is inconclusive and the Iraqi morgue director cited has been connected to the insurgency.

In Paragraph 37 near the end of the article the NYT admits what I concluded from the start:

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.

Well What do you know.

Near the end of the article the Times offers this summary:

About a dozen enlisted marines, including Sergeant Wuterich and Sergeant Wolf, who engaged in or witnessed the shootings are under investigation for possible charges ranging from dereliction of duty to murder. A number of their superiors, up to the division level, are also under scrutiny for failing to report the events accurately and respond appropriately.

Two mid-level officers, including Captain McConnell, have already been relieved, for reasons not yet made public.

No mention of the possibility of the entire event being staged. The story never mentions that no Iraqi came forward until months after the shooting. No mention that an incriminating video that has been offered as evidence was taken at least a day if not several days after the events occured, or that the man supplying the video was connected to the insurgency. No mention that an un named Reuters cameraman was cited in a report they filed the day after the attack saying:

A cameraman working for Reuters in Haditha says bodies had been left lying in the street for hours after the attack.

He says the town has been virtually shut down for the past two days as US and Iraqi forces try to impose order.

No mention that as of today Reuters has failed to name the mystery cameraman or make him availble for interviews to determine what he eyewitnessed that day. I have spoken to both the Iraq Bureau Chief and Media Relations people with Reuters about this. They have told me they will ask if he is willing to come forward but as a policy they do not publicize the names of employees who are not sourced in the original story for safety reasons.

I have Iraqi journalist friends in Baghdad. I understand the danger any Iraqi who cooperates with western media or reports negatively about the insurgency faces, but several Marines careers and lives are on the line here. This reporter needs to come forward and speak to US investigators if not to the press.

Related posts:

Haditha a Hoax?

Headlines 6.10.06

More on Haditha

Marines Tell Their Side of the Story

What Does Reuters Know About Haditha?

Posted by Real Ugly American at June 17, 2006 12:40 PM | TrackBack

I get the feeling this is another media led setup. Were innocents killed, maybe. But not on purpose. I'll stand with whatever the military investigators find - not the MSM.

Posted by Espella at June 17, 2006 02:06 PM

EXCELLENT first full post my friend. Glad you are aboard.

Posted by GM Roper at June 17, 2006 02:25 PM

What nearly everyone writing in the media about this alleged incident have in common: No damn idea what combat is like.

I am more than confident that the Marine Corps Article 32 investigation done by the senior convening authority, whom I believe is LtGen Sattler, CG I MEF AND the separate investigation conducted by NCIS will determine are: the facts.

I have much, much greater confidence in those two fact finding efforts than whole batches of folks far from the scene speculating on things which they have no knowledge AND very sloppy reporting based, what appears, about as well done as rumors in a high school.

Shame on the media.

The real sadness is that I fear, even if blameless, a number of good Marines' careers will go down the toilette. Imagine, they leave their families and go off to war. They are targets every day. They survive one, two and even three tours in Iraq. They put their lives on the line for the rest of us. Their reward: Allegations and probable end of military service. How do we explain that to their wives and children?

Posted by tad at June 17, 2006 06:07 PM

I concur, Tad.
So-called reporters taking the word of insurgents/terrorists.
No verification, no in-depth investigating, and alot of air time for morons like Murtha.
The hypocrisy, lies, distortions and omissions clearly show who the MSM supports, and it's not our troops.
The whole craven lot are nothing but backstabbing hyenas!

Posted by Ben USN (Ret) at June 18, 2006 02:35 AM

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