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June 19, 2006
Haditha: No Cover-Up, But No Determination On Central Allegations

The Los Angeles Times reported earlier that the DoD investigation into the circumstances of the civilian deaths in Haditha show no attempt at a cover-up. Instead, the report appears to point towards poor investigative technique on the part of Marine officers allowed faulty information to flow back to CENTCOM:

The general charged with investigating whether Marines tried to cover up the killing of 24 civilians in Haditha has completed his report, finding that Marine officers failed to ask the right questions, an official close to the investigation said Friday.

Nothing in the report points to a "knowing cover-up" of the facts by the officers supervising the Marines involved in the November incident, the official said. Rather, he said, officers from the company level through the staff of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force in Baghdad failed to demand "a thorough explanation" of what happened in Haditha.

In an official announcement about the report by Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell, a military spokeswoman said that Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli would "thoroughly review the voluminous report as quickly as possible," but had no timetable. ...

In the Haditha case, military officials have said that photographs of the scene contradicted the initial reports of Marines that the civilians were killed in the crossfire of a battle that erupted after a roadside bomb went off.

Bargewell's inquiry was believed to have looked into who knew about the photos, and why those military men did not question the initial report.

This means that allegations from John Murtha that a massive conspiracy to falsify the evidence from Haditha have turned out to be false, but it does not clear the Marines involved in the original event itself. The circumstances of the deaths continue to be part of an ongoing Navy CIS investigation, whose report is due later this month.

The review of preocedures following the incident and the lack of proper communication of the evidence shows a lack of focus on documentation, a situation that requires immediate remediation, according to the USMC. They intend on impressing on their active units in the field the importance of noting all relevant information in situations where their actions could be called into question. The Corps commandant, General Michael Hagee, warned Marines in Iraq about becoming indifferent to civilian deaths, reminding them of the warrior code of the Corps. Hagee told the troops that a lack of sharpness and focus on their code will present the real danger, not brutality.

In other news, the ACLU released an edited report that concluded that charges of detainee abuses could not be substantiated. Some minor accusations, such as only providing bread and water to certain detainees, had evidence supporting those making the allegations, but the more "spectacular" charges had no evidence in support.

We need to still keep our powder dry on Haditha. While we knew that the Corps could not have possibly conspired to keep evidence of an atrocity like that quiet -- the Corps has too much honor in too many levels for that -- we now have a solid confirmation of that fact, and it takes a bite out of the credibility of those who threw around some pretty wild accusations early on. However, the event itself still remains under investigation. We hope that those allegations will not be substantiated, but we should wait for the final report to celebrate.

UPDATE: Just to clarify Murtha's remarks from three weeks ago, here's the Washington Post from May 29:

"There has to have been a coverup of this thing," Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.), ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, charged in an interview on ABC's "This Week." "No question about it."

How many times will Murtha jump the shark, and why is he so insistent on throwing the Marine Corps under the bus in order to win that House Majority Leader position? I don't know, but Hot Air has some funny photoshops featuring Mayday Murtha that will entertain us while we await the answers.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 19, 2006 10:03 PM

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