HOW A 12 YEAR OLD GIRL SURVIVED THE HADITHA MASSACRE
SOUTH KOREANS KNOW CIVILIAN MASSACRES ARE NOTHING NEW FOR US SOLDIERS
The reportage on the Haditha massacre in Iraq, where 24 civilians were gunned down by US Marines, continues to uncover shocking details of just how far soldiers have gone to cover up the deaths of civilians, but has also revealed the enormous pressure and strain the Iraq War is putting on the soldiers, and their senior officers, as they return for third tours of the war zone.
UPDATE : This report from the LA Times claims that the military investigations have already found the Marines involved had "wantonly killed unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, and then tried to cover up the slayings..."
That criminal charges, including possible charges of murder, will be filed against a number of Marines under investigation, appears to be a certainty.
An administrative inquiry overseen by Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell found that several infantry Marines fatally shot as many as 24 Iraqis and that other Marines either failed to stop them or filed misleading or blatantly false reports. Looking for insurgents, the Marines entered several homes and began firing their weapons, according to the report.
The Marines, many of whom were on their third deployment to Iraq, are part of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment of the 1st Marine Division.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which conducted a separate investigation, is expected to call for criminal charges, including murder, negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and filing a false report.
US Congressman John Murtha claims he has been briefed on the Haditha massacre investigation by Marine Corps Commandant Michael Hagee.
"The reports that I have," Murtha said, "from the highest level: No firing at all. No interaction. No military action at all in this particular incident. It was an explosive device, which killed a Marine. From then on, it was purely shooting people."The former Marine said it's extremely clear what happened in Haditha : there was a massacre of civilians by US Marines, and the Department of Defence then conducted a cover-up operation.
"I know there was a cover-up....They knew about this a few days afterwards," Murtha said.
"There is no question the chain of command tried to stifle this story. I understand why, but that doesn't excuse it."
ABC News America has a report on an interview 12 year old Safa Younis gave the day after the November 19 massacre to a human rights group.
"They knocked at the door. My father went to open it, they shot him dead from behind the door, and then they shot him again after they opened the door."
She claims the Marines stormed through the rest of the house, firing their weapons and letting off a grenade.
Safa was in a bedroom of the house, with her mother and her sisters.
She said one Marine came into the bedroom, "...and shot us all. I pretended to be dead … and he did not know about me."
The Marines involved never denied there were civilian deaths, but they first claimed the deaths had resulted from a gun battle with insurgents.
The Marine Corps Times reported in late April that the battalion commander and two company commanders were fired on April 7 for "lack of confidence in their leadership", and are reported to have been involved in the Haditha massacre.
Although they are believed to have been fired over an alleged cover-up of the massacre, the decision to remove them from the Army was "motivated by multiple incidents".
Originally the Marines claimed the civilians were killed by the roadside bomb that took the life of one of their fellow Marines. Then they claimed at least one person had fired on them from a house, which led to the Kilo Company raiding homes in search of the gunman.
Only a few of the twelve Marines under investigation are believed to have been involved in the execution of the 24 civilians. Of them, one four man team, led by a sergeant, may have fired most, or all, of the shots that led to the deaths.
The LA Times claimed on May 30 that this "same sergeant is suspected of filing a false report downplaying the number of Iraqis killed, saying they were killed by an insurgent's bomb..."
The sergeant's report fell apart once photographs, the videos, statements from other Marines and inspections of the houses where the killings occurred, were taken into account.
The other eight or so Marines are being investigated, and may face criminal charges, because they did not act to stop the killings, or because they did not file accurate reports of the massacre.
ABC News America also reports on the Marines sent into Haditha late in the afternoon on November 19 to collect and transport the bodies to a morgue.
Lance Corp. Ryan Briones was one of those Marines. He says he is "haunted" by what he saw inside the houses where the massacre occurred.
Worst of all, he said, was when he had to collect the body of one of the young girls who had been shot through the head. When he was carrying her out of the house, her massively wounded head fell apart and blood and brain tissue spilled down his pants.
The LA Times reports that photographs taken by Army intelligence officers, attached to Kilo Company, showed the dead women and six children, including one 13 month old infant, had been gunnned down "execution style", shot in the head and shot in the back.
The military investigations are now focused around twelve Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, from Camp Pendleton.
The massacre occurred during the battalion's third deployment to Iraq. In November, 2004, the battalion gained serious notoriety when one Marine was videod executing a wounded Iraqi inside a Fallujah mosque.
Another LA Times report says that another investigation is underway into the death of an Iraqi civilian in Hamandiya, which exposes a disturbing tactic employed by Marines to cover-up the deaths of unarmed Iraqis.
Officials told the LA Times that : Troops may have planted an AK-47 and shovel near the body...to make it appear that the man was an insurgent placing an improvised explosive device to detonate beneath a military vehicle.
More than two dozen Marines from the 3rd Battalion are now under investigation for the Haditha massacre and the civilian killed in Hamandiya.
Some 300 Marines and personnel from Camp Pendleton have been killed in Iraq, more than any other US military base.
Death certificates showing the civilians were shot in the head, back and chest were in the hands of senior officers at Camp Pendleton no later than early February.
The certificates were mentioned in a report filed after a three week investigation that started on February 14.
When the colonel reported his findings to the senior ground commander in Iraq on March 9, there were enough questions raised by the inconsistencies uncovered for a criminal investigation to be ordered.
The initial report sparked a second, parallel, investigation into who had attempted to cover up what happened in Haditha.
This second investigation was also started because payments of almost $US40,000 cash had been made to the families of those massacred by mid-December.The officer who was told to make the payments claims he was instructed to do so by his superior officers. But only 15 of the 24 civilians killed were deemed innocent civilians at the time.
This meant the families of the other nine victims were not due any compensation at all.
When the families of the 15 were paid out, the families of the nine others killed demanded payment of compensation as well.
The Marines have a rule, apparently, that no more than $2500 is paid to the families of each civilian killed, once they have been deemed to be a non-insurgent. $250 was paid to the families of two of the children injured in the massacre.The Australian government has authorised payments totalling more than $US40,000 to the families of Iraqis injured or killed, mostly in Baghdad, though they haven't come clean as why these payments have been made, and how many families, or injured civilians, have been compensated.
Claim : President Bush First Learned About Massacre From The Media
GO HERE FOR OUR EARLIER COVERAGE ON THE HADITHA MASSACRE
THE MASSACRE OF SOUTH KOREANS AT NO GUN LI
For a number of now elderly South Koreans, the news of at least one confirmed massacre in Iraq by US soldiers, and the likelihood of dozens more, will come as no great surprise.
In 1950, during the Korean War, US Marines opened fire on South Korean civilians who ventured too close to 'The Line'.
The order for the massacre of at least a few hundred civilians, mostly women and children fleeing towns and villages swallowed up by the Korean War, came from the top and was long denied by the US military, and successive US governments.
But a letter from the US ambassador to Seoul now reveals that US soldiers were ordered to shoot refugees, as part of their rules of engagement.
"If refugees do appear from north of US lines they will receive warning shots, and if they then persist in advancing they will be shot," wrote Ambassador John J. Muccio.The same day the letter was sent, the 7th US Calvary Regiment shot "400, mostly women and children" refugees at No Gun Ri.
South Korean survivors claim that hundreds more refugees were gunned down in other, later, episodes.
From The Washington Post :
The No Gun Ri killings were documented in a Pulitzer Prize-winning story by the Associated Press in 1999, which prompted a 16-month Pentagon inquiry.
The Pentagon concluded that the No Gun Ri shootings, which lasted three days, were "an unfortunate tragedy" -- "not a deliberate killing."
It suggested panicky soldiers, acting without orders, opened fire because they feared that an approaching line of families, baggage and farm animals concealed enemy troops.
But Muccio's letter indicates the actions of the 7th Cavalry were consistent with policy, adopted because of concern that North Koreans would infiltrate via refugee columns. And in subsequent months, U.S. commanders repeatedly ordered refugees shot, documents show.
(The US ambassador's letter said that) U.S. commanders feared disguised North Korean soldiers were infiltrating American lines via refugee columns.
As a result, those meeting on the night of July 25, 1950 -- top staff officers of the U.S. 8th Army...and South Korean officials, decided on a policy of air-dropping leaflets telling South Korean civilians not to head south toward U.S. defense lines and of shooting them if they did approach U.S. lines despite warning shots...
Survivors (of the No Gun Ri massacres) said U.S. soldiers first forced them from nearby villages on July 25, 1950, and then stopped them in front of U.S. lines the next day, when they were attacked without warning by aircraft as hundreds sat atop a railroad embankment.
Troops of the 7th Cavalry followed with ground fire as survivors took shelter under a railroad bridge....research uncovered at least 19 declassified U.S. military documents showing commanders ordered or authorized such killings in 1950-51.