Haditha Killings: Last Marine Pleads, Looking at 3 Month Sentence

Haditha has been described as the My Lai of the Iraq War. 24 civilian Iraqis, including women, children and an elderly person in a wheel chair were shot in cold blood when Marines from Kilo Company (3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment)went on a retaliatory rampage after a soldier had been killed by a roadside bomb.

Eyewitnesses disputed the Marines' account. The account by a 13 year old girl who pretended to be dead as the Marines barged in and killed her parents, grandparents and brother is especially compelling. [More...]

Investigations were held. Charges were brought, Charges were dropped. In all, of the 8 charged, 6 cases were dismissed, one went to trial and was acquitted. At least one Marine received immunity for providing evidence against others.

One Marine remained to be tried, Sgt. Frank Wuterich, the squad leader. His trial began Jan. 9 on charges including 9 counts of voluntary manslaughter. (He was originally charged with 12 counts of non-premeditated murder.) Facing a possible 150 year sentence, today he pleaded guilty to dereliction of duty, and pursuant to a plea bargain, will be sentenced to no more than 3 months in jail.

24 innocent Iraqis slaughtered and no one is held accountable.

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    I do think this type of behavior by (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by caseyOR on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 08:16:20 AM EST
    soldiers is the fault of the commanding officers. Commanders set the tone, and soldiers take their cues from their commanders. If troops are rampaging against civilians they are doing so because their commanding officers let it happen.

    So, when will we see captains and majors and colonels on trial for these murders? I'm guessing at just about the same time we see captains and majors and colonels in Afghanistan on trial for the urinating marines' actions. Never.

    One of the more disturbing things that I noticed (none / 0) (#15)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 08:04:43 AM EST
    when Haditha took place was that shortly before, I can't remember how many months, but Joe Galloway who was a combat photographer and with Hal Moore at LZ-Xray at the start of the Vietnam War had just visited them.  There was a photo of him and much of the leadership of these soldiers had all posing together.

    I think you are correct in saying that commanders create the environments, and they encourage and discourage very specific behavior all the time. LZ-Xray was a bloodbath, but the movie (which Joe Galloway co-wrote) was fairly recent and got a lot of attention within the military.  It got a lot from military wives because we noticed that at the start of the Iraq War, once again nobody was prepared to deal with the dead and their families.  The system wasn't prepared for so many dead and so many families needing help when their soldier had been killed a long way from home.

    It was always so creepy to me though that they all stood posing with "a legend" like Joe Galloway like that, and then another bloodbath only in Haditha went down shortly after.  I wondered about their mindset when it happened.


    justice versus the legal ststem (3.00 / 1) (#1)
    by diogenes on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 08:02:08 PM EST
    "24 innocent Iraqis slaughtered and no one is held accountable."

    You're talking like Diogenes now.  Next you'll say that what is important is justice rather than the ability of people's defense lawyers to get them off with dismissed charges or a three month sentence.

    Can't parse that. (none / 0) (#3)
    by Romberry on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 08:23:50 PM EST
    What are you trying to say? 24 innocent civilians murdered, and the outcome of "justice" is 3 months and loss of rank? We are a laughing stock, and this outcome is frankly not justice for this war crime. Can't believe that this would be well received at all if the shoe was on the other foot.

    parsing (none / 0) (#14)
    by diogenes on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 06:18:01 PM EST
    Usually this site is dedicated to criminal defense lawyers and believes that they should do the best that they can by their clients because that is how the legal system works.  This site seldom if ever complains when defense lawyers manage to get the charges dismissed for regular clients who are guilty.  There is often a joy taken in a good defense.  

    Bet this outcome is popular... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Romberry on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 08:20:49 PM EST
    ...in Iraq and the rest of the Arab world. Or maybe not.

    It will not be in Haditha (none / 0) (#4)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 10:12:37 PM EST
    It was a strange happening IMO when that particular area was so war torn, to have people be able to care enough to photograph, blog, launch complaints with evidence.  Someone cares....Haditha cares, but it was Bush's Rules of Engagement that have allowed this to go so hard to punish.

    Rules of Engagement,.,.. (none / 0) (#10)
    by Romberry on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 07:48:43 AM EST
    ...do not excuse war crimes. Quick question: You're not actually in the service yourself, right?

    My husband is, active duty Army (none / 0) (#12)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 10:35:06 AM EST
    Was ten years before 9/11.  It has been a long time at war these days.  I can't even remember what it was like to not be on "war" setting in my daily life.  I've spent longer as his wife being on this deployment setting than on any other setting.

    Bush's rules of engagement though were so frightening.  I had never seen my husband so frightened for everyone, for himself, for those serving with him, for civilians on the ground.  It was loose cannons and the wild wild west and just about everything was okay.  My brave husband was genuinely frightened by what the Bush Administration considered the reasonable conducting of a war.


    Trial Result (none / 0) (#5)
    by womanwarrior on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 10:27:14 PM EST
    I am on a listserve where there was a report of the masterful job done by the defense attorney of bringing out the whole truth of the situation and showing the chaos of the time in Haditha and how the statements of the other witnesses were, shall we say, influenced by the questioners.  I got the impression that the jury wanted no part of scapegoating this soldier who was on his first tour and was carrying out an order he was given by a higher up.  The prosecution's case collapsed in cross examination and in the questions asked by the jurors.  
    I was repulsed by reading reports of this incident in the news, but those of us who were not there and have not been soldiers in combat should not make our decisions based on the news media, imho.  

    You saved me (none / 0) (#6)
    by NYShooter on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 11:21:02 PM EST
    from having to write a comment.

    Well said.


    Well, my husband had just returned from (none / 0) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 11:24:29 PM EST
    the Sunni triangle right before Haditha and he will tell you it never should have happened, it was so wrong it isn't even funny.

    The existing Rules of Engagement (none / 0) (#7)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 11:22:46 PM EST
    in that area at that time are what ruled in what they could be charged with.  They were the Bush administration's ROE or maybe I should say the ROE that the Bush administration easily permitted with little more than a wave of the hand whenever a commander wanted them, a grave injustice to everyone in the war zone.  It bred insurgents, that in turn would kill our soldiers who would then overreact by killing everyone in the vicinity because that was okay, which then bred more insurgents that killed more soldiers.

    the video of the surviving (none / 0) (#9)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 12:18:37 AM EST
    13 year old is not just a "media report." Either are the eye-witness accounts. 20 of these people were killed in their own homes. 7 of the 8 soldiers charged paid no penalty. Today's plea was for dereliction of duty.  These weren't battlefield killings. Someone was responsible. I'm not saying life in prison or even a severe sentence was warranted. But to hold no one legally accountable is also not right.

    This is Shocking (none / 0) (#13)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 03:17:25 PM EST
    In addition, Wuterich was seen as taking the fall for senior leaders and more seasoned combat veterans, analysts said. It was his first time in combat when he led the squad on Nov. 19, 2005.


    That is the day of the killings.