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03 June 2006

Reuters Factbox: the details of Haditha

Haditha is a farming town on the
Euphrates River 200 kilometers
northwest of Baghdad.
(Click to enlarge.)

At this point, the allegations of a massacre by U.S. Marines of Iraqi unarmed civilian non-combatants in the town of Haditha become an international bargaining game between those who, for psychological, nationalistic, religious or political reasons, seek to deny or minimize the accusations, and those who, for the same reasons, seek to affirm the accusations. Haditha is the latest seed -- a particular combat episode in an already wildly controversial war -- of a worldwide and U.S. nationwide struggle for peoples' minds and opinions.

An enormous amount is at stake.

In the region, like the atrocities of Abu Ghraib prison, the alleged massacre at Haditha is kerosene for Muslims who may not have liked Sadaam Hussein and his regime -- but detest the occupation by Western military forces which toppled and has replaced him.

The Ba'ath regime of Sadaam Hussein was perceived throughout the region as a bitter and violent struggle of Muslims against Muslims -- an internal dispute within the Muslim world which would largely be determined and evolve or degenerate, for better or worse, among Muslims. At the heart of it are ancient disputes and theological rivalries between the major Muslim schism between Sunni and Shia; Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath Party ruled Iraq largely on behalf of Iraq's Sunni minority and to the detriment of Iraq's Shia majority.

Now the authority and military force which will -- or intends or hopes to -- determine Iraq's future as well as even more ambitious plans for reshaping the region is essentially a Christian, European and American authority and power. The British-American military coalition denies its root motives are religious (or colonial or oil-grabbing), and insists they are rather pro-democracy and anti-terrorist.

How Haditha plays out will play a large part in how many Muslims in the region and in the world believe or accept that. Abu Ghraib certainly swayed very few Muslims toward believing the Allied Coalition brings goodwill, democracy reflecting the rule of law, or an acceptable future in any form to Iraqis or Muslims in the region.

Quite the contrary: Abu Ghraib and Haditha are the kinds of kerosene that answer the question so many Americans find so mysterious and so hurtful: Why do they hate us? Our troops are bringing them democracy and freedom; why do they hate us?

Iraq has catastrophically devolved into the core catastrophe of Vietnam: We are using overwhelming military force to win the hearts and minds of a foreign population with a wildly different history and a wildly different concept notion and vocabulary about fundamental social, religious and political reality.

Democracy, an open society, an essentially secular form of government not controlled by religious leaders (like Sadaam's was -- though the US increasingly is fleeing from its secular foundations and toward rule and control by religious leaders), a sweeping campaign of revolutionary freedoms for women all make such perfect sense in Topeka, Kansas.

Why, after triumphantly toppling the local Hitler, are we meeting such lethal and growing resistance to our benevolent gifts from the people he so brutally oppressed for so long? Where are the crowds of cheering Iraqis rushing out to embrace the American soldiers and Marines? What's wrong with these people? Why do so many of them keep trying to kill our troops?

We have also blundered into Vietnam strategically, sending our conventional divisions and battalions and brigades to fight a decentralized guerilla force largely indistinguishable from civilians -- except through the efforts of our military intelligence, and almost no American troops speak any Arabic.

Why won't our enemies stand up like Americans and fight us fair and square? Why is their chief tactic the sneaky, cowardly "Improvised Explosive Device," detonated from far away? Another echo from the generals who presided over the defeat in Vietnam: If they would just stand up and fight like Americans, we could defeat them easily.

Just as in Vietnam, our most senior military commanders are reduced to sending hallucinatory promises of Victory just around the corner to the White House which demands such promises (and will fire any commanders who dare to speak candidly about the candid prospects for the military future in Iraq).

There are senior military officers who speak candidly and publicly about the strategic disaster of our campaign in Iraq. They are all retired generals. Serving generals and admirals don't dare speak candidly about their best assessment of our strategic chances in this kind of war.

The bargaining begins: It happened, it didn't happen, you're exaggerating, you're covering up. The excuses have already become carbon copies of the military excuses in Vietnam: It was an accident, the soldiers are stressed and frustrated and don't know who the enemy is; the enemy hides among civilians, the enemy uses children and women.

The new president of Iraq has already blasted the US-led Coalition for its addiction to old, lame excuses when Iraqi civilians are killed in military operations -- the first time the new Iraqi government, an invention of the Western Coalition, has publicly attacked the Coalition's competence and credibility.

Until this week, the Coalition has been free to blunder without any public criticism from whatever was pretending to be a post-Sadaam Iraqi sovereign government.

One thing about the future is quite certain: No US military officers above the rank of major will face criminal court martial charges no matter what evidence clarifies about Haditha. Nearly all charges, if any, will be laid against enlisted men and non-commissioned officers, and all prison time, if any, will go to enlisted men and non-commissioned officers.

No commissioned officer will serve a day in military prison for anything demonstrated to have happened at Haditha.

And certainly no civilian in the White House and Pentagon will ever be held responsible or accountable for designing and launching this Clone of the Vietnam War. The all-civilian cabal that designed and declared this war wanted it to be exactly like the Vietnam War, with just one difference: This time, America would win, no more Mister Nice Guy, this time America would defeat the non-Christian Asians. This time we'll show the sneaky bastards.

~ ~ ~

Reuters (news wire, UK)
pickup by (television station, Qatar)
Friday 02 June 2006, 6:27 Makka Time, 3:27 GMT

Factbox: Haditha

Up to 24 people, including women and children, were killed

The US military is investigating marines over the deaths of as many as two dozen men, women and children in the Iraqi town of Haditha on November 19 after a roadside bomb killed one US soldier.

Local witnesses and human rights activists say marines raided three houses. Five men in a car were also shot. Here are highlights of the case:


19 November 2005 - A roadside bomb kills Lance Corporal Miguel "TJ" Terrazas, 20, from El Paso, Texas, during a patrol by Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division in Haditha. In the following hours, 24 Iraqis are killed. Marine investigators inspect the scene and take photographs.

20 November - Military says roadside bomb killed a marine and 15 civilians. Captain Jeffrey Pool says in statement: "Iraqi army soldiers and [US] marines returned fire killing eight insurgents."

January 2006 - Journalism student Taher Thabet, via an Iraqi human rights group, passes video of bodies and homes where they died to Time magazine. Time says Pool dismisses it as al-Qaeda propaganda. But Baghdad military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson recommends investigation into possible foul play.

14 February 2006 - Lieutenant General [3 stars] Peter Chiarelli, the No. 2 US commander in Iraq, initiates a preliminary investigation.

9 March - Chiarelli directs further review of the incident by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS).

27 March - Time magazine publishes survivors' allegations that marines ran amok after Terrazas's death. Iraqi human rights group issues the video showing residents describing rampage and bodies, including that of a child of about three. US military confirms civilians were shot, not killed by roadside bomb.

7 April - Three officers, 3rd Battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Chessani, Kilo Company commander Captain Lucas McConnell and Captain James Kimber are relieved of command.

26 May - US defence official says marines face charges, including for murder, after media reports that investigators are about to recommend charges against about a dozen marines, including murder and lying in reports.


* The NCIS investigation is not complete and no final decisions on charges have been made, defence officials say.

* John Warner, chairman of the Senate armed services committee, says it will probe incident and its aftermath.

* John Murtha, Democratic congressman and former marine and war critic, says the military attempted a cover-up and accuses the marines of killing "in cold blood."

* Some US media compare Haditha to the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam, when US soldiers ran amok in the village, and killed some 500 people, mostly women, children and old men.

* US politicians briefed on the investigation are quoted as saying several marines, led by a sergeant, went from house to house killing people and also killed four students and a taxi driver in a car that approached the scene. Photographs of the corpses suggested some victims had been kneeling when killed.

The dead

In addition to Terrazas, Iraq's Hammurabi human rights organisation listed the dead of 19 November as follows:

* House 1: Asmaa Salman Raseef, 32, Abdullah Waleed Abdul Hameed, child, Abdul Hameed Hasan Ali, late 70s, Waleed Abdul Hameed Hassan, 35, Rasheed Abdul Hameed Hassan, 30, Khameesa Toama Ali, 65.

* House 2: Younis Salim Raseef, 41, Aida Yaseen Ahmed, 35, Muhammad Younis Salim, child, Noor Younis Salim, 14, Sabaa Younis Salim, 9, Aisha Younis Salim, 2, Zainab Younis Salim, 3, Huda Yaseen Ahmed, 28.

* Car: Ahmed Finer Muslih, 25, the taxi driver, Khalid Oyada Abid, 27, Wajdi Oyada Abid, 22, Akram Hameed Flayeh, 21, Muhammad Fatal Ahmed, 21.

* House 3: Jamal Ayed Ahmed, 41, Chassib Ayed Ahmed, 27, Marwan Ayed Ahmed, 28, Kahtan Ayed Ahmed, 24.


* Haditha is a Euphrates valley farming town 200 km northwest of Baghdad in Iraq's western al-Anbar province, the heartland of the Sunni Arab uprising seeking to topple the Shia-led government backed by the United States.

* Marines, who have suffered the worst casualties among US forces in the Iraq war, mounted several offensives in 2005 in the region around Haditha, where they have often been hit by roadside bombs, the most effective killer of US troops.

* A roadside bomb killed 14 marines in August 2005 near Haditha and destroyed their armoured amphibious assault vehicle. Six were killed by fighters in the town, and a seventh was killed by a car bomb in nearby Hiyt a few days earlier.

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