Mabus: Kick Out Marines Who Lied About Haditha
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has ordered separation procedures to begin for two Marines who admitted to lying about the 2005 shooting deaths of two dozen Iraqi civilians in Haditha, a Navy official said.
Mabus directed Commandant Gen. Jim Amos to start the administrative separation proceedings against Sgts. Sanick P. Dela Cruz and Humberto M. Mendoza, said Lt. Cmdr. Tamara Lawrence, a Navy Department spokeswoman at the Pentagon.
In an April 19 letter to Amos, Mabus said he recently completed a review of the so-called “Haditha” incident, which involved a squad with Camp Pendleton’s 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, and “reviewed troubling information about their conduct.”
Specifically, Mabus wrote, Dela Cruz, who was a corporal at the time, had made “false official statements” to Naval Criminal Investigative Service and command investigators regarding the deaths of five men who were in a car that approached the scene of a fatal roadside bomb blast on Nov. 19, 2005. Mendoza, a private first class at the time, lied to investigators and withheld information about his and other Marines’ actions on that day, the secretary also said.
“Such conduct is wholly inconsistent with the core values of the Department of the Navy,” Mabus wrote. “You are directed to immediately initiate administrative processing for [Dela Cruz and Mendoza] … for administrative separation is in the best interest of the service.”
Both Marines are currently at Camp Pendleton, Calif., where Dela Cruz is assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines. Mendoza’s unit was not immediately clear. The sergeants have two days to respond to Mabus.
Lawrence said that Mabus made his decision after reviewing all the military justice cases in the Haditha incident following the most-recent trial of the then-squad leader, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich. Wuterich pleaded guilty to one count of negligent dereliction of duty in January, midway through his general court-martial at Camp Pendleton, and he has since left the Corps.
Mendoza, testifying during that trial, admitted he had lied to investigators in order to protect his Marines. Dela Cruz also testified that he lied to investigators about what happened that day with the men in the car, who were among 24 civilians killed by members of 3/1 that day.