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Abu Ghraib Squared

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There are very few verified details yet, but if the basic outline of this story turns out to be true we’re in for a mainstream media festival of guilt that will make the Abu Ghraib story look like a Vanity Fair piece on Al Gore: Official: Iraq civilian deaths unjustified.

WASHINGTON - Military investigators probing the deaths last November of about two dozen Iraqi civilians have evidence that points toward unprovoked murders by Marines, a senior defense official said Friday.

The Marine Corps initially reported 15 deaths and said they were caused by a roadside bomb and an ensuing firefight with insurgents. A separate investigation is aimed at determining if Marines lied to cover up the events, which included the deaths of women and children. …

The defense official discussed the matter Friday only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly about the investigation. He said the evidence found thus far strongly indicated the killings in the insurgent-plagued city of Haditha in the western province of Anbar were unjustified. He cautioned that the probe was not finished.

Once the investigation is completed, perhaps in June, it will be up to a senior Marine commander in Iraq to decide whether to press charges of murder or other violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Three officers from the unit involved — 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. — have been relieved of duty, although officials have not explicitly linked them to the criminal investigation.

I’ll just point out that once again, as with Abu Ghraib, there has been no official cover-up, no attempt to shift blame, and no excuses. On the contrary, the military has already been investigating the allegations, and if crimes did take place, those responsible will be brought to justice—as with Abu Ghraib.

Here’s another interesting detail:

Another congressional official said lawmakers were told it would be about 30 days before a report would be issued by the investigating agency, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

So it will be 30 days before the official report is released. At present we have nothing to go on but rumors and leaks. Why pick this particular weekend to splash the story everywhere?

UPDATE at 5/26/06 5:46:51 pm:

A message to LGF’s military readers and families: I know this has to be a rough story for you to read, especially this weekend.

But it doesn’t affect my admiration and respect for your service one bit. You’re still the best this country has, and I wish you all a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend.

UPDATE at 5/26/06 6:01:23 pm:

LGF reader ‘fmfnavydoc’ comments:

I’m here in 29 Palms assigned to the base. This issue has many Marines (and their Navy brothers and sisters) upset - Marines do not resort to this behavior, and if they do, the consequences are severe under the UCMJ. BTW - one issue not brought up in the MSM is that there was an Iraqi Army unit with the Marines, there is the possibility that it could have been done (if at all) by them. I ask all of you that visit this blog to do one thing - if you know a Marine (or any service member for that matter), please let them know that they are supported by people like yourselves, and that people like Pelosi, Murtha and others of their ilk are not the voice of our country. As a service member and a visitor to this blog, I appreciate the words of support that I read on my visits here - God Bless all of you!

UPDATE at 5/26/06 6:47:30 pm:

Here’s some context on the town of Haditha, where this incident reportedly took place: Under US noses, brutal insurgents rule Sunni citadel. (Hat tip: TMF.)

The executions are carried out at dawn on Haqlania bridge, the entrance to Haditha. A small crowd usually turns up to watch even though the killings are filmed and made available on DVD in the market the same afternoon.

One of last week’s victims was a young man in a black tracksuit. Like the others he was left on his belly by the blue iron railings at the bridge’s southern end. His severed head rested on his back, facing Baghdad. Children cheered when they heard that the next day’s spectacle would be a double bill: two decapitations. A man named Watban and his brother had been found guilty of spying.

With so many alleged American agents dying here Haqlania bridge was renamed Agents’ bridge. Then a local wag dubbed it Agents’ fridge, evoking a mortuary, and that name has stuck.

A three-day visit by a reporter working for the Guardian last week established what neither the Iraqi government nor the US military has admitted: Haditha, a farming town of 90,000 people by the Euphrates river, is an insurgent citadel.

That Islamist guerrillas were active in the area was no secret but only now has the extent of their control been revealed. They are the sole authority, running the town’s security, administration and communications.

A three-hour drive north from Baghdad, under the nose of an American base, it is a miniature Taliban-like state. Insurgents decide who lives and dies, which salaries get paid, what people wear, what they watch and listen to.

Haditha exposes the limitations of the Iraqi state and US power on the day when the political process is supposed to make a great leap - a draft constitution finalised and approved by midnight tonight.

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