Saturday, January 7, 2012

Court martial begins for 2005 Haditha killings

The court martial of Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich began on January 4.  He faces charges of manslaughter and assault. Wuterich was the squad leader on the day a roadside bomb exploded in Haditha, Iraq beneath a Marine convoy, killing one Marine and injuring two others, reported the Los Angeles Times.

In a futile search for the insurgents who planted the bomb, Marines killed five young men standing next to a car and then swept through three houses killing 19 more people, including three women, seven children, and a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair.

Four Marines, including Wuterich, were charged in 2006 in connection with the Iraqi deaths; four Marine officers faced charges that included dereliction of duty, obstruction of justice and making false statements, according to

Charges have since been dropped against six of the Marines, while one was acquitted, leaving only Wuterich to face prosecution.

When the Haditha story broke in 2005, it was likened to the massacre of Vietnamese civilians at the village of My Lai in 1968. In May 2006, the late Congressman John Murtha, a powerful Pennsylvania Democrat, and himself a war hero, claimed to have seen an internal investigation of the killings that found the Marines deliberately killed unarmed civilians.

“There was no firefight, there was no IED that killed these innocent people,” he said. “Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”

According to the North County Times, a recent lawsuit filed by a Michigan law firm seeking records related to Wuterich investigation suggests that his arrest was scapegoating by the U.S. government to appease the Iraqis.

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