Military still hasn't corrected official Haditha statement which conflicts with evidence, witnesses

Published: Saturday June 3, 2006

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The military still hasn't corrected the official statement released last November of the events in Haditha even though it is "at odds" with the evidence, reports The Washington Post in its Sunday edition.

On November 20, 2005, one day after the killings, U.S. Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool issued the following statement from a military base in Ramadi:

"A U.S. Marine and 15 civilians were killed yesterday from the blast of a roadside bomb in Haditha. Immediately following the bombing, gunmen attacked the convoy with small-arms fire. Iraqi Army soldiers and Marines returned fire, killing eight insurgents and wounding another."

"Despite what Marine witnesses saw when they arrived, that official version has been allowed to stand for six months," writes Thomas Ricks. "Who lied about the killings, who knew the truth and what, if anything, they did about it are at the core of one of the potentially most embarrassing and damaging events of the Iraq war, one that some say may surpass the detainee abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison."

Ricks wasn't able to get an official response about the disparity.

"The Marine Corps is saying only that it would be inappropriate to comment while investigations are underway," Ricks writes. "But since that Saturday afternoon in November, evidence has been accumulating steadily that the official version was wrong and misleading."

Ricks reports that the media reports are said to jibe with the evidence collected in the offical investigation.

"The facts of the shooting incident seem now to be largely known with military insiders saying that recent news articles are similar to the internal reports they have received from investigators," Rick writes. "But considerable mystery remains about how Marine commanders handled the incident and contributed to what some officials suspect was a coverup."

"The real issue is how far up the chain of command it goes," an unnamed "senior Marine familiar with the case" tells The Post. "Who knew it, and why didn't they do something about it?"

Excerpts from the Washington Post article:


Army Col. Gregory Watt was tapped to start an investigation and by March 9, he told Chiarelli that he had reached two conclusions, according to the Army officer.

One was that death certificates showed that the 24 Iraqis who died that day -- the 15 the Marines said had died in the bomb blast and others they said were insurgents -- had been killed by gunshot rather than a bomb, as the official statement had said. The other was that the Marine Corps had not investigated the deaths, as is the U.S. military's typical procedure in Iraq, particularly when so many civilians are involved. Individually, either finding would have been disturbing. Together, they were stunning.


The Marine Corps still has not corrected its misleading Nov. 20 statement asserting that the Iraqi civilians were killed in a bomb blast. A Marine Corps spokesman didn't return calls on Friday asking why it had not.