Although the investigation is not complete, the Pentagon has already briefed key members of Congress on the details of the investigation. After a briefing on Thursday, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John Warner told reporters, “there are established facts that incidents of a very serious nature did take place."A number of Marines have been accused of criminal conduct, including the murder of civilians in Haditha, Iraq. And the LA Times is quoting sources that those involved are guilty of the crimes alleged.
Sources familiar with the investigation say another group of Marines who came on the scene shortly after the killings took photographs of the dead Iraqis. Those photos were seized by military criminal investigators just before those Marines finished their tour of duty in Iraq in early April. Sources familiar with the photos say they show people shot at close range.
I want to see justice done here - not only for those Marines involved, but for the families of those who lost loved ones in the incident. If this is indeed as claimed in the news stories, the Corps, and indeed this country, have been dishonored by the actions of those involved in this incident. They have done a grave disservice to all men and women in uniform and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
This isn't about what John Murtha says or does - it's what the Marine Corps will do to ensure that the Corps is not further dishonored by the actions of this unit.
Expect to hear lots more about this situation in coming days, weeks, and months. Those weighing in now include: Tom Maguire, The Commissar, Ed Morrissey, QandO, Confederate Yankee, Rusty at the Jawa Report.
Others blogging: Blue Crab Boulevard, Polimon, Oliver Willis, In Search of Utopia, Martini Republic, and The Foreign Policy Blog.
It's important to note that it is the Marine Corps that investigated the allegations and is moving in the direction of formally charging individuals involved in the incident. The incident apparently includes the death of 24 Iraqis under highly suspect conditions and a potential coverup by the officers involved. The investigation is still ongoing, so we're going to have to wait and see what is learned. However, we should also note that the Corps doesn't tolerate such behavior from Marines and took the allegations quite seriously. As the New York Times reports:
Two lawyers involved in discussions about individual marines' defenses said they thought the investigation could result in charges of murder, a capital offense. That possibility and the emerging details of the killings have raised fears that the incident could be the gravest case involving misconduct by American ground forces in Iraq.So, we also learn that there are two separate investigations ongoing - one into the criminal acts alleged to have happened in Haditha, and then one into the alleged coverup.
Officials briefed on preliminary results of the inquiry said the civilians killed at Haditha, a lawless, insurgent-plagued city deep in Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, did not die from a makeshift bomb, as the military first reported, or in cross-fire between marines and attackers, as was later announced. A separate inquiry has begun to find whether the events were deliberately covered up.
Evidence indicates that the civilians were killed during a sustained sweep by a small group of marines that lasted three to five hours and included shootings of five men standing near a taxi at a checkpoint, and killings inside at least two homes that included women and children, officials said.
That evidence, described by Congressional, Pentagon and military officials briefed on the inquiry, suggested to one Congressional official that the killings were "methodical in nature."
Congressional and military officials say the Naval Criminal Investigative Service inquiry is focusing on the actions of a Marine Corps staff sergeant serving as squad leader at the time, but that Marine officials have told members of Congress that up to a dozen other marines in the unit are also under investigation. Officials briefed on the inquiry said that most of the bullets that killed the civilians were now thought to have been "fired by a couple of rifles," as one of them put it.
The killings were first reported by Time magazine in March, based on accounts from survivors and human rights groups, and members of Congress have spoken publicly about the episode in recent days. But the new accounts from Congressional, military and Pentagon officials added significant new details to the picture. All of those who discussed the case had to be granted anonymity before they would talk about the findings emerging from the investigation.
A second, parallel inquiry was ordered by the second-ranking general in Iraq to examine whether any marines on the ground at Haditha, or any of their superior officers, tried to cover up the killings by filing false reports up the chain of command. That inquiry, conducted by an Army officer assigned to the Multinational Corps headquarters in Iraq, is expected to report its findings in coming days.
Technorati: haditha, iraq, war+crimes, murder, jag, marines, investigation.