Thursday, August 09, 2007

Charges Dropped Against Two Marines In Haditha Incident

A U.S. Marine general dropped all charges on Thursday against two Marines in the shooting deaths of 24 civilians in Haditha, scene of what Iraqi witnesses said was a massacre by American troops.

The dismissal of charges means neither Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt nor Capt. Randy Stone will face a court-martial in connection with the events at Haditha, which have brought international condemnation of U.S. troops.

Five Marines still face charges in the November 19, 2005, shooting of two dozen unarmed men, women and children in Haditha, which prosecutors say came in retaliation for the death of a beloved comrade, Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, who was cut in half by a roadside bomb.

Sharratt, 22, had been charged with three counts of premeditated murder and Stone, 35, with dereliction of duty for failing to properly report the civilian deaths. Defense attorneys conceded civilians were killed at Haditha but said they died during chaotic fighting with insurgents after the roadside blast.

In dismissing the charges against Sharratt and Stone after what he said was an exhaustive review, Lt. Gen. James Mattis cited the difficult battle conditions and a “shadowy enemy” whose forces hid among civilians.

“With the dismissal of these charges Lance Cpl. Sharratt may conclude that he did his best to live up to the standards, followed by U.S. fighting men throughout our many wars, in the face of life or death decisions made in a matter of seconds in combat,” Mattis said. “As he has always remained cloaked in the presumption of innocence, with this dismissal of charges, he remains in the eyes of the law — and in my eyes, innocent.”

Mattis said that while Stone may have made mistakes, they did not “rise to the level of criminal behavior.”
This has been a long time coming for these two Marines, who have proclaimed their innocence from the outset, but who were smeared by the likes of Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), who proclaimed that they were absolutely guilty of the crimes alleged. Indeed, Murtha's reprehensible actions (HT: Geepers of LGF) in this regard can and should be considered grounds for action against him.

Murtha's actions could have prejudiced the military criminal justice proceedings and deprived those Marines of their rights under the law, not to mention the presumption of innocence. Murtha's rush to judgment was irresponsible, reckless, and calculated to inflict the maximum amount of damage on the Marine Corps mission in Iraq.

Murtha was not alone in this. There were others who rushed to judgment just as surely as he did. Murtha got an on-air assist from Chris Matthews. Alan Colmes for one (HT: Terp Mole at LGF).

Darryl Sharratt, the father of Lance Cpl. Sharratt, had this to say:
My son and his fellow Marines now find themselves in another battle. The Marine Corps, that which they once held so dearly, could now be the instigator of their demise. The charges are unnerving to me. A day hardly passes in which a tear is not shed. I have trouble finding sleep. My family thinks of these Marines daily. They are part of our family. Wuterich,Tatum,DelaCruz, McConnell,Chessani,Grayson and Stone- all part of our Marine family. They are in our prayers,our every thought. Some had made the Marine Corps their chosen life. Others like my son were just beginning the journey. Please allow them into your hearts and prayers. These Marines deserve so much more. They have earned so much more.

These Marines have remained strong throughout this ordeal. Some have remained silent. A few have spoken. Others have said they understand the process. I DON’T UNDERSTAND AND I MAY NEVER UNDERSTAND! These brave men answered the call for all Americans. They have sacrificed so much to defend this great nation of ours. We are at war. A war in which the enemy wears no uniforms, fights by no Rules of Engagement and uses civilians as human shields. Why has the Marine Corps abandoned these heroes? These men did not massacre, as Time magazine reported. These men are not cold blooded killers, as a US Congressman contends. Their Iraqi accusers have been shown to be liars and terrorists. I call on you to end this travesty of injustice. Is this the Corps of Belleau Wood, Iwo Jima, Tarawa, Okinawa, the Solomons , Inchon, the Chosen reservoir, Hue City and Khe Sanh fame? Do not go silently in the night, resolve to join in their fight!

As the father of Haditha Marine, L/Cpl Justin Sharratt, I have been searching for the answers. Why has the media vilified these Marines? Why have the politicians branded them as expendable? Why has the Marine Corps abandoned these brave men? These Marines need your help and support. Please continue your prayers for our Marines. Reach out to the media in your cities and demand the truth be told. Write your government officials and ask them to join the fight to expose the anonymous leaks. Join me in my fight to exonerate these Marines...our Marines. They will make you proud.

Darryl Sharratt Canonsburg, Pa.
There are still five Marines who are being held in connection with the Haditha incident, and the disposition is yet to be resolved.

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