The Secretary of the Navy has undercut President Bush’s determination to play hardball with the enemy in Iraq by punishing three top combat officers for reasons of political expediency, the group representing a Haditha Marine officer charged today.
In a press release, the Thomas More Law Center observed that when President Bush was recently asked about Iraq, he told the Australian Deputy Prime Minister, “We’re kicking ass.” However, despite the exoneration of Marines actually involved in "kicking the enemy's ass" in the fighting in Haditha on November 19, 2005, three senior Marine officers -- Maj. Gen. Richard Huck, Col. Robert Sokoloski, and Col. Stephen Davis -- have been administratively censured by the Secretary of the Navy for their involvement in the Haditha events.
The Law Center is defending Marine Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, the commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, one of the subordinate commands under Maj. Gen. Huck and Col. Davis, against charges of dereliction of duty arising out of the Haditha incident. Maj. Gen. Huck was the commanding general of the 2nd Marine Division, Col. Sokoloski was the division’s chief of staff, and Col. Davis was the commanding officer of Regimental Combat Team-2, which was part of the division.
According to Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, “The Secretary of the Navy has sacrificed three senior, combat-experienced warriors on the altar of political expediency to appease anti-war politicians and the liberal media. These Marines, who have dedicated their lives in defense of our country, deserve better. It’s insanity; it will turn combat commanders into ‘paper pushers’ and will have far-reaching deleterious effect on the fighting spirit of Marines on the ground.”
The Law Center revealed that it has learned that these “letters of censure” were delivered to the three senior officers on the same day they were told they would be receiving them, stunning all three officers.
Said Brian Rooney, an attorney at the Law Center and a former Marine officer and veteran of the bitter combat in the second battle of Fallujah, “We at the Thomas More Law Center have always said that Lt. Col. Chessani reported to his superior officers what he knew, when he knew it. At the very least, the language of the censorship is an acknowledgment of the fact that Lt. Col. Chessani did report what happened on 19 November 2005.
“Also, as the government’s own expert witness on the law of war testified at Lt. Col. Chessani’s Article 32 Hearing, it is the responsibility of higher commands to determine if a formal investigation is needed. These men all concluded that a formal investigation was not required. However, it is odd that the Marine Corps has decided to publicly censure these good men who have dedicated their lives to the service of their Corps and country when the recent Article 32 facts are turning out to be what these men on the ground believed them to be — a hard fought battle — not a massacre. The Secretary of the Navy is essentially censuring these men for not investigating a crime that never occurred.”
The Center explained that the decision to launch a criminal investigation of the November 19 incident was made three months after its occurrence as a result of a Time Magazine news lead, which military commanders in the field knew was instigated by terrorist propaganda.
The Law Center pointed out that Congressman John Murtha, an outspoken anti-war critic and chairman of the House Military Appropriations Subcommittee, months before the investigation was completed, publicly accused the four Marines of being “cold-blooded murderers” and high-ranking officers of “covering it up.”
The censure letters, the Law Center noted “do confirm that there was no ‘cover-up’ by any of the officers involved. “As NewsMax has reported, the Thomas More Law Center still plans on looking at all of its legal options against Congressman Murtha once Lt. Col. Chessani is exonerated.
Added Thompson, “This action is especially inappropriate considering Staff Sgt. Wuterich is in the middle of his Article 32 Hearing. We have always said that the Marines acted appropriately on November 19th — within the rules of engagement. Cpl. Sharrat has been officially exonerated, Cpl. Tatum has basically been as well, and Capt. Stone, too. The question must be asked: 'Why, now that the facts are coming out in favor of the Marines, has this action been taken?'”
The Law Center said it is awaiting the outcome of the ongoing Staff Sgt. Wuterich Article 32 Hearing. Once the Investigating Officer has made a recommendation in that case, the Convening Authority, Lt, Gen. James Mattis will decide whether to send Lt. Col. Chessani to a general courts-martial or not.
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