Tuesday night’s “Frontline” story on PBS, “Rules of Engagement,” omitted key facts that help exonerate the Marines accused of killing innocent Iraqi civilians in Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005.”Frontline” accepted without question the legitimacy of the so-called Hammurabi Human Rights Association and allowed its alleged head man Abdul-Rahman al-Mashhadani to tell the story of the aftermath of Nov. 19, even though the organization consists solely of himself and one Thaer Thabit al-Hadithi — the original source of the video excerpts “Frontline” showed.
Both men are known insurgent propagandists whose communications were closely monitored by Marine intelligence officers. It was from those intercepts that the Marines were able to predict the Nov. 19 insurgent ambush in Haditha.
Moreover, “Frontline” neglected to inform viewers that the same Abdul-Rahman al-Mashhadani had just been released from almost six months captivity for insurgent activities. And al-Hadithi was considered a useful intelligence tool by Marines listening to him talk on his cell phone, as “My Men Are Heroes” author Nat Helms has also reported on the Defend Our Marines Web site.“Frontline” portrayed Haditha as peaceful and free of insurgents prior to the arrival of the Marines, while Newsmax and other media had reported the city to be firmly under insurgent control.
On June 6, 2006, Maj. Jeffrey Dinsmore, an intelligence officer who carefully monitored the engagement in Haditha, provided an entirely different picture of the Haditha the Marines found when they arrived there. Dinsmore reported to Newsmax, “We were the first force into Haditha since [an article about insurgency in Haditha was published], and we were very aware of the insurgent control. A little tidbit of info: Did you know that when we went into the city, the insurgents had freshly paved over dirt roads leading into the town under the auspices of civic work projects and public improvement? They were beautiful asphalt-surfaced roads, with painted lines and everything.
“The only problem was that they had laid more than 100 mega-IEDs under that asphalt, and in order to avoid having to change batteries in the initiating devices, they wired them into city power via the power lines adjacent to the road. This is also the road where the engagement in question took place.”“Frontline” repeatedly showed the erroneous report issued by the Marine public information officer alleging that the 15 civilian dead were killed by the IED blast set off by the insurgents, which killed one Marine and injured two others.
On June 12, 2006, Dinsmore — then still a captain — stated what really happened.
“Here is what the commander [Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani] told his boss, and what the battalion officially filed as a report that evening [after fighting all day]: ‘A total of 24 KIA were assessed . . . 15 civilians were assessed to be killed by the IED blast and ensuing fire . . . eight KIA were assessed to be enemy. The follow-on small arms fire between insurgents and coalition forces contributed to the civilian deaths.’
“I paraphrased slightly, but the last sentence is almost verbatim. One of NCIS' [Naval Criminal Investigation Service's] confrontational positions is that the last sentence, although it was fairly clear, was too brief and did not accurately reflect the magnitude of the civilian deaths. That is the basis of their accusation that the battalion was deceptive in its reporting.
“Also, the battalion had a specific methodology for determining the insurgents from the civilians. This was very clear from the outset, but one of the accusations is that we came up with the number out of thin air.
“How did this translate into the press release that all civilians were killed by the IED blast? Answer: The Division public affairs officer. He was totally removed from the situation, and either left out the last sentence on purpose, or just overlooked it.
“We at the battalion were dumbfounded that he left out that crucial piece of information when we read the final press release, but it was too late at that point. We were not surprised at all that the press release raised questions. We chalked it up to the clueless folks at division HQ, not deception.”
There were other serious flaws in “Rules of Engagement,” and Newsmax will examine them later, but the above should show how “Frontline” distorted the real picture by omitting crucial facts.
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