Last week's development in the Haditha case -- the dropping of all the charges leveled against Lance Cpl. Stephan Tatum for actions related to Haditha, Iraq -- drives another nail into the shameful accusations made by Time magazine and Rep. John Murtha.
Time magazine, with an assist from the Pennsylvania Democrat, sparked a legal and media inquisition against eight courageous United States Marines. Both Time and Murtha claimed these Marines committed cold-blooded murder in Haditha during a 2005 engagement.
They also alleged the Marines participated in covering up their alleged atrocities.
But after years of litigation and estimated $40 million in taxpayer funds expended, none of the Marines have been found guilty of committing murder or war crimes.
On Nov. 19, 2005, during an insurgent ambush of the Marines of Kilo Company 3rd battalion 1st Marines, 15 Iraqi civilians and nine suspected insurgent ambushers were killed. One Marine was killed in an IED explosion and two others seriously wounded.
Thanks to the battalion intelligence officer, Lt. Jeff Dinsmore, who monitored the daylong engagement, the entire Marine chain of command were given the full story of the engagement that very night and it was agreed that no further action in connection with the civilian casualties was needed.
Months later, a Time story based on the testimony of two known insurgent propagandists and the stories of some Iraqi civilians falsely reported that the Kilo company Marines had wantonly murdered the dead Iraqis as an act of revenge after an IED explosion took the life of a fellow Marine.
On the basis of Time's unsubstantiated allegations alone, Murtha publicly charged the Marines had gone on a rampage to avenge the killing of their comrade in the IED explosion and had committed cold-blooded murder. Time has been forced to issue four different retractions of details in their report.
Before any investigation had gotten underway Murtha went on a rampage of his own, attacking the Marines in venue after venue. In his original charges against the Marines, Murtha said there was no gunfire during the incident when there was in fact a daylong battle involving heavy insurgent gunfire directed at the Marines starting at the time of the IED explosion.
Typical of Murtha’s rantings were his comments on a May 28, 2006, ABC News broadcast. In response to George Stephanopolis’ comment that he claimed to have been briefed several times since Nov. 19 and said that that the evidence showed that the Marines had committed cold-blooded murder, Murtha said:
“Well there’s no question in my mind, what happened was an IED exploded. It killed one Marine. And then a taxi drives up. When the taxi comes up there’s four of five people in it. And they shoot … shoot those four or five people unarmed.
“And then they go on a rampage throughout the houses and kill people. One woman, as I understand it, in talking to officials in the Marine Corps, was kneeling over a child pleading for mercy and they shot her in cold blood. That’s the thing that’s so disturbing. And even more disturbing is the fact that we know that the Iraqis knew about it because they made payments to the Iraqis for accidental deaths or salacious deaths whatever you want to call it. And in addition to that, they had … there has to have been a cover-up of this thing.”
In other comments, Murtha alleged that the Marines had never encountered enemy gunfire. The claim was a total concoction. In fact, the Marines engaged in a daylong battle involving heavy insurgent gunfire immediately following the IED explosion.
Murtha claimed to have been given all these details from then-Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Hagee. Hagee denied it.
Since Murtha’s reckless claims, none of the Marines ended up facing murder charges. Five of the eight have had all charges dropped against them and only three still face courts martial and none for murder.
The evidence produced in the cases showed that Time and Murtha were dead wrong in their charges.
There was no rampage, no cold-blooded murders of innocent Iraqis. Yet eight United States Marines were subjected to an ordeal that has wrecked their careers and cost them tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs. We can "thank" Time and Murtha for this outrage.
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