This is from a Marine who has been tracking the Haditha incident for some time. He takes the time to write to higher about the situation.
Here is a story that should be read by every current and former Marine,
Airman, Soldier, Sailor and Coast Guardsman. It may help some make up their
minds whether or not our Marine brothers accused of criminal acts at Haditha
are being railroaded for political purposes. The reader needs to judge the
credibility of this report weighed against the media accounts and charges by
anti-war activists who have tried to paint a different picture.
You read this account, read the accounts of those calling the incident a
massacre, then decide which point of view has the most credibility.
Sent: Wednesday, September 06, 2006 1:18 PM
Subject: [Fwd: "Open Letter to Gen. Mattis"]
An Open Letter to General Mattis
Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2006
Lt. Gen. James Mattis, USMC
Commanding General, First Marine Expeditionary Force
Camp Pendleton, CA 92055-5019
Dear General Mattis:
As you are the convening officer charged with deciding whether the
Marines involved in the Haditha incident will be charged with various
offenses, I appreciate the fact that you are under intense pressure from
both sides of the issue. I would like to take a few minutes of your time to
shed a little light on the Haditha incident from the perspective of the
Some of that pressure is no doubt coming from senior officers who fear
that any finding that does not include prosecution for various offenses will
be damaging to the reputation of the Corps – a fear born of their
recognition that clearing the Marines involved will create a firestorm of
criticism from the media, which long ago found the Kilo Company Marines
guilty of committing a deliberate "massacre" of 24 "innocent" civilians and
have no intention of admitting they were wrong.
As one of those intimately involved in Haditha as an on-the-spot
intelligence observer told me, this group, many of whom were lieutenant
colonels and majors during 1991’s so-called Tailhook scandal, live in mortal
fear of being caught up in anything that can be exploited by a largely
anti-military mainstream media, regardless of the real facts of the case.
On the other end of the spectrum are the Marines who are the focus of
the investigation, not one of whom has been charged with any crime yet all
of whom have been savaged by a media that immediately found them all guilty
of the most heinous crimes, solely because of a Time magazine story and
testimony by civilians either living in mortal fear of retaliation by the
insurgents who then dominated the area, or themselves insurgent sympathizers and supporters.
In the days following the Time magazine story, hundreds of newspapers
and broadcast outlets around the world compared the deaths of the 24
civilians with the slaughter of hundreds of civilians in
. Haditha was
proclaimed the new
The effect of this, plus leaks of inaccurate and often totally false
information from some individuals in the Pentagon, has dealt a serious blow
to the morale of many Marines, who now think they are being betrayed by the
very people they have always believed would protect them to the death. They
have caused many to wonder if the Marines’ ancient warrior code of not
abandoning your wounded has been replaced by the code of CYA. They believe their fellow Marines are being offered up as sacrifices on the altar of
I have no idea of what the NCIS investigation has concluded, but I do
know that enormous pressure has been put on that service to find something –
anything at all – that will enable the nervous Nellies to tell the media,
"Look, we found that so-and-so committed this or that offense, so you can’t
accuse us of a cover-up." The offense might be equivalent to a charge of
spitting on the sidewalk, but it will soothe their delicate consciences, if
not the media’s skepticism.
No matter what kind of obfuscation has been employed by the
investigators, the facts remain facts. And the facts are indisputable.
1. An IED explosion killed a Marine.
2. Marine intelligence operatives learned immediately that the incident
now developing was being videotaped by the al-Qaida insurgents, a common
practice among this media-savvy group of killers.
3. Within five minutes of the explosion the Kilo Company Marines came
under small-arms fire from the vicinity of two houses in the immediate area
of the explosion. Radio communications verify this despite Congressman
Murtha’s claim that no firefight took place.
3. A squad under the command of Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich entered the
two houses, using normal house-clearing procedures. In the course of this
operation, a door was opened and as dictated by the ROEs a grenade was
thrown into the room and automatic fire sprayed on the unknown occupants,
killing the 15 civilians in the room. In the second house, another civilian
was gunned down. The Marines noticed that a rear door was ajar, indicating
that someone had fled before they entered.
4. Within minutes a UAV was in the sky above the area. It remained aloft
all day, catching views of armed conflict. Some screen-shot photos were
downloaded either at battalion or regimental headquarters.
5. Within 30 minutes of the explosion an intelligence unit was on the
scene and the Marines involved were closely questioned. Those in that unit
testify that the Kilo Marines’ composure and demeanor were such that it was
incomprehensible to them that they could have just participated in the
cold-blooded massacre of the civilians.
6. By nightfall an after-action PowerPoint presentation including the
screen-shot photos downloaded from the UAV was sent up the chain of command. It carefully and fully detailed the day’s action and was based on the
constant radio communications, testimony of those present as participants
and after-action investigators, and the data revealed minute-by-minute by
the UAV. It left no T’s uncrossed and no I’s undotted.
7. Within days of the incident, officers from up the entire chain of
command were fully briefed and concluded that the evidence provided them
proved that the actions were fully justified by the circumstances on the
ground at the time.
As I reported in NewsMax.com on June 26:
"This is what happened in Haditha that day. It was a daylong engagement
with armed insurgents that involved civilian casualties who died as a result
of being caught in the middle of a firefight. It had been reported as a
blast followed by a TIC – Marine Corps terminology for ‘Troops in Contact.’
In other words, gunfire directed at the Marines. As the battalion went about
compiling information on the insurgents’ identities and determining who had
been involved in the attack, its actions in the ensuing weeks resulted in
the detention of several insurgents who masterminded the attack, and who
remain incarcerated in Abu Ghraib prison today."
In another NewsMax.com story on August 25 I wrote the following:
"Unnamed sources in the Pentagon with their own agenda have been leaking
false information about the killing of civilians in Haditha by Marines last
November, NewsMax.com has learned.
"A Marine intelligence agent who investigated last year’s Nov. 19
shootings of civilians in Haditha in the immediate wake of the incident has
stepped forward to defend the Kilo company Marines against charges that they massacred the victims.In Thursday’s Washington Post, Marine intelligence operative Sgt. J.M. Laughner is quoted as calling the shootings an
appropriate response to a coordinated insurgent attack.
"In a transcript of his interview with two investigating colonels,
Laughner, described by The Post as a member of a Marine human-intelligence exploitation team that was hunting down insurgent bomb-makers, said his unit went from house to house in Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005, in the immediate aftermath of the incident. He acknowledges finding two dozen bodies, including some women and small children.
"Laughner said the scenes of the slayings appeared to match the version
of events the Marine squad provided that day and did not seem especially out
of the ordinary, according to a transcript of his interview.
"Laughner’s account, The Post noted, supports the argument made by some
Marines in Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines – that they believed
they were following their rules of engagement when they opened fire on
groups of people inside at least three homes after a roadside bomb killed a
member of their unit. Several Marines are under criminal investigation in
connection with the civilian deaths that day, but no one has been charged.
"Laughner’s statement is further evidence that Marines who were on the
ground that day viewed the civilian deaths as accidental rather than the
result of a vengeful rampage.
"The transcript was provided to The Post by someone The Post said is
sympathetic to the enlisted Marines facing scrutiny for the shootings.
"According to NewsMax’s Marine intelligence sources, the intelligence
unit Marines, which included Laughner, arrived within 30 minutes of the
incident. Our sources said the unit reported that they were deeply impressed
with the attitude and professionalism of the Kilo company squad and believed
that it makes absolutely no sense that they could have maintained their
composure and conducted themselves so professionally by the time Laughner’s unit arrived if they had been in a rage and conducting a massacre only minutes before.
"In recent days, The New York Times, The Associated Press, … carried
stories quoting the usual unnamed sources in the Pentagon as saying that
parts of a video allegedly taken by a Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) had
disappeared, that pages of a logbook dealing with the actions on that day
were missing, and that the report of the action attributed the civilian
deaths only to the IED explosion.
"None of this is accurate.
"NewsMax’s sources say there was no video taken from the UA
photos. These were included in an after-action report sent to regimental and
division headquarters the night of the incident. That report, a PowerPoint
presentation, contained a detailed account (with the UAV photos) of the
events of that day. It told the whole story of the Haditha incident and was
so complete that the superior officers, including Lt. Col. Jeffrey R.
Chessani, 3rd Battalion commander, rightly concluded that the Marines had
"In a statement to military investigators in March, obtained by The
Post, Chessani said he did not consider the deaths of 24 Iraqis, many of
them women and children, unusual and did not initiate an inquiry, according
to a sworn statement he gave to military investigators in March.
"’I thought it was very sad, very unfortunate; but at the time, I did
not suspect any wrongdoing from my Marines,’ he said, adding, ‘I did not
have any reason to believe that this was anything other than combat action.’
"The Post reported that Chessani had told investigators he concluded
that insurgents had staged a "complex attack" that began with a roadside
bomb, followed by a small-arms ambush that was intended to provoke the
Marines to fire into houses where civilians were hiding.
"I did not see any cause for alarm," especially because several
firefights had occurred in the area the same day – Nov. 19, 2005 – Chessani
said. Because of that conclusion, he added, he did not see any reason to
investigate the matter, or even to ask how many women and children had been
killed. "I just saw this as a large combat action that had been staged by
the enemy," he told investigators.
"Chessani’s conclusions were based on the compelling evidence provided
him in that PowerPoint presentation and subsequent interviews with Marine
officers present during the incident.
"As far as the so-called missing pages of the logbook are concerned,
Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich has told the media that the logbooks were
merely records of radio transmissions. NewsMax can report, however, that
"rolls and rolls" of the yellow-slip message papers on which the radio
operator writes all transmissions were turned over to investigators, and
they reflect the tone and exact times of Kilo company reports of that
According to my sources, this whole incident was filmed, produced and
directed by al-Qaida insurgents. They provoked the Marines’ counterattack,
used the civilians as human shields, peddled the video they shot for weeks
until they found a gullible Time reporter who swallowed their story hook,
line and sinker, thereby giving life to the insurgents’ massacre hoax.
In an August speech at Fallon Air Station during a Q&A session,
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld addressed the issue of the insurgents’
use of the media to promote their propaganda. Here’s what he said:
"’More than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of
the media. We are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of
Muslims.’ The speaker was not some modern-day image consultant in a public
relations firm here in
New York City
, it was Osama bin Laden’s chief
lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri. I mention this because I want to talk today
about something that at first might seem obvious, but really isn’t obvious.
"Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today’s media
age, but for the most part we, our country, our government, has not adapted.
Consider that the violent extremists have established media relations
committees – these are terrorists, and they have media relations committees
that meet and talk about strategy, not with bullets but with words. They’ve
proven to be highly successful at manipulating the opinion elites of the
world. They plan and design their headline-grabbing attacks using every
means of communication to intimidate and break the collective will of free
"They know that communications transcend borders and that a single news
story handled skillfully can be as damaging to our cause and helpful to
theirs as any other method of military attack. And they’re doing it. They’re
able to act quickly. They have relatively few people. They have modest
resources compared to the vast and expensive bureaucracies of Western
"They are actively manipulating the media in this country" by, for
example, falsely blaming
troops for civilian deaths in
, he said. "They can lie with impunity."
Don Rumsfeld, who I remember as a brash, opinionated crewcut freshman in
the House of Representatives during my days on the Hill, said that. I don’t
know whether he was thinking about Haditha, but you can be sure that if you
send the Kilo Marines back to duty with the honor due to them, I don’t think
you’ll have to worry about your top boss’s reaction.
And you can be sure that the grunts will applaud you when you prove that
you meant it when you said that Marines can be your best friend and your
worst enemy. The Kilo Company Marines need a best friend. They couldn’t have a better one than James Mattis, who recently told San Diego’s North Country News the story of a Marine unit that had just seen several of its members wounded in a roadside bomb explosion yet took the time to wave to Iraqi children after the dead and injured were evacuated and it was leaving the
You said, "It’s not a small issue to wave to kids after just seeing your
buddies blown up, but that shows on the most pedestrian level the kind of
sturdiness that is needed in what is just a morally bruising environment
where the enemy hides among the people."
As you know, that’s what Marines do when confronted by a situation like
the one in Haditha. They don’t massacre civilians in cold blood.
Phil Brennan, Cpl. USMC 1943-46