Here are comments of the Sgt. who led the Marines during the alleged incident in Haditha. It’s the first public account from someone involved in what is alleged to have happened. It’s three pages, and I’m snipping it down to what is the most relevant portion of it:
Sergeant Describes Hunt for Insurgents in Haditha, Denies Coverup
A sergeant who led a squad of Marines during the incident in Haditha, Iraq, that left as many as 24 civilians dead said his unit did not intentionally target any civilians, followed military rules of engagement and never tried to cover up the shootings, his attorney said.
Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, 26, told his attorney that several civilians were killed Nov. 19 when his squad went after insurgents who were firing at them from inside a house. The Marine said there was no vengeful massacre, but he described a house-to-house hunt that went tragically awry in the middle of a chaotic battlefield.
“It will forever be his position that everything they did that day was following their rules of engagement and to protect the lives of Marines,” said Neal A. Puckett, who represents Wuterich in the ongoing investigations into the incident. “He’s really upset that people believe that he and his Marines are even capable of intentionally killing innocent civilians.”
Wuterich’s detailed version of what happened in the Haditha neighborhood is the first public account from a Marine who was on the ground when the shootings occurred. As the leader of 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Wuterich was in the convoy of Humvees that was hit by a roadside bomb. He entered the house from which the Marines believed enemy fire was originating and made the initial radio reports to his company headquarters about what was going on, Puckett said.
The reports that Marines wantonly shot unarmed civilians in Haditha, including women and children, allege one of the most shocking, and potentially damaging, incidents of the Iraq war. A criminal investigation looking into possible charges of murder against half a dozen Marines is underway. A separate probe is examining whether Marines tried to cover up the shootings, and whether commanders were negligent in failing to investigate the deaths.
Three Marine officers have been relieved of command. In the absence of a public response from Marine Corps officials — who are declining to comment to preserve the integrity of the investigation — reports of what happened in the western Iraqi town have been leaking out piecemeal from the Haditha neighborhood and in Washington.
Wuterich’s version contradicts that of the Iraqis, who described a massacre of men, women and children after a bomb killed a Marine. Haditha residents have said that innocent civilians were executed, that some begged for their lives before being shot and that children were killed indiscriminately.
Wuterich told his attorney in initial interviews over nearly 12 hours last week that the shootings were the unfortunate result of a methodical sweep for enemies in a firefight. Two attorneys for other Marines involved in the incident said Wuterich’s account is consistent with those they had heard from their clients.
Kevin B. McDermott, who is representing Capt. Lucas M. McConnell, the Kilo Company commander, said Wuterich and other Marines informed McConnell on the day of the incident that at least 15 civilians were killed by “a mixture of small-arms fire and shrapnel as a result of grenades” after the Marines responded to an attack from a house.
Wuterich told Puckett that no one was emotionally rattled by Terrazas’s death because everyone had a job to do, and everyone was concerned about further casualties. As Wuterich began briefing the platoon leader, Puckett said, AK-47 shots rang out from residences on the south side of the road, and the Marines ducked.
A corporal with the unit leaned over to Wuterich and said he saw the shots coming from a specific house, and after a discussion with the platoon leader, they decided to clear the house, according to Wuterich’s account.
“There’s a threat, and they went to eliminate the threat,” Puckett said.
A four-man team of Marines, including Wuterich, kicked in the door and found a series of empty rooms, noticing quickly that there was one room with a closed door and people rustling behind it, Puckett said. They then kicked in that door, tossed a fragmentation grenade into the room, and one Marine fired a series of “clearing rounds” through the dust and smoke, killing several people, Puckett said.
The Marine who fired the rounds — Puckett said it was not Wuterich — had experience clearing numerous houses on a deployment in Fallujah, where Marines had aggressive rules of engagement.
Although it was almost immediately apparent to the Marines that the people dead in the room were men, women and children — most likely civilians — they also noticed a back door ajar and believed that insurgents had slipped through to a house nearby, Puckett said. The Marines stealthily moved to the second house, kicking in the door, killing one man inside and then using a frag grenade and more gunfire to clear another room full of people, he said.
Wuterich, not having found the insurgents, told the team to stop and headed back to the platoon leader to reassess the situation, Puckett said, adding that his client knew a number of civilians had just been killed.
Read the whole thing and keep in mind what CNN reporter Arwa Damon said about the Marines who were involved in the alleged incident – Marines she travelled with (but not at the time of the alleged crime):
I know the Marines that were operating in western al Anbar, from Husayba all the way to Haditha. I went on countless operations in 2005 up and down the Euphrates River Valley. I was pinned on rooftops with them in Ubeydi for hours taking incoming fire, and I’ve seen them not fire a shot back because they did not have positive identification on a target.
I saw their horror when they thought that they finally had identified their target, fired a tank round that went through a wall and into a house filled with civilians. They then rushed to help the wounded — remarkably no one was killed.
I was with them in Husayba as they went house to house in an area where insurgents would booby-trap doors, or lie in wait behind closed doors with an AK-47, basically on suicide missions, just waiting for the Marines to come through and open fire. There were civilians in the city as well, and the Marines were always keenly aware of that fact. How they didn’t fire at shadows, not knowing what was waiting in each house, I don’t know. But they didn’t.
AllahPundit has more.
- TIME issues correction on Haditha story
- Media coverage of Haditha: this cartoon says it all
- How our troops try to avoid civilian casualties
- How Islamofascists use our own media against us
- Michael Yon: Haditha in context
- Today’s must-read on Haditha
- Chris Hitchens: Haditha is not My Lai
- Mark Steyn on Haditha
- A series of posts on Haditha
- Jed Babbin on Haditha
- Murtha slimes our troops: “â€¦it looks like it’s the policy of our troops to do something like this.”
- The Haditha incident
- Does Rep. John Murtha know something we don’t?