Hamdaniya: the Real Outrage

There is almost an epidemic of incidents in which American military forces are accused of atrocities in Iraq, and virtually tried and convicted in the media before the evidence is heard, based on shaadowy and inconsistent sources. Even worse, some politicians jump on the bandwagon, and contribute to the media firestorm. But when military brass seem to play a role in fanning the flames investigation is warranted.

In my last article on Haditha I suggested that the Secretary of Defense should want to know who if anyone in the Military has been leaking (false) stories about the 'massacre' in Haditha.

Yesterday, we learned that Neal A. Puckett, a defense attorney for Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich (one of the Kilo Company Marines), says that if his client is charged, he intends to call Rep. Murtha to testify under oath and find out who, if anyone, in the military relayed to him the information about Haditha that he has made public:

Attorney Neal A. Puckett told The Washington Times that Gen. Michael Hagee, the Marine commandant, briefed Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, on the Nov. 19 killings of 24 Iraqis in the town north of Baghdad. Mr. Murtha later told reporters that the Marines were guilty of killing the civilians in "cold blood." Mr. Murtha said he based his statement on Marine commanders, whom he did not identify.

Mr. Puckett said such public comments from a congressman via senior Marines amount to "unlawful command influence." He said potential Marine jurors could be biased by the knowledge that their commandant, the Corps' top officer, thinks the Haditha Marines are guilty.

"Congressman Murtha will be one of the first witnesses I call to the witness stand," Mr. Puckett said yesterday.'

It appears that General Hagee was the officer who briefed Murtha:

'Col. Dave Lapan, a spokesman at Marine Corps headquarters at the Pentagon, said Mr. Murtha was one of eight senior House members and senators briefed by Gen. Hagee in May on the investigation. "I don't know what he told them," Col. Lapan said.'

It would be interesting indeed to learn what Gen. Hagee told Murtha. It would be interesting, too, to see if some of the information Murtha received was second hand from outside the military, as Time and others received it from representatives of Human Rights Watch, one of whom told me he had provided information to reporters which was based on material 'military' sources had provided that organization.

While Murtha's denunciation of the Marines was an outrage, here are some other things, I want to know:

1)  Who in the Marine Corps briefed General Hagee?

2)  What did General Hagee say in speaking to the eight Members of Congress he briefed (Murtha among them)?

3)  Did Murtha accurately convey what Hagee briefed?

4)  If not, why has Hagee or anyone else not corrected Murtha?  If they have not corrected Murtha, does that mean that the Marine Corps has also concluded that they are guilty?

5)  Why would some people in the Marine Corps be so quick to credit allegations of misconduct?

6)  Why has it taken so many months for the accused to even be asked their side of the story?

7)  Are there conflicts between what NCIS has discovered and what the Army investigation has found?

In any event, General Hagee has also made public statements expressing grave concern about another pending atrocity claim against Marines, a case involving an alleged kidnapping and murder of an Iraqi in Hamdaniya, a case often confused with the Haditha matter.

The top Marine said Wednesday he is "gravely concerned" by allegations of atrocities committed by his troops against Iraqi civilians but declined to say what investigators have found thus far.

Looking at that case, we find, as in Haditha, the press accounts do not add up.

The story apparently is that 7 Marines and a Navy corpsman, looking for an insurgent and failing to find him, picked up another man, killed him and planted evidence to suggest the man had been engaged in activities against the US forces.

Riehl of the website Riehl World View has evaluated the conflicting press accounts of the incident  (The sources of these accounts, Knight—Ridder News Service  and the Washington Post, both state the accounts cannot be independently verified.) The complicated story can be broken—down into several key elements.

(a) The Knocks on the Door.

The story begins with the accounts of two men, Awad Ibrahim Awad and his cousin Farhan Ahmed Hussein, who live next door to each other. Farhan says that at 2 a.m. Marines pounded forcefully on his door. Fearing they'd break it down, he opened the door to let them search his home. They left with his AK—47 and a shovel. The Marines then went next door and knocked on the door of his cousin, Awad Ibrahim Awad, but left when he didn't answer it.

b. The eye witness accounts.

Awad, who'd refused to answer the door, claims next that he looked outside and saw the Marines walk toward the home of a neighbor. That neighbor, according to press reports, is named Mohammed. And he says that the Marines asked his mother if there were any men in the house, and left when she (apparently falsely) said there were none. Awad 's story continues that the Marines then knocked on a fourth door, that of Hashim Awad Awad Ibrahim said that there 'two Marines grabbed each of [Hashim's] hands and pulled him out of the house.' He adds they never searched the house.

Nasir, described as one of Hashim's sons and 'an art student from Baghdad,' says the Marine's 'grabbed Hashim by the front of his cotton robe.'

c. The gunshots.

In this description, Awad Ibrahim Awad, previously described as a cousin of the dead man is now described as his brother:

'I told by wife,'They took my brother, but I think he will be fine.' And I told myself:'What's the worse they can do? ....Thirty minutes later I heard gunshots.'

(d)  Identifying the body.

The story continues that the following day as Awad Ibrahim was working 'police pulled in and asked him to identify the body or someone from his neighborhood who'd been killed by the Americans. He stared at the body, which had an AK—47 and shovel next to it, but didn't recognize his brother.' This is odd because his brother had a telling physical defect, a leg which had been badly damaged in a farming accident.

According to reports, the victim had four bullet wounds to his face. But here is Awad's account of his initial view:

'I saw a swollen face, and signs that he had been beaten. And it was clear a bullet would had been shot in the mouth and broke part of his bottom teeth,' he said, 'I told the police officers, I know this man but I cannot recognize him, He was beaten to the point that I couldn't recognize his face.'

(Tellingly, he doesn't mention 3 of the four facial bullet wounds.)

Awad. who claims he saw the Americans take his brother and heard shots thirty minutes later, also claims it never occurred to him the dead man might be his brother.

His story continues that after thinking it over, he went to the hospital a second time and this time recognized the dead man as his own brother.

(e)  The physical evidence.

The family further claims that

'At daylight the family found a wide hole in the dirt road about 500 yards from their home, wet with bloodstains and littered with discarded plastic gloves.'

Once again, I have only these two reports (So well—analyzed by Riehl) to go on, and press which reported the story couldn't independently confirm them. Still, I have to agree with John Hinderaker's  conclusion at Powerline.

These eight servicemen have been tried and convicted in the press. This is what ostensibly happened:

[E]vidence found thus far indicates Marines entered the town of Hamdaniya in search of an insurgent and, failing to find him, grabbed an unarmed man from his home and shot him.

I don't believe it. Seven Marines and a corpsman——not an unstable soldier or two——didn't find the terrorist they were looking for, so they randomly grabbed an innocent guy and shot him? It's possible that something bad happened here, but that story makes no sense, and unless and until I see the evidence, I simply don't believe it.

It is disturbing that such uncorroborated and frankly incredible stories accusing our troops of such atrocities would be published in papers like Knight—Ridder's and the Washington Post in wartime. But even more disturbing is the knuckling under to the sententious yammering about unlikely atrocity tales by the Marine Corps brass.

Without having even been charged, the Marines targeted in these stories have been placed in solitary confinement and allowed out of quarters one hour a day in shackles. I am informed that such pre—charging conduct is unprecedented. (Remember this, when the press which has ignored the treatment of these men, whines incessantly about the treatment afforded Gitmo detainees, treatment which appears to me to be far better.)

Riehl reports that Jeremiah Sullivan III has accused 'the Naval Criminal Investigative Service of 'questionable tactics.'

'He accused its agents of threatening the suspects—including his client, the corpsman—with the death penalty and using 'extremely lengthy interrogations to coerce' information.'

I have to believe that the press is so willing to publicize inconsistent, incredible, uncorroborated reports of Marine atrocities because they:

(a) want a scoop;

(b) project their own failings onto a group which is far superior to them in terms of character and discipline;

(c) have no military experience which would help them understand better battlefield behavior and rules of engagement; and

(d) oppose the war and serve as propagandists for those who are like—minded.

But for the life of me, I cannot understand why the brass is standing by and allowing this to happen. And I do not understand why no one has yet intervened to release from solitary confinement and shackles the 8 Hamdaniya servicemen who as yet still have not even been charged with anything.

A document found in a Zarqawi safehouse acknowledges the need to manipulate media coverage. In fact, it's a key and necessary part of their war strategy, little acknowledged by our own press which has often accommodated that need. In the words of one of the captured documents:

1. [ U]se the media for spreading an effective and creative image of the resistance.

There is no excuse for our media playing into the hands of the enemy. There is less than no excuse for military leadership doing the same.

Clarice Feldman is am attorney in Washington, DC and a frequent contributor.

There is almost an epidemic of incidents in which American military forces are accused of atrocities in Iraq, and virtually tried and convicted in the media before the evidence is heard, based on shaadowy and inconsistent sources. Even worse, some politicians jump on the bandwagon, and contribute to the media firestorm. But when military brass seem to play a role in fanning the flames investigation is warranted.

In my last article on Haditha I suggested that the Secretary of Defense should want to know who if anyone in the Military has been leaking (false) stories about the 'massacre' in Haditha.

Yesterday, we learned that Neal A. Puckett, a defense attorney for Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich (one of the Kilo Company Marines), says that if his client is charged, he intends to call Rep. Murtha to testify under oath and find out who, if anyone, in the military relayed to him the information about Haditha that he has made public:

Attorney Neal A. Puckett told The Washington Times that Gen. Michael Hagee, the Marine commandant, briefed Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, on the Nov. 19 killings of 24 Iraqis in the town north of Baghdad. Mr. Murtha later told reporters that the Marines were guilty of killing the civilians in "cold blood." Mr. Murtha said he based his statement on Marine commanders, whom he did not identify.

Mr. Puckett said such public comments from a congressman via senior Marines amount to "unlawful command influence." He said potential Marine jurors could be biased by the knowledge that their commandant, the Corps' top officer, thinks the Haditha Marines are guilty.

"Congressman Murtha will be one of the first witnesses I call to the witness stand," Mr. Puckett said yesterday.'

It appears that General Hagee was the officer who briefed Murtha:

'Col. Dave Lapan, a spokesman at Marine Corps headquarters at the Pentagon, said Mr. Murtha was one of eight senior House members and senators briefed by Gen. Hagee in May on the investigation. "I don't know what he told them," Col. Lapan said.'

It would be interesting indeed to learn what Gen. Hagee told Murtha. It would be interesting, too, to see if some of the information Murtha received was second hand from outside the military, as Time and others received it from representatives of Human Rights Watch, one of whom told me he had provided information to reporters which was based on material 'military' sources had provided that organization.

While Murtha's denunciation of the Marines was an outrage, here are some other things, I want to know:

1)  Who in the Marine Corps briefed General Hagee?

2)  What did General Hagee say in speaking to the eight Members of Congress he briefed (Murtha among them)?

3)  Did Murtha accurately convey what Hagee briefed?

4)  If not, why has Hagee or anyone else not corrected Murtha?  If they have not corrected Murtha, does that mean that the Marine Corps has also concluded that they are guilty?

5)  Why would some people in the Marine Corps be so quick to credit allegations of misconduct?

6)  Why has it taken so many months for the accused to even be asked their side of the story?

7)  Are there conflicts between what NCIS has discovered and what the Army investigation has found?

In any event, General Hagee has also made public statements expressing grave concern about another pending atrocity claim against Marines, a case involving an alleged kidnapping and murder of an Iraqi in Hamdaniya, a case often confused with the Haditha matter.

The top Marine said Wednesday he is "gravely concerned" by allegations of atrocities committed by his troops against Iraqi civilians but declined to say what investigators have found thus far.

Looking at that case, we find, as in Haditha, the press accounts do not add up.

The story apparently is that 7 Marines and a Navy corpsman, looking for an insurgent and failing to find him, picked up another man, killed him and planted evidence to suggest the man had been engaged in activities against the US forces.

Riehl of the website Riehl World View has evaluated the conflicting press accounts of the incident  (The sources of these accounts, Knight—Ridder News Service  and the Washington Post, both state the accounts cannot be independently verified.) The complicated story can be broken—down into several key elements.

(a) The Knocks on the Door.

The story begins with the accounts of two men, Awad Ibrahim Awad and his cousin Farhan Ahmed Hussein, who live next door to each other. Farhan says that at 2 a.m. Marines pounded forcefully on his door. Fearing they'd break it down, he opened the door to let them search his home. They left with his AK—47 and a shovel. The Marines then went next door and knocked on the door of his cousin, Awad Ibrahim Awad, but left when he didn't answer it.

b. The eye witness accounts.

Awad, who'd refused to answer the door, claims next that he looked outside and saw the Marines walk toward the home of a neighbor. That neighbor, according to press reports, is named Mohammed. And he says that the Marines asked his mother if there were any men in the house, and left when she (apparently falsely) said there were none. Awad 's story continues that the Marines then knocked on a fourth door, that of Hashim Awad Awad Ibrahim said that there 'two Marines grabbed each of [Hashim's] hands and pulled him out of the house.' He adds they never searched the house.

Nasir, described as one of Hashim's sons and 'an art student from Baghdad,' says the Marine's 'grabbed Hashim by the front of his cotton robe.'

c. The gunshots.

In this description, Awad Ibrahim Awad, previously described as a cousin of the dead man is now described as his brother:

'I told by wife,'They took my brother, but I think he will be fine.' And I told myself:'What's the worse they can do? ....Thirty minutes later I heard gunshots.'

(d)  Identifying the body.

The story continues that the following day as Awad Ibrahim was working 'police pulled in and asked him to identify the body or someone from his neighborhood who'd been killed by the Americans. He stared at the body, which had an AK—47 and shovel next to it, but didn't recognize his brother.' This is odd because his brother had a telling physical defect, a leg which had been badly damaged in a farming accident.

According to reports, the victim had four bullet wounds to his face. But here is Awad's account of his initial view:

'I saw a swollen face, and signs that he had been beaten. And it was clear a bullet would had been shot in the mouth and broke part of his bottom teeth,' he said, 'I told the police officers, I know this man but I cannot recognize him, He was beaten to the point that I couldn't recognize his face.'

(Tellingly, he doesn't mention 3 of the four facial bullet wounds.)

Awad. who claims he saw the Americans take his brother and heard shots thirty minutes later, also claims it never occurred to him the dead man might be his brother.

His story continues that after thinking it over, he went to the hospital a second time and this time recognized the dead man as his own brother.

(e)  The physical evidence.

The family further claims that

'At daylight the family found a wide hole in the dirt road about 500 yards from their home, wet with bloodstains and littered with discarded plastic gloves.'

Once again, I have only these two reports (So well—analyzed by Riehl) to go on, and press which reported the story couldn't independently confirm them. Still, I have to agree with John Hinderaker's  conclusion at Powerline.

These eight servicemen have been tried and convicted in the press. This is what ostensibly happened:

[E]vidence found thus far indicates Marines entered the town of Hamdaniya in search of an insurgent and, failing to find him, grabbed an unarmed man from his home and shot him.

I don't believe it. Seven Marines and a corpsman——not an unstable soldier or two——didn't find the terrorist they were looking for, so they randomly grabbed an innocent guy and shot him? It's possible that something bad happened here, but that story makes no sense, and unless and until I see the evidence, I simply don't believe it.

It is disturbing that such uncorroborated and frankly incredible stories accusing our troops of such atrocities would be published in papers like Knight—Ridder's and the Washington Post in wartime. But even more disturbing is the knuckling under to the sententious yammering about unlikely atrocity tales by the Marine Corps brass.

Without having even been charged, the Marines targeted in these stories have been placed in solitary confinement and allowed out of quarters one hour a day in shackles. I am informed that such pre—charging conduct is unprecedented. (Remember this, when the press which has ignored the treatment of these men, whines incessantly about the treatment afforded Gitmo detainees, treatment which appears to me to be far better.)

Riehl reports that Jeremiah Sullivan III has accused 'the Naval Criminal Investigative Service of 'questionable tactics.'

'He accused its agents of threatening the suspects—including his client, the corpsman—with the death penalty and using 'extremely lengthy interrogations to coerce' information.'

I have to believe that the press is so willing to publicize inconsistent, incredible, uncorroborated reports of Marine atrocities because they:

(a) want a scoop;

(b) project their own failings onto a group which is far superior to them in terms of character and discipline;

(c) have no military experience which would help them understand better battlefield behavior and rules of engagement; and

(d) oppose the war and serve as propagandists for those who are like—minded.

But for the life of me, I cannot understand why the brass is standing by and allowing this to happen. And I do not understand why no one has yet intervened to release from solitary confinement and shackles the 8 Hamdaniya servicemen who as yet still have not even been charged with anything.

A document found in a Zarqawi safehouse acknowledges the need to manipulate media coverage. In fact, it's a key and necessary part of their war strategy, little acknowledged by our own press which has often accommodated that need. In the words of one of the captured documents:

1. [ U]se the media for spreading an effective and creative image of the resistance.

There is no excuse for our media playing into the hands of the enemy. There is less than no excuse for military leadership doing the same.

Clarice Feldman is am attorney in Washington, DC and a frequent contributor.