August 26, 2007
The Haditha Libels Require InvestigationBy Denis Keohane
If Democrats really do support the troops, they will use their control of Congress to launch one more investigation -- into a series of statements and reported leaks by officials that have severely harmed our troops and their ability to accomplish their mission. These statements fall into a category of press misinformation that currently has no name, but which deserves one, a neologism to join the ranks of "fisking" and "a lewinsky."
The Scott Thomas Beauchamp affair fades, as seemingly do the hopes of the hunkered down leadership at TNR. While the thing has been interesting, and The Weekly Standard and assorted bloggers and milbloggers and Iraq embeds have scored a victory, even if the other side can't bring itself to admit it, the affair has been a small blip on the national screen. It has been, to a great degree, an esoteric tempest in a teapot in the sense that it was largely confined to a few limited magazines and interested parties on the Net and did not make a big media splash. However, it might be an example needed to get the bigger and more deadly ‘beauchamp', Haditha, the attention it deserves.
Following a recent and frankly stunning trend, even Democratic Presidential contender Hillary Clinton has now admitted that ‘The Surge' strategy in Iraq is working, at least in part. It belatedly seems to have sunk in that ‘The Surge' was not simply sending in thousands of more troops, as Democrat critics claimed early on, but a major change in strategy. Our troops have gone, in shorthand, from clear and leave so that the opposition returns, to clear and hold. They are turning the tables by persistence.
There was also persistence manifest in the Scott Thomas Beauchamp affair, notably by Bill Kristol and The Weekly Standard, among others. At the end of the day, or a few weeks, TNR's Jonathan Chait's calling Bill Kristol's persistence in the STC affair "thuggery" was simply an indication of how some truly fear persistence, when they want something bad for them, even bad news, to simply go away, and the other side persists.
We folks on the homefront, like the Rosie the Riveters of WWII fame, must engage in our own surge, and adapt a new strategy to clear and hold what is essentially ‘the big story', or more simply, the truth.
It has recently been reported (WaPo) that Lt. Col. Paul J. Ware, the investigating officer in the Haditha cases, has found that ‘there is insufficient evidence to show that Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum did anything other than follow Marine Corps rules when he killed women and children in two houses in a residential neighborhood in Iraq on Nov. 19, 2005.' Ware's report is not binding on the general heading up the investigation, Lt. Gen. Jim Mattis, head of Marine Corps Forces-Central Command, but only a month ago a similar report by Lt. Col. Ware prefaced Lt. Gen. Mattis' dismissal of all charges against Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt. Last April murder charges were dropped against Sergeant Sanick Dela Cruz. As the WAPO points out, ‘should Mattis dismiss the charges against Tatum, it would leave pending murder charges in the case against one and only one Marine, Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich.'
Wuterich may face a harder time that those others, as Lt. Gen. Mattis has given past indication of finding those in charge bearing a higher degree of responsibility, and Wuterich was in charge of those Marines involved. However, while we cannot know what the final decision will be, the odds grow longer against a murder conviction against Wuterich as opposed to conviction on something on the order of dereliction or not properly following the ROI. Then too, dismissal for Wuterich is not beyond possible.
However the Wuterich case turns out, though, the narrative of a "cold blooded" massacre of civilian men, women and children by a rampaging group of Marines at Haditha has unraveled, but sadly not before it has become unshakably ‘seared, seared' into the consciousness of many here and abroad.
The Net is full of calls for Congressman Murtha to apologize to those Marines for convicting them in the press before they had exercised their rights to self defence and casting aside the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven. There are even calls for Speaker Pelosi and the House to censure him. Those are worthwhile goals, but fall short of what should be done. Murtha does bear a great deal of the shame and fault for what has happened in the sordid matter, but ‘getting' Murtha will not do all that is needed, and perhaps possible, if a strategy of targeted persistence is engaged.
All who genuinely care for our troops should set up a hue and cry, persistently, for Congressional investigation of what happened with Haditha. I don't mean the actual incidents that resulted in the killing of Iraqi civilians, which have been investigated extensively, including by the military court, but how "Haditha" became what it has become (and remains) in the minds of millions -- as opposed to what actually happened.
I suspect that at this point some are surmising that I may be abusing a stash of Panama Gold to even imagine that Speaker Pelosi's House or Harry Reid's Senate would ever permit such a thing, but there are grounds to bring pressure to bear in that, if dogged persistence is adopted to the point of what Chait called thuggery, but is in reality holding firm until the truth is secured.
The anti war Democrats and the left insist they care about the troops. Press them on that very thing, and demand Congressional investigation based on the following:
If anyone in the House or Senate with a say in the matter of whether such a Congressional investigation will be held claims to care for and support the troops, but resists persistent calls for such an investigation, he or she is exposed! Haditha the media event, became what it had become for a simple reason: George Bush owned Haditha, at least in the thinking of many Democrats and much of the media. That has always been the underlying theme, even from Murtha when he accused the Marines of cold blooded murder. It was really Bush's fault, and the Marines caved in to undue pressure that Bush has caused them to be under. That of course is a similar theme to Scott Thomas Beauchamp's "dehumanizing" of soldiers exposed to combat in Shock Troops.
However, now it is the Democrats who own the story of Haditha. They bought it, they used it, they relied on it and they spread it and it is their constituency that still clings to it. It was not just Murtha.
Murtha's comments were despicable then and even more so in hindsight. A reminder:
It did not end, though, with Murtha. Note that again and again, various Democrats and their acknowledged supporters would speak or write of Haditha in a way that it was a given that the Marines had done the worst.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
Senator Reid to Salon Magazine:
From a Chris Wallace interview with Senators John Warner and Carl Levin on Fox News Sunday, wherein Democrat Levin pays lip service to the Marines' right to self defencs before informing all listening that the evidence is overwhelming that the Marines are guilty - before the investigation:
Senator Joseph Biden is quoted by CNN from an appearance on NBC's ‘Meet the Press, and note the odd wording:
How do you affix responsibility for an atrocity only alleged to have happened and not established as an actual fact?
Senator and Democratic Presidential Contendor Barack Obama from a June 28, 2006, interview on Hannity and Colmes:
That granting of unquestionable credibility to Murtha was persistent in both the Democratic Party and the media before and after his Haditha remarks. Months before his Haditha remarks, in November 2005, Murtha called for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, and became an overnight media hero, with glowing media treatment. For example: New York Times; CNN; NPR; and WaPo.
Months after Murtha made those remarks about Marines killing civilians in cold blood, and the Democrats took the House in the Novemeber 2006 election, the new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, endorsed Murtha to be the House Majority Leader, granting stature to Murtha well after Al Jazeera, like much of our media, had been using Murtha as a credible source to confirm the supposed Marine killing rampage.
One of the contributors to the left-liberal and Democrat supporting blog, The Left Coaster, Steve Soto, began an article (May, 2006) quoting Murtha as follows:
He then quoted Murtha again:
(The fuller quote of Murtha reads: "But I will not excuse murder. And this is what happened. There's no question in my mind about it.")
In between those quotes by Murtha, Soto wrote:
Criticizing Democrats because a left-liberal blogger concludes that the Marines cannot even have a defense much less be entitled to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty may seem a stretch, as though Democrats are at all responsible for what such bloggers may write. However, just last month the official ‘Hillary for President' blog site of her campaign announced, with obvious pleasure, that Hillary's candidacy had just been endorsed by the same Steve Soto:
It has long been known that perusing the stories and comments at Daily Kos will reveal some folks apparently living in an alternate reality. Using the Kos search function on "Haditha" one finds something unremarkable (for that site) but worth pointing out: the take on Haditha has not at all or little changed since May of 2006 to now, despite dismissals of charges against some of the Marines and the unraveling of the rampage theme. Most commentaries, comments and stories in the last few weeks still presuppose the Marines as guilty of murder, and the only two I found that acknowledge charges being dropped concluded that - the military is covering up the cold blooded murders that of course happened, one with the charming headline: "LG James Mattis, War Crimes Enabler and Pardoner of Killbots."
Yet earlier this month, Democratic Presidential contenders Senator Clinton, Senator Obama, former Senator Edwards, Senator Dodd, former Senator Gravel, Governor Richardson and Congressman Kucinich all attended the Yearly Kos gathering. Senate Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi as well as Congressman Emanuel and Senator Schumer planned to be there but cancelled because the Senate and House were still in session and voting. The Democratic leaders have by their actions attested to the Kos crowd being their constituency, and that constituency has overwhelmingly judged the Marines as guilty and continues to do so. For that Kos crowd, Murtha is a hero.
When Lt. Gen. Mattis dismissed the charges against Lance Cpl. Sharratt last month, his statement seemed to be obviously intended in some degree to address Murtha, though I saw no report that made that connection. Note Murtha's comment, and compare:
With the dismissal of these charges, LCpl Sharratt may fairly conclude that he did his best to live up to the standards, followed by U.S. fighting men throughout our many wars, in the face of life or death decisions made in a matter of seconds in combat...and as he has always remained cloaked in the presumption of innocence, with this dismissal of charges, he remains in the eyes of the law - and in my eyes - innocent."
The liberal and Democrat friendly media also played its part as judge of those Marines and Al Qaeda advertising consultants, and making sure that it was understood that Bush owned Haditha. New York Times 6/4/2006:
Again, one would think ‘blame' came after ‘suspected' became ‘proven'. Then there is Time magazine, May 2006:
Writing for Newsweek (Out of Control June 2, 2006), Eleanor Clift had this:
Note that what will be debated, according to Clift, is "understandable occurrence" or the administration at fault, but the ‘"Haditha rampage" is a given, presented as fact! Clift continues with:
To Clift and Newsweek, the rampage and systematic execution of civilians is simply established fact! However. There is something else of importance in what Clift wrote.
For years there have been charges made by Democrats that the Bush administration pressured the intelligence agencies to distort intelligence on Iraq to support the case for war. When the ‘Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq' was issued in July 2004, and found no such pressure, the Democrats came up with the concept of an indirect pressure in that the agencies knew what BushCo wanted to hear, and simply tried to please the bosses. Would that kind of reasoning be applicable to what happened to the Marines? In his book Warlord, Marine Lt. Ilario Pantano's account of his experience of being charged with the murder of Iraqi non-combatants, Pantano detailed a seeming eagerness among some lawyer officers in the NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) above and beyond what could be called a reasonable response to the facts as they are established. Pantano was found to be not guilty.
Was there undue pressure put on the Marine command in this matter? Surely the Democrats who care about and support the troops will want to have hearings about that. The Bush administration most certainly would have taken the position that if crimes had been committed, they would have to be punished quickly and severely. Murtha had already called Haditha worse than Abu Ghraib, and is it possible that members of the Bush administration, having had the war effort burned by the months of continuous reporting on that story, wanted to get this one handled quickly, with any guilty parties judged and sentenced, and in doing so, led to an overreaction by the NCIS and Marine Corps? Likewise, the principal Democrat making accusations of cold blooded murder, Murtha, was the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and had a great deal of influence over the defence budget. Murtha, if he was telling the truth, claimed to be getting information from the highest levels in the Marine Corps:
AP was making similar claims:
As was NBC News:
For almost a year and a half there had been a continuous series of supposed leaks from unidentified Pentagon or military sources, reported in the media. Those media reports of those leaks, though, were invariably prejudicial against the Marines, and that is especially odd given the dismissed charges. Would a Congress that supports the troops not be interested in military officials leaking details of an ongoing investigation that may be, for some, a violation of the UCMJ? Those supposed leaks also lead to another possible similarity with the initial beauchamp "Shock Troops"and TNR.
When the Beauchamp claim of soldiers running over stray dog with Bradley Fighting Vehicles was questioned, most especially by milbloggers familiar with Bradleys, TNR issued a report claiming to have spoken with an expert from the company that manufactured the Bradleys and that he stated that it was indeed possible to do so. TNR did not name that source.
That's when Bob Owens of the blog Confederate Yankee got involved, and made contact with TNR's source, Doug Coffey, Head of Communications, Land & Armaments, for BAE Systems, the Bradley IFV's manufacturer. Coffey readily admitted that he had been contacted by a staffer at TNR, but said that the questions he was asked were, according to Owen, ‘couched in generalities', such as "if it was possible for a dog to get caught in the tracks". In other words, while there was no need to keep the identity of the source undisclosed, TNR did so because that source did not confirm the claims made by Beauchamp, but TNR wanted it to appear that he did.
So was there an assortment of folks in the military giving the media a series of leaks prejudicial to the Marines, or, were members of the media cherry-picking or embellishing what they were told to make it ‘fit', and since the media did not name the sources, the source themselves could also not be sure that what the press claimed came from what he or she supposedly said! That is worth investigating, with persistence.
Then there is this, "Challenges for Moderate Muslims," written by By Husain Haqqani of the Center on Islam, Democracy and the Future of the Muslim World, May 31, 2006:
Again, the presupposition that the Haditha rampage story is accurate. But can the author or those moderate Muslims be faulted completely for jumping to that conclusion when a leading Congressman, with a high degree of credibility with the media and his party, had said it was so only days before? Our soldiers have been making heroic and heart warming attempts to win the hearts and minds of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. How much of that work, some done while they are facing mortal danger, is undone by the Haditha beauchamp?
If none of that suffices as grounds for a Congressional hearing, certainly this must:
That was from Strategy Page, which can of course be dismissed as some kind of right wing shill (Kos-talk), but this is from Mother Jones and the liberal ‘The Century Foundation':
Even while falling for the Haditha beauchamp as true, The Century Foundation realized that the Haditha fable would galvanize support for Jihad!
For nearly three years we have suffered through a myriad of Democrats and liberal media types infuriated that the Bush administration "outed" covert agent Valerie Plame, putting her life and even those of her husband and children in danger, simply to punish her husband, Joe Wilson, for "criticizing" the Bush lead up to the war in Iraq. Never mind that Wilson lied, or that Valerie Plame was not a covert agent.
The Haditha beauchamp has most certainly aided and abetted the recruitment of killers for Al Qaeda and other groups for the purpose of killing us and our soldiers. We, Americans, even Americans in high places in our government, did this to ourselves.
At the Yearly Kos 2006, Senator Harry Reid had this to say:
Here's your chance, Harry. The Democrats now controlling the Senate and the House have been anything but reticent about holding hearings and issuing subpoenas. If you and your party really support our troops, you will do so on this subject, and find out why this happened.
The rest of us should be very persistent in demanding that. Don't just let those who endanger and hurt our troops skulk away, only to come back again later. Hold the ground. Hold the truth. Being called a thug is a small price to pay.