The Investigative Officer in in the LCpl. Sharratt Article 32 hearing has recommended that murder charges be dropped. This clears one of the defendants in the so-called "Haditha massacre." One innocent man and brave soldier has been spared further agony in this disgraceful prosecution.
I posted a copy of the IO's report here.
LCpl. Sharratt was charged with three murders in house number four (Sgt. Wuterich was charged with a fourth murder in that house).
The four dead Iraqis, the Ayed brothers, were described by Iraqi "witnesses" as having been herded into a closet and executed.
Here is how the Iraqi "witnesses" (enabled by the MSM) told the story of what happened in house number four. Their version is what prosecutors failed to prove:
Tim McGirk in Time (March 19, 2006):
The Marines raided a third house [later known as house number four], which belongs to a man named Ahmed Ayed. One of Ahmed's five sons, Yousif, who lived in a house next door, told Time that after hearing a prolonged burst of gunfire from his father's house, he rushed over. Iraqi soldiers keeping watch in the garden prevented him from going in. "They told me, 'There's nothing you can do. Don't come closer, or the Americans will kill you too.' The Americans didn't let anybody into the house until 6:30 the next morning." Ayed says that by then the bodies were gone; all the dead had been zipped into U.S. body bags and taken by Marines to a local hospital morgue. "But we could tell from the blood tracks across the floor what happened," Ayed claims.
"The Americans gathered my four brothers and took them inside my father's bedroom, to a closet. They killed them inside the closet."
The military has a different account of what transpired. According to officials familiar with the investigation, the Marines broke into the third house and found a group of 10 to 15 women and children. The troops say they left one Marine to guard that house and pushed on to the house next door, where they found four men, one of whom was wielding an AK-47. A second seemed to be reaching into a wardrobe for another weapon, the officials say. The Marines shot both men dead; the military's initial report does not specify how the other two men died. The Marines deny that any of the men were killed in the closet, which they say is too small to fit one adult male, much less four....In all, two AK-47s were discovered.
Wuterich's men pursued the search to the north side of Route Chestnut, where they put the women and children under guard and killed four men of another family. There on the north side they found the only AK-47 that was discovered that day -- apparently a household defensive weapon, of the type that is legal and common in Iraq. No one has claimed that the rifle had been fired....
A man cries, "This is an act denied by God. What did he do? To be executed in the closet? Those bastards!...."
A few hours later [after the first houses were cleared], Sharratt, Wuterich and Salinas approached a third and fourth house after noticing men they said were peering at them suspiciously. The investigative reports show that what happened there is unclear. Iraqi witnesses said the Marines angrily separated men and women into two lines before marching the men into the fourth house and shooting them. The three Marines told investigators they were searching for the men they had seen and separated the women into a safe area before Wuterich and Sharratt entered the house.
Sharratt told investigators that he saw a man raise an AK-47 rifle as if to shoot him. Sharratt said his gun jammed, but he grabbed his 9mm handgun and shot the attacker. He told investigators he saw another man with a rifle and shot him and two others because he "felt threatened." Wuterich also shot at the men, he said.
It's a good day so far! But there are more men suffering for defending our nation with their lives.Update: Clarice Feldman writes:
Here in word form is the investigating officer's report respecting Marine LCplSharratt in the Haditha case in which he concludes:
Due to the disparate accounts, it is tempting to simply conclude that this case should be tried to either exonerate LCp1 Sharratt or convict him of a crime. However, to adopt the government's position that because there are two differing accounts, a general court-martial is warranted is an abdication of the necessary process of determining whether reasonable grounds exist to warrant a court-martial. It is not as simple as stating there are two accounts so a trial is necessary. Analysis of these two versions must provide reasonable grounds that the Government version of events may be true. In analyzing the evidence, I read several hundred pages of interviews, documents, articles and statements (IE 33-105). Ultimately, there is only one statement by an eye witness to the events, LCp1 Sharratt, and his version of events is strongly corroborated by independent forensic analysis of the death scene. The government version is unsupported by independent evidence and while each statement has within it corroboration, several factors together reduces the credibility of such statements to incredible. In addition, the statements of the Iraqis are unclear, contradictory in part, and simply state self-interested conclusions as to what occurred within house 4. Finally, to believe the government version of facts is to disregard clear and convincing evidence to the contrary and sets a dangerous precedent that, in my opinion, may encourage others to bear false witness against Marines as a tactic to erode public support of the Marine Corps and mission in Iraq. Even more dangerous is the potential that a Marine may hesitate at the critical moment when facing the enemy.