The Haditha Libels Require Investigation

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."

beauchamp (n)

a story or narrative demeaning to or condemnatory of American military personnel that is readily and even eagerly accepted and presented to others as fact without due diligence to customary norms, of critical fact checking or the legal principle of innocent until proven guilty.
"Our troops overreacted [at Haditha] because of the pressure on them and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood..."  - Congressman John Murtha, May 2006
From Al-Jazeera Factbox: Haditha
John Murtha, Democratic congressman and former marine and war critic, says the military attempted a cover-up and accuses the marines of killing "in cold blood".

Some US media compare Haditha to the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam, when US soldiers ran amok in the village, and killed some 500 people, mostly women, children and old men.

US politicians briefed on the investigation are quoted as saying several marines, led by a sergeant, went from house to house killing people and also killed four students and a taxi driver in a car that approached the scene. Photographs of the corpses suggested some victims had been kneeling when killed." and
"You [American soldiers] know you've already killed enough innocents to make Ghengis Khan recoil in horror and revulsion and that the atrocities you committed at Haditha...represent only a small part of the larger bloodier picture." - Adam Gadahn, aka Azzam the American, Al Qaeda video, July 2006
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:

    1. The Marines were presumed guilty well before the investigation and they had their rights to self defence exercised, and it was not just Murtha, as I'll show.
    2. There were months and months of supposed leaks from the military's investigation that were invariably reported in a way that seemed to confirm the Marines' guilt. Was there manipulation of those supposed leaks?
    3. The reporting and widespread acceptance of the Marines' guilt at Haditha was and is a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda and other insurgencies engaged in killing American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and can reasonably be assumed to have led therefore to the deaths of at least some Americans as a result. A gift of a massive propaganda boon was freely given to our enemies, and it was made in the U.S.A.
    4. All but one of the Marines facing murder charges have had the charges dropped, yet each of those men who were risking their lives in combat in the service of this country were themselves publicly denied the elementary right of self defense that is among the rights that they and previous generations of American soldiers have risked and given their lives to protect for others. Their families have suffered immeasurably, seeing day after day and month after month their loved ones vilified as cold blooded killers.
    5. There may well have been undue pressure put on the military, including by members of the Bush administration as well as by Democrats and the media, that had the effect of denying the accused Marines fair treatment.
    6. The false understanding of what happened at Haditha has made the appeal to moderate Muslims to come forward outspokenly against Islamic extremism far more difficult, while our soldiers risk their lives every day sincerely and even heroically attempting to win the hearts and minds of such Muslims.
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 [Haditha] is as bad as Abu Ghraib, if not worse." (May 2006)

"They [the Marines/Military] knew the day after this happened that it was not as they portrayed it. They knew that they (Marines) went into the rooms, they killed the people in the taxi. There was no firing at all. And this comes from the highest authority in the Marine Corps, so there's no question in my mind," (May 2006)

"There was no firefight. There was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of thepressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood" (May 19, 2006)

"They actually went into the houses and killed women and children. And there was about twice as many as originally reported by Time." (May 19, 2006)
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:
"Raging in Iraq is an intractable war. Our soldiers are fighting valiantly, but we have Abu Ghraib and Haditha-where 24 or more civilians were allegedly killed by our own..."
Senator Reid to Salon Magazine:

"We've got Haditha, we've got Abu Ghraib, and we've got Guantánamo..."
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:

WALLACE: Senator Levin, first of all, is Murtha right about Haditha or is he involved in a rush to judgment about an investigation that hasn't even been completed yet? And secondly, are these isolated incidents, or is Murtha right when he says that they say something about the overall mission going wrong?

LEVIN: Well, the evidence is really very compelling that we've seen that there was at Haditha killing of innocent people. I mean, it's overwhelming evidence. Should we reach a final judgment on that? We should not. These people should be given their rights in court, will be given their rights in court. But the evidence, I've got to say, is kind of overwhelming as to what happened when you look at the reports that came out of Haditha.

WALLACE: And what about the idea that this says something about the overall mission?

LEVIN: I think that we've, frankly, been there so long that we're going to see quite a few of these incidents. They're intolerable. We train our people not to kill innocent folks. But will there be a few of these? I'm afraid there will be. There are in other wars. There will be in this war and are, I'm afraid, in this war. But is it a pattern? No. I think 99 percent of our troops are fighting professionally. They've been trained well. I hope it's not a pattern, but there will be a few.

WALLACE: Senator Warner?

WARNER: ...Our committee, Senator Levin and I, will be very prompt in providing oversight as to how the Army went about the procedures and the findings. But when you say the evidence is overwhelming - we must wait until all the evidence is in before we describe it as overwhelming or otherwise conclusive.

LEVIN: There's also evidence of a cover-up here, too, by the way. It's not just evidence of wrongdoing at the events on the ground, but it was a very long period of time before the Army acknowledged that...
Senator Joseph Biden is quoted by CNN from an appearance on NBC's ‘Meet the Press, and note the odd wording:
"Biden told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the accountability for Haditha and other alleged atrocities in Iraq should go all the way up to Rumsfeld."
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
Alan Colmes: When Jack Murtha talks about civilians being killed in cold blood by troops, is that hurtful to the Democratic Party? Is that rhetoric difficult for you to embrace...?...Did Murtha say that in the right way?

Obama: You know, I don't have the exact quotes in front of me. What I know is here is a guy who served our country. I would never second guess John Murtha... I think he's somebody who knows of which he speaks.
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:

"This is the kind of war you have to win the hearts and minds of the people. And we're set back every time something like this happens. This is worse than Abu Ghraib."
He then quoted Murtha again:
"I will not excuse murder, and this is what happened," Murtha said. "This investigation should have been over two or three weeks afterward and it should have been made public and people should have been held responsible for it."
(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:
"We all know that war is hell, and those who have fought in wars, unlike our president, vice-president, and Secretary of Defense, know the horrors of war firsthand. But there is no rationale or defense for what a group of Marines did in Haditha last November..."
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:
Steve Soto of The Left Coaster Endorses Hillary
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:
Murtha: ‘Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.'

Lt. Gen Mattis: "The challenges of this combat environment put extreme pressures on our Marines. Notwithstanding, operational, moral and legal imperatives demand that we Marines stay true to our own standards and maintain compliance with the law of war in this morally bruising environment.
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:
"Now that we have reached the one place we most wanted to avoid, it will not do to focus blame narrowly on the Marine unit suspected of carrying out these killings and ignore the administration officials, from President Bush on down, who made the chances of this sort of disaster so much greater by deliberately blurring the rules governing the conduct of American soldiers in the field."
Again, one would think ‘blame' came after ‘suspected' became ‘proven'. Then there is Time magazine, May 2006:
"But one morning last November, some members of Kilo Company apparently didn't attempt to distinguish between enemies and innocents. Instead, they seem to have gone on the worst rampage by U.S. service members in the Iraq war, killing as many as 24 civilians in cold blood."
Writing for Newsweek (Out of Control June 2, 2006), Eleanor Clift had this:
"Whether the Haditha rampage is an understandable occurrence in war, however horrific, or whether the administration bears some blame in overstressing the troops will be debated."
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:
‘The systematic execution of civilians, including women and children, evoked memories of Vietnam, another war that had soured. Lt. William Calley led his platoon into the village of My Lai...'
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:

Last week, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, a decorated retired Marine colonel who is opposed to the war in Iraq, said the investigation of the Haditha deaths would show that the civilian toll was higher than 15 and that the Marines killed them "in cold blood." He said he received his information from U.S. commanders.
Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said reports "from the highest level" found the killings took place in the absence of firing from insurgent forces.'
AP was making similar claims:

Pentagon officials, speaking Wednesday to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity in Washington, said evidence collected about the deaths of 24 Iraqis in Haditha supported allegations that Marines deliberately fired on civilians, including women and children.
As was NBC News:

‘One military official says it appears the civilians were deliberately killed by the Marines, who were outraged at the death of their fellow Marine. "This one is ugly," one official told 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:
"After years of being intimidated by radical Islamists and authoritarian regimes, Muslim moderates have gradually started to organize within the Muslim world as well as in Europe and North America. But the moderates cannot successfully invite fellow believers to embrace western ideals of tolerance and liberal democracy if every few months the west itself stands in the dock for atrocities such as Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and now Haditha...The U.S. decision to investigate allegations of a massacre of civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha might help overcome the outrage caused by such a tragic event. At the same time, it would be useful to inquire into the reasons why soldiers are periodically violating their own ethics, be it at Abu Ghraib or in Haditha."
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:
"In the case of Haditha, the terrorists' media strategy worked and caused a lot of problems. An anti-war congressman claimed that a cover-up of cold-blooded murder by the Marines occurred. There was a controversy that has gone on for a number of months. And al Qaeda will come away with articles about massacres that never happened. It is a partial media victory for the terrorists - mostly because the lies have been somewhat unraveled, but the truth will not get the same airplay as the false claims.

"That said, a partial victory is still a victory, and it will have a price that is yet to be determined. The new recruits will give them a larger talent pool - and that means they may find terrorists who can infiltrate into the West and carry out attacks like those of 9/11 and the London attacks of 2005. The ammo given to the anti-war movement will make it harder to sustain military operations against terrorists - and the investigations will have ripple effects around the military. As a result, Al-Qaeda may have more secure safe havens in the future."
The Lie Mutually Agreed Upon by Harold C. Hutchison, July 29, 2007
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':
"Long before the broader American public had even heard the name Haditha, the alleged massacre that unfolded there represented a major public relations coup for insurgents in Iraq eager to portray U.S. forces as cowboy occupiers with contempt for Iraqi life. The morbid caricature of crazed American gunmen executing entire Iraqi families seems tailor-tailor made for the skilled propagandists who galvanize support across the Muslim world for violent Jihad, and erode America's credibility in the broader international community. But in dismissing the reporters so hastily, the spokesman brushed aside the most damning-and for the insurgents, the most promising-aspect of these horrible allegations: the fact that they appear to be true."
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:
"During the Clinton years, the House Government Reforms Committee issued 1,052 subpoenas to the Clinton administration and more than that to the Democratic National Committee...That's a lot of subpoenas. How many do you think they've issued regarding Abu Ghraib or Haditha? Zero."
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.