Under the fold:
Time Magazine first reported in March of 2006 that the military's original description of a firefight that had occurred on November 2005 in the Iraqi town of Haditha was inaccurate.
The next day, a Marine communique from Camp Blue Diamond in Ramadi reported that Terrazas and 15 Iraqi civilians were killed by the blast and that "gunmen attacked the convoy with small-arms fire," prompting the Marines to return fire, killing eight insurgents and wounding one other.
But over the ensuing months, eyewitness reports from Iraqis indicated that the civilians had not died in the bomb blast; they had been killed by the Marines, who went on a "rampage" and killed 15 people--including seven women and three children--in their homes.
In January, after Time presented military officials in Baghdad with the Iraqis' accounts of the Marines' actions, the U.S. opened its own investigation, interviewing 28 people, including the Marines, the families of the victims and local doctors. According to military officials, the inquiry acknowledged that, contrary to the military's initial report, the 15 civilians killed on Nov. 19 died at the hands of the Marines, not the insurgents.
On May 18, Representative John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) revealed at a press conference that the Haditha incident was "much worse than reported in Time magazine."
The right wing infosphere launched another swift boat campaign against Murtha, stating he had "condemned" the Marines and accused him, once again of being a "traitor." (No, I won't provide links to any of that.)
Today, the New York Times published this:
Files Contradict Account of Raid in Iraq
A military investigator uncovered evidence in February and March that contradicted repeated claims by marines that Iraqi civilians killed in Haditha last November were victims of a roadside bomb, according to a senior military official in Iraq…
So, it's a safe bet that something happened in Haditha other than what the military initially reported, and it wasn't good.
Don’t get too taken by all the "devil dog, steely-eyed killer" image of the standard United States Marine you may have been exposed to over the years. Yeah, these guys are trained to fight like demons, but they're also disciplined. For that discipline to have broken down in Haditha, as it appears to have, signals to me that something terribly wrong happened--most likely a complex set of circumstances that caused these Marines to react "incorrectly" in the conduct of a type of tactical mission that has shown time and again to produce little if any operational or strategic benefit.
I'm equally disturbed that Congressman Murtha was once again swift boated for bringing up a situation that had already been revealed by open press sources. We're in a sorry state when speaking the truth and informing the public is described as treasonous.
I'm incredibly disturbed that the military once more appears to have tried to cover up bad news. We have no way of knowing, just now, where the false story about Haditha originated, just as we can't tell who first put out the first false reports of the circumstances of Pat Tillman's death, or of Jessica Lynch's capture and eventual rescue.
But wherever the spin started, the result is the same. We can't trust anything we hear from official government sources. As I discussed in You Can't Handle the Truthiness, a sole superpower's most important instrument of policy may well be the credibility of its information environment. And that is most like the largest casualty of America's woebegone excursion to Iraq.
We're still hearing "stay the course" and "complete the mission" talk from the Bush administration. But we have yet to hear specifics on what the "course" or the "mission" might actually be.
That's what disturbs me the most. The Iraqi security forces are showing no signs of "standing up" and the new Iraqi government appears to be sitting down on the job. There seems to be no end in sight to this nightmare.
And American soldiers and Marines will continue to be put in Haditha-like situations for reasons our national leadership can't (or won't) explain to us.