Haditha - a ‘Dereliction of Duty’
It is seven years since 24 Iraqi civilians were massacred at Haditha by a US Marine squad. The sergeant in charge has accepted a plea bargain to admit ‘dereliction of duty’ rather than the more serious charge of manslaughter. Cynics will argue that the ‘man’ should have been left off the ‘manslaughter’ charge. Testimony from other squad members stated that Sgt. Frank Wuterich personally lined up five men as they arrived in a taxi and shot them. He is the only one of the squad to be found guilty. Six squad members had charges dropped or dismissed, including some in exchange for testifying at the trial. Among the 24 civilians were women and children and a man in a wheelchair.
While the events in Haditha occurred in November 2005, an investigation did not begin until a local human rights activist went public with video footage of the aftermath.
Alistair Leithead, a BBC reporter had this to say from Los Angeles, “The dropping of nine manslaughter charges against Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, 31, and the relative leniency of a maximum three month jail sentence will not be well received by those in Iraq who wanted justice for the death of family members. Especially after all other cases related to the killings have been dropped or acquitted.
The killings severely tainted the reputation of US forces in Iraq, but by 2005, they had already been hit hard by the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. The Haditha massacre is still an emotive issue in the country and prompted calls for US troops to be denied immunity from prosecution in the Iraqi justice system.”
“Will not be well received by those in Iraq who wanted justice” is a bit of an understatement. The plea bargain charge of ‘dereliction of duty’ is deeply insulting. As is a maximum three month sentence. It reflects the US military’s approach to Iraqi casualties. They were never counted. Estimates vary from 150,000 to over a million deaths. US casualties were counted.
Americans make a great deal about being a democracy and observing the rule of law. The outcome of this case undermines that claim. Haditha is indeed a dereliction of duty.