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Thread: Dealing with Haditha

  1. #41
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    The Economist 1 June op-ed:
    ...To regimes such as Iran's and Syria's, to say nothing of al-Qaeda, the torture at Abu Ghraib—like the travesty of Guantánamo—was a propaganda victory of the first order. Just possibly, America could have redeemed itself by bringing those responsible to account. But so far only the low-ranking have been punished. Donald Rumsfeld remains defence secretary despite his part in shaping a culture of contempt for the rules. George Bush's failure to hold his cronies to account for trashing his country's reputation will haunt American foreign policy for years to come. Now Haditha will be added to the melancholy litany of Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. Marines kicking down doors and murdering men, women and children in their pyjamas: nothing could better reinforce the caricature of trigger-happy superpowerdom on the rampage.

    It is, however, in America itself that Haditha may have its biggest and arguably most baneful impact. America did not quit Vietnam only because too many of its young men were dying. What counted more was the ebbing of the idea that America was at war for a purpose of which it could feel proud. As with My Lai, the events in Haditha are likely to shine a cruel light on the gap between the stated point of staying in Iraq—the bestowal and consolidation of freedom—and the grim reality, in which American soldiers are often feared and hated, and come in turn to see all Iraqis as enemies. Abu Ghraib could be written off as an aberration of the sort to be expected from low-level troops. The marines are another matter. America's finest, it will be said, were sent into the heart of darkness and exposed to horrors that made them murder. It will strengthen the arguments of those who want America to leave now.

    Succumbing to those arguments would be a tragic mistake. Whatever your views on the Iraq war, America has both a moral obligation to the Iraqis and a powerful interest of its own in making sure that it hands over to a government and army that have at least half a chance of holding the place together and preventing a complete collapse into anarchy and sectarian bloodletting. Iraq's own elected leaders say that for the present American troops should stay.

    In many wars, just or unjust, men commit crimes for which they should be tried and punished. The answer to Haditha is for Mr Bush at last to insist on transparency, justice and accountability. Giving up and shipping out would simply condemn many more Iraqis to a violent death.

  2. #42
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    Default Reflections on Haditha

    From our friend Bill Roggio (currently embedded with the Canadians in AF) at the Counterterrorism Blog - Reflections on Haditha. Bill was an embed with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, just after they liberated the Haditha Triad region from al-Qaeda's grip during Operation Rivergate last December.

    ... The Marines based in the Triad, as elsewhere along the Euphrates River Valley, were fighting a tough counterinsurgency against a ruthless and often unseen enemy. al-Qaeda and the insurgency routinely used women as human shields, attacked from the middle of crowded locations, homes, schools and mosques, and showed a reckless disregard for civilian casualties. Assassinations of local tribal leaders cooperating with the Iraqi government was the norm, as were mortar, grenade, RPG and roadside bombing attacks. al-Qaeda formed military hit squads designed to provoke the Marines into violent reactions and cause civilian casualties. The al-Qaeda teams were well armed, possessed new weapons, wore body armor and were well financed.

    The strict rules of engagement (ROE) the Marines had to adhere to was of great of interest to me. The rules of engagement defined the operating procedures for the Marines when patrolling, setting up checkpoints, searching homes, taking hostile fire, and reacting to ambushes or roadside bombs. When coming under fire, the Marines had to follow a predefined set of rules on the escalation of force, to ensure an inordinate amount of force was used, which can potentially alienate the population.

    I was curious about how the Marines felt about operating in a difficult combat environment. And I didn't ask the officers about the Rules of Engagement, I asked the privates and lance corporals and sergeants - the Marines who walked the streets each and every day and put their our lives on the line. To a man, the Marines I spoke to in the 3/1 stated that while the strict rules of engagement often put them at greater risk of death or injury, they understood the need follow these rules. They understood the war had switched from kinetic war fighting to standard counterinsurgency operations, where the support of the civilian population is paramount to the success of the mission. I watched these young men in operation, and am proud of their professionalism.

    The media will not tell you how the Marines of the 3/1 retook the Haditha Triad region during Operation Rivergate in the fall of 2005 with minimal civilian casualties. The operation was planned in such a meticulous manner and with the intention to safeguard the residents of the city of Haditha that no civilian, Marine or Iraqi casualties were taken. The media won't tell you how the Marines worked for days on end to ensure a safe environment for the Iraqi people to exercise their right to vote in the December 15 Parliamentary elections. You won't hear about how a young Marine, upon positively identifying a vehicle that was used to attack Marines and Iraqi civilians alike, chased the car, on foot, through the streets of Haqlaniyah, and held his fire while the car escaped as he feared injuring civilians. You won't hear about how,after Election Day, insurgents mortared the polling center in Barwana, and killed five children and wounded several others. The Marines of the 3/1 rushed the children to Al Asad Airbase for medical treatment, and saved the life of one Iraqi child.

    You won't hear the story about Ayman, an Iraqi policeman from the city of Haditha, who fought al-Qaeda during the summer of 2005. Ayman was captured by insurgents, beaten, tortured and then had his left hand and foot cut off as punishment for his opposition to the jihadis. He was subsequently dumped in front of his home and left to die. Fearing for his family's safety, Ayman hobbled to Haditha Dam, about 4 miles away, and sought the help of the Marines of the 3/1. Ayman was taken in, and a Marine staff sergeant was able to get a doctor from the United States to send a prosthetic foot, which allowed Ayman to walk again.

    These stories don't fit the preconceived story line of a military victimized, worn down and driven to depths of depravity due to a failed enterprise in Iraq, and so therefore they are not told.

    The charges leveled against the Marines of Kilo Company are serious and deserve to be investigated. The Marines deserve to have judgment withheld until the investigation is completed and the results released. Prejudging these Marines, as has been done in numerous media outlets and by a sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives, is irresponsible. No matter what the results of the investigation, anything but a charge of murder will now be viewed as whitewash. Our Marines deserve far better than this.

  3. #43
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    Default In Marines We Trust

    14 June Real Clear Politics commentary - In Marines We Trust by Kathleen Parker.

    ... Instead of launching an aggressive PR campaign to debunk the growing impression that such incidents, if true, are par for American forces, we get a presumption of guilt and an ethics course to fix a problem that isn't a problem. The failure to communicate responsibly and strategically in this case, coupled with the rush to judgment in the international court of public opinion, has hurt not only the Marines under investigation, but also all our military men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The drill is too familiar by now. The action begins with someone (apparently anyone will do) making an accusation; next come the cameras and the media saturation; and, Voila: we have a conviction before we have a formal charge. Whether the alleged perpetrators are prison guards at Abu Ghraib, lacrosse players at Duke University or Marines in Haditha, we are predisposed to assume guilt.

    In Iraq, we might add to our failure to communicate a failure of confidence in ourselves and of faith in our own. Given that Haditha is dense with insurgents whose tactics do not come from the Marine Corps playbook, is it possible that they, not we, killed the civilians, or that they used them as human shields? Killing civilians, after all, is the rule among those who seek to drive the U.S. from Iraq...

  4. #44
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    Default Washington Post on Haditha Investigation

    8 July Washington Post - Military Confirms Pre-deployment Training Failures by Tom Ricks.

    The U.S. military officer overseeing the investigation into 24 civilian killings in Haditha, Iraq, has concluded that Marine leadership failed multiple times, including their pre-deployment training, the tone set by commanders, and how information was reported up the chain of command, a Defense official said.

    Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the No. 2 officer in Iraq, found that commanders and staff at the regimental and division level were negligent in how they conveyed orders about how to deal with Iraqi civilians and also in how they responded to conflicting reports they received from units about the Haditha incident, the official said.

    Most of Chiarelli's "Findings and Recommendations" endorse the conclusions of an investigation led by Army Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell, the official said. But Chiarelli long has been concerned that the U.S. military was inadequately prepared to conduct an effective counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq. He also included thoughts about how to better prepare troops and commanders, the official added.

    "You've got to prepare for the fight you're in today," said a second Defense official, summarizing Chiarelli's findings on the military's inadequate training for counterinsurgency operations. "It's totally different" than fighting in Iraq two or three years ago, he noted.

    The Army, for example, tends in its training to emphasize using heavy firepower against the enemy, while classic counterinsurgency doctrine teaches that soldiers should use the minimal amount of force necessary to accomplish the mission.

    Also, the Army early in Iraq tended to focus on killing or capturing insurgents, while counterinsurgency doctrine teaches that the best way to deal with an insurgent is to persuade him to change sides or to desert. Also, in contrast to a spate of cases of the abuse of detainees, counterinsurgency theorists recommend treating captured fighters well, to encourage them to desert and to persuade others to give themselves up. Above all, the people are seen as the prize in the war, not as its playing field.

    When stacked up, Bargewell's exhaustive investigation stands more than four feet high. His report won't be released, but later this week, Chiarelli is expected to release a redacted version of his 30-page report. On Friday, Chiarelli gave his report to Army Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, but Casey isn't expected to ask for major changes, the official said...

  5. #45
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    Default Recent Reporting...

    Death in Haditha - Washington Post.

    U.S. Marines gunned down five unarmed Iraqis who stumbled onto the scene of a 2005 roadside bombing in Haditha, Iraq, according to eyewitness accounts that are part of a lengthy investigative report obtained by The Washington Post. Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, the squad's leader, shot the men one by one after Marines ordered them out of a white taxi in the moments following the explosion, which killed one Marine and injured two others, witnesses told investigators. Another Marine fired rounds into their bodies as they lay on the ground.
    U.S. Investigation Reveals New Details of Civilian Deaths in Haditha - VOA.

    A published report on the killing of Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines in Haditha in 2005 says witnesses saw the troops pull five unarmed Iraqis from a passing taxi and shoot them dead at point-blank range. The report obtained by The Washington Post newspaper reveals previously undisclosed details about the incident in Haditha. That incident occurred shortly after a roadside bomb killed one Marine and wounded two others.
    Marines' Photos Provide Graphic Evidence in Haditha Probe - Washington Post.

    Capturing images of war on their digital cameras, as many troops in Iraq have done, Marines took dozens of gruesome photographs of the 24 civilians who were killed in Haditha, Iraq, in November 2005. The images -- which investigators tracked down on several laptop computers and digital media drives, some in the United States -- provide visual evidence of a series of shootings outside a taxi and inside three homes that military criminal investigators have alleged were murders.
    U.S. Inquiry Backs Charges of Killing by Marines in Iraq - NY Times.

    An American government report on the killing of 24 Iraqis, including several women and children, by marines in the village of Haditha in 2005 provides new details of how the shootings unfolded and supports allegations by prosecutors that a few marines illegally killed civilians, government officials said yesterday. The report, by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, contains thousands of pages of interviews with marines, Iraqi Army soldiers who had accompanied them and Iraqi villagers who had seen the attack. The shootings followed a roadside bombing that killed a young lance corporal and wounded two other marines, said a senior Defense Department official and another official who had read the report.

  6. #46
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    William Langewiesche writing in Vanity Fair on Haditha. Don't necessarily agree with everything he concludes, but it's a well-written article with lots of additional details.

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    Default Loving the Enemy

    As a US tax payer, a civilian and as a human being, I really don't care if in fact the Marines in question blew away some civilians. I could care less if they did and I could care less what anyone thinks of me over it. It seems apparent to me that the ROE are causing US deaths. Our troops are being killed for the sake of PR -that's the bottom line and subsequently intelligent people are wringing their hands over why Iraq is becoming a quagmire. The ROE serve no purpose except to increase the visceral loathing jihadis have for us and our way of life. Our enemy has no reason to fear us, none what so ever and their assets, the civilian population, has no reason to respect us or to regard us as liberators in any way. Why would they? We invade and don't even attempt to stop looters. We won't go all out to kill our enemies and in fact appear afraid of them. What else would civilians believe for cryin' out loud? We pick up our fallen enemies and give them state of the art medical care. What would you think if you had a sick kid and couldn't get any real help for the kid, then along comes the all powerful Americans, they wound one of the men trying to kill them then they turn around and take care of that person all the while your kid remains sick and in need of treatment. And they're supposed to regard us as saviors and great, wonderful people? DUHH! Would you trust such people? I sure the heck wouldn't. Would you tip them off to a potential ambush when they won't even shoot back half the time and try to stay alive? Love your enemy, enable them to live and oppress the people you're supposed to be saving. We used to call that a cluster fu** but I guess the rules of interpretation (ROI) have changed, huh? There is only one way to play Taps regardless of what lifers and politicians say.

  8. #48
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    It seems apparent to me that the ROE are causing US deaths. Our troops are being killed for the sake of PR -that's the bottom line and subsequently intelligent people are wringing their hands over why Iraq is becoming a quagmire. The ROE serve no purpose except to increase the visceral loathing jihadis have for us and our way of life.
    I think you will find that the great majority of members here hold a completely different view, and that your observations on the rules of engagement are in fact incorrect.

    Are you speaking from the experience of having actually served under the CENTCOM Standing ROE, in Iraq?

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    JC is right. I have never felt the ROE hindered any operation or mission. If you are shot at, shoot back, just hit what you aim at. During two tours, I have never seen a chain of command question the decision of a leader during any type of engagement. Never.
    Also, ground troops are pretty much given the OK to fire in many non-standard cases, i.e., someone is laying in an IED. More often than not, units sometimes use too much force that wasn't necessary.

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    As a french, i have little information about this event, except what i read on this forum. I recommand you this article:
    http://www.foreignaffairs.org/200611...-we-fight.html
    This reminds me a (quite) similar case for French Army in Ivory Coast on may 2005: one rebel was arrested by a mountain's troop platoon in the demilitarized zone held by Force Licorne. The rebel, having been convinced for rape, murder and racket, was injured by our soldiers. He died during the travel to hospital. Six months later, unofficial voices (jealous officers maybe) said to the press that the Ivorian was murdered (suffocation in a plastic bag) by the platoon sergeant. But the case was occulted by general Poncet, commander of Force Licorne (a former special force leader). This triggered a violent press campaign against French Army in Ivory Coast, by both ivorian and french journalists. Poncet was convinced for his silence, as were the platoon leader, the platoon sergent, and the regiment leader. In my regiment, there was no doubt the rebel would have been released and, even if we condemned the murder, we could understand why it happened. Furthermore, many of us thought our soldiers weren't sufficiently backed by political leaders and intellectual elites. This was difficult in my regiment because it suffered 8 casualties on november 2004 following a bombing by Pdt Gbagbo's ukranian-piloted su-25.
    I will pray for your fellow Marines that face trial. Your soldiers, nothwithstanding their defaults (and everyone has one), fight for each other, like any soldier in any war.
    Best
    Sous-Lieutenant (2/Lt) (reserve) Stéphane TAILLAT
    PS: many apologizes for my syntax and grammar.

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    Default bone makers and social workers

    Jcustis, my time was in Nam, not Iraq. JKM: "..pretty much given the OK to fire in many non-standard cases" "..just hit what you aim at". That's a large gray administrative discretionary gap there if you ask me and it's what I thought it pretty much was over there - social workers directing the grunts. ROE are at the fire team, squad, platoon level, not with D.C. suits who step on bona fide career men and make them toe the political line. I'm not questioning or doubting the balls and adrenalin and committment of the grunts and career officers but it seems it's time to pull the plug and bring you all home. I don't see where that hot-shot Pretareus (sp) is going to make much difference either being the CO of it all. He is tethered to D.C. and you can't tell me any different.You're supposed to fight but not hate, kill but be nice and politically correct about it. I bet there are rules against taking souvenirs off dead jihadis too, aren't there? It isn't working with jihadis this war and we all know it. Either fight to win or come home, you bear no shame.

  12. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by JKM4767 View Post
    JC is right. I have never felt the ROE hindered any operation or mission. If you are shot at, shoot back, just hit what you aim at. During two tours, I have never seen a chain of command question the decision of a leader during any type of engagement. Never.
    Also, ground troops are pretty much given the OK to fire in many non-standard cases, i.e., someone is laying in an IED. More often than not, units sometimes use too much force that wasn't necessary.
    ROEs change and mature over time, and this is most likely what we're seeing now. I think you get to the heart of it, JKM, when you talk about using too much force. Or using that force in the wrong location or against the wrong target. This has been a constant throughout historical COIN efforts. The wise commanders figured it out, the less gifted stuck with "more of the same." But it's also become clear (and did historically as well) that ROE are necessary in this sort of conflict. Even if they are not formally spelled out (as was the case during the Indian Wars), they are needed and have existed.

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    But it's also become clear (and did historically as well) that ROE are necessary in this sort of conflict. Even if they are not formally spelled out (as was the case during the Indian Wars), they are needed and have existed.
    And that's a perfect point to support the issue that Rules Of Interaction (on the non-kinetic side) may be more important at times.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    And that's a perfect point to support the issue that Rules Of Interaction (on the non-kinetic side) may be more important at times.
    Exactly. This sort of thing did exist within the Frontier Army, although in a very rough and undocumented form. The majority of the Army's interactions with Indians were of a peaceful nature, as opposed to combat operations. Some commanders (typically at the company level but sometimes at regimental level) did come out with more or less official guidance, but that was rare.

    It should be mentioned, though, that the Frontier Army had a huge experience and knowledge pool to draw from. We're only now starting to create that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by taillat View Post
    PS: many apologizes for my syntax and grammar.
    Your English is much better than my French. No problemo (I think that's either Spanish or Austrian).

    In my regiment, there was no doubt the rebel would have been released and, even if we condemned the murder, we could understand why it happened.
    <snip>
    I will pray for your fellow Marines that face trial. Your soldiers, nothwithstanding their defaults (and everyone has one), fight for each other, like any soldier in any war.
    We certainly must not view war through the lens of armchair civilian peacetime law. Horrible things happen. But they happen more and more if we tolerate those that are on the fringe, understandable or not. Your example of vigiliante-ism is closer to the fringe, but most versions of the Haditha story are well down the slippery slope. (I do not pretend to know the truth of what happened). Not that either is OK, but I see a large difference between the two.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    ROEs change and mature over time, and this is most likely what we're seeing now. I think you get to the heart of it, JKM, when you talk about using too much force. Or using that force in the wrong location or against the wrong target. This has been a constant throughout historical COIN efforts. The wise commanders figured it out, the less gifted stuck with "more of the same." But it's also become clear (and did historically as well) that ROE are necessary in this sort of conflict. Even if they are not formally spelled out (as was the case during the Indian Wars), they are needed and have existed.
    You wouldn't believe what I have seen units do. One support unit running a logistics patrol at night shot up a vehicle with a .50 CAL for "driving at them". The irony is that the Patrol was driving on the wrong side of the road.
    Maturity and situational awareness are paramount to effectively operating in COIN and unfortunately, so many leaders lack that. Then again, in many cases, we are asking very junior guys to take an extrordinary amount of responsibility. I've also seen units use a rediculous amount of force during operations. Simple searches and guys are breaking people #### in their house, etc. Just unecessary actions that are so detrimental to building relations. Once again, that is leaders lacking maturity and control, thus undoing any progress they've made. What many people don't understand the about ROE is that it only takes one person, one leader, one situation to cause a ton of irreversible damage. Not to mention Arabs are extremely sensitive people and are easily offended, especially by the big, bad Coalition.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    This article written awhile back from Samarra has stuck with me regarding ROE in Iraq:


    Five days after the grenade attack, Lt. Call and his men from the 2nd platoon were planning an afternoon "hearts and minds" foot patrol to hand out soccer balls to local kids.

    As Call sat in the schoolhouse, preparing to go out, he heard two loud bursts from the .50-caliber machine gun on the roof.

    Specialist Michael Pena, a beefy 21-year-old from Port Isabel, Texas, had opened fire. Boom-boom-boom. Boom-boom-boom.

    Call and his men dashed out the front door. Pena had shot an unarmed Iraqi man on the street. The man had walked past the signs that mark the 200-yard "disable zone" that surrounds the Alamo and into the 100-yard "kill zone" around the base. The Army had forced the residents of the block to leave the houses last year to create the security perimeter.

    American units in Iraq usually fire warning shots. The Rakkasans don't.

    A few days later, Call said his brigade command had told him, "The Rakkasans don't do warning shots." A warning shot in the vernacular of the Rakkasans, Call said, was a bullet that hit one Iraqi man while others could see.

    "That's how you warn his buddy, is to pop him in the face with a kill shot?" Call said incredulously. "But what about when his buddy comes back with another guy ... that and the other 15 guys in his family who you've made terrorists?"


    Looking at the man splayed on the ground, Call turned to his medic, Specialist Patrick McCreery, and asked, "What the f--- was he doing?"

    McCreery didn't answer. The man's internal organs were hanging out of his side, and his blood was pouring across the ground. He was conscious and groaning. His eyelids hung halfway closed.

    "What ... did they shoot him with?" McCreery asked, sweat beginning to show on his brow. "Did someone call a ... ambulance?"

    The call to prayer was starting at a mosque down the street. The words "Allahu Akbar" - God is great - wafted down from a minaret's speakers.

    The man looked up at the sky as he heard the words. He repeated the phrase "Ya Allah. Ya Allah. Ya Allah." Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.

    He looked at McCreery and raised his finger toward the house in front of him.

    "This my house," he said in broken English.

    McCreery reached down. With his hands cupped, he shoved the man's organs back into his body and held them in place as Call unwrapped a bandage to put around the hole.

    "He's fading, he's fading," McCreery shouted.

    Looking into the dying man's eyes, the medic said, "Haji, haji, look at me," using the honorific title reserved for older Muslim men who presumably have gone on Hajj - pilgrimage - to Mecca.

    "Why? Why?" asked the man, his eyes beginning to close.

    "Haji, I don't know," said McCreery, sweat pouring down his face.

    An Iraqi ambulance pulled up and the Humvees followed. They followed the man to the hospital they'd raided a few days earlier. The soldiers filed in and watched as the man died.

    Call said nothing. McCreery, a 35-year-old former foundry worker from Levering, Mich., walked toward a wall, alone. He looked at the dead man for a moment and wiped tears from his eyes.

    A few days later, Call's commander asked him to take pictures of the entrails left by the man Pena had shot, identified as Wissam Abbas, age 31, to document that Abbas was inside the sign warning of deadly force.

  18. #58
    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    This article written awhile back from Samarra has stuck with me regarding ROE in Iraq:
    The unit highlighted in this story was perhaps the more ruthless and uncontrollable unit in theater during OIF III. Aside from numerous OPSEC issues I see with that story, I see a unit somewhat out of control with a cavalier attitude towards what they were doing. The ROE doesn't cover a lot of what the Rakkasans did last rotation, to include many of the ugly things. Common sense, decency, and professional warfighting doesn't allow you to pull some of the things the Rakkasans pulled this last time. Keeping track of unit and individual kills is like keeping track of RBIs or stolen bases in baseball. Once emphasis is placed on the importance of shooting people in the face, that becomes some soldiers' primary focus. All else becomes ancillary.

    So how does this relate to Haditha and dealing with the aftermath? The problems go directly back to leadership. How can a unit fromt he 101st allow 3 privates and 2 NCOs to dress in civilian clothes, get drunk, go out into the South Baghdad area, rape and kill a young girl, and then come back to the FOB undetected? Further, how can a company of Marines go through Haditha immediately after an IED and start looking for any reason to tear the place up?

    We have some outstanding wheat in terms of leadership in the Army and Marine Corps. We also have our fair share of chaff that need to be seperated from the wheat.

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    Default Haditha Dismissal of Charge (merged thread)

    Haditha Dismissal of Charge - LCpl Justin Sharratt, USMC. Signed by LtGen James Mattis, USMC.

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    Dont you just love lack of accountability. And watch, America will forget it even happened in a couple of weeks as a hot new scandal from hollywood pops up.

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