Marine Says Rules of Engagement Were Followed in Haditha

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported on a Marine’s first-hand account of what happened in Haditha. A sergeant with the Marines who participated in the fire fight in Haditha recounted, through his attorney, what happened. And it is consistent with what we’ve been saying is the terrorists’ MO: surrounding themselves with innocent women and children and then provoking American troops to fire at them.

A corporal with the unit leaned over to Wuterich and said he saw the shots coming from a specific house, and after a discussion with the platoon leader, they decided to clear the house, according to Wuterich’s account

“There’s a threat, and they went to eliminate the threat,” Puckett said.

A four-man team of Marines, including Wuterich, kicked in the door and found a series of empty rooms, noticing quickly that there was one room with a closed door and people rustling behind it, Puckett said. They then kicked in that door, tossed a fragmentation grenade into the room, and one Marine fired a series of “clearing rounds” through the dust and smoke, killing several people, Puckett said.

The Marine who fired the rounds — Puckett said it was not Wuterich — had experience clearing numerous houses on a deployment in Fallujah, where Marines had aggressive rules of engagement.

Although it was almost immediately apparent to the Marines that the people dead in the room were men, women and children — most likely civilians — they also noticed a back door ajar and believed that insurgents had slipped through to a house nearby, Puckett said. The Marines stealthily moved to the second house, kicking in the door, killing one man inside and then using a frag grenade and more gunfire to clear another room full of people, he said…

…Wuterich told his attorney that he never reported that the civilians in the houses were killed by the bomb blast and maintains that he never tried to obscure the fact that civilians had been killed in the raids. Whether Wuterich gave false information to his superiors is the focus of one of the military investigations. He said the platoon leader, who was on the scene, never expressed concern about the unit’s actions and never tried to hide them…

…After going through the houses, Wuterich moved a small group of Marines to the roof of a nearby building to watch the area, Puckett said. At one point, they saw a man in all-black clothing running from one of the houses they had searched. The Marines killed him, Puckett said.

They then noticed another man in all black scurrying between two houses across the street. When they went to investigate, the Marines found a courtyard filled with women and children and asked where the man was, Puckett said.

When the civilians pointed to a third house, the Marines attempted to enter and found a man with an AK-47 inside, flanked by three other men; the first Marine to enter tried to fire his weapon, but it jammed, Puckett said. The Marines then killed those four men.

This is a very different account from what was offered by Rep. Jack Murtha.

Sister Toldjah reminds us of the comments made by CNN reporter Arwa Damon who was embedded with the Marines who were involved in Haditha, although at a different time:

I know the Marines that were operating in western al Anbar, from Husayba all the way to Haditha. I went on countless operations in 2005 up and down the Euphrates River Valley. I was pinned on rooftops with them in Ubeydi for hours taking incoming fire, and I’ve seen them not fire a shot back because they did not have positive identification on a target.

I saw their horror when they thought that they finally had identified their target, fired a tank round that went through a wall and into a house filled with civilians. They then rushed to help the wounded — remarkably no one was killed.

I was with them in Husayba as they went house to house in an area where insurgents would booby-trap doors, or lie in wait behind closed doors with an AK-47, basically on suicide missions, just waiting for the Marines to come through and open fire. There were civilians in the city as well, and the Marines were always keenly aware of that fact. How they didn’t fire at shadows, not knowing what was waiting in each house, I don’t know. But they didn’t.

All Things Beautiful has more on the sergeant’s personal account.

Update: Be sure to watch Michelle Malkin’s interview with Ilario Pantano who was accused of the premeditated murder of insurgents. He was cleared of all charges, and has an interesting perspective on the “massacre in Haditha.”

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Keeping their houses in order

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