A military investigation yet to be published is expected to reveal that US Marines embarked on the “methodical” killing of 24 Iraqis including women and children in what may be the worst incident of its kind since the 2003 invasion. A seperate inquiry is investigating whether there was a cover-up by the military, as claimed by war critics. Initial reports claimed one marine and 15 civilians were killed by a roadside bomb. But the military was forced to launch an investigation after footage filmed by a young survivor of the incident was made public.
It apparently reveals a different story. It’s now believed the killings came in response to a roadside bomb that claimed the life of one US soldier. It’s thought the shootings took place over a five-hour sweep through at least two homes containing women and children. Witnesses questioned by human rights groups say many of the victims were shot at such close range that the bullets went through the bodies and ploughed into the walls and floors of their homes.
According to unconfirmed reports, investigators could call for charges including murder, negligent homicide and filing a false report against the thirteen-member unit involved in the incident. Three Marines including the company commander have reportedly been relieved of their duties.
Democratic congressman John Murtha, a retired Marine and a vocal war critic, says there is “no question” that the US military tried to cover up the killing: “We don’t know how far it goes right up the chain of command, right up to General (Peter) Pace. When did he know about it? Did he order the cover up? Who ordered the cover up? I’m sure he didn’t but who said “We’re not going to publicise this thing, we’re not even going to investigate it”?
The killings in Haditha are just the latest in a series of such incidents to be investigated by the military – incidents which are nothing less than war crimes according to human rights and anti-war groups.