News Release

Rep. Murtha and Haditha

JOHN SIFTON
Sifton is a researcher with Human Rights Watch. He said today: “Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, a retired Marine colonel, has provided key new facts about the Haditha incident. If what Rep. Murtha is saying regarding the Haditha incident is indeed true, this can only be considered a serious war crime. Retaliations or revenge killings of
civilians are not in a legal gray area, they are war crimes, pure and simple. Unfortunately, the military has a bad record when it comes to holding its personnel, especially officers, accountable for grave misconduct or crimes. Most of the punishments have been limited to administrative penalties, docking of pay, reduction in rank, discharge, etc., rather than criminal sanctions. Yet it’s been six months since the incident; there has been more than enough time to work towards some charges. If the facts are as alleged, it’s time for the responsible parties to be court-martialed. It’s time for real accountability, not fines and slaps on the wrist.”

Sifton added: “Additionally, if what Rep. Murtha is saying is correct, that means that the military’s account of what happened six months ago was flat-out wrong. At the time, the claim had been that an improvised explosive device had gone off, killing the civilians. It now appears that the civilians were shot at close range, execution-style, by the American troops.”
More Information

JOE HATCHER
Hatcher was in Iraq for 13 months with Charlie Troop. He said today: “I have a problem understanding how something like this could happen. There’s no rationale for how the soldiers acted. I very much appreciate what Murtha is doing.”
More Information
More Information

RAHUL MAHAJAN
Mahajan is a freelance journalist and author who reported from occupied Iraq during the first U.S. assault on Fallujah in 2004. He said today: “Eyewitnesses and journalists have reported, and Rep. Murtha has confirmed, that U.S. Marines murdered 23 Iraqi civilians, many of them women and children, in Haditha last November, as revenge for the death of a comrade. … The parallel to My Lai is unmistakable — the deliberate gunning down of unarmed noncombatants. Like the My Lai massacre, the Haditha massacre is also simply the tip of the iceberg. Although it represents an extreme of cold-blooded brutality, it joins countless incidents where noncombatants have been killed either deliberately or through negligence so broad that it amounts to depraved indifference to human life. When in Fallujah in April 2004, I myself witnessed the widespread shooting of noncombatants by snipers and even the targeting of ambulances; see Empire Notes.”

Mahajan added: “Although not all U.S. soldiers act like the Marines in Haditha, there is a pervasive atmosphere of racist contempt for Iraqis and indifference to their fate. Soldiers who are trained from the beginning with chants of ‘Kill! Kill! Kill! Blood makes the grass grow’ are put in situations where they are dealing with a civilian population trying to go about ordinary life. It is no surprise that atrocities like these occur; they are inevitable in an occupation like this one. As the mother of one of the soldiers in the My Lai massacre told Seymour Hersh 35 years ago, ‘I gave them a good boy, and they sent me back a murderer.’ It’s time to end this war; the damage to Iraq, to American soldiers, and to our moral culture is too great.”
More Information

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167