Why we should be furious the Haditha massacre Marines got no jail time

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Corpses from the 2005 Haditha massacre

Orwellian-style agitprop; this best describes the latest article written by James Joyner for The Atlantic on the Haditha massacre, which refers to the event in which 24 unarmed Iraqi men, women and children were killed by a group of United States Marines in 2005 in the city of Haditha, in the western Iraqi province of Al Anbar.

Roster of Deaths and injuries of Iraqi’s in Haditha, as provided by United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ): 

House #1: 7 killed, 2 injured (but survived), 2 escaped:
1. Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali, 76—grandfather, father and husband. Died with nine rounds in the chest and abdomen.
2. Khamisa Tuma Ali, 66—wife of Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali
3. Rashid Abdul Hamid, 30.
4. Walid Abdul Hamid Hassan, 35.
5. Jahid Abdul Hamid Hassan, middle-aged man.
6. Asma Salman Rasif, 32.
7. Abdullah Walid, 4.
Injured: Iman, 8, and Abdul Rahman, 5.

Escaped: Daughter-in-law, Hiba, escaped with 2-month-old Asia

House #2: 8 killed, 1 survivor: Shot at close range and attacked with grenades
8. Younis Salim Khafif, 43—husband of Aida Yasin Ahmed, father.
9. Aida Yasin Ahmed, 41—wife of Younis Salim Khafif, killed trying to shield her youngest daughter Aisha.
10. Muhammad Younis Salim, 8—son.
11. Noor Younis Salim, 14—daughter.
12. Sabaa Younis Salim, 10—daughter.
13. Zainab Younis Salim, 5—daughter.
14. Aisha Younis Salim, 3—daughter.
15. A 1-year-old girl staying with the family.

Survived: Safa Younis Salim, 13.

House #3: 4 brothers killed
16. Jamal Ahmed, 41.
17. Marwan Ahmed, 28.
18. Qahtan Ahmed, 24.
19. Chasib Ahmed, 27.

Taxi— 5 killed: Passengers were students at the Technical Institute in Saqlawiyah
20. Ahmed Khidher, taxi driver.
21. Akram Hamid Flayeh.
22. Khalid Ayada al-Zawi.
23. Wajdi Ayada al-Zawi.
24. Mohammed Battal Mahmoud.

The Marine Corps dropped all charges against Sgt. Sanick P. De la Cruz, Captain Lucas McConnell, Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, LCpl. Stephen Tatum and Capt. Randy Stone; all charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani were dismissed by the military judge “citing unlawful command influence” and he was allowed to retire without loss of rank. 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson was acquitted of all charges stemming from the massacre after being charged with deleting photos of the deceased Iraqis in order to obstruct the investigation.

And in a final blow to the victims of the Haditha massacre, The United States military court determined, as of last week, that the last US Marine to be tried for his involvement in the Haditha massacre would serve not a single day in prison, instead Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich will receive only a demotion to the rank of private for his role in the killing of 24 innocent Iraqi’s.

During the trial Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz admitted that he urinated on the skull of one of the dead Iraqis and went on to testify that Marine Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich shot the passengers of the car himself from close range: “Sergeant Wuterich approached me and told me if anyone asks, the Iraqis were running away from the car and the Iraqi army shot them.”

In a prepared statement, Wuterich insisted, “in a resonant, calm voice after witness testimony, that he was only doing his duty”:

“The truth is, I don’t believe anyone in my squad behaved in any way that was dishonorable or contrary to the highest ideals that we all live by as marines.”

Despite all of this, Joyner’s piece for The Atlantic was callously entitled “Why We Should Be Glad the Haditha Massacre Marine Got No Jail Time” though, according to a tweet posted on Joyner’s twitter account, the title was the work of the editor and his proposed header was “Haditha Massacre Sentence Outrageous But Correct“:

“The staff sergeant’s light sentence for his role in a terrible 2005 incident may be disappointing, especially to the victims’ families, but the integrity of our justice system won out.”

Joyner argues in the case of Wuterich that “…ultimately, preserving the fairness and impartiality of the American legal system is more important, and we should be glad that it won out…” Joyner seemingly lauds the outcome of the Wuterich trial as America’s justice system triumphing, or “winning out” as he puts it, in respect to keeping sacred the rights of the accused.

Where then are the rights of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning? Where were the rights of Anwar Al-Awlaki and his son Abdul-Rahman Al-Awlaki? Why is there no appeal for the rights of Omar Khadr and all those still indefinitely detained in Guantánamo Bay detention facility?

Joyner ends his obdurate entry with the following:

“From O.J. Simpson to Casey Anthony to the hundreds of cases that don’t garner national attention, the America court system routinely exonerates people that “everyone knows” are guilty of murder. Even more frequently, people accused of major crimes are allowed to plea down to lesser ones when prosecutors fear they won’t be able to convict or otherwise don’t want to risk going to trial.

That’s not satisfying. It’s probably not even justice. But it beats the alternative.”

The alternative in the case of Wuterich and the other US Marines, who brutally slaughtered unarmed Iraqi civilians, would be that they would be found guilty and held accountable for their crimes against humanity; that the victims of US imperialism would not be branded collateral damage and tossed into the dust-bins of America’s seemingly unending historical relationship with invasion, occupation and war. 

The “integrity” of the United States justice system is a façade; there exists only an illusion of justice and order. And for this, we should be furious.

(Cross posted at Roqayah.com)

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