Haditha Stories

The media backtracking on the Haditha incident has begun. The world was treated to a two week media cycle of accusations of premeditated murder and a Marine platoon on a vengeful rampage after the death of a comrade.

We have seen all this before, from Abu Gharib to accusations of atrocities by British soldiers in Basra. The press jumps on the story with little or no evidence, just a story that they know will play with their anti-war consumers and that will do harm to the Bush Administration.

But just for fun, I’m going to GUESS what really happened. Try this scenario on for size and let me know if you would more likely believe what is being reported in the press, or this little scenario.

A bunch of terrorists, the same terrorists who have kept the people of Ramadi in fear for several years now, planned an urban ambush on the Marines patrolling that town. These are the same guys who delivered the heads of the local police chief and several other community leaders in boxes to local tribal leaders recently.

They set up an IED between several houses which would blow when the Marines drove by. It exploded successfully, destroying the lead vehicle in the caravan. As soon as the patrol was halted in place, the terrorists commenced with small arms fire from their emplacements in the houses nearby.

The Marines, one of whom was killed and another two who were seriously injured in the middle of the street, set up a perimeter around their broken vehicle and began returning fire on the house. As was their only option, they stormed the first house to suppress the automatic machine gun fire, using hand grenades to clear rooms as they moved about.

The terrorists, knowing that the deaths of civilians are valuable to their cause, made sure that they had these “human shields” in the house to salvage what is a predictably losing proposition – i.e. attacking US Marines. While clearing the house, the Marines threw grenades in the rooms from which fire was being taken but where also they were to learn, civilians were being held hostage.

The terrorists moved on to several other houses, continuing to fire and repeating the tactic of using civilians as shields (similar to the terrorist tactic of surrounding their machine gun positions with children, and training video cameras on them so that in the unlikely event that Americans return fire on them, they have a nice propaganda piece). The Marines continued clearing the houses and more civilian deaths resulted

Upon the end of hostilities, the Marines returned to base and reported the action as realistically as possible. Such operations being common in the Iraq, the leadership evaluated the reports, accepted them as fact and moved on. Follow on actions were taken to compensate the civilians. Local Iraqi leadership saw little outside of the norm and took little exception to the event.

The next day, the terrorists or those sympathetic to their cause returned to photograph the area. One person, described by the western media as a “novice journalist” and the member of a (previously unknown) “human rights” organization, took video of area and spoke to the survivors of the “massacre”. This individual, recently released by US forces for the second time (both times for participating in terrorist activity), created a story that would “sell” well with the anti-US press. He coached the “witnesses” on what to say, including the treating doctor, who was clearly unsympathetic to American action in Ramadi (having lost family members in a previous battle).

Four months passed while the “journalist” tried to enlist the interest of the western media in his evidence of a so-called massacre. Finally, a Time Magazine correspondent took up the offer and issued a report that used as its basis the evidence as compiled by the terrorist partisan.

Although sprinkled with a minimal dose of caveats, the article was constructed to offer a general description of a vengeful massacre. Other media outlets jumped on the story, using accusations made in the Time article for their reporting. Soon a worldwide condemnation of the Marines ensued, including the headlining comments of a media savvy congressman who had been looking for any evidence to support his anti-war position.

But finally the Marines involved began to speak out. Through their lawyers, they stated that they had closely followed the rules of engagement. Their story, being part of the overall media blitz, could not be ignored. In order to report at all, the news outlets had to put some context around their prior accusations, admitting that they had no solid evidence of a massacre. The media backtracking began.

Like several investigations into “atrocities” conducted by coalition forces previously, a through investigation was conducted by the US Marine hierarchy. After months of painstaking inspection (including exhuming the bodies of the dead civilians), it was concluded that the rules of engagement were followed.

Several of the Marines were prosecuted for minor infractions, their careers were ruined, but under the UCMJ, there was little more the Marine command could do to undermine the perception that laws had been broken. The media reported on the investigation in a way that implied that all the facts “would never be known”, but faced with overwhelming detail, simply dropped the matter, rather than face further accusations of bias and poor journalist practices.

Meanwhile terrorists in Iraq continued to kill thousands of innocents, use civilians as “human shields” and make every attempt to undermine the government of Iraq… all of which was not reported in any great detail in the American media. And the Time magazine reporter, whose reporting in retrospect was taken apart by thousands of detailed blog entries and journalistic backtracking, was considered for a Pulitzer Prize in 2007.

That, ladies and gents, is a nice story. Let’s get together in six months or so and determine if it closer to the truth than the stories presently being reported today as “news”.

If I had a million bucks, I’d put it on my story.

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