That’s what John Murtha statements sounded like. The conviction in his voice made it sound like there could be no doubt about what happened in Haditha nor what should happen to the guilty Marines. But as I suspected, there’s more than one side to this story. As Paul Harvey says “Now you’re going to hear the rest of the story.” Or at least another side to the story than we’ve heard from Jihad Johnnie Murtha.

Military investigators piecing together what happened in the Iraqi town of Haditha on Nov. 19, when Marines allegedly killed two dozen civilians, have access to video shot by an unmanned drone aircraft that was circling overhead for at least part of that day, military defense lawyers familiar with the case said in interviews.

I’ve read that UAV’s aren’t a military asset that get used on anything except high priority operations. That tells me that if UAV’s were being used, the military conducting operations thought there was something of substantial value in Haditha.

In addition to video from the drone, investigators have records of radio message traffic between the Marines and a command center, said military defense lawyers who have discussed the investigation with Marines who were at Haditha but who have not yet been formally retained by them.
“There’s a ton of information that isn’t out there yet,” said one lawyer, who, like the others, would speak only on the condition of anonymity because a potential client has not been charged. The radio message traffic, he said, will provide a different view of the incident than has been presented by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) and other members of Congress. For example, he said, contrary to Murtha’s account, it will show that the Marines came under small-arms fire after the roadside explosion.

If this radio traffic shows that Marines came under “small-arms fire” right after the IED blast, then that tears a big hole in Murtha’s account. That doesn’t mean that they reacted properly but it does mean that Murtha’s ‘briefing’ is factually challenged at best. It might also mean that Murtha’s account was just a cheap political stunt aimed at criticizing the Bush administration’s Iraq policy.

Two of the lawyers said the message traffic will show officers in higher headquarters knew early on that a large number of civilians had been killed and that they did not raise alarms. “The chain of command knew about it,” said one, and “the number of deaths was reported” by the commander of the company involved, Capt. Lucas M. McConnell of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion of the 1st Regiment of the 1st Marine Division.

If this paragraph is accurate, then the next logical question I’d ask is “How likely is it that Marines and their entire chain of command would lie”? This seems shaky at best to me because the tapes talk about gunfire immediately after the IED blast. We also know from past reporting that the IED that exploded was the type that needed detonation.

So let’s timeline this:

  • An IED that needs detonation from short range explodes.
  • The Marines come under small-arms fire.
  • The Marines’ commanders (a) “knew early on that a large number of civilians had been killed” and (b) “the number of deaths was reported” by the commander of the company involved, Capt. Lucas M. McConnell of Kilo Company.

Murtha’s made statements that this was covered up. This report indicates that civilian deaths were reported up the chain of command. That’s an odd way to cover something up, isn’t it? The only other explanation for Murtha’s opinion is that he thinks everyone in the chain of command is covering it up. We haven’t seen proof of that at all.

Frankly, I find Murtha’s version of events suspect at best. Here’s what we know:

  • Murtha hasn’t read any of the Marine investigation’s reports.
  • There’s video- and audio-tape of the attack, something that Murtha didn’t bother mentioning.
  • The civilian deaths were reported up the chain of command, something that Murtha infers didn’t happen. He said that Marines are covering Haditha up. Color me extremely skeptical of Jihad Johnnie’s version of events.

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Cross-post at Murtha Must Go

Cross-posted at California Conservative

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