Marines on Trial for Haditha Murders Massacre for a Fallen Comrade?

By Ralf Hoppe

Part 4: Contradictions, Wherever One Looks

There is a wealth of evidence and testimony for what happened in Haditha in the hours that followed, and yet there are contradictions wherever one looks. Some of the parties involved -- witnesses, victims, perpetrators -- feared for their lives. Memories become distorted and are filtered and twisted into defensive statements. The witnesses at Camp Pendleton may be under oath, but they could be lying nonetheless.

The Marines would later testify that they came under fire immediately after the explosion. This is conceivable, but unlikely. Hiding and shooting at individual soldiers is not the typical pattern of attack in this type of area, especially not in broad daylight. Even if that had been the case, the Marines would have eventually found and captured or killed the sniper or snipers. But the most damning piece of evidence is that none of the 11 Marines was hit by a single bullet on that entire morning.

It is more likely that the attackers took advantage of the confusion to escape.

The Marines scattered around the three Humvees. Some were crouching and others were standing upright. There was no enemy in sight. It was silent.

The stations of a catastrophe: How the Haditha massacre unfolded.

The stations of a catastrophe: How the Haditha massacre unfolded.

A car approached the group from the opposite direction. It was a white, four-door Opel, a private taxi with five men inside. Three of them, students, were very young: Mohammed Battal Ahmed, 21, Wajdi Ayada Abd, 20 and Akram Hamid Falyeh, 19. The fourth passenger was Khalid Ayada Abd, an employee at a refinery in southern Iraq and the brother of one of the students, vacationing in his hometown of Haditha.

The driver's name was Ahmed Muslah. He was 30 and soon to be married. The men were on their way to Baghdad, where the students planned to register for the next semester at the technical university in Amadiya. Khalid was accompanying his younger brother.

They were driving eastward into the morning sun, and the driver was probably momentarily blinded by the glare. By the time they had registered the scene unfolding in front of them, it was too late. What they saw signaled imminent danger: a wrecked Humvee, clouds of smoke, soldiers with drawn weapons. Normally they would have turned around immediately. But the soldiers motioned for them to stop. Anyone who attempted to continue driving at that point would come under fire. Those are the rules in Injun Country.

The Iraqis stopped. The Marines approached, signaling to the driver to turn off the engine. The Iraqis got out of the car. Up until this point, the various pieces of testimony coincide. The men and the vehicle had to be searched for weapons and explosives. When no weapons were found, it was clear that the five men posed no immediate danger. They were told to sit down with their hands behind their heads.

At some point the five men were shot.

The "Rules of Engagement" permit any Marine to kill without warning in the event of danger. This is especially applicable when it comes to so-called MAMs, or Military Age Males. Who were these five men? Were they scouts who had been sent to investigate how successful the attack had been?

The Marines must have known how unlikely this was. Only one man, not five, would have been needed to survey the scene. He would have hidden first or would have come from the River Road, on a motorcycle.

Did the five men try to run away? That was the way the accused Marines described it. Possible, but also unlikely. Most of all, it is unlikely that all five Iraqis would have pursued the same suicidal impulse. Besides, the Marines could have shot the Iraqis in the legs to prevent them from running away. However one paints the scenario, the key issue is that the men were unarmed.


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