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

By Ralf Hoppe

Part 7: 'Did this Seem Strange to You?'


Sergeant Sanick Dela Cruz was called to the witness stand the next day. Dela Cruz was originally charged with five counts of murder and lying under oath. The charges were dropped on April 2, 2007, when the military prosecutors made a deal with him: his full testimony in exchange for dropping the charges.

Dela Cruz is a short, bow-legged man with protruding ears.

"Sergeant, how did the shots at the occupants of the taxi come about?"

"The five men were sitting on the ground Sir. Hands behind their heads."

"Were weapons found?"

"No, sir."

"And then?"

"Somehow I got confused. Suddenly Sharrat and Wuterich were shooting at the men. And when I saw the first man lying on the ground, I started shooting, too. I gave him about five or six shots. Just the one guy. And then the others."

"Why did you do this?"

"I, uh, I knew they were already dead, but I wanted to make sure."

"Did Sergeant Wuterich speak to you about this incident?"

"Yes, Sir."

"What did he say?"

"He said that if anyone asked, I should say that the men were trying to run away. And that we shot them while they were running away."

"Did this seem strange to you?"

"No, Sir."

Martin Terrazas learned of the death of his son on Nov. 20, 2005, at around noon. Two special agents, both young and serious-looking, were standing at the door. One had close-cropped, light blonde hair. He was the one who spoke. The other one got him a glass of water from the kitchen. Terrazas doesn't remember much else about the visit. Your son was a hero, the one with the crew cut said.

Martin Terrazas visits grave J 2145 every morning. He will be opening a new taco restaurant soon. He spends time with his kids and he recently bought two parrots, Paul and Paula.

Why are these Iraqis fighting democracy? he asks. He doesn't understand these people. Okay, it's their country, but we were there to liberate them! The whole thing is so confusing. What was the sense of Mikey's death, especially now that this trial is taking place?

And what if it was a massacre?

No, he says, he doesn't believe there was a massacre. His sadness is like slowly leaking gas.

The families of the victims received $2,500 for each person killed. A boy appears at the end of the video that depicts the scene of the crime shortly after the incident. He is a member of Ayd Ahmed's family. He was filmed in his parents' house. The camera zooms in on his face, tears streaming down his cheeks. He points to one of the bodies lying on the floor, wrapped in a colorful blanket. The boy cries out, his voice hoarse and rasping: "That was my father you killed! That's my father! He wanted to sell cars? That's my father there on the floor! God will punish you! My father!"

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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