SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Up to 10 U.S. Marines are under investigation for the deaths of eight Iraqi prisoners during the November 2004 battle for Fallujah, marking the third war crimes probe of Marines at California's Camp Pendleton, a government spokesman said on Thursday.
There is obviously something very wrong going on at Camp Pendleton and it's incredible that these Marines are only now under investigation since this happened in 2004.
Ed Buice, a spokesman for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, said he could not disclose details of the inquiry at the U.S. Marine Corps base.
But he said none of the Marines under investigation are being held in detention.
Why not? They've been holding people suspected of war crimes in Gitmo for 5 years.
Nat Helms, a Vietnam veteran who has written a book about the Marine Corp's battle for Fallujah in Iraq's Anbar Province, provided an account of the deaths on his Web site -- defendourmarines.com -- writing that eight Iraqi prisoners were executed.
According to Helms, Marines held eight unarmed Iraqi men in a house during the battle and executed them after receiving orders to move to a new location.
And defend the marines, he certainly does. Apparently he thinks this is some kind of witch hunt in order to influence the Haditha massacre trial against innocent warriors who were just doing their jobs. But, according to this quote in Helms' article from former Corporal Ryan Weemer (who ended up having to reveal what happened when he took a polygraph exam when he applied to work for the secret service), this is what happened:
In this case the eight men were allegedly taken prisoner while unarmed, Weemer revealed to NCIS investigators. They were of military age, dressed in so-called "track suits" favored by the insurgents at Fallujah, and running from a firefight, he claimed. The Iraqi men were placed under guard by squad members while the fight raged around them.* After a brief time the squad was ordered to move out. The Marine in charge radioed headquarters for instructions about what to do with the suspected insurgents. The laconic response - "They’re still alive?" - came back on the radio.
The leader took it to mean kill the Iraqis, Weemer said. Moments later the squad was ordered to move on. Guns were aimed, triggers were pulled, and the Iraqis died. The bodies were left where they lay.
* At that point they became prisoners of war so which soldier, in their right mind who's studied the Geneva Conventions about the proper handling of POWs, would think he actually had the right to kill these men?
That's what they have to answer for.
Marty Graham, the Reuters reporter who wrote the article above continues with: "The allegation is another embarrassment for the U.S. military fighting in Iraq and Camp Pendleton, one the Marine Corps' largest installations in the United States."
I'm sorry - "an embarrassment"?? Just look at the track record of these Camp Pendleton marines:
In June 2006, seven Marines and a U.S. Navy corpsman were charged in the April 2006 killing of a 52-year-old grandfather in Hamdania, Iraq.
According to testimony, the man was kidnapped from his bed and killed in a scenario planned to make his death look like he was planting a bomb.
All but three of the troops have pleaded guilty to reduced charges, while the remaining three Marines pleaded innocent to charges including kidnapping and murder and are awaiting court martial.
In December 2006, eight Marines from the same platoon being investigated in the Fallujah killings were charged in the November 2005 killings of 24 residents of Haditha, Iraq.
Four officers face charges for failing to investigate and accurately report the Haditha killings and three Marines face murder charges. Charges against a fourth Marine were dismissed in exchange for testimony.
This is a systemic, criminal abuse of military power and force - not an "embarrassment".
Perhaps the fact that I'm watching the documentary Ghosts of Abu Ghraib as I write this has a bearing on my anger towards these latest revelations. But, as someone in that film said, "If there were no photographs, there would be no Abu Ghraib".
And in this latest investigation, if Weemer hadn't had to tell the truth during that polygraph exam, we wouldn't know about these killings either.
That's the thing to think about: what else has gone on that we don't know about and perhaps never will? Who else is covering up possible war crimes?