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The Haditha Investigation

Wednesday, May 31, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The president’s statement today:

“I am troubled by the initial news stories. I am mindful that there is a thorough investigation going on. If in fact laws were broken, there will be punishment. I know this. I have talked to General Pete Pace about the subject. He’s a proud Marine. And nobody is more concerned about these allegations than the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps is full of men and women who are honorable people, who understand rules of war. And if in fact these allegations are true, the Marine Corps will work hard to make sure that that culture, that proud culture, will be reinforced, and that those who violated the law, if they did, will be punished.”

Commandant of the USMC, Geneal Michael Hagee, issued this statement on May 25:

“On Marine Virtue”

By Gen. M. W. Hagee

Recent serious allegations concerning actions of Marines in combat have caused me concern. They should cause you to be concerned as well. To ensure we continue to live up to General Lejeune’s description of a Marine as someone who demonstrates “all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue,” I would like to review the importance of our core values.

As Marines, you are taught from your earliest days in the Corps about our core values of honor, courage and commitment. These values are part of and belong to all Marines, regardless of MOS, grade, or gender. They guide us in all that we do; whether in combat, in garrison, or on leave or liberty.

To a Marine, honor is more than just honesty; it means having uncompromising personal integrity and being accountable for all actions. To most Marines, the most difficult part of courage is not the raw physical courage that we have seen so often on today’s battlefield. It is rather the moral courage to do the “right thing” in the face of danger or pressure from other Marines. Finally, commitment is that focus on caring for one another and upholding the great ideals of our Corps and Country.

The nature of this war with its ruthless enemies, and its complex and dangerous battlefield will continue to challenge us in the commitment to our core values. We must be strong and help one another to measure up. The war will also test our commitment to our belief in the rule of law.

We have all been educated in the Law of Armed Conflict. We continue to reinforce that training, even when deployed to combat zones. We do not employ force just for the sake of employing force. We use lethal force only when justified, proportional and, most importantly, lawful. We follow the laws and regulations, Geneva Convention and Rules of Engagement. This is the American way of war. We must regulate force and violence, we only damage property that must be damaged, and we protect the non-combatants we find on the battlefield.

When engaged in combat, particularly in the kind of counterinsurgency operations we’re involved in now, we have to be doubly on guard. Many of our Marines have been involved in life or death combat or have witnessed the loss of their fellow Marines, and the effects of these events can be numbing. There is the risk of becoming indifferent to the loss of a human life, as well as bringing dishonor upon ourselves. Leaders of all grades need to reinforce continually that Marines care for one another and do what is right.

The large majority of Marines today perform magnificently on and off the battlefield. I am very proud of the bravery, dedication, honor, courage and commitment you clearly display every day. And America is proud as well. Americans, indeed most people around the world, recognize that Marines are men and women of the highest caliber – physically, mentally, and morally.

Each one of you contributes in your own unique way to our important mission; I am proud of your dedication and accomplishments. Even after 38 years, I still stand with pride every time I hear the Marines Hymn. The words of that Hymn mean something special to me. Especially, “Keep our Honor Clean”. I know that means something to all of you as well. As Marines we have an obligation to past Marines, fellow Marines, future Marines and ourselves to do our very best to live up to these words.

As your Commandant, I charge all Marines to carry on our proud legacy by demonstrating our values in everything you do – on duty and off; in combat or in garrison. Semper Fidelis.

The media frenzy around the actions of a handful of Marines is now building and, as happened with the illegal acts at Abu Graib, will be used to advance agendas unrelated to the allegations, agendas which trade on the slander of the American military, and which use the very rare exceptions to paint broadly, even as the enemy will.

Mary Katharine earlier linked to Bruce Kesler’s fine post on this subject, but for convenience, here are the key paragraphgs from Bruce’s post:

I’ve heard smart people say ignorant things for the past few days about the incident in Haditha.

None actually knows much but are quite eager and willing to conjecture or pass judgments.

Mary Katharine Ham provides a concise chronology of the partial information available. It’s not much about the incident, but is much about the care of the investigation and the carelessness of the commentary.

Anyone who doesn’t wait or reserve judgment until the very careful military investigations are complete is jumping the gun as much as Murtha.

The only thing that seems pretty clear at this point is that it is definitely not, either by MSM imagination or reality, analogous to My Lai. There is no officer leadership of the Marines in the engagement, there is no command cover-up, there is no hint of purposeful rather than reactive action, the scale is far smaller.

Useful to remember in all this is that our Marines are the finest, and most disciplined, fighting force, made up of our finest men and women. Statistics during the Vietnam era showed Marine recruits actually subpar to the Army’s draftees in intelligence and physically, but the product of Marine training was superior. Today, the Marines retain the best of its volunteers, as this study by the Center for Naval Analysis affirms.

If anything untoward happened at Haditha, it was at worst a small exception. If anything untoward did not happen at Haditha, it is not an exception to the typical coverage provided by our major hysterical media. (UPDATE: Here’s an untypical report by an embedded CNN reporter, who saw these Marines’ restraint again and again.) In either case, tell it to the Marines who bravely and honorably serve that you don’t have the guts and patience to hear the facts, and would rather allow premature ignorance to besmirch their reputation and morale.


USMC Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas was killed on the day of the Haditha incident. His father reacts to the controversy.

MudvilleGazette has a primer on military justice.

And Smash pointed my listeners to this Milblogs forum, where folks who actually know what they are talking about gather to discuss this incident.


Thomas Ricks reports. (Ricks is widely respected as a fair and accurate reporter, is the author of “Making the Corps,” and has excellent sources throughout the military, including the USMC.

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