In a chance incident, New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt stumbled upon hundreds pages of classified documents of U.S. Marines being interrogated about the Haditha massacre--documents that were supposed to have been destroyed but ended up strewn across a Baghdad junkyard. His story, as well as the story-behind-the-story and the raw documents have now been posted to the newspaper's website.
As the reporter told it, he was acting on a tip to write about abandoned American-used trailers outside the city because it "would be a new way to tell the story of the military withdrawal." But he ended up finding a treasure trove of data on Marines who had been interrogated after 24 Iraqi civilians were killed in Haditha, one of the definitive incidents staining the American occupation:
[T]hey were discovered along with reams of other classified documents, including military maps showing helicopter routes and radar capabilities, by a reporter for The New York Times at a junkyard outside Baghdad. An attendant was burning them as fuel to cook a dinner of smoked carp.
And as Schmidt describes, one striking theme in the interrogation interviews was how the Marines "testified that 20 dead civilians was not unusual." The article lays out quote after quote from Marines who gave answers like what was highlighted in one of the documents now preserved on The Times website, of a Chief Warrant Officer K. R. Norwood explaining the everyday experience:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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