The complicated case of the Haditha massacre in which American Marines killed two dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians on November 19, 2005 isn't getting any simpler. Having cleared himself of manslaughter charges with a plea deal on Monday, staff sergeant Frank Wutherich spoke freely during his sentencing hearing on Tuesday. "The truth is: I never fired any weapon at any women or children that day," Wuterich said, reading a statement. "When my Marines and I cleared those houses that day, I responded to what I perceived as a threat and my intention was to eliminate that threat in order to keep the rest of my Marines alive … So when I told my team to shoot first and ask questions later, the intent wasn't that they would shoot civilians, it was that they would not hesitate in the face of the enemy." Now that the seven other Marines have been cleared of charges, it's unclear what the real retribution will be for the deaths of 24 Iraqis, ten of whom were women and children. In 2006, Vietnam veteran Bing West wrote about the incident for The Atlantic, anticipating it taking several years for the truth to be revealed. West concluded:
Of all those who serve our country, the humble foot soldiers sacrifice the most for the rest of us. They don’t see it that way, of course. They have each other; they are their own tribe. General Casey told me that he has talked to dozens of grunts about Haditha. "Universally," he said, "they tell me, 'We hope our brothers get a fair shake.'"
So far, the Iraqis do not feel that things have worked out that way. Awis Fahmi Hussein, a survivor, told the Associated Press, "I was expecting that the American judiciary would sentence this person to life in prison and that he would appear and confess in front of the whole world that he committed this crime, so that America could show itself as democratic and fair."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.