Haditha: Inserting What the Right Leaves Out

Haditha has not been much in the news lately — at least not in this country — but today, John Hinderaker posts about a new development:

We’ve written from time to time about the Haditha “massacre,” which is now joining Jenin on the roster of massacres that never happened. Seven out of seven prosecutions of Marines arising out of the incident have now collapsed. Haditha was, to be sure, a tragedy; a tragedy caused by the terrorists who have attacked our soldiers and Marines in Iraq. But it now seems clear that whatever else it may have been, it was no willful massacre.

Which means that Mad Jack Murtha and others who rushed to judge the Marines guilty–Murtha on the basis of alleged inside information that never materialized–owe the Marines a giant-sized apology. It hasn’t been forthcoming from Mad Jack, however. When he’s been approached on the subject, his reaction has been to flee to the nearest elevator. Michael Ramirez pinpoints the real assassination that is going on here–the character assassination of Marines by the disgraceful likes of Mad Jack Murtha.

This is the complete post. Those two links you see are to a page of editorial cartoons by the far right Michael Ramirez; and to an opinion piece by Michelle Malkin at Yahoo! News. In her op-ed, Malkin writes:

Yet another U.S. Marine, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, had charges dropped Tuesday in the so-called Haditha massacre β€” bringing the total number of Marines who’ve been cleared or won case dismissals in the Iraq war incident to seven. “Undue command influence” on the prosecution led to the outcome in Chessani’s case. Bottom line: That’s zero for seven for military prosecutors, with one trial left to go.

I repeat: Haditha prosecution goes 0-7. But you won’t see that headline in the same Armageddon-sized font The New York Times used repeatedly when the story first broke.

That link and a second one further down go to the generic, current front page of the New York Times, not to the stories the NYT published when the story first broke. So you cannot check out that “Armageddon-sized font” to which she refers, or be reminded of what happened at Haditha from the Times’s coverage at the time, unless you make the effort to find the articles yourself — although why would Malkin not want us to see those articles, since absolutely nothing of any importance happened at Haditha at all?

Well, guess what? I just made the effort. There are dozens of articles about Haditha between early 2006 and now, and not one headline in any of those articles used “Armageddon-sized font.” Here is an article published November 21, 2005, two days after the killings, when the full extent of the carnage was not yet known. This article by Thom Shanker in the May 19, 2006, edition of the Times, six months to the day after the killings occurred, is most likely the first article in that paper about the emerging horror that became known as the Haditha massacre. Compare the headlines in these two articles to the headline in this Times article from two days ago about the charges against Jeffrey Chessani being dropped. Do they look larger at all, much less so much larger that one might called them “Armageddon-sized font”?

Malkin provides no other links in her op-ed to any sources that might support her points or back up her accusations. Indeed, she does not have any other links at all, apart from another generic one to MSNBC. She mentions an article in The Nation, and actually quotes from it — but she does not consider it necessary to link to it.

Why am I going to such lengths to call Malkin out on a seemingly minor detail? Because it’s not minor at all. How can anyone who puts out fact-based writing on the Internet treat facts so lightly? I would never purport to be writing factually on a controversial subject like Haditha without providing links, or linking only to others who share my views. It speaks to the bottomless intellectual dishonesty displayed by far right bloggers like Malkin and Hinderaker every day.

This is far from the only way in which these two distort the facts.

  • Hinderaker writes, relying on Malkin’s piece for backup, “Seven out of seven prosecutions of Marines arising out of the incident have now collapsed.” Malkin at least adds that there is one trial left to go. She does not mention that it’s the trial of Frank Wuterich, who commanded the unit that killed the civilians, and thus arguably bears the heaviest responsibility.
  • Neither Hinderaker nor Malkin explain why the charges against Chessani were dropped, or that
  • Prosecutors in the case have filed an intent to appeal the judge’s decision and request that charges be reinstated.

Why were the charges dropped? For procedural reasons, not for lack of evidence:

A military judge yesterday said the poor judgment of a prominent general prompted him to dismiss all charges against the highest-ranking Marine being court-martialed in the killing of civilians in Haditha, Iraq.

Col. Steven Folsom made his ruling in a courtroom at Camp Pendleton during a hearing for Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani. His decision not only marked the latest setback for prosecutors in the Haditha case, but it also set the military community abuzz because it’s extremely unusual for a judge to second-guess a top general.

β€œIt has never happened in the hundreds of cases I have tried or presided over as a staff judge advocate,” said David Brahms of Carlsbad, who was a senior legal officer in the Marine Corps during the late 1980s and works as a lawyer specializing in military affairs.

More on the prosecution’s intent to appeal:

Prosecutors are appealing the dismissal of charges against a Marine officer accused of failing to investigate the killings of 24 Iraqis.

Prosecutors filed a notice of intent to appeal with the military court on Wednesday, according to court documents made public Thursday. The notice follows dismissal of charges earlier this week against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani because of improper command influence. A military judge took the action after finding that the four-star general overseeing the case was improperly influenced by an investigator probing the Nov. 19, 2005, shootings by a Marine squad in Haditha, Iraq.

“There is no timetable, no specific schedule now,” said Chessani’s military attorney, Lt. Col. Jon Shelburne. “Now we wait.” The appeal to the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals delays the case indefinitely. Prosecutors have 20 days to file a written appeal, spelling out why they disagree with the ruling by the judge, Col. Steven Folsom. Defense attorneys then have 20 days to respond to the appeal, Shelburne said. It is unclear from the one page court filing what grounds the prosecutor, Lt. Col. Sean Sullivan, will appeal. A telephone call to the Marine Corps seeking comment was not immediately returned. Folsom dismissed the charges without prejudice, meaning prosecutors can refile. Folsom also barred Marine Forces Central Command from future involvement in the case. Joint Forces Command and the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force were also excluded from filing future charges. It was not immediately clear who would take over the case and who would have authority to refile charges.

Enfin, John Hinderaker owes the families and survivors of the Haditha killings a giant-sized apology for this:

… Haditha was, to be sure, a tragedy; a tragedy caused by the terrorists who have attacked our soldiers and Marines in Iraq. But it now seems clear that whatever else it may have been, it was no willful massacre.

A thickheaded fellow like Hinderaker probably doesn’t even realize that there are television sets, radios, and newspapers in Iraq:

Khadija Hassan still shrouds her body in black, nearly three years after the deaths of her four sons. They were killed on Nov. 19, 2005, along with 20 other people in the deadliest documented case of U.S. troops killing civilians since the Vietnam War.

Eight Marines were charged in the case, but in the intervening years, criminal charges have been dismissed against six. A seventh Marine was acquitted. The residents of Haditha, after being told they could depend on U.S. justice, feel betrayed.

“We put our hopes in the law and in the courts and one after another they are found innocent,” said Yousef Aid Ahmed, the lone surviving brother in the family. “This is an organized crime.”

[…]

The dismissals have deepened the victims’ relatives’ grief. Many say they feel deceived after having collaborated with U.S. investigators who came into their homes, collected evidence, took testimony, and ultimately failed to hold the Marines accountable.

“Right now I feel hatred that will not fade,” said Ahmed. “It grows every day.” Charges against two Marines who allegedly killed his brothers were dropped in August 2007.

Oh, by the way, John — that little girl in the photo at the top of this post? Her name is Iman Waleed. She lost seven family members in that “tragedy but not our fault” that happened on November 19, 2005. And guess who she blames, John? Hint: It’s not “the terrorists who attacked American soldiers and Marines in Iraq.”

If you are a praying sort, John, you might want to say a prayer for Iman tonight. And for yourself.

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