11 July, 2007

Haditha Accusations Falling Apart?

Update: Reports with more info here and here.

Update II: Sweetness and Light" detailed some of what made this sound suspicious from the beginning.

In the last year or so I have lost any remaining belief I had in major media's objectivity, competence or credibility. It's been a gradual process that began with Time magazine's accusations leveled at a group of Marines over a year ago.* Now the case against those Marines looks like it's crumbling:

A hearing officer recommended Tuesday that murder charges be dropped against Marine Lance Cpl. Justin L. Sharratt in the fatal shooting of Iraqi civilians in the western town of Haditha in late November 2005.

Lt. Col. Paul Ware said conflicting statements by Iraqis, inconclusive forensic evidence and questionable legal theories used by the prosecution were inadequate to send Sharratt to a court-martial on charges of killing three Iraqi brothers.

The case is now referred back to General Mattis to make a final decision on whether to pursue a court martial, though traditionally recommendations are followed. Among those still under investigation are Staff Sergeant Wuterich (who led the squad accused of killing civilians negligently/intentionally), and their CO, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffery Chessani (accused of covering up the event). But it looks the the case is showing signs of falling apart:
Make no mistake about it. The finding by the investigating officer that Lance Corporal Sharratt did not murder anyone in Haditha will make it much harder for the government to charge Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich with murder. If, by some mischance, the charges against LTC Chessani are approved the government could find itself in the rather Orwellian position of trying him for covering up a murder which did not take place.

Rumors are that Chessani was relieved from command for more than just the Haditha concerns, but this is still excellent news--not merely because it looks like at least one Marine may be innocent, but because it appears more and more likely that the Marines onsite that day in Haditha acted correctly and with good intentions despite the awful outcome.

But the damage done by the media lynching (led by the execrable Murtha) is pervasive. Even here in the geographical heart of this story, I did not hear mention of this on local news radio today...

*First paragarph rewritten to include additional links.
[h/t to Grim at Blackfive for the news and Lex for the WaPo link]