Why Haditha Reminds This Historian of an Awful Chapter in British History

News Abroad

Mr. Watenpaugh is an historian and Associate Professor of Modern Islam, Human Rights, Peace at the University of California, Davis. He is author of Being Modern in the Middle East (Princeton, 2006).

While many historians and commentators are drawing parallels between the alleged slaughter of unarmed civilians by US Marines in the Iraqi town of Haditha last year and the My Lai Massacre of the Vietnam War, a better guide – in terms of scale and cultural context - for how reaction to this atrocity might play out in both America and Iraq may be the Dinshaway Incident of British-occupied Egypt in 1906.

In the summer of that year, a group of British Army officers went on a pigeon hunt near the Nile Delta town of Dinshaway. The British had occupied Egypt in the 1880s, in part to control the most strategic asset of those days, the Suez Canal. British soldiers had a reputation for showing little regard for the safety and property of Egyptians and were rarely concerned with what we would call now, local culture and values. It came as no surprise then, that during the pigeon hunt, an errant gunshot set fire to the village’s wheat supply.

Enraged as they watched their precious grain go up in smoke, villagers tried to seize the offending gun and a riot broke out during which several people were hurt and two of the British officers were wounded. As they tried to escape, one officer died from heatstroke.

The British response was brutal. Returning in force to the village, a military tribunal convicted 52 of the villagers of pre-meditated murder; though most were just beaten, four were hanged.

As news of this outrage spread throughout Egypt, it served to unite traditionally disparate aspects of society – the urban middle class, college students and intellectuals, and the country’s peasants and farmers – in opposition to the British occupation and laid the groundwork for a vigorous nationalist movement that would eventually force the colonialists from the country.

In Britain the incident also made front-page news. British leaders had always claimed that they were in Egypt to help the Egyptians. That was now a very hard case to make and public support for the occupation began to wane.

Lord Cromer, the imperious and arrogant British viceroy in Egypt was forced to retire. His replacement was charged, in part, with figuring out a way to get Britain out by turning more administration and local control over to Egyptians.

The several incidents under investigation now make Dinshaway seem quaint by comparison; but its lesson is how quickly and unpredictably reaction to these kinds of outrages can be transformed into larger movements and major political shifts both “over there” and here at home.

This is doubly so when the perpetrators are seen to have escaped justice.

Belief in widespread American atrocities are now commonplace amongst Iraqis. How the US chooses to punish those responsible for the killing of civilians – even if they are cleared by internal military investigations - will, among other things, bear on any chance of success in Iraq, and also on how credible the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will appear in the eyes of his constituency.

Were those responsible not punished properly for misconduct, murder or conspiracy, the Iraqi government will be seen as an impotent puppet regime, rendering it even more illegitimate in the eyes of many Iraqis, accelerating the country’s descent into civil war.

Beyond Iraq’s borders, what has happened will galvanize broader Arab support for the Sunni resistance, confirming in the minds of those in the region that we are there as the new colonialists.

And here at home, any illusions that we are there for the Iraqis will disappear altogether.

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omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

To compare Haditha with Danshway is good and appropriate except for one basic difference.(Then) Great Britain was "honest" about its colonialist intentions in Egypt; the USA though no less greedy and as bloody is not as "honest"!
Its infantile search for a reason for its wanton conquest and continued destructive occupation is belied ,on a daily basis , by the actions of its troops: sick generals and sicker subordinates constantly on the look out for an outlet for their frustrations; the bloodier the better and the more comforting and the greater is the fun. (Remember the smiling faces watching the human pile in Abu Ghraib?)
ABU GHRAIB WAS NOT, IS NOT, an isolated atypical occurrence.
IT is the real USA with a free hand and a highly controlled media.(Remember the media that marched along, protected and controlled, by the advancing US army)!
The USA in Iraq is the unshackled real USA of the Bush /Wolfowitz Administration.
Heroic Iraq is doing a great service to the whole world by unmasking the real neocon/Zionist USA for the whole world to see first hand!

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr Mahan
"Why so angry boys?"
Are you serious?
Do you know what is going on in Iraq?
Are you aware of the AVERAGE daily number of killings there?
Do you care about fellow human beings,including Iraqis?
"Why so angry" you inquire or is it you wonder!

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

"I'm gonna ask you to be intellectually honest. Isn't it your hate for Bush that TRULY makes you angry? The Iraq war only provides a vehicle to express your hate."
It is neither Bush nor the Bush/ Wolfowitz administration as such; it is the neoimperialist USA that has emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union , the last constraint to its domineering and exploitative blatant ambitions and designs , which empowered the racist and fanatical Evangelist/Jewish neocon-Zionist clique which President Bush fronts !

I would not care less or more whether that hideous neoimperialist USA, a bane on the world and on its own decent people, was fronted by Dukakis, Wallance , James Abu Rizk or Jim Crow or even the late honourable Senator Fulbright!

On the other hand I urge you ,MR Mahan ,to tell us what did you read in two outstanding world wide events of the recent past:
1- The practically unanimous universal pre war opposition to the USA invasion of Iraq
2-That America's only two land neighbours, Canada and Mexico, were implacably against that wanton and unwarranted war of aggression, both officially and publicly!
I have answered with all the honesty that I consciously command; I hope you will do the same.
No matter how far apart we are geographically and ideologically the important thing is to be honest and forthright!
In Arabic we say "the real enemy is the hidden enemy!"

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr. Willis
Although I fail to see the usefulness of discussing history, or anything else for that matter, with any one who thinks that "Persian warriors" are Arabs;I , notwithstanding, humbly avow my inability to make any sense out of your post!

Except, of course, your strong desire to air a deep seated hate.

What is it exactly that motivates that hate…I never seize to wonder?

-Is it Arab invasion and occupation of American lands ?
- OR is it the brutal practices of Arab guards on American prisoners in the Fort Nevis prison they manage in Texas, USA ?
-Could it be the dislocation, dispossessing and disfranchising of an indigenous Jewish community by Arab colonialist settlers aided ,abetted , armed and financed by the Arab Empire ?
- Or is it Arab neoimperialism out to dominate and exploit the third world starting with the oil rich USA?

Waiting eagerly for your enlighted and enlightening reply to my infantile questions!

omar ibrahim baker - 10/19/2007

Mr. Mahan
Having been brought up in an environment full of bull crap your inability to see anything except it no matter where you turn your head is understandable and worthy of pity!
Bull crap is every thing you know and will ever know and it is so easy for you to bandy it around and feel good doing it!

If your considered opinion is that the USA went into Iraq to liberate it while "Iran, North Korea, China, Russia and France were also against liberating Iraqis from Saddam’s inhumane oppression." then you have my full sympathy for your analytical capabilities and understanding abilities.
What intrigues me though is the perception of the meaning of honesty among those that believe that"The important thing for you to remember is that the UN security council voted UNANIMOUSLY to take action against Saddam and Afghanistan" including, of course, armed invasion , you seem to imply.
If that is, for you, being "honest" then it is definitely a good thing that we do not share the same perception of the meaning of this word.
Last but not least ; there is little doubt that I have learned many things from America AND much more things ABOUT America not least, when it comes to the latter, about how dangerous to human kind is the combination of power ,arrogance, selfishness and total disregard of all humane principles !
I believe I share that with the majority of humankind particularly the peoples of Indochina, that includes Viet Nam I hope you know, and your dearly cherished neighbours in Central and South America!
However having said that I reject totally your inane accusation that I have an "American Education".
My shortcomings are innumerable and my education is riddled with deficiencies but those deficiencies do not include, thank heavens, a fanatical racist/confessional outlook , an ingrained belief in racial segregation, nor pride in the decimation of a whole nation to build your own !

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Mr. Watenpaugh,

Not only have you failed to allow for a full military investigation/ due process to be brought to fruition your article seems to encourage/incite outrage or reprisal by Iraqi's against our troops whether they're proven innocent or liable.

Our boys have their hands full/ enough problems fighting Bush's war of choice without some cockeyed professor offering up our troops as sacrificial lambs to maintain the dignity/ legitimacy of a puppet government that will fold up like a pup tent the second we leave country.

To hell with this essay and to hell with the Iraqi's.

Bring our troops home now!

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006


"Hope is a thing with feathers" -- Emily Dickinson

Other than yours above truer words may never have been written when attempting to define the current slow death march that is Iraq.

However, those involved in the Haditha incident must be allowed full access to all avenues of due legal process. To allow for the railroading of Marines as outlined by Mr. Watenpaugh is the antithesis of all that we are allegedly/ mistakenly in this country fighting for/ against.

That being said, those responsible for this massacre sit safe and secure 6,211 miles away never to have faced the insurmountable strain of combat, the anguish of nightmares nor the cold/hard cots of Leavenworth.

Take care...

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006


US troops are not all saints in spite of what I want to imagine. Fantasy can be a blindingly tragic flaw. However, soldiers either carry out the order of the day or face hanging by the neck until dead. The US military has zero tolerance for insubordination and if allowed this would lead to deaths within the unit. The whole is greater/ more important than the sum of it's parts.

War can be purposeful/useful deterrent even if it is a necessary evil but, a mistaken war is a crime against all humanity. The US is quickly sliding down that slippery slope toward joining histories notorious.

Just because the US penned/orchestrated the Nuremberg Trial protocols doesn't mean it applies to the authors. The Hague is a quaint little village with a judicial body of absolutely no power/ meaning/ consequence and Geneva is a playground for wealthy vacationers not in a position to dictate US foreign policy/actions.


The US commands the globe not subject to any body outside the inner chambers of Capitol Hill and Wall Street. Bush/ Cheney/ Rumsfeld et al will be enjoying retirement in grand style while the world chokes under the burdens of their mistaken policy mishaps for decades to come.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006


What do you need a map!

That one year old shot in the chest and head had it coming as payback for (20) years of terrorist attacks.

Kill 'em now when there babies that way they can't grow up to kill us later.

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

I DID argue the facts. Couldn't you understand their application?

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

Naivety like this stirs me to thank God for strong principled leaders like President Bush.

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

Note to self: Communism has been exposed as an abject failure. Given that revelation, why would you think that the Prime Minister should be guided by popularity polls? Given that revelation, how do you think Hitler built his illegal army? Grow-up.

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

Hey tlb,

I suppose you believe in the myopic quote above. So, what does your decoder ring say that the American military is doing if not "protecting the causes of freeedom, democracy and justice"?

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

The relativist argument. How trite. All conditions are equal, huh tlb?
Of course our motivation is economic. ALL WAR IS ECONOMIC. But this is where loony left's got it wrong. There IS a difference between open market capitalism and closed market dictatorship.

Russia, Germany, France and China were willing to excuse the oppression of the majority of the Iraqi public, and for that matter all Muslims, in order to keep in place the oil contracts with Saddam. They even put together the oil for food scam to insure Saddam wouldn't flip.

Though the EU is much the propeller of Globalization they chose to take the short term, profits now, approach.

Those State's collusion with Saddam made him MORE recalcitrant of UN resolutions. Not to say that I would expect it, but had the UN stood together (as it was designed to do) Saddam might have been backed down.

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

This article is dumb or just mean. Again HNN has succeeded in propagating the "hate America first" ideal.
Shouldn't there be a minimum standard like, maybe, any article should be verified as non-fiction before posted to the site.

andy mahan - 9/18/2006


Go back and read what I wrote again, you don’t comprehend it. Keep trying. I will not explain it to you cause it is a waste of my time.

Couple of points:
The UN is powerless.
Open market capitalism is superior to any other economic system.
Iraq’s economic system is about as “open” as Iran’s.
You don’t understand democratic government.

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

Not much moderation in that. Why so angry boys? Or is it that you really aren't angry, just intent on using all the leftest buzzwords in your vocabulary?

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

I don't buy the "no truth without falsehood" thing. Sounds inciteful actually excuses and accepts that that which is wrong on its face as legitimate.
Like I said in my first post, "article should be verified as non-fiction". Consequently I don't care if your OPINION is that "more lies are written in support of the US that against it" I ask what is the proof of such a reckless claim? As was the former, the article is a fictional suppostion. No one has been found guilty of anything, much less even charged.

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

Isn't that odd? I was telling people back then that the fight against terrorism would require a 10 year deployment.??? What are you a child? Why are you fooled so easily? Anyway, Cheney and Adelman were both correct, the war DID go quickly. Since accomplishing the invasion mission, we have been in occupation. Know the diff?
Rumsfeldt was also right, it DIDN'T last 6 months.

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

I'm gonna ask you to be intellectually honest. Isn't it your hate for Bush that TRULY makes you angry? The Iraq war only provides a vehicle to express your hate.

When you compile the data, do you include the murder of innocent fellow Muslims by IED, kidnap and execution, car bomb, etc by the insurgents into the AVERAGE?

My greatest concern is that the coalition is not killing the gutless bastards that would hide among innocent Iraqis fast enough. Alas, we need not concern for Al Zarcowy, he won't behead anyone anytime soon.

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

I'm just saying that playing fast and loose with the story promotes a fiction. As you obviously know no one has yet been charged.

Free speech doesn't mean you can say whatever you want regardless of falsity. There are moral and legal consequences for those who are not honest.

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

"Those who cry "innocent until proven guilty" do not show the same concern for the Iraqi civilians butchered in the incident."

How do you know? Liberals think they are so special. Even when THEY liberals transport themselves telepathicly they should try to contact ALL minds...
When you acheive extrasenorily?

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

The last sentence should read:

When you acheive extrasenory zeniths resultant of the liberal state of mind you have responsibilites. Don't use it for evil.

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

Omar, step back and read what your American education has permitted you to write, it’s a bunch of reckless, angry bull crap. I’ve seen so much of this junk I could write it for you.

It must be exhausting to be stuck on the same track, filled with anger and frustration, never having the ability to view things from a fresh perspective.

Not to spend too much time with this, but, your mention of the Bush/Wolfowitz administration exposes that you were less than “intellectually honest” in your response.

In response to your semi-salient points, I say:

Poor muslims…they are so persecuted.

Don’t try to rewrite history Omar, I remember the truth. In addition to Canada and Mexico—Iran, North Korea, China, Russia and France were also against liberating Iraqis from Saddam’s inhumane oppression. But, they all had different agendas than the US, namely ECONOMIC. There are always two sides of a conflict otherwise there is no conflict. The important thing for you to remember is that the UN security council voted UNANIMOUSLY to take action against Saddam and Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and Uzbekistan were also part of the coalition.

Dennis Mills White - 6/17/2006

Those who cry "innocent until proven guilty" do not show the same concern for the Iraqi civilians butchered in the incident. The US military has a reputation for being trigger happy. In the early stages of the war the British around Basra filed several complaints as did the Italians.
As usual it will be a whitewash

Arnold Shcherban - 6/16/2006

Protecting (more like executing the will) the bloody interests of international corporations, the rest of the American elite and their totally corrupted/subservient political bypartisanship.

Lorraine Paul - 6/12/2006

Bill, Another rhetorical. <sigh>

Lorraine Paul - 6/12/2006

Bill, in that report boy who died was 20! That makes him a boy in any language! Think on it, Bill. If a boy of 20 came up to you and started to tell you about 'life' and his 'full experience' of it, you would laugh at him. Just as I would. They are bloody boys, Bill!!!

Patrick, it is ever thus, I have heard a little of the Sand Creek Massacre. Which also seemed to be aimed at killing mothers and their children. In Australia we have incidents of the same ilk perpetrated on the indigenous population.

Bill Heuisler - 6/12/2006

They are not boys, they are Marines.
They joined the Corps to fight the enemies of the US, but they joined the Corps to fight. If they weren't in Iraq they'd be cleaning their weapons to prepare for going.

These men volunteered to punish the men and governments responsible for two decades of terrorist attacks.

They put themselves in the position of killing terrorists wherever they raise their heads. Blame? Blame 9/11.
Have a cold one for me on Flag Day.

Bill Heuisler - 6/12/2006

You're entirely too observant. Care to join a Marine sniper team?

Arnold Shcherban - 6/12/2006

You're right again: I don't understand
"democratic" government that does not
represent majority.
And I also know that such types like you won't get off your high American horse before your overbragged oligarchic, and circumstantional
"democracy" crashes down on you like a concrete wall on a fly.
As your cowboy types say: you haven't seen nothing yet.

Lorraine Paul - 6/11/2006

Hmmm! note to self: Does Andy think Australia is a communist country? If so, Andy should go tinker with his playstation and not annoy adults.

Further note to self: Andy keeps playing the 'protecting democracy' card re Iraq occupation, but doesn't seem to have much respect for it himself.

Further, further note to self: Does he equate 'popularity polls' with 'feet on street'? Perhaps he is confusing "popularity polls", whatever they are, with opinion polls.

Final note to self: Andy is ....head!

Lorraine Paul - 6/11/2006

Bill, thank you for the report. It has raised so many questions in my mind. However, they all seem to have come together into a question which I want to ask you.

Given this incident amongst all the other incidents since this 'war' started. How can you, personally, continue to support the government which put these boys into this situation?

Lorraine Paul - 6/11/2006

Bob, you've become too used to the simplistic rantings of Fox News.

Lorraine Paul - 6/11/2006

Hey! Andy, this may come as a shock to you but the rest of us don't have a decoder ring. However, I'm willing to play. Where did you buy yours?

Lorraine Paul - 6/11/2006

I don't think your statement about 'troops in Saudi-Arabia' is worth a rebuttal. But then, neither do you!

Lorraine Paul - 6/11/2006

Bill, It was my understanding that it was the Venetians and their allies who looted Byzantium. Think of the Horsemen in St Mark's Square. Much thanks for correcting my distorted view of history.

In the case of David Hicks, again, Bill, you have confused the will of the people with the machinations of its government. However, taking your statement as a hypothetical,even though 'we' may not want him back, shouldn't David Hicks be given a fair trial and presumed innocent until proven guilty?

Arnold Shcherban - 6/11/2006

"All war economic".
You're right about the majority of wars.
However, the argument that you brought in was that Russia, France, China and others were AGAINST the war on economic reasons, while the US STARTED the war on the same economic reasons (according to you), plus without the permission of
the highest international body UN, which constitutes (again, according with the UN charter and main principles) AGRESSION!
So your own argument magnifies the hypocrisy of your (and like yours) argument about "inferiority" or amorality of those nations' activity
versus the superiority and high morality of the American ones on Iraq issue.
Also, Saddam's regime has never been considered (even by the most conservative conservatives) as "closed market" dictatoirship in economic sense, it was CAPITALISTIC
on the first place, and dictatorship
on the second. Saddam's, i.e. Baath's regime before Iraq happened to be involved in so-called Gulf's wars managed to created larger middle class than any other Arab country of Middle East had and has.
Was it the result of the closed market
capitalism? No country in the world
managed to transform any significant portion of its populataion into middle
class citizens economically without
intensive economic exchange with the outside world. In addition, Mr Mahan's "closed market" definition for the Iraq's economy obviously defeats his own argument of the great
economic interests of the anti-coalition countries he mentioned, as
the primary reason for their objections to the Iraq's war.
They (the interests) had to be mighty powerful to risk the deterioration of relations with such economic, political, and military superpower as USA was.
As far as the agreement of government's actions, especially related to war and peace, goes, isn't it the definition of democracy, i..e 'power of majority for the majority' that should drive actions of any claimed to be democratic government?

Bill Heuisler - 6/11/2006

You are correct again. Victimhood is really a matter of time or viewpoint.

Think of those poor Greeks.
The conquest and looting of Syria Persia and Egypt in the twenty years after 630 AD was terrible. The Arab aggressors should be made to give everything back to the Byzantines and to slink back into their deserts.

US troops are in Saudi Arabia, and the Aussies don't want Hicks back.

Bill Heuisler - 6/11/2006

Mr. Anonymous,
If you can stop whining long enough to listen, here's some advice:

If you can't stand being asked your age, then act like an adult. If you don't like the give and take on HNN, then go elsewhere for your education.

And one last thing, being reminded of good manners by someone without the courtesy or courage to give his name is nothing more than a bad joke.
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 6/11/2006

The link doesn't work (as usual).
Here's the WAPO story that gives a reader an idea of what our men face every day.

"Marine Says Rules Were Followed
Sergeant Describes Hunt for Insurgents in Haditha, Denies Coverup

By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 11, 2006; A01
A sergeant who led a squad of Marines during the incident in Haditha, Iraq, that left as many as 24 civilians dead said his unit did not intentionally target any civilians, followed military rules of engagement and never tried to cover up the shootings, his attorney said.

Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, 26, told his attorney that several civilians were killed Nov. 19 when his squad went after insurgents who were firing at them from inside a house. The Marine said there was no vengeful massacre, but he described a house-to-house hunt that went tragically awry in the middle of a chaotic battlefield.

"It will forever be his position that everything they did that day was following their rules of engagement and to protect the lives of Marines," said Neal A. Puckett, who represents Wuterich in the ongoing investigations into the incident. "He's really upset that people believe that he and his Marines are even capable of intentionally killing innocent civilians."

Wuterich's detailed version of what happened in the Haditha neighborhood is the first public account from a Marine who was on the ground when the shootings occurred. As the leader of 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Wuterich was in the convoy of Humvees that was hit by a roadside bomb. He entered the house from which the Marines believed enemy fire was originating and made the initial radio reports to his company headquarters about what was going on, Puckett said.

The reports that Marines wantonly shot unarmed civilians in Haditha, including women and children, allege one of the most shocking, and potentially damaging, incidents of the Iraq war. A criminal investigation looking into possible charges of murder against half a dozen Marines is underway. A separate probe is examining whether Marines tried to cover up the shootings, and whether commanders were negligent in failing to investigate the deaths.

Three Marine officers have been relieved of command. In the absence of a public response from Marine Corps officials -- who are declining to comment to preserve the integrity of the investigation -- reports of what happened in the western Iraqi town have been leaking out piecemeal from the Haditha neighborhood and in Washington.

Wuterich's version contradicts that of the Iraqis, who described a massacre of men, women and children after a bomb killed a Marine. Haditha residents have said that innocent civilians were executed, that some begged for their lives before being shot and that children were killed indiscriminately.

Wuterich told his attorney in initial interviews over nearly 12 hours last week that the shootings were the unfortunate result of a methodical sweep for enemies in a firefight. Two attorneys for other Marines involved in the incident said Wuterich's account is consistent with those they had heard from their clients.

Kevin B. McDermott, who is representing Capt. Lucas M. McConnell, the Kilo Company commander, said Wuterich and other Marines informed McConnell on the day of the incident that at least 15 civilians were killed by "a mixture of small-arms fire and shrapnel as a result of grenades" after the Marines responded to an attack from a house.

McConnell was relieved of his command in April for "failure to investigate," according to McDermott. But the lawyer said McConnell told him that he reported the high number of civilian deaths to the 3rd Battalion executive officer that afternoon and that within a few days the battalion's intelligence chief gave a PowerPoint presentation to Marine commanders.

"It wasn't a situation that dawned on him as the captain of Kilo where it was like, 'Okay, guys, we need to conduct a more thorough investigation,' " McDermott said. "Everywhere up the chain, they had ample access to this thing."

Gary Myers, a civilian attorney for a Marine who was with Wuterich that day, said the Marines followed standard operating procedures when they "cleared" the houses, using fragmentation grenades and gunshots to respond to an immediate threat.

"I can confirm that that version of events is consistent with our position on this case," Myers said. "What this case comes down to is: What were the rules of engagement, and were they followed?"

The defense attorneys said the rules of engagement -- which vary depending on the mission, level of danger and other factors -- are likely to become a central element of their cases because those rules guide how troops can use deadly force on the battlefield. One Marine official said such rules usually require positive identification of a target before shooting but noted that the rules are often circumstantial.

"Once you go back over it, you have to determine if they applied the rules," the Marine official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the Marine Corps does not discuss rules of engagement. "Did they feel threatened? Did they perceive hostile intent or hostile action?"

On Nov. 19, Wuterich's squad left its headquarters at Firm Base Sparta in Haditha at 7 a.m. on a daily mission to drop off Iraqi army troops at a nearby checkpoint. "It was like any other day, we just had to watch out for IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and any other activity that looked suspicious," said Marine Cpl. James Crossan, 21, in an interview from his home in North Bend, Wash. He was riding in the four-Humvee convoy as it turned left onto Chestnut Road, heading west at 7:15 a.m.

Shortly after the turn, a bomb buried in the road ripped through the last Humvee. The blast instantly killed the driver, Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, 20. Crossan, who was in the front passenger seat, remembered hearing someone yell, "Get some morphine." Then he passed out.

Wuterich, driving the third Humvee in the line, immediately stopped the convoy and got out, Puckett said.

Puckett said that while Wuterich was evaluating the scene, Marines noticed a white, unmarked car full of "military-aged men" lingering near the bomb site. When Marines ordered the men to stop, they ran; Puckett said it was standard procedure at the time for the Marines to shoot suspicious people fleeing a bombing, and the Marines opened fire, killing four or five men.

"The first thing he thought was it could be a vehicle-borne bomb or these guys could be ready to do a drive-by shooting," Puckett said, explaining that the Marines were on alert for such coordinated, multi-stage attacks.

Iraqis in the Haditha neighborhood interviewed in recent weeks said the vehicle was a taxi carrying a group of students to their homes and that the driver tried to back away from the site, fleeing in fear. One account said that the Marines shot the men while they were still in the car.

Wuterich officially reported to his headquarters that there had been a makeshift bomb and called for a Quick Reaction Force, Puckett said. The first group encountered an unexploded bomb on another route -- fueling concerns that insurgents were mounting an attack on the daily morning convoy -- and a second force headed out. That group, including Marines with the 3rd Squad and the platoon's leader, a young second lieutenant, arrived minutes later.

Wuterich told Puckett that no one was emotionally rattled by Terrazas's death because everyone had a job to do, and everyone was concerned about further casualties. As Wuterich began briefing the platoon leader, Puckett said, AK-47 shots rang out from residences on the south side of the road, and the Marines ducked.

A corporal with the unit leaned over to Wuterich and said he saw the shots coming from a specific house, and after a discussion with the platoon leader, they decided to clear the house, according to Wuterich's account.

"There's a threat, and they went to eliminate the threat," Puckett said.

A four-man team of Marines, including Wuterich, kicked in the door and found a series of empty rooms, noticing quickly that there was one room with a closed door and people rustling behind it, Puckett said. They then kicked in that door, tossed a fragmentation grenade into the room, and one Marine fired a series of "clearing rounds" through the dust and smoke, killing several people, Puckett said.

The Marine who fired the rounds -- Puckett said it was not Wuterich -- had experience clearing numerous houses on a deployment in Fallujah, where Marines had aggressive rules of engagement.

Although it was almost immediately apparent to the Marines that the people dead in the room were men, women and children -- most likely civilians -- they also noticed a back door ajar and believed that insurgents had slipped through to a house nearby, Puckett said. The Marines stealthily moved to the second house, kicking in the door, killing one man inside and then using a frag grenade and more gunfire to clear another room full of people, he said.

Wuterich, not having found the insurgents, told the team to stop and headed back to the platoon leader to reassess the situation, Puckett said, adding that his client knew a number of civilians had just been killed.

Neighborhood residents have offered a different account, saying that the Marines went into the houses shooting and ignored pleas from the civilians to spare them.

Marine Reserve Lt. Jonathan Morgenstein, who served in Anbar province from August 2004 to March 2005, said that the account offered by Wuterich's attorney surprised him a bit.

"When I was in Iraq," Morgenstein said, "the Anbar-wide ROEs [rules of engagement] did not say we had the authority to knock down any door, throw in a hand grenade and kill everyone." Still, he said, if someone in a house in Haditha was shooting at them, the Marines' response may have been within procedure. "If they felt they took fire from that house, then that may be authorized."

A Marine who served near Haditha in November said it was not unusual for Marines to respond to attacks "running and gunning" and that it was standard practice to spray rooms with gunfire when threatened. "It may be a bad tactic, but it works," he said. "It keeps you alive."

After clearing the second house, Puckett said, Wuterich immediately got on the radio and reported the "collateral damage." When the company radio operator asked him to estimate how many civilians had been killed, he said he thought it was about 12 to 15.

McConnell, the company commander, "knew the number was high" and reported it to the battalion executive officer, a major, according to McDermott, his lawyer. McConnell also said that a Marine intelligence team investigated the civilian deaths and reported their findings to senior Marine commanders, the lawyer said.

Wuterich told his attorney that he never reported that the civilians in the houses were killed by the bomb blast and maintains that he never tried to obscure the fact that civilians had been killed in the raids. Whether Wuterich gave false information to his superiors is the focus of one of the military investigations. He said the platoon leader, who was on the scene, never expressed concern about the unit's actions and never tried to hide them.

Marine Corps public affairs officers reported that the civilians had been killed in the bomb blast, a report that Puckett believes was the result of a miscommunication.

After going through the houses, Wuterich moved a small group of Marines to the roof of a nearby building to watch the area, Puckett said. At one point, they saw a man in all-black clothing running from one of the houses they had searched. The Marines killed him, Puckett said.

They then noticed another man in all black scurrying between two houses across the street. When they went to investigate, the Marines found a courtyard filled with women and children and asked where the man was, Puckett said.

When the civilians pointed to a third house, the Marines attempted to enter and found a man with an AK-47 inside, flanked by three other men; the first Marine to enter tried to fire his weapon, but it jammed, Puckett said. The Marines then killed those four men.

The unit stayed at the scene for hours, helping to collect bodies as photos were taken. Wuterich, who remains on duty in California, where he lives with his wife and two young daughters, told Puckett that for months no one questioned his actions.

Staff writers Steve Fainaru in San Diego and Thomas E. Ricks in Washington, and researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company"

Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 6/11/2006

Here's an account of a Marine squad leader who was there:


Bill Heuisler

Lorraine Paul - 6/11/2006

Is Andy that same bloke who was playing toy soldiers in Iraq a while back? And making money out of it? If so, now there's a very, very black pot! LOL

Lorraine Paul - 6/11/2006

Andy, the Australian government ignored the wishes of its people when it joined the war in Iraq. Look it up! So did the Blair government. What makes you think our population has any control over its government's decisions than yours does?

Lorraine Paul - 6/11/2006

Hey, Rob, "Bring it on!". It seems to me that after your President said that he went on holiday leaving the troops in Iraq to answer his 'challenge' as best they could! Perhaps Haditha is an outcome of that.

Lorraine Paul - 6/11/2006

I wish the US would assume those 'enemy combatants' innocent until proven guilty, or at least give them a decent trial! Especially, David Hicks.

Lorraine Paul - 6/11/2006

Obviously a Libran!

Lorraine Paul - 6/11/2006

Not very quick on the uptake are you, John? Hee! Hee!

Lorraine Paul - 6/11/2006

Oh! come on, Bill. You know that the history of the Middle-East and the plunder of its resources and riches goes well beyond avenging wrongs!

Heavens above! if it was that simplistic US troops would be in Saudi-Arabia and Australian troops would be in Guantanemo Bay releasing David Hicks!

t l b - 6/10/2006

"But, they all had different agendas than the US, namely ECONOMIC."

And what is the US's agenda Andy?

t l b - 6/10/2006

He is baiting you, and should be ignored. Some people get off on making other people angry. just ignore him.

t l b - 6/10/2006

"...in Britain, empire was justified as a benevolent “white man’s burden.” And in the United States, empire does not even exist; “we” are merely protecting the causes of freedom, democracy, and justice worldwide."--"After the Attack...The War on Terrorism". Monthly Review 53 (6): p. 7.

t l b - 6/10/2006

The subject is a quote from the rules board, found here: http://hnn.us/articles/1885.html

"What are you a child"

Qualifies as an ad hominem attack.

Mr. Bill Heuisler,
I see no new arguments here on either side. Simply the same rehashed arguments that have been argued before the invasion.

My Anonymity and my lack of arguing what you see as the facts here is a completly seperate issue, which does not decrease nor increase the fact that Mr. Mahan is launching into ad hominem attacks.

Please stay on topic: "No ad hominem attacks." I don't want to have to remind you again.

Bill Heuisler - 6/10/2006

Andy apparently thinks Muslims are like everyone else: when they kill Americans and blow up American buildings, then Americans will try to obtain justice and avenge the attacks.

How silly of him. Muslims should be understood as the medieval children of Hasan Sabbah with the right to kill any infidel and subjugate any woman in the name of the God of the quarter moon.

Perhaps Andy should be beheaded.

Lorraine Paul - 6/9/2006


Is this "Andy" bloke Bush or Rumsfeld under a nom-de-computer? LOL

How fortunate he is to be able to so clearly see that all problems can be solved by weaponry. It really is dastardly of the Iraqi people not to recognise this as well. They just keep on manifesting their ingratitude for the ending of the war by continuing to fight with any means possible. On the other hand, the Iraqis have so clearly won the moral and ethical "war" that perhaps they don't see the need to win any other kind.

p.s. Umm! perhaps he is a salesman with one of those very rich weapons suppliers who are really the winners of any war!

Lorraine Paul - 6/9/2006

You have just given the reasons for my opposition towards the Iraq war and most other wars.

I do agree that there have been wars that had to be fought. However, you and I know that most have been instigated towards others on the flimsiest of pretexts. The Iraq war is only the latest in a long line.

As my mother would say...there is nothing new under the sun!

Bill Heuisler - 6/9/2006

Mr. Anonymous,
Please describe personal attacks you pretend were written. Please explain how Mr. Mahan's facts did not suit your anonymous sensibilities.

Who are you that you can complain about facts...without providing any?

Don't like the quick overthrow of Saddam? The war on terrorism? Well then say so and give reasons.
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 6/9/2006

Mr. G.
Asking how WAPO and BBC are anti war effort is specious and wastes time.
Videos of bodies and bullet holes don't implicate specific people and do not identify the place of their shooting and/or death. Absent a coroner report and a controlled scene, times of death and other timelines - including only brackets of days with nonspecific hours - are malicious speculation by enemies.

That Marines fired their weapons in Haditha does not mean they fired them at women and children. Assuming more than is now in evidence, if a Marine fired his weapon at a woman or a child there is as much evidence there was just cause as that there was not just cause. If you read the months of after-action reports with so-called non-combatants involving themselves as scouts, shields and bait for ambushes you'll understand how the ROE have blurred in places like Haditha and throughout Anbar.
The UCMJ will sort the evidence and assign potential action by Courts Martial without the help of our eager enemies.

Last, you imply US Marines should be compared to a known murderer. This is an insult to all Marines, active and former, and reflects on your lack of knowledge rather than the honor of the Marine Corps.
Bill Heuisler

t l b - 6/9/2006

Please avoid personal (ad hominem) attacks. It makes your argument much, much weaker. If you can't argue on the facts, don't argue

Arnold Shcherban - 6/9/2006

Well done, Omar!
Those zealots of Western imperialism, and Anglo-Saxon world supremacy have been perpetually lacking discoursive
arguments (as all folks who rely on military might are) so they resort to
labeling any honest socio-economic observers, analysts, and thinkers, i.e. real intellectuals, as marxist or, at the best, liberals (transforming the meaning of the latter term from complimentary to offensive, thanks to the general ignorance of Mid-American populus).
You offer them facts and logic they
counter them with propagandist, ideological and semi-religious
We win intellectually, Omar, but they win practically, since though money cannot win souls and minds, it buys
them. And money is their absolute prerogative then and now, is their
love and religion.

Amin Ali Golmohamad - 6/9/2006

Mr. H.

You have pointed out correctly that the "evidence" I gave you is based on accounts relayed via the news services. I would find however that where video footage is involved it is hard to say there is significant bias. I would also like to point out that it is unlikely that a measurable number of contributors to this blog have anything but second-hand and third-hand accounts to base their opinions on. If we were to be universal in dismissing such accounts, the content on this server would probably recede from informed discussion to the clash of diametrically oppossed opinions, lacking factual grounding.

However I do ask about your assertion that the BBC and Washington post are hostile to the US effort in Iraq. What makes them hostile? If anything when I read the wording of their articles they seem to give a decent balance.

I also agree that the marines should be considered innocent until proven guilty. Saddam Hussein still has not been convicted, so he is as innocent as the marines imo, albeit there is much evidence to doubt this.

Rob Willis - 6/8/2006

Omar, in America we say "bring it on".

When you macho Arab fellows remember your historical gifts to humanity (your art, which I love, the numerals I use with satisfaction every day; the "Immortals" who are embarassed of you, their heirs; architecture; a world of intellect and beauty) and stop hiding behind your women and children, we can talk about history.

You do. Admit it. You hide behind your babies until you crawl out of your holes to kill other babies, all in the name of peace. Historically speaking, is this really an ingrained part of arab culture? I mean this in an academic sense, of course. Have Persian warriors always sodomized one another?, and when, before or after killing babies for peace?

If you have any grandchildren left to hear your "history" of these days, what will you say? Will it be a proud historical chapter in your history? Or will they ask why you, Baker, have not met the enemy face to face, as your proud ancestors would have done.

Write me a short history of these times, Omar.

Bill Heuisler - 6/8/2006

Mr. G.
What you provided was a series of second-hand stories and third-hand video from a source known by its practices to be hostile to the US effort in Iraq.

You should hope your freedom is never threatened in a court of law due to such a web of circumstance.
I prefer to assume innocence until there is proof. To assume otherwise is wishful thinking.
Bill Heuisler

Amin Ali Golmohamad - 6/8/2006

Mr. M, which claim did you make reference to? If you made reference to the claim that US marine committed the atrocities in Haditha, I have posted a different comment which gives good reason to doubt that the marines are innocent. We shall wait for the investigation to try and discern the truth.

With regard to the "no truth without falsehood". I am referring to using the faculty of thought to allow us to decide what is true and whatnot. If other people decide truth for us and control that which is posted it will be relative to their standards, not our own. Hence allow false statements to be made for the benefit of exercising our own intellects.

John H. Lederer - 6/7/2006

Huh? Sorry, I don't follow that.

Amin Ali Golmohamad - 6/7/2006

There is no truth without falsehood, whatever your opinion is, you must read what people write. I believe there are more lies written in support of the US than against it. Do not whine that freedom of speech is being exercised, instead provide a structured statement as to why it is incorrect.

Amin Ali Golmohamad - 6/7/2006

You requested evidence Mr. H.

The following link will take you to a BBC news report pertaining to the event in question:


I think we would both agree that one can never assure that first person and eye witness accounts are infallible. However, most interesting to you would be that there is video footage of women and children shot at close range.

This other link is another BBC report, part of it documenting the breakdown in discipline in US soldiers, related to drugs, alcohol, hazing [initiation ceremonies], you name it"


Could that make it more believable that this act was carried out? One cannot assume either.

An account in the Washington post stated that the marines came in an armoured convoy to the local hospital and " They placed the bodies of the victims in the garden of the hospital and left without explanation". Also the fact that the marines paid a measely $1500-2500 per person they killed does imply they may have felt guilt.

The fact that the US military official account of the event changed three times is also interesting.

Also interesting is that the number of killings was not spontaneous. It was a hunt from house-to-house, killing people in each dwelling.

I hope in light of these facts that you agree that the marines are not free of doubt and there is a lot of convincing evidence which they will have to try and talk their way out of. What I have provided in this post is only a proportion of the evidence, that took minutes to find.

Peter Kovachev - 6/7/2006

A jolly battle of vintage cliches. Almost makes one nostalgic.

Arnold Shcherban - 6/7/2006

It's more appropriate to say, Mr. Baker that the USA imperialists represent evil as loyally as their worst enemies today - Islamic terrorists, regardless of the particular affair discussed.
There two major differences though between those two evil forces: first -the former is institutionalized and superpowerful and beyond international law;
second - it claims incomparably more lives and devastation than the latter.
Secular Iraq and Bahgdad, in particular, under Saddam Hussein (no
matter how brutal dictator he was), had been ten times better place to live (especially before the economic sanctions) than Iraq and Baghdad today, thanks to US agression and religious murderous fanatics operating hand-free there now, whom Saddam deliberately and rightfully suppressed.
As far as the British colonialists-US
imperialists analogy is concerned, I'm not sure who one ups whom in lies, demagougery, and cruelty, but
tend to hand the Gran Prix to the US.

Arnold Shcherban - 6/7/2006

You wouldn't so desperately looking
for excuse, if the situation were
reversed, would you?

Arnold Shcherban - 6/7/2006

Why would you comment on it, if it's so incoherent to you?
For greater coherence: take it as a retorical question, since I know the answer.

Lorraine Paul - 6/7/2006


I was not criticising the soldiers, as such, but the whole gammut of war. Of course those responsible will never be held accountable for the results of their thrust for power. The worst that will happen to them is that they might lose their jobs at the next election.

That has happened so rarely in history as to be almost non-existent. The irony of this is that, as you know, it was the United States that pushed for the Nuremberg Trials. How times change!

My heart can only go out to those boys and their friends and families, especially their mothers. Those boys will live with that deed for the rest of their lives; and if the same applies as to the Vietnam Vets, right on into their children's lives. However, 'only following orders' does not excuse one from one's own actions.

Rob Willis - 6/6/2006

Mr. S-

I have never seen so many innocent letters give their lives for such an incoherent paragraph.

Peter Kovachev - 6/6/2006

Still looking for that Vietnam template in every corner. This seems more like wishful thinking and a nudge on the part of Mr. Watenpaugh. Namely that Haditha would somehow become the rallying cry to unite Iraqis against the soldiers of his own country and would cause Americans at home to recoil in horror. What a nice guy.

Haditha has been under the thumb of two terrorist groups who have been imposing their idea of sha'ria and beating and publicly executing anyone they suspected of opposing them. Oddly enough, not a peep of complaint from our "principled" idealists and no mention from the media until now.

If guesses need to be made at this stage, it would have been just as easy to propose the possibility that the killed were victims of the proverbial "insurgents" (i.e., the kind that like to kill school children to teach them a lesson). Thanks to the likes of Mr. Watenpaugh and the activist media, even the stupidest jihadist has already clued-in that killing civilians and blaming it on the Coalition would bear good results.

Bottom line is that until we know more, essays like this are just propaganda exploiting history.

Arnold Shcherban - 6/6/2006

It's an analogy by appearance, not by contents.
I submit: comments are redundant to come to immediate conclusion that the two cases the analogy has been suggested for are just incomparable in their stakes and potential consequences for this country.
Therefore, the probability that the Haditha and other similar cases will
be judged impartially, based on pertaining evidence alone by military and govermnment officials, especially
in the ongoing atmosphere of faultering societal belief and allies' support regarding the Iraq affair as a whole is slim indeed.

Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 6/6/2006

When the British hanged four Egyptians it was after a judicial process, the "military tribunal" after troops had returned to the village "in force." When the innocent people died at Haditha it was nearly simultaneous with other legitimate war deaths. This leads to a natural assumption of temporary insanity leading to brutal retaliation. Such events happen on both sides in every war... But the deliberate killing of the Egyptians by British authorities was not an immediate retaliation, and so should not be compared to Haditha. It is axiomatic to me that innocent bystanders will be killed in every war, some by errant ordnance and others by crazed soldiers.

Max Kong Sitting - 6/6/2006


On the March 16, 2003 Cheney stated: "I think [the war will] go relatively quickly."

On February 7, 2003 Rumsfeld projected that the Iraq war "could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."

On February 13, 2003 Ken Adelman stated: "I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk."

From Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary. Naive: deficient in worldly wisdom or informed judgement.

John H. Lederer - 6/6/2006

They were good shots if they hunted pigeons with a rifle.

A shotgun is more likely. It would have a large number of fairly soft lead shot, about the size of radish seed. I would be astounded if the shot sparked when hitting, or provided sufficient friction heat to ignite anything.

A black powder shotgun could be an ignition source both in the muzzle blast and the possibility of a smoldering wad, but it seems unlikely.
In any event, by 1906 I would expect English officers to be using smokeless powder.

It just seemed peculiar that a fire would start from pigeon hunting and I wondered whether there was something deliberate or perhaps something loosely related like the fire for the tea pot getting out of control.

Max Kong Sitting - 6/6/2006

1) Country A accuses Country B of possessing WMD
2) Country B denies possessing WMD
3) Who is telling the truth?

I for one would grant Country B the assumption of innocence for its "alleged" possession of WMD until it receives due process, such as weapons inspectors from the UN finishing their search for proof of such weapons.

Lorraine Paul - 6/6/2006

Of course we all know that wars are fought by gentlemen for gentlemen! Don't we - gentlemen?

How dare those outposts of empire, in whatever era, seek to stand in judgement of their protectors and betters! It's just not cricket, what!

After all, if it doesn't move, burn it. If it moves, shoot it.

Bill Heuisler - 6/5/2006

Mr. Watenpaugh.
Your article is an joke. Atrocity? Where is one shred of evidence? When did you interview one Marine, peruse one official report, hear one first-person testament or cite a reputable source?

Marines fighting for our US should, at the very least get a presumption of innocence that hard-core Leftists routinely give Muslims like Sami al-Arian. Give our sons and daughters the same respect you give strangers who happen to be muslim.

Historian? No. A mildly pretentious polemicist at best.
Bill Heuisler

Oscar Chamberlain - 6/5/2006

If the wheat was on the dry side, and if there was dry grass or other plants bordering the field, it's pretty easy to imagine. The heat source would be the friction of the bullet going through the growth or glancing off a rock or other hard object (creating a spark).

A more precise answer would require knowing the weather conditions and the cultivation practices.

Steven R Alvarado - 6/5/2006

In light of the undisputed fact that Saddam used WMD's on the Kurds and the Iranians their guilt, was apparant. You have no point, only blather.

Max Kong Sitting - 6/5/2006

So I suppose you were profoundly outraged when the US attacked Iraq without letting the weapons inspectors finish gathering all the facts on the WMD. After all, you could assume that the Iraqis were innocent of possessing WMD until the inspectors had given proof.

Harlan Scott Hawkey - 6/5/2006

Your comparison of the two incidents is thin to be polite.

This article should be judged by the weight of the comparison.

John H. Lederer - 6/5/2006

"It came as no surprise then, that during the pigeon hunt, an errant gunshot set fire to the village’s wheat supply."

What are the mechanics of this? How can an errant gunshot set afire grain?

Rob Willis - 6/5/2006

Dinshaway seems to have been a premeditated act. Haditha was anything but.

Steven R Alvarado - 6/5/2006

If in the event that Professor Watenpaugh is ever investigated for professional misconduct or even petty thievery.I for one would grant him the assumption of innocence for his "alleged" crimes until he receives due process.Unfortunatly he seems quite unwilling to give the same right to the Marines involved in the Haditha incident.