USA / IRAQ: Reaction to U.S. marines who are alleged to have massacred 24 civilians in the Iraqi village of Haditha
- Title: USA / IRAQ: Reaction to U.S. marines who are alleged to have massacred 24 civilians in the Iraqi village of Haditha
- Date: 1st June 2006
- Summary: (W1) FALLUJA, IRAQ (FILE) (REUTERS) U.S. SOLDIERS ON PATROL
- Reuters ID: LVA2UTCJ5DZP7NH3HJZYQHFVVH3M
- Duration: 00:00:06
- Aspect Ratio:
- Topics: War / Fighting,Defence / Military
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None
- Story Text: With the White House promising to make public an ongoing investigation, a member of the U.S. marines whose squad is alleged to have massacred 24 civilians in the Iraqi village of Haditha, has now recounted his version of the events of November 19 last year.
Lance Corporal James Crossan said he was knocked unconscious by a roadside bomb that hit his humvee just moments before the shootings. The bomb killed a fellow marine who was sitting next to Crossan and peppered Crossan with shrapnel. Witnesses have said they saw the rest of the squad rampage through houses, shooting civilians in their way.
In Oceanside, California, a neighboring community of Camp Pendleton, the marines were still be given the benefit of the doubt.
"I served in Vietnam," explained Chris Walsh, enjoying a plate of eggs at a local cafe. "I realise the stress that you can get under and do some off the wall things. I think that is kind of what happened and they got carried away when their buddy got killed. I don't know the facts but it doesn't look good."
Survivors' testimonies and video provided by an Iraqi human rights organisation indicate a few Marines went from house to house killing men, women and children. A human rights activist said U.S. lawmakers were shown photographs of some corpses indicating they were kneeling when shot
Sandy Patterson, also of Oceanside, added that something needed to be done.
"Our country holds our values and our ethics up as the platinum standard for the world. And I think we are hypocrites when we allow those kind of things to happen. And it's not new, it happened in the sixties with My Lai."
The dead in Haditha included women, children, and an elderly Iraqi man in a wheelchair. The marines are also accused of killing five unarmed civilians in a nearby taxi.
Crossan, who was on his second tour of duty in Iraq, said that seeing colleagues being hit could provoke an angry and drastic reaction.
"Seeing us get hit, just like if your friend gets hit you're gonna get really pissed off and angry," explained Crossan. "You're gonna probably do something that doesn't need to be done which was the incident that happened. They knew he was dead just by looking at him and they thought I was dead too. And they didn't think I was going to make it, according to them so it had a major effect on them."
Crossan said in an area like Haditha, marines couldn't tell who was an enemy and who was not.
Marine Nick Heller, who already has served a tour of duty in Iraq, told Reuters he understood how something like Haditha could happen.
"You never know who is a civilian and who is an insurgent. You can't really tell the difference, they all look the same. There's a group of insurgents mixed in with civilians, it could happen," said Heller.
U.S. President George W. Bush vowed to punish any U.S. Marine guilty of shooting Iraqi civilians at Haditha.
"There is a thorough investigation going on. If laws were broken there will be punishment," Bush said.
It was his first public comment on the scandal that some commentators are comparing to the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam that helped turn many Americans against that war.
In its ongoing investigation, the Pentagon has limited comments on Haditha to anonymous briefings. Last week, an official said charges including murder were possible following a military investigation into the incident.
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- Embargoed:16th June 2006 13:00