The Marine Corps chain of command in Iraq ignored "obvious" signs of "serious misconduct" in the 2005 killings of two dozen civilians in Haditha, and commanders fostered a climate that devalued the life of innocent Iraqis to the point that their deaths were considered an insignificant part of the war, according to an amry general's investigation.
Major-General Eldon Bargewell's report on Haditha is scathing in its criticism of the marines' actions after a roadside bomb, from the enlisted men involved in the shootings on November 19, 2005, to the two-star general who commanded the 2nd Marine Division in Iraq at the time.
The previously undisclosed report, obtained by The Washington Post, found that officers may have willfully ignored reports of the civilian deaths to protext themselves and their units from blame. Although Gen Bargewell found no specific cover-up, he concluded there was no interest in investigating allegations of a massacre.
"All levels of command tended to view civilian casualties, even in significant numbers, as routine and as the natural and intended result of insurgent tactics,"Gen Bargwell wrote. He condemned that approach because it could desensitise marines to the welfare of non-combatants.
"Statements made by the chain of command during interviews for this investigation, taken as a whole, suggest that Iraqi civilian lives are not as important as US lives, their deaths are just the cost of doing business, and that the marines need to get 'the job done' no matter what it takes."
The sharp criticism of the marine command appears to have been a contributing factor in recent efforts by top-rank leaders to ensure that US troops exercise restraint around civilians. Lieutenant-General Peter Chiarelli, the top field commander in Iraq last year, and General David Petraeus, the top US commander there now, have emphasised the importance of protecting civilians in counter-insurgency operations and have ordered aggressive investigations of alleged wrongdoing.
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