December 2011, Week 3


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Sat, 17 Dec 2011 01:40:10 -0500
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Junkyard Gives Up Secret Accounts of Massacre in Iraq

By Michael S. Schmidt
December 14, 2011

BAGHDAD - One by one, the Marines sat down, swore to
tell the truth and began to give secret interviews
discussing one of the most horrific episodes of
America's time in Iraq: the 2005 massacre by Marines of
Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha.

"I mean, whether it's a result of our action or other
action, you know, discovering 20 bodies, throats slit,
20 bodies, you know, beheaded, 20 bodies here, 20 bodies
there," Col. Thomas Cariker, a commander in Anbar
Province at the time, told investigators as he described
the chaos of Iraq. At times, he said, deaths were caused
by "grenade attacks on a checkpoint and, you know,
collateral with civilians."

The 400 pages of interrogations, once closely guarded as
secrets of war, were supposed to have been destroyed as
the last American troops prepare to leave Iraq. Instead,
they were discovered along with reams of other
classified documents, including military maps showing
helicopter routes and radar capabilities, by a reporter
for The New York Times at a junkyard outside Baghdad. An
attendant was burning them as fuel to cook a dinner of
smoked carp.

The documents - many marked secret - form part of the
military's internal investigation, and confirm much of
what happened at Haditha, a Euphrates River town where
Marines killed 24 Iraqis, including a 76-year-old man in
a wheelchair, women and children, some just toddlers.

Haditha became a defining moment of the war, helping
cement an enduring Iraqi distrust of the United States
and a resentment that not one Marine has been convicted.

But the accounts are just as striking for what they
reveal about the extraordinary strains on the soldiers
who were assigned here, their frustrations and their
frequently painful encounters with a population they did
not understand. In their own words, the report documents
the dehumanizing nature of this war, where Marines came
to view 20 dead civilians as not "remarkable," but as

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