Written by Ben Johnson
The Party of Defeat's Haditha Lie Crumbles
By Ben Johnson
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
The collected tales of American atrocities, which leftists rely upon the way others search the scriptures for solace, is getting shorter. Like allegations of torture at Guantanamo, Koran desecration, and detainee murders in Afghanistan, the Haditha “massacre” is increasingly being exposed as a fairy tale.
Unfortunately, this canard was invented and popularized, not by terrorist propagandists to discredit an enemy army, but by American politicians to demonize U.S. soldiers and drain their own nation's will to fight an ongoing war – a war which we are winning and which the same politicians voted to authorize.
Last Friday, the government dismissed all charges against the third of four defendants accused of perpetrating the aforementioned atrocities in Haditha. All charges against Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum, 26, were dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning Tatum cannot be tried again for the incident, although by the time the trial commenced, the Haditha “massacre” had already shrunken considerably.
Tatum and three others stood accused, not of murdering “innocent civilians in cold blood” as Congressman John Murtha characterized it, but of failing to properly identify every target before opening fire. In reality, terrorists had fired on the squad from inside the house, and the room where innocent people had been killed was smoke-filled; moreover, according to multiple witnesses, everyone heard an AK-47 “racking” – that is, getting ready to fire upon them. A positive identification would have been both impossible and suicidal. The investigating officers report further observed, according to the prosecution's case, Tatum would have been absolved of throwing a grenade into the room without positively identifying everyone inside, but not firing his rifle. The government ultimately found his actions had not violated the rules of engagement.
That did not mean accusations of premeditation had not been leveled. The prosecution’s star witness, Lance Cpl. Humberto Mendoza, testified that Tatum ordered him to murder the innocent members of the household, then Tatum did it himself when Mendoza refused. Tatum denied the charge. Tatum also passed his lie detector test, while Mendoza failed his. And at the time Mendoza, a native of Venezuela, was “trying to get his application for U.S. citizenship released by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which is holding up his papers.”
Nonetheless, the accused was not unrepentant for his actions, inadvertent of not. Far from the emotionless warmonger often depicted by the leftist press, Tatum nearly broke down on the stand last July, telling the judge: “I am not comfortable with the fact that I might have shot a child…That is a burden I will have to bear.”
Ultimately, the case could not stand. The Marines' statement declared prosecutors acted “in order to continue to pursue the truth-seeking process into the Haditha incident.” Although some have speculated Tatum struck a bargain to testify against the remaining defendant, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, Tatum's lawyer Jack Zimmerman insists, “Absolutely, there is no deal.”
Tatum is the third of four suspects to have all charges dropped, demolishing the Haditha myth.
Last April, the government dropped charges against Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz in exchange for his testimony. However, defense attorneys noted that Dela Cruz had discredited himself, changing his story five times.
Last August 9, Lt. Gen. James Mattis went further in his ruling clearing Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt of all charges, including “unpremeditated murder,” finding Sharratt not merely “not guilty” but “innocent.” Gen. Mattis concluded his statement by noting Sharratt “has always remained cloaked in the presumption of innocence, with this dismissal of charges, he remains in the eyes of the law – and in my eyes – innocent.”
Of the four charged in the Haditha incident, only Frank Wuterich has yet to be exonerated. He faces nine counts, including “manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and obstruction of justice.”
This should have come as no surprise. Indeed, as early as March 2006, military investigators concluded, “there is no evidence that the Marines intentionally set out to target, engage, and kill non-combatants.”
Nonetheless, as David Horowitz and I note in our new book Party of Defeat, the Haditha myth would become one of the most erroneous, and shameful, incidents of domestic political sniping. Two full months after this report, Jack Murtha seized upon the investigation as a way to promote his bill to withdraw all troops from Iraq in six months. Late the previous year, he had asserted the war was “unwinnable” and the military “broken.” On May 17, 2006, citing inside sources, Murtha insisted, “Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.” In his view, the strapped military had gone crazy from the president's unnecessary war, and only withdrawal could prevent future atrocities from being committed by American men in uniform.
The Left's media echo chamber quickly spread news of the alleged slaughter. A June 5, 2006, editorial in The Nation, the flagship publication of the Left, asserted:
Enough details have emerged from survivors and military personnel to conclude that in the town of Haditha last November, members of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment perpetrated a massacre...Marine payoffs to survivors imply a cover-up that may extend far up the chain of command...Whatever the responsibility of the unit commanders in Haditha, it is George W. Bush as Commander in Chief who has sent the clear message that human rights abuses and violations of international law are justified in the “war on terror.”...[T]he moral damage from the Iraq War is broader than a single debased unit. That is what so powerfully motivates Murtha, a Marine and Vietnam veteran.
What actually motivated the Left was two-fold. Many noted the Left's desire to topple an opposing party's president, even at the cost of establishing a terrorist base-of-operations in oil-rich Baghdad. However, more dangerous was its deep-seated view that the American military, and the Bush administration, are evil incarnate. Haditha filled a need for the Left it had long pined to fill. Months before the Haditha story broke, on Face the Nation, John Kerry accused U.S. troops of of “going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children – you know, women.” (He added, “Iraqis should be doing that.”)
This followed, and preceded, endless accusations of mistreatment of detainees around the world, some literally taken from the al-Qaeda handbook.
If leftists genuinely cared about U.S. troops, they would have protested the conditions of the Haditha soldiers' interrogations. Investigators refused to provide attorneys when requested, questioned the men for 12 hours at a time, and did not allow them to take bathroom breaks, forcing the men to relieve themselves into bottles. This far outstrips most of the accusations made against U.S. soldiers. Nonetheless, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate would compare U.S. soldiers, and not Islamist terrorists, to Pol Pot and the Nazis.
Such an invidious comparison can only be made, during a time of war, if an ideologically charged opposition has broken the traditional boundaries of dissent and cast its lot against its own country.
Party of Defeat is available right now in the FrontPage Magazine Bookstore for $15, a 30 percent discount and less than Amazon.com's price. Autographed and personalized copies are also available; details are on the Bookstore webpage.
However, because of its politically incorrect content, the publisher for our new book is small. Please call your local bookstores and ask them to stock the new book Party of Defeat by David Horowitz and Ben Johnson, if they don't already have it in stock. Then watch David kick off the book's publicity tour with a hard-hitting interview on Hannity & Colmes on April 14.
Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and author of the book 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving.