October 12, 2006


Nearly a year later, a lengthy feature from VANITY FAIR:
Before the American invasion, it was known as an idyllic spot, where families came from as far away as Baghdad to while away their summers splashing in the river and sipping tea in the shade of trees. No longer, of course. Now, all through Anbar, and indeed the Middle East, Haditha is known as a city of death, or more simply as a name, a war cry against the United States.

November 19, 2005, is the date people remember...

Five of the dead were young men who had approached in a car. The remaining 19 were people from the neighborhood, found and killed in the rooms or yards of four family houses, two on the south side of the road, and two on the north. They included nine men, four women, and six children. Many had been sleeping, and were woken by the land-mine blast. Some were shot down in their pajamas. The oldest man was 76. He was blind and decrepit, and sat in a wheelchair. His elderly wife was killed, too. The dead children ranged in age from 15 to 3...

The brains of at least one of the little girls were shoved through fractures in her skull by the impact of a bullet. This is a standard effect of high-velocity rounds fired into the closed cavity of a head. Later that day, when a replacement Marine came in to carry out the bodies, the girl's brains would fall onto his boot...

Nearly a year later, the Marines who were involved unanimously insist that it was just another shitty Anbar morning. By narrow application of military law, the upcoming trials may indeed leave it as such. If so, however, those trials will have to justify the shootings around the car and, furthermore, will have to account for certain statements by witnesses that call into question the scenes inside houses as I have described them in the happiest possible version of the events. Those statements, which again are full of contradictions and uncertainties, raise the possibility that, behind the privacy of the walls, Wuterich's men were carrying out deliberate executions and laughing about it, that one aimed and said "You! You!" before he shot the old man down, that they made return trips to the killing rooms to finish people off, and that on the north side of the road they herded their victims into a wardrobe before shooting them through the door. Unless the Marines of Wuterich's squad suddenly start confessing to war crimes, these are questions only the courts will be able to decide.


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