Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Haditha "Massacre": Less True by 25%

Another way to put it: the third Haditha case was dismissed WITH PREJUDICE on Friday last, meaning that of the initial four cases, only one remains unresolved.

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.”


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