Sunday, May 28, 2006


I've got a lot of things to say about the Marine massacre in Haditha, and a more recent case in Hamdaniyah in which Marines will be charged for taking an unarmed man from his house, shooting him, and planting an AK-47 beside the body to make it appear he was a combatant. But I'm going to wait a few days before saying them.

However, I have to respond to this, in Saturday's L.A. Times article on the Haditha investigation:

As Marines moved across the desert into Iraq on March 19, 2003, each Marine received a signed statement from then-Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, exhorting his troops to fight vigorously but to treat noncombatants with "decency … chivalry and soldierly compassion."

The relevance of Mattis' statement is that the Marines in Haditha are part of the 1st Division. But the general's name rang a little bell. Wasn't he the one who had to be rebuked for saying it was fun to shoot some people? Why, yes he was:

"Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. ... It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling," he said at the forum in San Diego. "You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," he added. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

Did the L.A. Times reporters remember that, too? I wonder.



At 8:19 PM, May 28, 2006, Blogger Dr. Strangelove said...

Wow! I missed that connection. Things make a little bit more sense now. Couple of more quotes from the WaPo article you cited:

"While I understand that some people may take issue with the comments made by him, I also know he intended to reflect the unfortunate and harsh realities of war," Hagee said. "Lt. Gen. Mattis often speaks with a great deal of candor. I have counseled him concerning his remarks, and he agrees he should have chosen his words more carefully."

And the ominous:

"Those kinds of comments can translate into horrific events like the Marine who shot the wounded Iraqi," he said, referring to a Marine who was captured on video shooting an unarmed Iraqi prisoner at close range during the campaign to recapture Fallujah last November.

At 1:20 PM, May 30, 2006, Blogger Kel said...

Well spotted!

At 3:38 PM, June 08, 2006, Blogger Thomas Nephew said...

So was Mattis still the general at the time of the Haditha incident?

At 1:02 PM, June 10, 2006, Blogger Nell said...

Thomas, Mattis was promoted to Lt. General after his Iraq tour, and is now the commanding general of Marine combat development at Quantico.

The current commander of the 1st Marine Division is Major General Richard Natonski.

At 1:07 PM, June 10, 2006, Blogger Nell said...

Hm, I realize I didn't directly answer the question. Mattis had moved on in 2004, and I believe Natonski was his immediate successor. So Natonski was commander of the division at the time of the Haditha killings.

At 1:17 PM, June 10, 2006, Blogger Nell said...

Well, this command question gets more and more complicated. Just happened to read this right after posting the last comment, from a June 4 LA Times article about how the Haditha and Hamdaniyah incidents are drawing "greater scrutiny" of civilian deaths as a result of U.S. military action:

The Marines under investigation [for Haditha killings] are with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 1st Marine Division, based at Camp Pendleton.

A complicating factor is that during the Haditha incident, frontline Marines from Camp Pendleton were under the supervision of generals and colonels with the 2nd Marine Division from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Members of a Marine intelligence unit who took photographs of the bodies were reporting to officers with the 2nd Marine Division and not to the officers of the battalion with which they were embedded.

It's looking more and more to me as if, without pictures taken by other Marines with their personal cameras, this investigation would never have resulted in serious charges.


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