The first Article 32 Hearing for the Marines charged in the Haditha incident started this week. Capt. Randy Stone, who was the legal advisor for Kilo Co., is charged with violating an order and two counts of dereliction of duty in connection with the killings. Even though this Article 32 hearing is not related to alleged murder of civilians, testimony related to the events of that November 2005 day has dominated the hearing.
Yesterday Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz testified to the events on the ground in Haditha. Sgt. Dela Cruz testified about the deaths of 5 Iraqi men that drove up to the scene of the IED explosion immediately after the blast. Despite the testimony coming from only one witness, one news source reported the facts from the testimony differently from two others.
Mark Walker (who has done a stellar job reporting on the Haditha case) from NC Times reported:
The five Iraqis had emerged from a car that drove up shortly after the bombing and were making no effort to flee, Dela Cruz said.
"They were just standing, looking around, had hands up," Dela Cruz said. "Then I saw one of them drop in the middle. I didn't know what was going on."
Dela Cruz said he decided to shoot because he assumed from Wuterich's actions that the men were a threat and he wanted to make sure they were dead.
The AP reported the testimony in a similar way with a bit more detail:
"They were just standing, looking around, had hands up," Dela Cruz said. "Then I saw one of them drop in the middle. I didn't know what was going on, sir. Looked to my left, saw Staff Sergeant Wuterich shooting."
After Wuterich shot the five men, Dela Cruz said, he "sprayed" the bodies with automatic gunfire. "I knew they were dead, I wanted to make sure," Dela Cruz said.
Then we have Reuters’ report and the picture changes completely:
Dela Cruz also said he watched squad leader Sgt. Frank Wuterich shoot five men whose hands were tied up near a car. Dela Cruz said he also shot the five men as they laid on the ground.
According to testimony, the five men in the vehicle were the first of the 24 victims. Dela Cruz said that after he helped Wuterich shoot the men, he went in one direction with Iraqi soldiers while Wuterich went in another direction.
Now which was it? Did Sgt. Dela Cruz testify that the Iraqis hands were up, intertwined behind their head or tied? Was it a barrage of bullets or 6-9 rounds? Did Sgt. Dela Cruz testify to shooting, spraying with gunfire or simply helping Wuterich?
The reporting by Reuters on the Haditha incident has been suspect from the start. Who could forget the two Reuters reporters, Majid Hameed and Ali Omar Abrahem al-Mashhadani, who were incarcerated by the US for ties to terrorists in Iraq? Or that al-Mashhadani is tied to the video that prompted Time Magazine’s report?
The Marines have already been tried and convicted by the media. The media could at least publish the truth about the testimony at the hearings. Is it too much to ask?