'Simple Failures' and 'Disastrous Results'

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Excerpts from Army Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell's report:

· The response to the Haditha incident

"I found no direct evidence of any orchestrated effort or any effort on the part of any individual above the squad level to cover up this incident. I did find that individuals above the squad level were complicit, whether intentionally or unintentionally, in attempts to hide criminal conduct. Leaders from the platoon through the 2nd Marine Division level, particularly at the Company and Battalion level, exhibited a determination to ignore indications of serious misconduct, perhaps to avoid conducting an inquiry that could prove adverse to themselves or their Marines. . . .

"The most remarkable aspect of the follow-on action with regard to the civilian casualties from the 19 November 2005 Haditha incident was the absence of virtually any kind of inquiry at any level of command into the circumstances surrounding the deaths. . . .

"It also suggests an unwillingness, bordering on denial, on the part of the Battalion Commander to examine an incident that might prove harmful to him and his Marines."

· Attitudes toward civilian life

"Statements made by the chain of command during interviews for this investigation, taken as a whole, suggest that Iraqi civilian lives are not as important as U.S. lives, their deaths are just the cost of doing business, and that the Marines need to get 'the job done' no matter what it takes. These comments had the potential to desensitize the Marines to concern for the Iraqi populace and portray them all as the enemy even if they are noncombatants. . . .

"Most witnesses also noted that civilian casualties were to be expected because the insurgents intentionally hid among civilians, used them as shields and/or intentionally tried to provoke coalition responses that would produce civilian casualties. Although this proposition may accurately reflect insurgent tactics, the officers from Company K and 3/1 who were interviewed raised this point so uniformly in response to questions about the number of casualties that it almost appeared rehearsed. . . .

"The RCT-2 Commander, however, expressed only mild concern over the potential negative ramifications of indiscriminate killing based on his stated view that the Iraqis and insurgents respect strength and power over righteousness."

· Recommendations

"I recommend that this investigation be used to inform the continuing development and improvement of ROE [rules of engagement] reset training and that it be used as a case study for training in staff procedures and reporting. The lessons are particularly applicable to ROE application in counterinsurgency operations against an unscrupulous enemy employing hit and run tactics designed to provoke indiscriminate, disproportionate, or simply misdirected responses from coalition forces. The lessons for staff procedures and reporting are basic, but the case study will illustrate how simple failures can lead to disastrous results."

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