The biggest US criminal case involving civilian deaths in the Iraq War is heading to court. Captain Randy W. Stone, 34, is one of our officers accused of failing to report and investigate the killings. Three enlisted Marines are charged with unpremeditated murder, but they deny wrongdoing claiming they responded properly to a perceived threat during a highly chaotic time.
At the Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding, an officer will hear evidence and recommend whether the charges should go to trial. In the incident which happened on November 19, 2005, a roadside bomb struck a Marine patrol, killing one Marine and injuring two others. In the aftermath, five Iraqi men were shot as they approached the scene in a taxi and others – women and children –died as Marines went house to house in the area, clearing homes with grenades and gunfire. Initially, Marines were praised for their actions and it was not until months later that an investigation led to charges of murder.
Stone’s lawyer said his client did nothing wrong and reported facts of the situation to his superiors. “They are saying,” said Charles Gittins, “that he should have nipped at people’s heels telling them they need to investigate. Everything that my client knew, they knew.”
In the press release the day after the attack a Marine public relations officer said 15 civilians were killed due to a bomb blast. A report by Army General Eldon Bargwell said Marine officers did not deliberately cover up the incident, but he faulted the Marine chain of command for viewing civilian casualties “even in significant numbers as routine.” Bargwell said a two-star Marine general told him that attacks in which many civilians died “happened all the time.”
Information from the Marine Times
Anyone who was alive during the Vietnam War recalls similar attitudes among military officials. That is why I rarely believe official US figures about “dead insurgents” because I doubt if anyone in authority can distinguish between a civilian and an “insurgent” when dropping bombs from a plane.