A marine who told about instructions given men in his unit by an officer to get their stories straight on a story regarding the killing of civilians has resulted in his fellow soldiers avoiding contact with him. Sgt. Henry Butts taped comments by Capt. Shane Cole to be careful in what the men said to investigators of the incident. Shane told men in his unit, “Earlier up on the roof, there were like five women and little girls. OK. We f—ed that area up. If we did any collateral damage, there will be people asking. Your answer, for the sake of yourselves– and me– better be you were f—ing shooting at muzzle flashes.”
Butts has picked up from other men they have been instructed not to talk with him. The sergeant admitted he had an ongoing conflict with Capt. Cole and held off on turning over the recording, but eventually gave it to his first sergeant who then made certain it got to the proper authorities. In an earlier investigation of the incident, Marine officials said they did not find any evidence of any civilian deaths during the engagement. However, Capt. Cole was relieved of his command and is facing charges. Butts claimed he held off on handing the tape over while he was in Iraq for fear it would be dangerous doing so while in a combat area.
The war in Iraq places extreme pressures on those fighting. An urban war invariably results in civilian deaths, but we Americans must be cognizant of our responsibilities to ensure avoidable deaths must result in punishment if those fighting had alternatives. A cover up and using expressions such as “collateral damage” is not in accordance with the American military tradition. It is not “collateral damage,” it is the death of women and children.