Staff Sergeant Wutterich and Haditha

"A sergeant who led a squad of Marines during the incident in Haditha, Iraq, that left as many as 24 civilians dead said his unit did not intentionally target any civilians, followed military rules of engagement and never tried to cover up the shootings, his attorney said.

Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, 26, told his attorney that several civilians were killed Nov. 19 when his squad went after insurgents who were firing at them from inside a house. The Marine said there was no vengeful massacre, but he described a house-to-house hunt that went tragically awry in the middle of a chaotic battlefield."  Josh White


This, evidently, is the on the scene commander at the time of the shootings in Haditha.  Some people will find it hard to believe that a Staff Sergeant was in command but it is quite possible.

What you see here is undoubtedly a preview of what his defense will be if he is ever tried for murder or other possible offenses under UCMJ.

It is his only workable defense, and that is that the Iraqi witnesses are lying and that the civilians were killed unintentionally in the course of a firefight in the town.

How that would "play" would depend on whether or not the other Americans all back up his story and there is no forensic or other material evidence to substantiate the crimes that he might be accused of.

I don’t think that would work for him.  There are too many other knowledgeable people, photographs, etc.

We will see,

Pat Lang

This entry was posted in Current Affairs. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Staff Sergeant Wutterich and Haditha

  1. SSG says:

    “They then kicked in that door, tossed a fragmentation grenade into the room, and one Marine fired a series of “clearing rounds” through the dust and smoke, killing several people, Puckett said.”
    That was pretty dumb. You do not use frags when civilians are around, and you do not indescriminately spray into dusty rooms. This is a guerrilla war, quite searching for the decisive engagement. You disenfranchise the insurgent from the masses with moral leverage-seperate the fish from the water- not kill him with superior force, making numerous moral errors in the process. We have not retained a godamn thing since Vietnam.

  2. W. Patrick Lang says:


  3. zanzibar says:

    I hope these guys are given all due process and not just convicted because of the need for scapegoats. I believe situations like Haditha and Abu Ghraib are not isolated incidents where a few “bad apples” allegedly went astray. Instead I believe they are a direct result of the command climate and the intense pressure on our troops day in and day out from both superiors who demand ‘results” at any cost and the inability to clearly discern friend from foe in a combat environment with no clear goals or objectives. I feel for the grunts caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. The investigations that I’d like to see are on the decision making at the highest levels that put these guys in such difficult positions.
    On another topic today I read that 3 detainess at Gitmo committed suicide and the official pronouncement was that it was a PR stunt. Maybe it was. But what is disconcerting to me is that 4 years out we have not charged any of these “enemy combatants” and we have denied them any due process including habeas corpus. And that the Geneva conventions do not apply to them and so they are beyond any law. Maybe I am very naive and I am not schooled in the arts of intelligence and counter-terrorism, but it seems we have stooped from our lofty principles to the values of the terrorists. Which brings me to a very thought provoking op-ed in today’s WaPo – Public Secrets and this excerpt:
    “The American experiment is an experiment in self -government. The Founders established Americans’ right to govern themselves. Abuse of government power was their abiding concern.”
    I am becoming more and more concerned about the abuse of power under the guise of the “national security”. Frankly, I’d rather be less “secure” than trade the rule of law and the ideals of liberty that are the foundation of the American experiment. I am willing to take the odds – I am more likely to be killed in a car accident on the highway than by a terrorist strike. I realize that my stance is contrary to Sen. Roberts who believes there is no point in liberty when you are dead. I am confident we have better ways to defeat the Jihadists without having to destroy the basis of our society.

  4. jonst says:

    I’m not even gonna respond to Kevin’s remark. Pointless.
    On the larger issues here, I really don’t think there are any. You put soliders in this kind of war, these things are gonna happen. Did “these things” happen here? Don’t have a clue.
    Bullshit ‘values’ training will not help, if by help we mean prevent these things. You can, hopefully, cut down the times they occur.
    So you go and investigate, as best you can, punish the guilty, if they can be found. Acknowledge we have suffered a terrible PR blow. and this war, (Global) is primarly a PR war and move on to await the next disaster. We have dealt ourselves a bad hand and now we have to play it. Sadly, and unfairly, it is about 1% of our population that suffers the most. The rest of us are uneasy, but often, disinterested, spectators. For now, anyway.
    You just can’t win, wars like this. It ain’t gonna happen.

  5. Norbert Schulz says:

    I agree that America has maneuvered itself into a position of weakness.
    That’s what I was telling folks who were hyperactive about WMD and regime change, gung-ho about colatitions of the willing and dismissive about the French, all along, and to no avail: That, despite America’s weight, throwing it around against the world’s will, will be accepted grudgingly as long as it has to, but that that is far from acceptance, much less consent. That it was unavoidable that it would generate resistance.
    That in the global arena moral legitimacy is dependent on what the reast (majority) in the world sees as the rules of the game, no matter what Alberto Gonzales makes up to justify whatever he wants to justify. It’s on the global arena not different than in an Iraqi village.
    Now, a few of years later, the Bushies have no choice but to make Iran real offers, which they wouldn’t have to, were they in the position of strength they claim to be. They aren’t. They are overstretched, delegitimised and have strengthened their enemies, and no one to blame but themselves.
    Hangover morning is only just beginning.

  6. Norbert Schulz says:

    I don’t think Wutterich’s defense will hold. I remember an investigator telling that at one time during the interviews of the soldiers involved their original story started to fall apart. Whatever they say in court, it will probably be hard to overcome this. Covering up an accident is sure something different than murder, but if it was an accident, why the coordinated cover up?
    Wutterich’s defense is his last chance, and also just what the right wingers want to hear – point in case: ‘A Presbyterian minister who was an embedded reporter with his son’s U.S. Marine company, which is accused of killing 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha, said soldiers in private moments gave no indication anything horrible happened in the town.’
    Have a look at the comment section.
    Reminds me of the suicides at Gitmo. Rear-Admiral Harry Harris of the US Navy, the prison commander, claimed the men were ” committed jihadists” who died in acts, not of desperation, but of ” asymmetrical warfare against us”.
    They’re all blameless. Top down. Gitmo is a breeze. If anyone commits suicide there, that’s clearly because he wants to give the US a bad name. That line’s for domestic consumption only, because no one overseas buys it.
    Point is, it might even be true in this case, and the Admiral might be honest in what he sais – but it doesn’t matter. At this stage the US are at a point where they can say all they want. The problem they have is that after Abu Ghraim about everyone has a pretty detailed impression of what they do, rightly or wrongly.
    Gets me the idea: In irregual warefare it’s also about denying the enemy opportunity to score points to gain legitimacy. Considering how much goodwill it cost the US already, closing Gitmo would be a consequent move to reduce US vulnerability.
    They’re losing big deal not in the skirmishes in Iraq, but on the moral level.

  7. zanzibar says:

    Consequence of the Iraq misadventure or desired result? What happens when ever larger segments of the Islamic world get radicalized and believe in a religous obligation to hurt us or cause us pain?
    Planting the seed of hatred
    “Grievances against the United States are nothing new in a city like Tripoli. For a generation, activists across the spectrum have bitterly criticized U.S. policy. What has shifted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the U.S. invasion of Iraq is the perception of that policy. The critique is no longer about perceived double standards — of excessive support for Israel, of backing Arab dictatorships. Today, it is more generalized, universal and uncompromising. Popular sentiment here and elsewhere holds that U.S. policy amounts to a war on Islam, and in the language of Abu Haritha and others, the conflict is framed as one between the faithful and infidels, justice and injustice.”

  8. Norbert Schulz says:

    What I find creepy is that while neo-conservatives define themselves all around ‘Munich 1938’ and ‘no appeasement’, they seem to share the nazis belief that the war, cold or hot, is the father of all virtues.
    That’s my only explanation for their stubborn campaign to conjur up enemies to replace soviet communism.
    The idea that only war will generate in a people virtues needed to prevent them from falling into liberal hedonism is shere lunacy.

  9. jason says:

    There is no murder in war. If this kid killed people so be it. That is the nature of war. Whether the war is justified or not our government sent these people there for one reason only and it is not likely that the reason was to secure the freedom of a people. If my friends were to die from a roadside bomb I doubt that I would have the control after 16 weeks of training to resist the urge to condemn an entire populace for their death. Just some thing to think about.

  10. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You, my friend, should not serve in the US armed forces. We have laws which make what you think is OK into capital offenses.
    The difference between a soldier and other kinds of killers is that soldiers are in control of themselves. If they are not, then they are not really soldiers. pl

  11. mostashari says:

    The priviledge associated with being an infantryman in combat, as opposed to firing cannons or delivering air support from on high, is that each and every time an infantryman fires his weapon or orders his men to fire theirs, he gets to make a moral decision. The moral decision focuses on whether or not the target of the fire is truly and immediately hostile and dangerous, requiring killing or destruction. Infantrymen, especially infantry officers and NCOs are trained and paid to make such judgements. Such dilemma resolution exercises are (or used to be) integral elements of professional trainng, and the bottom line of the training is/was that restraint and the preservation of life, for humaneness or for pragmatic prisoner exploitation, is prefered to killing if at all possible. In any case, I have had the priviledge. I have made the moral judgement. I have exercised restraint whenever I could. And I do not regret it. If the publicly-released information about the alleged events in Haditha is true, SSgt Wunderlick did not exercise his priviledge;quite the opposite. If they are not true, the investigators have failed in their duty.

  12. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Well said. Pat

  13. Will says:

    i have read in detail the incident of Haditha beginning with the 3 deaths of the persons in a taxi that was in the wrong place and then proceeding to the unfortuanate house.
    i have re-read the accounts of My Lai massacre in Vietnam, the intrepid helicopter pilot, Hugh Thompson, Jr. halting it. How Lt. Calley was convicted singly.
    “On 17 March 1970, the United States Army charged 14 officers with suppressing information related to the incident. Most of these charges were dropped.
    US Army Lt William Calley was convicted in 1971 of premeditated murder in ordering the shootings and initially sentenced to life in prison; two days later, however, President Richard Nixon ordered him released from prison, pending appeal of his sentence. Calley served 3½ years of house arrest in his quarters at Fort Benning, Georgia, and was then ordered freed by Federal Judge J Robert Elliot. Calley claimed he was following orders from his captain, Ernest Medina; Medina denied giving the orders and was acquitted at a separate trial. Most of the soldiers involved in the My Lai incident were no longer enlisted. Of the 26 men initially charged, Lt Calley’s was the only conviction. The entire episode inspired what is known today as a Medina standard.
    Some argue that My Lai was a reversal of the rules of war that were set in the Nuremberg and Tokyo War Crimes Tribunals. The Tribunals set a precedent in history that no one may be excused from reprimand for war crimes because they were ordered to do so. Secretary of the Army Howard H Callaway was quoted in the New York Times for stating that Calley’s sentence was reduced because Calley honestly believed that what he did was a part of his orders. This is in direct contradiction to the standards set in Nuremberg and Tokyo where German and Japanese soldiers were executed for similar actions.”
    From WikiP
    the Mylai villagers were resettled and later ARVN wiped out the resettled village with artillery fire
    Nothig will come of Haditha. Dumbya (Bush) will see to it. Just as Irving (Scooter) Lewis Libby has his presidential pardon in his back pocket.
    Murtha said it all. A crazy war, second and third tours. Shxt lik Abu Ghraib and Haditha, you can count on it.
    Abizaid was doing his best, holding it down giving Dumbya the opportunity to pursue economic, diplomatic activity- Wrong. They don’t call him Dumbya for nothing!

Comments are closed.