Haditha Massacre Coverage
After softpeddling the story yesterday, the big papers are now using the M-word to describe the atrocities committed by a platoon of Marines in Haditha last November.
WaPo fronts a piece by Ellen Knickmeyer entitled, “In Haditha, Memories of a Massacre.” It’s anecdotal but chilling.
Witnesses to the slaying of 24 Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines in the western town of Haditha say the Americans shot men, women and children at close range in retaliation for the death of a Marine lance corporal in a roadside bombing.
Aws Fahmi, a Haditha resident who said he watched and listened from his home as Marines went from house to house killing members of three families, recalled hearing his neighbor across the street, Younis Salim Khafif, plead in English for his life and the lives of his family members. “I heard Younis speaking to the Americans, saying: ‘I am a friend. I am good,’ ” Fahmi said. “But they killed him, and his wife and daughters.”
The 24 Iraqi civilians killed on Nov. 19 included children and the women who were trying to shield them, witnesses told a Washington Post special correspondent in Haditha this week and U.S. investigators said in Washington. The girls killed inside Khafif’s house were ages 14, 10, 5, 3 and 1, according to death certificates.
Dozens of papers, including the Guardian, are running a Press Association account under the headline “Concerns over Iraq massacre claims.” The lede:
Claims that US Marines massacred Iraqi civilians threaten to undermine public support for keeping British troops in the country, the UK’s most senior military officer said.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, said that reports of the unprovoked killing of up to two dozen unarmed Iraqis would be “appalling” if proved accurate.
TIME’s Matthew Cooper:
On Thursday night, at his joint press conference with Tony Blair, President Bush said that the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was the greatest mistake the U.S. has made in the war of Iraq: “I think the biggest mistake that’s happened so far, at least from our country’s involvement, is Abu Ghraib. We’ve been paying for that for a long period of time.” The emerging Haditha scandal may come to eclipse that.
The possibility of a U.S. massacre of Iraqi civilians could have major ramifications. It could further diminish support for the United States through the Arab and Muslim world, where America is already held in notoriously low regard. And the massacre could accelerate American opinion against the war. During the Vietnam War, the My Lai massacre of what may have been as many as hundreds of South Vietnamese civilians helped turn the tide against the war. In that case, initial Pentagon reports similarly dismissed the possibility of a civilian massacre.
Although the numbers of dead in Haditha come nowhere near My Lai, in an era of instant communications, the impact for the United States could be far worse. And given that the revelations of the possible massacre comes as Saddam Hussein is standing trial for ordering the massacre of Shi’ites when he was leader of Iraq, the timing couldn’t be much worse.
Quite right. As AllahPundit‘s roundup at Hot Air shows, there seems to be a bipartisan consensus on that much.