News24

Convicted Marine says sorry for killings

2012-01-25 16:45

California - When Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich finally spoke in court he did not address the judge but instead directed his words at the Iraqi family members who survived his squad's attacks in Haditha that left 24 unarmed civilians dead.

The 31-year-old Marine apologised for the loss of their loved ones and said he never intended to harm them or their families. He went on to tell the court that his guilty plea in no way suggests that his squad behaved badly or dishonourably.

"But even with the best intentions, sometimes combat actions can cause tragic results," Wuterich said.

The lone Marine was convicted of a single count of negligent dereliction of duty in the 2005 killings. He faces having his rank reduced but he will not go to jail as a part of a plea agreement that abruptly ended his long-awaited manslaughter trial.

Tainting the US’s image

It was a stunning outcome for the last defendant in the case once compared with the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.

The Haditha attack is considered among the war's defining moments, further tainting America's reputation when it was already at a low point after the release of photos of prisoner abuse by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

Wuterich, who admitted to instructing his men to "shoot first, ask questions later," defended his order to raid homes in Haditha after a roadside bomb killed a fellow Marine. He said his aim was "to keep the rest of my Marines alive."

His sentence on Tuesday ended a six-year prosecution that failed to win any manslaughter convictions.
Eight Marines were initially charged; one was acquitted and six others had their cases dropped.

Survivor was shot in the back

The plea deal that dropped nine counts of manslaughter sparked outrage in the besieged Iraqi town and claims that the US didn't hold the military accountable.

"I was expecting that the American judiciary would sentence this person to life in prison and that he would appear and confess in front of the whole world that he committed this crime, so that America could show itself as democratic and fair," said survivor Awis Fahmi Hussein, showing his scars from a bullet wound to the back.

Military judge Lieutenant Colonel David Jones initially recommended the maximum sentence of three months for Wuterich, saying: "It's difficult for the court to fathom negligent dereliction of duty worse than the facts in this case."

Then he opened an envelope containing the plea agreement to learn its terms - as is procedure in military court - and announced that the deal prevented any jail time for the Marine.

"That's very good for you obviously," Jones told Wuterich.

Jones did recommend that the sergeant's rank be reduced to private, which would dock his pay as a result, but he decided not to exercise his option to cut it by as much as two-thirds because the divorced father has sole custody of his three daughters. The rank reduction has to be approved by a Marine general, who already signed off on the plea deal.

‘Only wanted to protect Marines’

Defence attorney Neal Puckett said Wuterich has been falsely labelled a killer who carried out a massacre in Iraq. He insisted Wuterich's only intention was to protect his Marines.

"The appropriate punishment in this case, your honour, is no punishment," Puckett said.
Wuterich, who hugged his parents after he spoke, declined comment on Jones' decision.

Puckett and his co-counsel Haytham Faraj, said in a statement: "We believe justice prevailed for Staff Sergeant Wuterich and in turn, he wishes it was within his power to impart the same measure of justice to the families of the victims of Haditha."

Wuterich directly addressed family members of the Iraqi victims, saying there were no words to ease their pain.

"I know that you are the real victims of November 19 2005," he said.

He went on to tell the court: "When my Marines and I cleared those houses that day, I responded to what I perceived as a threat and my intention was to eliminate that threat in order to keep the rest of my Marines alive," he said.

"So when I told my team to shoot first and ask questions later, the intent wasn't that they would shoot civilians, it was that they would not hesitate in the face of the enemy."

"The truth is I never fired my weapon at any women or children that day," Wuterich later told Jones.

Actions defied training

The contention by Wuterich contradicts prosecutors and counters testimony from a former squad mate who said he joined Wuterich in firing in a dark back bedroom where a woman and children were killed.

Prosecutors argued that Wuterich's knee-jerk reaction of sending the squad to assault nearby homes without positively identifying a threat went against his training and caused needless deaths of 10 women and children.

"That is a horrific result from that derelict order of shoot first, ask questions later," said Lieutenant Colonel Sean Sullivan.

Military prosecutors worked for more than six years to bring Wuterich to trial on manslaughter charges that could have sent him away to prison for life. But only weeks after the long-awaited trial started, they offered Wuterich the deal.

Plea deal

During the trial before a jury of combat Marines who served in Iraq, prosecutors argued Wuterich lost control after seeing his friend blown apart by the bomb and led his men on a rampage, blasting their way in with gunfire and grenades. Among the dead was a man in a wheelchair.

Faraj said the government was working on false notions and the deal was reached last week when prosecutors recognised their case was falling apart with contradictory testimony from witnesses who had lied to investigators.

Many of the squad members had their cases dropped in exchange for testifying. Prosecutors have declined to comment.

Marine Corps spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Kloppel said the deal was the result of mutual negotiations and does not reflect how the case was going for the prosecution. He said the government investigated and prosecuted the case as it should have.

Wuterich plans to leave the Marine Corps and start a new career in information technology. His lawyers said they plan to petition for clemency.

Comments
  • Mthuthuzeli - 2012-01-25 17:00

    Any country that names it's weaponry: "the Predator and the Reaper"... to name just a few, has little respect for life and suggests some satisfaction or a fetish in death and killing. Having been brain washed by Hollywood, and TV, that murder, slaughter, violence etc, is just a game and full on entertainment now expanded to horrific computer games. Is it any wonder that what the US is doing to other nations is seen as an extension of this FUN! America has become a violent video game and shouldn't be let anywhere near other countries.

      Boer - 2012-01-25 20:17

      Dont talk crap about things you dont know. If the sh#t hits the fan in Africa who do they call to come and help. If the ANC loots and steals from its people and government needs money for some or other african project who donates billoins off Dollars to you sorry lot. = AMERICA. It it wasnt for America most of the world would be ingulfed in a load of poverty. If it wasnt for America your world would have been for dictators and terrorism. Think carefully. What has your sorry lot the ANC in South-Africa done to better this world. MMMMMmmmmmmmmmm Oh sorry they promote self destruction of a once great Country called South-Africa. Two white middle fingers up your nostrils A-hole.

      Mthuthuzeli - 2012-01-25 20:36

      I think it was a big mistake when your teachers started calling stupid kids "learning disabled". You might have been more motivated if they just gave it to you straight.

      Newsreader - 2012-01-25 21:00

      Mthuthuzeli- Now you are woffeling! Boer made a very true point! USAID did not start because of unemployment in Detroit! Its because Africa cant help itself no matter how rich in resources it is. Its compassion! Africa is the weeping orphan of todays world and all its leaders can do is take the handouts for themselves!! Cry the beloved country every year. Year after year and its because as long as you believe you have a black government you are better off!

      Mthuthuzeli - 2012-01-25 21:31

      @News The conscience masturbation that is Western aid has been utterly corrosive of African states, all too often lining the pockets of a corrupt ruling class and reducing the populations to a state of dependency. The aid that western countries give has the pain of an Arsonist's sympathy. They burn our houses down and then bring a little bucket of water to help put out the fire. We are not going to pat them on the back for such "sympathy"! They fund "rebellions" and supply arms, then you pretend to be peacemakers, offering to mediate in ways that favor their puppets. "Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign "aid" organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy fami-lies who control the planet's natural resources." pg 2, Confession of an Economic Hitmen (John Perkins)

      Mthuthuzeli - 2012-01-25 21:43

      "Within several months, I would leave for the island of Java in the country of Indonesia, described at that time as the most heavily pop-ulated piece of real estate on the planet. Indonesia also happened to be an oil-rich Muslim nation and a hotbed of communist activity. "It's the next domino after Vietnam," is the way Claudine put it. "We must win the Indonesians over. If they join the Communist bloc, well..." She drew a finger across her throat and then smiled sweetly. "Let's just say you need to come up with a very optimistic forecast of the economy, how it will mushroom after all the new power plants and distribution lines are built. That will allow USAID and the international banks to justify the loans." pgs 19 It is the same with the PEARCE CORPS, another front for western hegemony in the developing world. Have a read of Stephen Brown's Authoritarian leaders and multiparty elections in Africa: how foreign donors help to keep Kenya’s Daniel arap Moi in power. Go to page 734, where he details how the UK helped Moi steal the 1997 election. Read up on the subject of "Development Aid" and stop parroting what you hear others say.

      Hotkop - 2012-01-25 22:12

      I agree! They should call their weapons:1. My little pony 2. Sea horsy 3. Daisy 4. ladybug 5. tellytubby etc.

      Barry - 2012-01-26 20:20

      He murdered people. He got a cheap sentence becuase the USA think Arabs lives are cheap. Disgusting America.

  • Newsreader - 2012-01-25 18:34

    War is hell. Make no mistake that innocent people should not die. Unfortunately the co lateral damage comes from when evil use to good to be evil. Haditha is a small town between Syria and Baghdad. The insurgents used this as a collection point. The marines too heavy casualties over a number of weeks and when the day came the civilians were unfortunately in the way. When you are fighting for survival and have nothing else to use but your instinct then when civilians run around inbetween they will suffer the worst. These civilians did not know who was who, but they also have the option of telling the odds. New faces, new military aged males in town, and and... Its not a easy judgement then. But after the smoke clears its easy to blame! Most of that comes from people who were have never ever been in combat!

      Mthuthuzeli - 2012-01-25 18:59

      The war in Iraq was illegal, war crimes were committed, including exposing hundreds of thousands of people to radiation in amounts equivalent to 2-3 nuke warheads, from the depleted uranium shell casings, during the nights of shock and awe alone... Excuses about necessity and moral justification of any war are problematic, especially when such claims are made by the rulers who wage seemingly endless wars. A war that is not justifiable is nothing short of mass murder.

      Newsreader - 2012-01-25 19:18

      radiation in amounts equivalent to 2-3 nuke warheads? I seriously doubt that! In fact I know that thats incorrect. The war was illegal? According to who? Saddam Hussein butchered 290 000 people in 1991 during Anfaal! THe Kurds suffered the most. Now your saying it was unjust? You need to keep your cliche's down to reality. I dont care the thumbs down. There are stupid people then there are intelligent or specifically, informed. You talk like your'e watching some computer game quoting the unexplainable narratives.

      Mthuthuzeli - 2012-01-25 19:55

      It was illegal under international law (UN Charter) and Her Majesty's own government did an inquiry that found it to be such. Obviously the US is a ROUGE state and as such wasn't bothered by such little inconviniances as international law. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, which followed World War II, called the waging of aggressive war "essentially an evil thing...to initiate a war of aggression...is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." A million Iraqis died. Four million are refugees. One million of them are living in Syria. The major media ignored the enormous death toll in Iraq, ignored the report of the Harvard medical team that visited Iraq shortly after the war and found that tens of thousands of Iraqi children were dying because of the bombing of the water supply and the resultant epidemics of disease.

      Newsreader - 2012-01-25 20:24

      Mthuthuzeli_ I respect your opinion. But have you spoken any Iraqi nationals in the last year or 5? Your International marble polishing of 'do good' and or critisism for mankind does not actually explain the reality. Iraq became hell in 2005/6 because of extremisism. Standing outside the Palestine hotel with 1km away a 400kg TNT detonation at the IZ entrance is no joke. Thats not protesting service delivery! In fact the driver picked up 8 innocent Iraqies working inside the IZ and offered them a lift. When they got to the check point the driver detonated his bomb. Do you think he was objective in such a way that International outcry for invasion is called for? No! It was a Jihad mindset! Kill for Allah! Something your understanding wont comprehend! Dont try argue with research and quotes of intellect, its already been around the block a few times.

      Mthuthuzeli - 2012-01-25 20:50

      The reality is that the US and the UK engaged in a war of aggression that has resulted in the destruction of that country's infrastructure and the killing of hundred of thousands of that country's civilians, resulting in the lawlessness that we are seeing today. The US has launched three wars of aggression in the last few years, in straightforward breach of its own freely given treaty commitments, and been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq with no conceivable justification but naked power!

      Liberata - 2012-01-25 21:11

      The US is the Roman Empire of today. They can do as they wish. They control the world economy and they have a mighty military which is well equipped. If you mess with them, they crush your government and leave your country in ruins (on purpose).

      Newsreader - 2012-01-25 21:26

      Mthuthuzeli and Liberata- Now I am talking to 2 idiots. Roman empire? WTF? Neither of you have done anything apart from plaigerise a few googled quotes. Your true colors are starting to come through! You dinks have not seen or been where I have been! So try educate yourselves a bit more with life and not surfing the web. Idiots! Stupid is.. stupid does!

      Liberata - 2012-01-25 21:37

      "Neither of you have done anything apart from plaigerise a few googled quotes" Comparing the US to the roman empire (in terms of relative power and control) is not hard to think up. "You dinks have not seen or been where I have been'" Lol, I can say the same to you, dink. "So try educate yourselves a bit more with life and not surfing the web. Idiots! Stupid is.. stupid does" Insult slinging is a sign of immaturity. Shame. Now have a lolly and run along

      Liberata - 2012-01-25 21:39

      Oh and Newsreader, learn how to spell

      Mthuthuzeli - 2012-01-25 21:45

      George Kenney, a former State Department official under the Bush Administration, put it well: “Dropping cluster bombs on highly populated urban areas doesn’t result in accidental fatalities. It is purposeful terror bombing.” I genuinely can't get my head around the mentality that can class accidentally bombing weddings as 'collateral damage'. America loves killing!

      Newsreader - 2012-01-25 21:47

      okay... so what was your cut and paste point? No real reasoning apart from stupidity in trying to react to already stupid remarks you made trying to be be noticed?.

      Liberata - 2012-01-25 21:53

      Newsreader. you need to reassess your intelligence. lol. Im not even gonna bother to continue with you. lol silly little man

      Mthuthuzeli - 2012-01-25 22:06

      They are called citations stupid, in reference to the aid agencies you were talking about, hence the page numbers and the name of the book/s. How hard is that to comprehend? And it is quite amusing that not one of your posts in this thread contains any facts, sources or any coherent argument and so you're forced to rely on attempts at ridicule and insults to try to cover that up.

  • Newsreader - 2012-01-25 22:06

    You two fu*kers are so stupid! Try be white as much as you want! It wont change your IQ!

      Newsreader - 2012-01-25 22:09

      and you stink!!! ha ha ha ha ha !!! Liberata!...Township mongrel!!

      Mthuthuzeli - 2012-01-25 22:54

      Go to bed will you. You sound like an overtired child looking for attention.

  • mhanslot - 2012-01-26 09:29

    "Boer" please! Go to America stay there and don't come back; open your eyes and see right from wrong. Even though America has donated billions to poorer nations, it still does not give them the right to police the world and kill indiscriminately; just in the same way it was wrong to have an apartheid government that terrorised; tortured and murdered innocent people. Instead of complaining about Africa’s governments and blowing hot air from your white A-Hole get the facts right or simply leave Africa since you are so unhappily despondent with this continent and its sorry lot…

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