Haditha Investigations Suggest Military Cover-Up

U.S. soldiers in Iraq (Photo by Sgt. Mark S. Rickert)

"Within three hours of the Haditha attack," a November 2005 U.S. military assault that killed 24 Iraqi civilians, a battalion operations officer reported to Marine officials that "15 civilians had been killed, 'seven of which were women and kids.'" Soon afterwards, Col. R. Gary Sokoloski approved a press release stating "that the civilians had been killed by an insurgent's bomb." Sokoloski says the statement reflected what was known at the time, but military investigators have suggested it was "intentionally inaccurate," perhaps to avoid "a potential public relations problem that could fuel insurgent propaganda against the American military." When Time magazine reporter Tim McGirk investigated the Haditha killings, Marine officials dismissed his questions. "Frankly, what I'm looking at is the advantage he's giving the enemy," one Marine commander said of McGirk. As hearings proceed, more details about the Haditha killings and potential cover-up are emerging. Three Marines are charged with the killings, and four officers are charged with "failing to properly investigate." One of the officers said "he did not investigate ... because his superiors told him not to."