HADITHA….So what really happened at Haditha last November? Did a company of Marines murder two dozen Iraqi civilians in cold blood after they lost one of their own to a roadside bomb? Apparently so:

One of the most damning pieces of evidence investigators have in their possession, John Sifton of Human Rights Watch told Time’s Tim McGirk, is a photo, taken by a Marine with his cell phone that shows Iraqis kneeling ? and thus posing no threat ? before they were shot.

A congressman who was briefed on the investigation agrees:

“This was a small number of Marines who fired directly on civilians and killed them,” said Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican and former Marine who was briefed two weeks ago by Marine Corps officials. “This is going to be an ugly story.”

….Almost as damaging as the alleged massacre may be evidence that the unit’s members and their superiors conspired to cover it up. “There’s no doubt that the Marines allegedly involved in doing this ? they lied about it,” says Kline.

And two more congressmen suspect that the coverup extends pretty high up the chain of command:

Two influential legislators who have been briefed on the U.S. military’s investigation into the deaths of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians said today they suspect that senior officers were involved in covering up evidence of war crimes by the Marine unit involved.

Neither lawmaker ? Sen. John Warner (R-Va), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), a former Marine and a leading authority on military issues ? said they had direct evidence of top officers trying to suppress information.

….”It goes right up the chain of command,” added Murtha, who has emerged as one of the most vocal critics of the Iraq war….Warner was more cautious in his criticism, but said there were “serious questions” about “what happened and when it happened and what was the immediate reaction of the senior officers in the Marine Corps when they began to gain knowledge of it.”

What an appalling and tragic story. It is, I suppose, only a tiny blot compared to the carnage that Iraqi militants inflict on each other every single day in this endless and brutal war, but this one is our blot. I hope this time we do the right thing about it.

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