There were a few small news stories the other day about all criminal charges being dropped against US Marine Lt. Colonel Jeffrey Chessani.
His troops had been charged in the supposed murder of Iraqi civilians a couple of years ago.
Those stories were puny compared to the media firestorm the original charges created. Isn’t that invariably the case when the facts begin to get in the way of a juicy story.
You’ll recall the huge furor over a “massacre” by US Marines from the 3rd Battalion First Marines in the city of Haditha two and a half years ago.
Twenty four Iraqi civilians had been killed by a handful of Marines.
15 were later proven to be insurgents; the other civilians appeared to have been killed by accident or in a cross-fire.
It was such a relentlessly covered news story it put the name Haditha on the World Map.
The media assault against our own troops was led by Time Magazine, which was quick to believe the very worst about them and appeared to be the first to use the word “massacre”.
This case has been such an outrage against our own troops; I want to reprise some of the facts for you.
Lt. Colonel Jeff Chessani was leading a small convoy of his marines in Haditha, in Anbar Province, in Iraq, on November 19, 2005.
Colonel Chessani was a popular commander, well thought of by his men and fellow officers, with a particular reputation for courage, focus, fairness and honesty. He was known to have regard for Iraqi civilians and a commitment to the Rules of War.
He had been a Marine for 19 years, is married and the father of five children.
He was a deeply religious man as well, with the regard for humanity that suggests.
His unit was suddenly ambushed by insurgents on a narrow dusty road.
A hidden roadside bomb exploded, blowing up a Humvee, killing one Marine-Lance Corporal Michael Terrazas, and grievously wounding two young men.
The convoy instantly came under heavy rifle and automatic weapons fire from nearby houses.
The media, led by Time magazine, seriously misreported the resulting house-to-house battle between the outnumbered 4-man Marine "fire team" and the insurgents.
The media and the anti-war and ant-Bush left began flogging a parallel with the “My Lai Massacre” in Vietnam.
“My Lai on the Euphrates” ran the headline in London’s leftwing Guardian.
“Massacre in Iraq Just Like My Lai”, said the Daily Telegraph.
“What happened at the Iraqi My Lai” was the headline in the Los Angeles Times.
Maureen Dowd of the NY Times called it “My Lai acid flashback”. The New York Times ran more than 30 stores on the case and called it the War in Iraq’s “defining atrocity.” The Times called them “nightmare killings”.
The Nation Magazine said the events were “targeted brutality”, suggested the Marines had planned the killings, and blamed President Bush.
Enter Congressman Jack Murtha, Democract from Western Pennsylvania.
Well, the media hysteria got his publicity-seeking engine revved and he leaped into the fray with both large feet.
You’d think Jack Murtha of all people, a former Marine reservist, would have kept close counsel with his mouth, maybe worrying a bit about prejudging those young Marines who had been under the pressure of battle. That wasn’t the case.
With no evidence, other than the media stories and hearsay, he accused those Marines of “cold blooded” killings and convicted them of murder by his statements.
He became a hero of the liberal left and the media immediately.
Then it all slithered away in a cloud of dust.
That’s because there was no massacre at Haditha.
As Michelle Malkin pointed out in a fine column in the New York Post, pressure from the media on the Pentagon caused serious “outside meddling” in bringing charges against Lt.Col. Chessani and his men, and the charges were found to be unjustified in every case so far.
Just one is left.
The Bottom Line, as Michelle said:
Prosecutors: Zero for seven, with one trial left to go.
Let us be clear for the sake of the reputations of these fine Marines from the 3rd Battalion First Marines of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina:
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani: Charges dismissed.
Captain Lucas McConnell: Charges dismissed
Lt. Andrew Grayson: Acquitted.
Sgt. Sanick De la Cruz: Charges dismissed.
Lance Corporal Steve Tatum: Charges dismissed.
Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt: Charges dismissed.
Captain Randy Stone: All charges against him were dropped soon after they were lodged.
They were all represented by the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor, Michigan, one of the few public players in this drama that saw a great injustice and acted on it.
Only Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich remains to be tried.
Let us pray that he finds justice.
And if he is acquitted, maybe Jack Murtha will apologize to all those marines and their families that he smeared…
And maybe Maureen Dowd will write a column about it and apologize as well.
I’m not planning to hold my breath.
One final comment about Lt. Col. Chessani.
He refused an attorney during the year-long investigation leading up to these criminal charges, even while he was being convicted by the media and people like Congressman Murtha.
He voluntarily answered the relentless questioning of investigators.
As his volunteer attorney at the Tomas More Center said, after the colonel was charged:
"He knew he had done nothing wrong. He trusted he would be cleared”.
“Despite the charges against him, he still believes in that last line of the military Code of Conduct – 'I will trust in God and in the United States of America.'"