The Los Angeles Times reports: The teacher still keeps family photos of the dead, visual mementos of lives cut short in an unremitting hail of gunfire.
“The Americans killed children who were hiding inside the cupboards or under the beds,” said Rafid Abdul Majeed Hadithi, 43, a teacher in the city of Haditha who says he witnessed the 2005 assault by U.S. Marines that took the lives of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians. “Was this Marine charged with dereliction of duty because he didn’t kill more? Is Iraqi blood so cheap?”
In the United States, the brutal saga of Haditha — among the dead were seven children, including a toddler, three women, and a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair — may have concluded Monday with Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich’s guilty plea to negligent dereliction of duty. A military judge said Tuesday that Wuterich will serve no time in the brig under the terms of his plea bargain.
Charges were previously dropped against six others involved in the Euphrates Valley incident; a seventh Marine was acquitted. The plea closed the books on a politically charged case that sparked debate about the manner in which U.S. troops react amid the “fog of war” and the tension of combat.
For many Iraqis, however, Haditha remains a visceral reminder of the most troubling aspects of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and subsequent occupation of their homeland.
Along with the Abu Ghraib prison where Iraqi prisoners were abused by U.S. military police, and Baghdad’s Nisour Square, where 17 Iraqis were allegedly shot dead in 2007 by employees of American private contractor Blackwater, Haditha stands out as an inglorious icon.