Haditha: Where Are They (the Accusers) Now?

Eight charged; seven cleared; one, please, let’s hope, to go.

Finally, the last “Haditha” trial is in progress, and, thanks to Nat Helms at Defend Our Marines, everything you need or want to know about the proceedings, the witnesses, the facts about the case of SSGT Frank D. Wuterich, the last of the Marine Mohicans, is here.

Tim McGirk, source of the Haditha myth-acre.

Of course, I still have a few questions — the exact same questions I had when I first looked at the case back in late 2007/early 2008. That was just about one year after all the charges related to claims of a 2005 Marine massacre of civilians in Haditha had come down. Even by early 2008, however, the case was already turning into a big flopola for prosecutors, media and other champions of the massacre myth, including the late Rep. John Murtha (D-PA).

From my January 2008 column:

What a difference a year has made since charges came down at the end of 2006. The New York Times in October mourned — I mean, noted — the shift: “Last year, when accounts of the killings of 24 Iraqis in Haditha by a group of Marines came to light, it seemed that the Iraq war had produced its defining atrocity, just as the conflict in Vietnam had spawned the My Lai massacre a generation ago.”

No “defining atrocity”? Gee, that’s too bad. The Times went on to lament that the presiding military investigator recommended that murder charges against the ranking enlisted Marine, Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, be dropped. And this, the newspaper bellyached, “may well have ended prosecutors’ chances of winning any murder convictions in the killings.”

No murder convictions? Well, boo-the-heck-hoo.

In the end, of course, it has been Wuterich who has remained in the hot seat the longest.

And the accusers?

A quick recap, from my 2008 column:

Who can forget the March 19, 2006, Time magazine story by Tim McGirk entitled “Collateral Damage or Civilian Massacre in Haditha?” The story answered its own question by describing a vengeful, Marine “rampage.”

On May 17, 2006, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., piled on to say what happened at Haditha was actually “much worse” than the Time story. Official investigations were still underway, but the ranking member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee repeatedly condemned the Marines for having “killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”

As if to underscore the point, on May 25, 2006, then-commandant of the Marine Corps Michael Hagee announced he would embark on a grand tour of Marine bases to “reinforce standards and core values.” This didn’t exactly come off as a vote of confidence in his men.

As 2008 begins, Haditha hysteria still blights the lives of all the men who were implicated, not just the soldiers remaining in legal limbo. But what about the accusers who trumpeted the worst of the charges? Are they accountable for tarnished reputations? Terminated careers? Legal bills? Outrage? Night sweats?

Dream on. McGirk has moved on to a plummy new assignment as Time Jerusalem bureau chief, even as Time has moved away from signal points in the initial report. Via subsequent “corrections,” Time asserted that the identity of a key source was grossly misrepresented, and admitted that allegations about a photograph reported as “one of the most damning pieces of evidence investigators have” was based on information from a source who later said “he had no firsthand knowledge” of it.

Murtha refuses to comment on the matter publicly or otherwise; as a defendant in a civil libel suit filed by Staff Sgt. Wuterich, he’s appealing a federal court order to be interviewed by Staff Sgt. Wuterich’s attorneys.

Hagee, whom Murtha has ID’ed as his source (Hagee denies this), has retired.

So, where are they now?

Murtha died in 2010, age 77. A federal appeals court ruled in 2009 that due to congressional immunity, Murtha did not have to face defamation charges brought by Wuterich for Murtha’s disgracefully inflammatory remarks, made in advance of an investigation, that the Haditha Marines had killed civilians “in cold blood.” Never heard tell of any deathbed apologies from Murtha to the Marines he slandered.

General Hagee retired (2007), but he is busy, busy, busy. In addition to joining the board of SGI in 2008, “Mr. Hagee is a Director for DynCorp International since July 2010. He is also a Non-Executive Director at Cobham Plc. He is on the Board of Directors at Remington Arms Co., Inc., IAP Worldwide Services, Inc., Bushmaster Firearms International LLC, Freedom Group, Inc., National Interest Security Co. LLC and Silicon Graphics International Corp.Mr. Hagee joined Rackable Systems as a board member in February 2008. He was previously a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the 33rd Commandant of the United States Marine Corps.”

And Tim McGirk? Above all, the Time correspondent was the source of the scandal and also the military investigation, as it came out in one of the trial investigations. No apparent bumps in the road for him; after the Haditha scandal broke, as noted above, he became Time magazine’s Jerusalem bureau chief. Still a Time contributor, in 2010 McGirk snagged “special in-residence support” at UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism — naturally. He is now managing editor of the investigative reporting program there. I don’t know whether that counts as an honor or being put out to pasture where he can do no ‘arm — except further twist young minds, of course. I notice in this December 2011 interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, the Left of the Left, it is Goodman who uses the word “massacre” and “slaughter” by Marines to describe Haditha; in his surprisinly soft voice, McGirk talks repeatedly and only about “terrible things.” And no, he doesn’t offer any correction or callibration to Goodman.

If you watch the clip, don’t miss the Arab gal-anchor’s pronunciation of “Wuterich,” which she gives the Germanic (Nazi?) “ich.”

Terrible things, indeed.