The Haditha town council complained to Marine officers about the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians, but U.S. military officials rejected a call to
investigate, a Marine intelligence captain testified Friday.
Capt. Jeffrey Dinsmore testified that council members met with battalion commander Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani and company commander Capt. Lucas McConnell from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines on Nov. 27, 2005, eight days after a Marine squad killed 24 Iraqis including women and children in their homes after a deadly roadside bomb attack.
Dinsmore said the council had circulated a flier demanding an investigation into the deaths and outlining allegations that Marines deliberately targeted civilians, but he dismissed the flier as propaganda.
"My assessment was the city council was being used as a tool of
insurgent propaganda," Dinsmore said. "We would see allegations like that a couple of times a week."
Dinsmore, who has not been charged, spoke on the fourth day of a
preliminary hearing for Capt. Randy W. Stone, one of four officers,
including McConnell and Chessani, charged with dereliction of duty
for failing to investigate the killings.
Three enlisted Marines are charged with unpremeditated murder in the biggest U.S. criminal case involving civilian deaths in the Iraq war.
The attack occurred Nov. 19, 2005 after a roadside bomb struck a
Humvee convoy, killing one Marine and injuring two others. In the aftermath, Marines shot five Iraqis by a car and went house to house looking for insurgents, using grenades and machine guns to clear houses.
Maj. Gen. Richard A. Huck, the top general in charge of Marines in Iraq's Al Anbar province when the killings occurred, testified Thursday that he knew about the deaths the day they occurred, but considered them simply a "truly unfortunate" consequence of war at the time.
"I had no information that a law of armed conflict violation had been committed," he said by video link from the Pentagon.
Stone's attorney, Charles Gittins, called Huck to testify in an attempt to show Stone did nothing wrong because Marines throughout the command chain knew about the killings but agreed not to order an investigation because the deaths were deemed to have been lawful.
Several other military officials have testified that the killings were considered an unfortunate consequence of war, and they saw no need to investigate.
On Wednesday, a Marine sergeant testified that his squad leader, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, shot five Iraqi men as they stood with their hands in the air and then told comrades to lie about it.
The hearing is part of an Article 32 investigation, the military's equivalent to a grand jury proceeding. Maj. Thomas McCann, the investigating officer, will hear evidence and recommend whether the charges should go to trial.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)