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More Haditha charges dropped

Posted by Richard on March 29, 2008

The government has dropped all charges against yet another Marine accused of killing civilians at Haditha in 2005:

The case against Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum, 26, of Edmond, Okla., was dropped as jury selection was about to begin for his court-martial. The government has been seeking Tatum's testimony against the squad leader, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich of Meriden, Conn. [Editor's Note: Haditha Marines still need your help! Click here now.]

In addition to two counts of involuntary manslaughter, Tatum had been charged with reckless endangerment and aggravated assault. Tatum's attorney, Jack Zimmerman, said there was no agreement with the government before the dismissal.

''Absolutely, there is no deal,'' he said.

Zimmerman said Tatum would testify if called as a witness in future trials but that he would testify as a neutral witness, not a government witness.

Four enlisted men originally faced multiple murder charges. Tatum is the third to have all charges dismissed. Two of the four officers charged with failing to investigate have also been cleared. (See also my July 2007 post about the case.)

This travesty has already gone on far too long. The "evidence" that the Marines shot unarmed civilians consisted chiefly of "eyewitness statements" by Iraqis who were clearly insurgents, probably insurgents, family of insurgents, or intimidated by insurgents, and whose stories were contradictory and not credible.

The all-day battle was documented in detail by Maj. Frank Dinsmore, an intelligence officer, with UAV video, radio transmission transcripts, and reports from everyone involved up and down the chain of command. The investigating officer at the Article 32 hearing (equivalent of a civilian grand jury proceeding) found the prosecution's case against these men without merit and Dinsmore's evidence compelling, and he recommended that all charges be dropped. The government ignored that and tried to prevent Dinsmore from testifying.

As far as I know, Rep. John Murtha still hasn't apologized for calling his fellow Marines "cold-blooded murderers." Mainstream media outlets that prominently covered news of the "atrocity" and editorialized against it have never retracted or corrected what they said (except for Time magazine, which had to retract several parts of their original story, but AFAIK never apologized for accusing these men of war crimes). And despite losing at every turn, the government persists with the case.

One of the defense attorneys estimated that legal fees for each defendant will be around half a million dollars. If you'd like to help with those, go here. I don't know how they're supposed to get their reputations and the last three years of their lives back.

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