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Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Marines in Haditha

(USMC/Cpl. Shane Suzuki/Handout/Reuters)
Living like pigs is not good

Two Kos Diaries discuss living conditions in Haditha for the Marines

Good God, What Have We Done to our Marines?
by paradox
Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 08:00:20 AM PDT

Susie Madrack at Suburban Guerilla has an incredible story from the Daily Telegraph about the living conditions previously observed by the Marines alleged to have committed the massacre at Haditha.

"Haditha was shockingly different - a feral place where the marines hardly washed; a number had abandoned the official living quarters to set up separate encampments with signs ordering outsiders to keep out; and a daily routine punctured by the emergency alarm of the dam itself with its antiquated and crumbling machinery."

"The reporter was there just before the first massacre reports came out in January.

"The day before my arrival one soldier had shot himself in the head with his M16. No one would discuss why."

I'm sure as the Corps and the nation learns the whole story it will become obvious that this horror was just waiting to happen.

"The washing facilities were at the top and the main lavatories at the base. With about 800 steps between them, many did not bother to use the official facilities.

Instead, a number had moved into small encampments around the dam's entrances that resembled something from Lord of the Flies. Entering one, a marine was pulling apart planks of wood with his dirt-encrusted hands to feed a fire."

"It is not yet known where exactly the men responsible for the killing of the 24 civilians in Haditha were based. There was a handful of small, forward-operating bases in the town and surrounding area, with two dozen or so in each. If they were in these, it is highly unlikely their conditions were any better.

They would certainly also have shared the recent history of the battalion. It had undergone three tours in Iraq in two and a half years.

More than 30 of its members had died in the previous one, the majority when the unit led the major attack on Fallujah, then at the heart of the insurgency. Now they were in Haditha, one of the most dangerous settlements in Iraq, after only seven months away."

Jesus Christ, these were the same men who had been thrown into that hell at Falluja! Now they're on their third tour in thirty months! That's hardly any time off from the combat at all, good Lord, 30 days of combat can seem like ten years.

Something went horribly, horribly wrong with the Marine Corps chain of command here. I have an incredible amount of difficulty believing American officers allowed this to happen---in fact, the only way I'm sure this degradation could have happened is that we broke our men with those tours and that service in Falluja.

Multiple horror stories of war crimes have come out of Falluja, snipers gunning down civilians and phosphorous being used indiscriminately as a chemical weapon. One wonders what other horrors are yet to surface.

Haditha, to this writer, isn't about a massacre from a small group of Marines. It's about putting the Corps to the breaking point, really doing it, and then looking at the results. A huge chunk of the Corps chain of command was broken along with it.

We know, to some extent, what those Marines are have alleged to have done. Too little is known about what they went through to get to that point. For the love of God, get all of our women and men home now before we get any more to that point of madness

This is the story of a Marine previously stationed at Haditha

I Was Stationed in Haditha
by filmgeek83
Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 10:44:19 AM PDT

From about March - June of 2004, the Haditha dam was my home base of operations. I was there with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, attached as a Combat Videographer. Aside from a few Operations that took me away from the town, I lived in the dam.

It was not optimal, but it was not as bad as this.

The fact that it is now is criminal.

When I first got there in March of 2004, I lived on the seventh floor of ten. The first thing that would hit me when I arrived was the horrible smell. Something was leaking sulfur gas, and it smelled like rotten eggs. People with more knowledge about the subject than me said it was good that we could smell it. That meant the parts per million was so small that it wouldn't kill us. When the gas reached lethal levels, our olfactory senses would shut down long before the gas actually suffocated us. It made me glad they still forced us to carry our gas masks around.

There were showers on our floor, outside on the huge deck where we ate meals (Haditha didn't have hot chow, so it was nothing but MRE's). Most of the time they would work, so we got showers, if not hot ones. There were portable toilets there too, so we didn't have to climb any stairs to go to the bathroom, which was nice. Later, after we came back from Fallujah (the first assault in April, which Bush ordered halted when his poll numbers started to tank; we called it Operation Just Kidding) I ended up on the second floor, which had working plumbing in it. Said plumbing wasn't good enough to let us take a crap, so we had to walk down two flights of stairs to get to the head for a dump.

That was another thing about Haditha Dam, the stairs. When I first got there, (seventh floor, to be clear) I had to hump all my gear from the bottom up seven flights of stairs. No matter where you wanted to go in the dam, there were usually about three flights of stairs between you and your destination. The elevators didn't work.

But really, it wasn't as bad as I'm sure you're picturing. We had a roof over our heads, the lake kept us relatively cool, and it was safe. I was as comfortable there as I could be.

I don't know if this is still true, but we didn't even have to worry about security around the dam. A group of soldiers from Azerbaijan (yes folks, Azerbaijan, another fine member of the coalition of the willing) took care of that. That was about the only benefit of being at Haditha. You could sleep the whole night without worrying about watch.

Haditha is smack between Al Asad Air Base (one of those "not-permanent" permanent bases we're building) and Ramadi (the New Fallujah). I took many trips on the road to both of those places, and I never encountered any enemy. Hell, I actually walked through Ramadi, twice, and no one fired a shot. From what I understand, this is impossible now. That's probably true of Haditha now too.

There are a few things about the degradation of living conditions in Haditha that make me insane with rage. The first, we all know there are millions of dollars missing from the books in Iraq (pure fucking graft) and while that might not be enough to complete the job of fixing the dam, put it would put a dent in it. Our Marines would at least be able to live better than they are right now.

Second, Al Asad is right down the road, about forty minutes by car. Al Asad is fucking Shangri La compared to Haditha. It is an abandoned Iraqi air base the Coalition Forces moved into. There's hot chow (that you would be willing to eat, I'm talking wings, pizza, salad bar) indoor shower stations with working toilets, two man rooms with beds and A/C (we call them cans) a P/X, and any number of things. It is like a small base back here in the states. Why can't we keep Haditha running when we're building a permanent fucking establishment less than an hour away is completely beyond me. It's criminal mismanagement.

And we can't abandon the dam either. It's a prime suspect for terrorism. All some nut has to do is plant one strategic bomb with enough power and the whole place comes down. Thousands would die.

I'm not surprised the Haditha Slaughter happened, like the Mai Lai Massacre in the boondoggle before this. I'm not even surprised it happened where it did. I saw signs of it when I was there. We had picked up a suspect from the town, and brought him back to the damn for questioning. As the grunts were taking him down from the truck (he was blindfolded), they bent him at the waist and rammed his head into the grill of a Humvee, hard enough to draw blood. Keep in mind this is an entirely different unit of Marines than those that perpetrated the Slaughter.

The interrogators were pissed. Such bullshit makes suspect cooperation almost impossible.

Think anyone from Haditha is cooperating with us now?

This is what a war of choice looks like, folks. We've seen it before. We should have been expecting this.

Never again, Goddammit. Never again.

posted by Steve @ 2:12:00 PM

2:12:00 PM

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