WASHINGTON – The Marine Corps
commandant, while refusing to discuss details of the alleged
murder of unarmed Iraqis by Marines, yesterday declared that any
Marine found to have violated the Corps' standards of conduct
“will be held accountable.”
Gen. Michael Hagee, back from visiting Marines in Iraq, said he
was “gravely concerned about the serious allegations concerning
actions of some Marines” at Haditha, where 24 Iraqis might have
been murdered, and at Hamdaniya, where a single Iraqi allegedly
Units from the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Division were
involved in both incidents.
Hagee, who already has met with Marines on the East Coast, is
expected to visit Camp Pendleton next week to discuss core values,
then go to Hawaii and Japan.
Hagee said the Marine Corps is “fully supporting the
investigations” and wants to ensure they “are complete with
respect to what actually happened on the ground and actions taken
or not taken by the chain of command,” he said.
The remark referred to allegations that Marine commanders might
have ignored early indications that the Iraqis who died in Haditha
were not killed by a roadside bomb or accidentally in crossfire
during a fight with insurgents, as the unit involved claimed.
“If it turns out that an individual violated rules or
regulations, he will be held accountable regardless of grade or
position,” Hagee said.
Although not in the combat chain of command of the Marines in
Iraq, Hagee said as commandant he was responsible for the training
of all the Marines, “and I take these responsibilities quite
He said that while the Marines wanted the multiple
investigations into the alleged murders and cover-up to be
completed “as expeditiously as possible,” they also want to ensure
they are thorough “and that due process and the rights of the
affected individuals are protected.”
The investigations are being conducted by the Naval Criminal
Investigative Service and a senior Army officer under the
jurisdiction of the operational commanders in Iraq.
When completed, the findings and recommendations will “go up
the operational chain to the final adjudicating authority,” Hagee
said. That would be Lt. Gen. John Sattler, commander of the 1st
Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton and head of Marine
Forces Central Command.
Pentagon sources have indicated the investigation of the
Haditha incident could take another month, but action might come
sooner on the Hamdaniya killing and the alleged cover-up.
Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner, R-Va.,
urged Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a letter Tuesday to
make as much information about the incidents available as soon as
possible so his panel could hold hearings. Delay in releasing the
facts will mean “a mixture of information, misinformation and
unconfirmed facts will continue to spiral in the public domain,”
House Armed Services Committee chairman Duncan Hunter,
R-Alpine, also has vowed to hold hearings on Haditha as soon as
possible without compromising the investigations.