Capt. Jeffrey Dinsmore, who was the intelligence officer for the battalion accused in the Nov. 19, 2005 killings, was called as a witness at the preliminary hearing for Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, one of four officers charged with dereliction of duty for failing to investigate the deaths.
"You told me that politically, the Marine Corps had made a decision to hang Lieutenant Colonel Chessani out to dry,"prosecutor Lt. Col. Sean Sullivan asked Dinsmore.
"Yes," he replied.
Dinsmore, whose testimony was videotaped in March, said he doubted prosecutors could be objective given the political climate surrounding the case, and said Chessani was "above reproach."
Sullivan said his job as a prosecutor was to ensure justice was done fairly.
The Haditha killings sparked the biggest criminal case against U.S. troops in the war in Iraq, with three enlisted Marines charged with murder and the four officers accused of dereliction.
The two dozen people were slain after a roadside bomb killed Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas who was driving a Humvee. In the aftermath, Marines went house to house looking for insurgents.
They used fragmentation grenades and machine guns to clear the homes, but instead of hitting insurgents, they killed civilians.
Anti-war observers seized on the deaths as evidence that the troops killed indiscriminately. The Marines who fired the fatal shots say they reacted to a perceived threat the way they were trained, and the officers say they saw no evidence of a law-of-war violation.
Chessani's defense team called Dinsmore as a witness to describe what was happening around Haditha in the months leading up to the killings. He said insurgents regularly used hospitals and mosques to launch attacks. Men pretending to be asleep in a house shot and killed a Marine when he entered.
"They would exploit any hesitation in order to gain an advantage,"Dinsmore said.
After he learned of the roadside bomb blast, Dinsmore said he sent an unmanned aerial surveillance vehicle into the skies above Haditha, where it circled for much of the rest of the day.
The bomb that killed Terrazas was only the first of a citywide series of attacks that left several other Marines injured and insurgents dead, Dinsmore said. He recalled Nov. 19 as being the busiest day of combat in the battalion's tour.
Grainy, black-and-white images captured by the aerial drone were briefly displayed in the courtroom. The photographs showed views of Haditha and what Dinsmore described as insurgents meeting in a palm grove and a house in which they subsequently hid.
Marines went on to raid that house, but several were injured when insurgents threw grenades at them. The Marines then ordered a missile strike that destroyed the house and killed its occupants.
Dinsmore said the feeling among the Marine battalion at the end of the day was that they did well. The commanding general in charge of Marines in Haditha at the time, Maj. Gen. Richard A. Huck, was briefed about the day's combat actions three days later, including details about women and children dying in their homes.
Huck was "congratulatory" about the battalion's actions, Dinsmore testified.
Dinsmore and other Marines initially said eight of the 24 Iraqis killed were insurgents, a claim that was repeated up and down the chain of command and in a press release the day after the attack. But under cross examination from Sullivan, Dinsmore conceded he had no solid evidence to support the claim and said it was possible that all 24 of the Iraqi dead were innocent civilians.
At the end of Chessani's hearing, an investigating officer will make a recommendation about whether the charges should go to trial.
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Talk Show America 6/7/2007