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General Praises Exonerated Haditha Marine

After agreeing with the Investigating Officer's recommendation that all charges against Sharratt, a veteran of the bloody battle of Fallujah in 2004 and the insurgent ambush in Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005, be dismissed, Mattis assured Sharratt that he could reflect with satisfaction over his service in Iraq.

"You have served as a Marine infantryman in Iraq where our nation is fighting a shadowy enemy who hides among the innocent people, does not comply with any aspect of the law of war, and routinely targets and intentionally draws fire toward civilians," Mattis wrote in his decision.

"Operational, moral and legal imperatives demand that we Marines stay true to our own standards and maintain compliance with the law of war in this morally bruising environment," he said.

"With the dismissal of these charges, you may fairly conclude that you did your best to live up to the standards ... In the face of life or death decisions made by you in a matter of seconds in combat."


In recommending that the charges against Sharratt be dropped, Lt. Col. Paul Ware who conducted the grand jury-like Article 32 hearings found that murder charges brought against Sharratt were based on unreliable witness accounts, insupportable forensic evidence and questionable legal theories.

"The government version is unsupported by independent evidence," he wrote in his report to Mattis.

"To believe the government version of facts is to disregard clear and convincing evidence to the contrary."

Ware maintained that prosecution of Sharratt could set a
"dangerous precedent that ... May encourage others to bear false witness against Marines as a tactic to erode public support of the Marine Corps and its mission in Iraq."

"Even more dangerous is the potential that a Marine may hesitate at the critical moment when facing the enemy,"
Ware said.

Here is Mattis's statement concerning his decision to drop all charges against Sharratt in the Haditha murder case:

"The events of November 19, 2005 have been exhaustively reviewed by Marine, Army, and Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigators. An independent Article 32 Investigating Officer has considered all the facts and determined that the evidence does not support a referral to court-martial for LCpl Sharratt. Based on my review of all the evidence in this case and considering the recommendation of the Article 32 officer, I have dismissed the charges against LCpl Sharratt.

"LCpl Sharratt has served as a Marine infantryman in Iraq where our Nation is fighting a shadowy enemy who hides among the innocent people, does not comply with any aspect of the law of war, and routinely targets and intentionally draws fire toward civilians. The challenges of this combat environment put extreme pressures on our Marines. Notwithstanding, operational, moral, and legal imperatives demand that we Marines stay true to our own standards and maintain compliance with the law of war in this morally bruising environment.

"The experience of combat is difficult to understand intellectually and very difficult to appreciate emotionally. One of our Nation's most articulate Supreme Court Justices, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., served as an infantryman during the Civil War and described war as an 'incommunicable experience.' He has also noted elsewhere that 'detached reflection cannot be demanded in the face of an uplifted knife.'

Marines have a well earned reputation for remaining cool in the face of enemies brandishing much more than knives. The brutal reality that Justice Holmes described is experienced each day in Iraq, where Marines willingly put themselves at great risk to protect innocent civilians. Where the enemy disregards any attempt to comply with ethical norms of warfare, we exercise discipline and restraint to protect the innocent caught on the battlefield. Our way is right, but it is also difficult.

"With the dismissal of these charges LCpl Sharratt may fairly conclude that he did his best to live up to the standards, followed by U.S. Fighting men throughout our many wars, in the face of life or death decisions made in a matter of seconds in combat. And as he has always remained cloaked in the presumption of innocence, with this dismissal of charges, he remains in the eyes of the law - and in my eyes - innocent."

Lt. Gen. James Mattis also dismissed charges against Capt. Randy Stone in the Haditha case.

"I have thoroughly reviewed and considered all of the evidence surrounding the Haditha incident and Captain Stone's conduct with respect to command reporting of and response to the incident," Gen. Matttis wrote. "It is clear to me that any error of omission or commission by Captain Stone does not warrant action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice."


He concluded his statement by writing
"Now that his case is resolved, I know that he will continue to serve with motivation and dedication, and with the understanding that he has much to contribute to the success of his unit and the Marine Corps."


Talk Show America 8/16/2007

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