Command influence in Haditha case?

Richard Thompson:

Revelations by top Marine Generals, that former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, set up a shadow “body” composed of high-ranking administration officials to oversee the Haditha investigations, could prove to be the most damning evidence of the political motivations and influence over the ongoing prosecutions of Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Chessani, USMC, and other combat Marines involved.

Lawyers representing Marine LtCol Jeffrey Chessani uncovered the existence of the extraordinarily unusual oversight body.


The hysteria and media firestorm over Abu Gharib and the Pat Tillman investigations led to fear of a similar media reaction to the Haditha incident, causing the military’s civilian bosses to set up this shadow oversight body. This extraordinary action politicized the military justice system and was a clear signal to top generals that they were expected to hold individuals criminally responsible. The investigation turned into a quest for a prosecution – not justice.



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Months later, however, a known al Qaeda propaganda operative instigated an inflammatory Time Magazine article written by reporter Tim McGirk – later proven to be false – calling the deaths of the civilians a “massacre.” The military initiated at least three investigations as a result.

Proof that this entire investigation has been a politically motivated quest for a prosecution rather than justice is supported by several details of the investigations, including:

An admission by the Director of the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (“NCIS”) that over 65 investigators were assigned to the case, which in his opinion was the largest investigative effort in Department’s history.

Formation of “Legal Team Charlie” composed of military lawyers reassigned from other units and reserve officers activated for the purpose of prosecuting this case—all highly unusual.

The Secretary of Navy countermanded a determination by General James Mattis, USMC, that Colonel Stephen Davis, USMC, LtCol Chessani’s regimental commander, would receive a Non-Punitive Letter of Caution, which would not be part of his permanent record. Gen Mattis’ decision was overridden by the Navy Secretary, who ordered a Letter of Censure, a more severe punishment, which effectively ended this fine Marine officer’s career.


As the consolidated convening authority in all the Haditha investigations, General Mattis’ decision, under normal circumstances, would be absolute and final.

It’s deeply troubling that the desire to appease the liberal anti-war press and politicians has led to the prosecution of innocent Marines for purely political purposes. These prosecutions will become a scandal of historic proportions unless terminated by independently minded and virtuous military judges.

An Undue Command Influence motion had already been filed on behalf of the combat Marines., and LtCol Chessani’s lawyers intend to file its own Undue Command Influence motion on his behalf. Further startling events will be revealed at that time.


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There is more.

This is a troubling development. I think there has been other evidence of command influence. John Murtha's intemperate remarks about the case reek of command influence and it is likely that he got his information from the former Commandant of the Marine Corps. So far the Court Martial officers have not allowed defense attorneys to question him on this. The trials of the first of the defendants starts Monday.

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