[JURIST] A previously undisclosed report [Post excerpts] by US Army Major General Eldon Bargewell [Post profile] into the November 2005 killing of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha [JURIST news archive; USMC timeline] found "serious misconduct" on all levels of the US Marine Corps [official website] chain of command, the Washington Post reported [text] Sunday. Bargewell's investigation concluded in June 2006 finding no evidence of a cover-up [JURIST report], but at the time only excerpts of the report were available. The Post reports that the full 104-page document found no direct evidence of a cover-up, but did find that:
the duty to inquire further was so obvious in this case that a reasonable person with knowledge of these events would have certainly made further inquiries. The most remarkable aspect of the follow-on action with regard to the civilian casualties from the 19 November 2005 Haditha incident was the absence of virtually any kind of inquiry at any level of command into the circumstances surrounding the deaths.Allegations that the casualties were victims of Marine violence were initially ignored as insurgent propaganda; an investigation into the events did not begin until January 2006, when a TIME magazine reporter began probing the incident [TIME report]. Bargewell was also particularly concerned with the general lack of concern for civilian death, and felt that commanders fostered an attitude that Iraqi lives were less valuable than American lives. He found that many of the initial reports to superiors after the killings were inaccurate and the result of "inattention and negligence, in certain cases willful negligence."
A preliminary investigation [JURIST report] by the US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] found that the killings were without warning or provocation. A separate investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) [official website] culminated in the largest US military prosecution involving civilian deaths during the war in Iraq, leading to charges against eight Marines [list of charges and specifications; JURIST report].