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A 2005 video still shows covered bodies in the town of Haditha, western Anbar province, Iraq. A U.S. Army general concluded the Marine Corps chain of command in Iraq ignored 'obvious' signs of 'serious misconduct' in the slayings of two dozen civilians in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005, The Washington Post reported on Saturday. (Hammurabi Organisation via Reuters TV/Reuters)

Last week we talked a bit about the ACLU release of Army records of compensation payments to the relatives of Iraqi civilians killed by US troops. This week, one of the most horrific of those episodes is back in the news with Saturday's report in the Washington Post by Josh White who describes a secret report, completed in June 2006, on the conduct of the 2nd Marine Division in the Haditha massacre:

In the Haditha incident, which has become one of the most notorious alleged atrocities of the Iraq war, Marines killed two dozen civilians after a huge roadside bomb ripped through a Humvee in their convoy, killing one Marine instantly and injuring two others. A Naval Criminal Investigative Service report found that the Marines then killed five unarmed civilians whom they ordered out of a car — one Marine alleged that another got down on one knee and shot them one by one — before storming several houses and killing women and children, some of them still in their pajamas and lying in bed.

(snip)

Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell's 104-page report on Haditha is scathing in its criticism of the Marines' actions, from the enlisted men who were involved in the shootings on Nov. 19, 2005, to the two-star general who commanded the 2nd Marine Division in Iraq at the time. Bargewell's previously undisclosed report, obtained by The Washington Post, found that officers may have willfully ignored reports of the civilian deaths to protect themselves and their units from blame. Though Bargewell found no specific coverup, he concluded that there also was no interest at any level in investigating allegations of a massacre.

"All levels of command tended to view civilian casualties, even in significant numbers, as routine and as the natural and intended result of insurgent tactics," Bargewell wrote. He condemned that approach because it could desensitize Marines to the welfare of noncombatants. "Statements made by the chain of command during interviews for this investigation, taken as a whole, suggest that Iraqi civilian lives are not as important as U.S. lives, their deaths are just the cost of doing business, and that the Marines need to get 'the job done' no matter what it takes."