The plea bargain in the last Haditha massacre case handed down in January is a fitting end to the Iraq war. In the most notorious case of U.S. culpability in Iraqi civilian deaths, no one will pay a price. And that is emblematic of the entire war and its hundreds of thousands of dead and millions displaced.Sergeant Frank Wuterich, the squad leader who encouraged and led his marines to kill 24 civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha in November 2005, was the last of eight originally charged in the massacre. The others were let off on technicalities, or to help the prosecution. One officer, not involved in the killing but the coverup, was acquitted in a military trial.
The responsibility for these killings came down to Wuterich’s role, but he never actually went through a full trial. The military prosecutor opted for the slap-on-the-wrist of demotion to private for the 24 civilian deaths. Wuterich, who admitted to much more in a “60 Minutes” interview in 2007—including rolling grenades into a house filled with civilians without attempting to make an identification—copped only to “dereliction of duty.”
The episode was often compared with the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, in which some 400 civilians were executed by Lieutenant William Calley and some of his army unit in 1967. While the scale and circumstances are quite different, they do bear one striking similarity, and that is the reaction of officials and the American public alike. Continue reading