Thursday, 9 February 2012


Some thoughts on Frank Wuterich Sentencing Day 

Got up bright and early Tuesday to make it down to Pendleton, it’s a great drive down an only takes me an hour (takes me longer to get to work most mornings).  Normally as I drive down Hwy 5 past Basilone Road I usually see the red tail hawks flying back and forth over the fwy.  It’s always a reassuring sign to see the hawks gliding effortless in flight, but they were no where in site Tuesday.  I stopped to get coffee at McD’s and encountered a black crow yakking up a storm near the entrance, being Irish I see a crow as a bad sign but needed that coffee more than recognizing a bad sign.  Make it to the courthouse and clear the security check, the press corps are out in force today from local, national and international agencies, for fun I like to keep an eye on these media vultures to see who they are writing for.  Court is supposed to start at 0830, right before the start a worker bee tries to straighten out the US and Marine Corps flags, both flags fall over from their stand and I comment that uh oh, that’s not a good sign ,that’s shows the state of our nation -  some folks around me get it.  I am now starting to see the signs.   

Before Judge Jones announces sentencing several witnesses take the stand on frank’s behalf:

First up is 1st Lieutenant Brian McDermott, best friend of Frank Wuterich.  The Lt speaks to Frank’s strong character and integrity.  Both enlisted together, trained together, McDermott ended his service in 2002, got a degree and then came back via the Officers school.  McDermott said he saw no reason why Frank could not continue on in his rank of SSGT.

Next up is Sgt. Major Edward Sax, Ret, via phone conference.  Sax was a 1st Sgt for 5 years and a Sgt Major for 8 yrs which included his time in 3/1.  The Sgt Major actually testified on 1/17/12 as a prosecution witness but his testimony did more for the defense side, cos I could see Gannon’s veins popping on the side of his head.  I digress, Sax said that even though Frank had pleaded guilty to dereliction of duty he (Sax) would have no problem having Frank as a Staff NCO in his battalion, that Frank would learn from his mistakes if we were going to call it that and Frank will bounce back from this.  Gannon asked even with Frank uttering Shoot First, Ask Questions later to which Sax replied that the statement is not a disregard for the Rules of Engagement (ROE) or SOP’s but more so to remind Marines that hesitation kills. OOORAH Sgt Major!  

I don’t know why Gannon kept going but some guys just don’t know when to cut their losses, he then asked Sax doesn’t the situation dictate our response, aren’t we to gain the trust of civilians?  I can’t tell you what Sax answered cos I was too busy writing WHAT CRAP on my notepad.  I zoned back in to hear Sax explain that military aged males (MAM) dressed in black robes are part of the insurgent Mujahadeen, or as Tatum describes it as a black man-dress, similar to the MAM seen running from house 1.

Major Jeff Dinsmore is up next.  Major Dinsmore is now an Intel Officer with Spec Ops Command and was Capt Dinsmore the Intel officer for 3/1 at the time of Haditha.  Basically this means Major Dinsmore is not just smart he’s super super smart, a fact wasted on the Persecution  I mean Prosecution.

Dinsmore testified that prior to 3/1’s deployment in Sep 05 he spent time in Iraq with 3/25 observing the area.  3/1 relieved 3/25.  Dinsmore explained that 3/25 had tough time in battle space, the insurgent groups had control of Haditha and that al-Zarqawi had a heavy presence in the city.  Dinsmore confirmed Faraj’s question that Zarqawi was a ruthless man, even to civilians, and used civilians as shields to expose loops in the ROEs and exposing the ROE’s weaknesses.  Per the ROEs Marines were not permitted to enter protected places such as hospitals, which the insurgents would use as an ambush site and shoot at Marines from inside patient rooms.  The use of civilians as shields caused hesitation in Marines reaction.  Dinsmore related the threat assessment leading up to 19th Nov, Marines expected something to happen which would be a complex attack with spectacular results, this is so pivotal that I will repeat it for you in bold - a complex attack with spectacular results.  The attack would consist of an initiating device such as an IED exploding and then first responders and other patrols would be ambushed.  This type of attack did take place on 19th Nov, first responders coming down River Road were ambushed.  

Insurgents used hit and run tactics and small units were a staple of their MO.  762 shells would be found w/out fighters or weapons, insurgents would load weapons in trunks of cars, they used houses w/out permission.  Murder and intimidation were used by insurgents against the civilians to secure safe houses, if not complied with the insurgents would seek retribution on your family.  
Dinsmore stated that evidence showed the IED on 19th Nov was detonated from the south – Houses 1 & 2 were south and intel reports did confirm insurgents in house.  

Lt Col Sullivan’s turn to question Dinsmore, asking if Dinsmore was on scene to which Dinsmore replied his observations were from the scan eagle.  Well that set Sullivan in motion.  If you recall the Smeagal/Gollum character from Lord of the Rings, one minute there is an agreeable character in the form of Smeagal and next his eyes glaze over and out comes Gollum character looking for “his precious” this is my illustration on how Sullivan responded.   He did some hand motions and scowled when asking Dinsmore questions, I guess he had to play it forceful cos he was pandering to the press on behalf of the Marine Corps Public Affairs dept.  The buzz, or as I prefer the term scuttlebutt, was that had Dinsmore actually testified as a defense witness on what he knew of the events of 19th Nov (and the threats on the ground) not only would Frank and the entire Haditha Marines be vindicated but the Prosecution and their Perpetrators in Washington D.C. would have to face some serious allegations on their conduct.   Anyhoo, back to Gollum who then asked Dinsmore if he briefed Marines on the ROE’s, Dinsmore replied he did not it was the JAG who did the brief while Dinsmore’s focus was threats.  

Major Lucas McConnell was up next.  McConnell was Capt of Kilo Co during the time of Haditha.  Major Faraj asked if McConnell had a combat action ribbon (CAR), McConnell explained he does have one, he is entitled to wear it but refuses to do so because others who should have received their CAR were denied it (Wuterich was awarded a CAR and then had it denied).  McConnell testified that Wuterich was an outstanding Marine capable of rehabilitating himself, was an outstanding squad leader and always communicated what threats were to his men.  

Faraj finishes and up comes Sullivan with his questions.  Smeagal/Gollum is gone.  I guess you expect a certain amount of testosterone emanating from an all male Marine prosecution team, especially a team that really has no case and no business trying this case.  However, Sullivan’s demeanor was giving off a lot of feminine energy and not in a good way if you get my drift.  I didn’t write down exactly what Sullivan asked McConnell cos I was too busy looking at McConnell’s facial expression while trying to stifle my own laughter.  McConnell had an incredulous look on his face as if his wife just threw a hissy fit at him and he didn’t know should he laugh, tell her how obnoxious she is or just keep quiet.  For women, you give this look when girlfriend disses your outfit and laughter is not your response, just sayin.
Wa Wa Wa Wa Sullivan finishes up with McConnell.  Oh well maybe it’s just his Chicago way 

Next, a 4 minute video is played showing Frank and his 3 beautiful daughters at various stages, singing, playing guitar and riding bikes.  Yes, I balled like a baby and you would too!

Frank reads his unsworn statement.  He explains “Shoot First, Ask Questions later”, the intent was not to shoot civilians but to save his men’s lives, meaning that they not hesitate to defend themselves.  That’s all the notes I took because I was crying, again!

Defense and Persecution call no more witnesses and its closing arguments.

Sullivan did closing for Persecution.  He touched on the NCIS investigations calling them intense questioning stating “it was the right thing to do, moral thing to do”.   Hold up a minute Sully boy, witness after witness testified in court during the Wuterich trial that they signed false confessions to NCIS.  The confessions were false and singed under duress, I believe NCIS threatened one witness with deportation, while not letting others use the restroom for HOURS.  Tatum testified that he signed the prepared statement just to get out of the basement of the Haditha Dam (location of interrogations, oops meant “intense questioning”) after approx 16 hours.  Tatum admitted he signed statement but statement was false.  

Neal Puckett’s closing is avail on his site:

Two hour recess called while judge decides sentencing.  

As you now know Frank Wuterich got a suspended 90 day sentence and reduction in rank 6 years and 2 months after the alleged Haditha Massacre of 19th Nov 2005.  Are you freakin kidding me?!?!  Seriously?  Suspended sentence for dereliction of duty, this is what it came down to?  Why on earth wasn’t this charge settled and agreed to back in 2005/2006 instead of putting Frank, his family and all the Haditha Marines thru hell on earth past 6+ years.  Freaking unbelievable!  

After all the time, effort and money that was spent on the Haditha prosecutions it come down to dereliction of duty as the verdict for the last Haditha Marine.  After observing several of the Haditha trials I can offer my opinions on Whiskey Tango Foxtrot happened!  

It’s simple - The Haditha Marines were scapegoats for a botched investigation.  Haytham Faraj commented at Tuesday’s press conference that prosecutors let a conclusion determine the investigations instead of the facts leading to a conclusion.  The cart before the horse theory seems plausible to me when you envision Marine Leadership and Dept of Defense officials scurrying to cover their a$$e$ once Time magazine and the late John Murtha got their story out.  

I went back to the notes I took at Frank’s Undue Command Influence (UCI) hearing in March 2010 and here’s what I wrote:

General "I never talked to Ewers" Mattis -described as very detailed, relied heavily on the NCIS Haditha investigations over the Bargewell report.  When asked about influences on decisions Mattis responded "my obligation is to do my duty".  Mattis recommended a non-punitive letter be given to Col Davis, which was overruled by Sec Nav Winters.

So it seems to me that the Convening Authority at the time, General James Mattis, relied on inaccurate and I’ll will say it FALSE information to bring charges against the Haditha Marines.  

Pictures of the dead civilians from 19 Nov were shown in court, during the days that I was at Frank’s trial if the pics were shown to the jury they were in binders and not on the screen.  The judge would advise the court that pictures would be shown and those that choose to leave could do so.  I’m not squeamish and would have been able to handle seeing the pics.  My thoughts are if you’re going to show pics then show the picture of the lifeless body of Lcpl Terrazas, torn in half from the IED.  What about all the women and children in the planes and twin towers the morning of 11th Sept, will you show those too?  Where was the outrage from the Persecution when the Associated Press tactlessly published the picture of mortally wounded LCpl Joshua Bernard?  Ok, my Irish is way up so let me re- focus.  

Who knows why Frank decided to take a deal but he felt it was the best decision for him and his family and none of us can imagine what it’s been like to walk in his shoes these past 6 years.   I’m sure he was weary from the battle and the Govt just wore him down.  I believe several others wanted Frank to fight on.  I bet Faraj wanted to fight on and finish the mission.  Faraj has been on both sides, enlisted and officer.  Vin Diesel could be Haytham Faraj’s double, but in looks only as Faraj is far superior in intelligence and tactics.  In Arabic Haytham means young hawk, a fitting description for this warrior.  On Tuesday the hawk was not seen in flight but the crows were out.  

Haditha was a city wide complex attack the produced spectacular results on 19th of Nov and not an isolated incident as the media would have you believe.  I am sorry for the loss of life that came as a direct result of the insurgents using civilians to hide behind while manipulating the ROEs that our own forces use to defend themselves*

 To show how convoluted the ROE’s are I will attempt to recap the testimony that major Navin gave 1/13/12:  Major Navin gave a 45 minute class on the ROE’s to 3/1 prior to their Sept 05 deployment.  An Attorney at MEF created the ROE slide.  Major Navin I think is a SJA, Staff judge advocate.  The 45 min class consisted of 16 slide scenarios, which she only went over a few scenarios.  The jist of this is lawyers wrote ROE’s and you can’t have lawyers write ROE’s.  Basically what I got was it’s up to Marines to make a determination of amount of force to be used, up to and including deadly force.  The rest is just dribble and this is what our Marines are faced with!   .

I grieve for LCpl Terrazas, his family and all the Haditha Marines.  I mostly grieve for the Marine Corps and its leaders that let a political and media driven witch hunt demoralize and decimate the finest fighting force the world has known.


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