When the United States Marine Corps ambushed Haditha four years ago, 24 Iraqi citizens fell casualty. Now, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Chessani, the highest-ranking officer to be accused of a military offense since the Vietnam War, is charged with failing to accurately report and investigate a potential war violation by Marines under his command.
On the morning of Nov. 19, 2005, a roadside bomb destroyed a Marine Corps Humvee in Haditha, and a counterattack in search of the assailants resulted in the killing of 24 civilian Iraqis.
“It was very sad, very unfortunate, but at the time, I did not suspect any wrongdoing from my Marines,” said Chessani in a sworn statement given to military investigators earlier this year.
It wasn’t until a reporter for Time magazine began questioning the event and the involvement of the Camp Pendleton unit, commanded by Lt. Col. Chessani, that the case became controversial.
The controversy was further fueled by comments from Congressman John. P Murtha at a news conference who accused the Marines of having “killed innocent civilians in cold blood.” Interestingly enough, these allegations were made before the facts were established.
The U.S. Marine Corps views the attacks as a standard military procedure and all leaders in his chain of command have defended Chessani and the Marines in the Camp Pendleton unit by dismissing the accusations made by Murtha.
There’s reason to believe, based on evidence and conclusions made by Chessani, that insurgents staged the event. Further speculation indicates that the insurgents may have resorted to opening fire on their own civilians in order to frame the U.S. Marine Corps. Given the fact that he witnessed the event while defending our country, his word should hold considerably more weight than Murtha’s.
Unfortunately, the pressure from Murtha to find someone to blame is building and as a result, a decorated veteran faces up to 30 months in prison and administrative action in which he will be discharged without honor.
The travesty affects not only Chessani, but his loving wife and their six children as well. He has remained on duty at Camp Pendleton since the charges were made against him and is planning to retire after the ordeal.
Chessani has been deployed to Iraq on three different occasions and holds a Bronze star-an American hero. He should be receiving a hero’s welcome and returning home, but after four years he is only berated by the unappreciative citizens he has sworn to protect, who were not there and cannot even fathom the consequences of war.