Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani is a 19 year veteran of the US Marine Corps, with tours of duty in Panama, the Persian Gulf and three tours of Iraq. He is also a man whose well documented, and heroic, career is on hold right now because of the accusations of one man: John Murtha, American Congressman, who went on national television and accused the Marines of killing innocent civilians in cold blood. Lt. Col. Chessani swore an oath on joining the military to defend America against all “enemies, foreign and domestic.” As has been seen repeatedly throughout the current war, it is the domestic enemies that people like the Lt. Col. most have to defend themselves against.
The most serious charge against Lt. Col. Chessani is “dereliction of duty,” charges based on Murtha’s unfounded assertions that what happened in Haditha on November 19, 2005 was a ‘massacre’ by our Marines, repeated in various Time magazine articles, and carried on by others in the mainstream media.
That Iraqi civilians died on November 19, 2005 in Haditha is beyond dispute. That these civilians were murdered by cold-blooded Marines, as Murtha insists, has been scrutinized both in the msm and within military courts. What is becoming clearer by the day is that the Marines DID act within the Rules of Engagement that every soldier is taught in BASIC training. What is also clear is that even though Murtha originally repeated that his ‘evidence’ came from high level Marine sources, his blathering to anyone who would listen was in fact based on information from a ‘known insurgent’, a so-called ‘journalism student’ who was in reality a 43-year old insurgent propagandist Thaer Thabit al-Hadithi who together with Abdul-Rahman al-Mashhadani, another known insurgent propagandist, constituted the entire membership of the Hammurabi Human Rights Group.
It is well known that “insurgents” have often fabricated stories about civilian deaths by US troops, in order to be paid money. Lt. Col. Chessani is the latest victim of such smear campaigns that the American media (and Congressman Murtha) swallowed hook line and sinker. In an article in October 2007, Time magazine asked: “Who Will Be Punished for Haditha?” So far, charges have been dismissed against some of the Marines there that day. Investigative lawyer Lt. Col Paul Ware in recommendations to Lt. General James Mattis :
“Witness accounts are not credible,… The Iraqis’ first statements to NCIS [Naval Criminal Investigative Service] were taken in a group setting, five months after the events occurred and with knowledge that other families in Haditha had received monetary compensation from the United States for events that occurred on 19 November 2005.”
Ware further noted that it was difficult to collect evidence since Iraqi civilians were uncooperative. In one of the cases – brought against Lance Cpl Sharratt.
After weighing all the evidence available, Ware ultimately concluded that Sharratt had acted according to his training.
“Whether this was a brave act of combat against the enemy or tragedy of misperception born out of conducting combat with an enemy that hides among innocents, LCpl Sharratt’s actions were in accord with the rules of engagement and use of force.”
As has been proven over time, that day in Haditha was according to the rules of engagement – by the book, so to speak. All well and good for politicians like Murtha to go to the national media and make accusations based on what turned out to be insurgents’ stories, but for the Marines, due process has had to be adhered to. As has been proven by evidence from film on a UAV – for instance – and other evidence, the Marines had been under attack, and were engaged in a fierce battle.
From the Newsmax archives:
As NewsMax has previously reported, however, testimony by an intelligence officer, much of it given in secret proceedings, clearly showed that mountains of classified evidence including videos shot by an unmanned aerial vehicle, transcripts of radio traffic covering the entire day’s battle, intercepted insurgent communications, and other highly classified information proved that the entire command structure including Lt. Colonel Chessani were fully informed of the day’s events which made it obvious that since the full story was known in the immediate aftermath of the engagement, no further investigation was warranted.
Battles against foreign enemies ARE what war is about, and Lt. Col. Chessani did his duty. “Dereliction of duty” is one of the things the Lt. Col. is accused of, based on assertions that he did not thoroughly investigate the Haditha incident. From everything I have read, Lt Col Chessani DID report the Haditha incident to higher-ups. After his initial investigation -and again from all I have read – it was not Lt. Col. Chessani’s role or mandate to perform any further in depth analysis beyond his initial assessment that his Marines acted properly in the circumstances. He was fighting a war! Of that day in Haditha, Lt. Col Chessani’s statement says, in part:
“I thought it was very sad, very unfortunate, but at the time, I did not suspect any wrongdoing from my Marines. ..”I did not have any reason to believe that this was anything other than combat action,…” That comes from a statement Lt. Col. Chessani made to the military, and which the North County Times published in August 2006. That same article goes on to say: ‘Because attacks were so common, Chessani told investigators he saw the incident as part of a “complex attack” staged by the enemy, according to the newspaper. “I did not see any cause for alarm,” he said.’
This whole witch hunt for a scapegoat in the events of Haditha comes down to the credibility of Lt. Col. Chessani, who was there in Haditha, boots on the ground, versus the believability of a Congressman who was NOT there, and whose political history is less than stellar. Lt. Col Chessani’s credentials ARE impeccable. When he was recommended for promotion, his regimental commander, Col. Davis said:
“A superb leader, who knows his men, knows the enemy, knows his business.”
Moreover, Davis recommended him for promotion and the reviewing Major General Huck added that Lieutenant Colonel Chessani has “unlimited potential and value to the Marine Corps.” He also recommended him for promotion.
The report continues:
“Leads Marines from front in every operation. Demonstrates moral courage everyday. Doesn’t hesitate to report bad news fast or contest unrealistic plans/poor concepts. Despite the complexity and size of his AO (area of operations), he always maintains a calm, cool demeanor.”
“Always seeks advantage over complex, diverse insurgent enemy. Truly one of the finer thinkers in this COIN (counterinsurgency) environment.”
“One of the top 3 infantry/Cav Bn cmdrs of 13 who have served with RCT -2 (the regiment) during OIF. A superb leader, who knows his men, knows the enemy, knows his business. Doesn’t attract a lot of fanfare; just gets the job done to an exceedingly high standard.”
“Long ball hitter; recommend selection for promotion to Colonel and TLS [Top Level School].”
The Reviewing Officer, Major General Huck added his comments:
“Top notch officer with outstanding potential. Promote and select for TLS (top level school). Post TLS slate for Regimental command and subsequent joint tour. Unlimited potential and value to the Marine Corps. Capable of the most challenging assignments.” [ Newsmax archives ]
Lt. Col. Chessani has a whole slew of supporters, not least of which is the law firm Thomas Moore Law Centre. This group is representing Lt. Col. Chessani (and yes, if you would like to contribute to the defence fund, check out their website at : http://www.thomasmore.org ) That they fully support this decorated hero is obvious. In their latest statement on their site they say:
Marine Lt. Colonel Chessani Thrown Under the Bus for Political Reasons; Fair Trial an Illusion
ANN ARBOR, MI – “Military Judge Colonel Stephen Folsom’s, USMC, ruling yesterday refusing our request to take the deposition of Congressman John Murtha, D-PA, is the latest indication that it will be impossible for Marine Lt. Colonel Chessani to get a fair trial regarding November 19, 2005, Haditha incident,” said Richard Thompson, Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, the Ann Arbor, Michigan based public interest law firm defending Lt. Col. Chessani.
“This entire prosecution is politically motivated and stinks to high heaven. [my emphasis] Denying us the right to take Murtha’s deposition so that we could show undue command influence, as well as denial of our request for production of documents in the possession of Lt. Col. Chessani’s superiors makes it impossible for us to render this loyal Marine officer the effective assistance of counsel he deserves – they are attempting to throw him under the bus. In many ways this is a trial like the one in Alice in Wonderland-the verdict first and then the trial.” [ Thomas More website ]
Lt. Col. Chessani’s integrity is beyond reproach. Not so much Congressman Murtha. It is on the public record that Murtha was in the Marines, and served his country overseas. He did receive various decorations for his service which is also documented (and yes, I have heard unsubstantiated reports that Murtha has ‘fudged’ on his military records.)
Be all that as it may, this is the Congressman who cavalierly mouthed off and besmirched the hard-fought reputation of Lt. Col Chessani. That what he said is all nonsensical conjecture was also acknowledged by Time magazine who, even though they rushed to print with Murttha’s allegations, later retracted most of what they had originally printed., with the usual “Time regrets the error.” (You can find the original Time story, dated March, 19, 2006, and written by Jerusalem correspondent Tim McGirk.)
Politicians have a long history of shooting their mouths off for a few minutes in the media spotlight, and Murtha is no exception. Now, it appears that Murtha will not even have to testify in Lt. Col. Chessani’s trial. In essence this latest ruling reinforces the notion that politicians can attempt to destroy anyone’s career and remain unscathed, unaccountable, although I suspect that a lawsuit against him WILL follow at some point. You can read more on Murtha. There is a lot out there, and if you follow the timelines it becomes very apparent that Murtha is – shocker – full of hot air, and is totally ignorant. I say ‘ignorant’ deliberately, stopping short of calling what Murtha did willfully malicious. Discerning observers can make up their own minds.
For me, this whole case has far-reaching implications way beyond Haditha. Yes, it has everything to do with politics, and very little at all to do with what actually happened that day in Haditha. I believe it has far more to do with how the insurgents are using our politicians and our media to wage war – and win – on the home-front, against our troops.
Says Brian Rooney, one of the lawyers of the Thomas Moore Law group, (and oh yes, a former Marine captain himself), working on Lt. Col. Chessani’s behalf:
“The heart of one of the reasons why we took Lt. Col. Chessani’s case besides wanting to defend him, is that we also believe that this case is going to affect how the Marine Corps in America fights now and in the future,” Rooney told NewsMax.com.
“It’s going to have a definite outcome on whether or not Marines will have the ability to properly defend themselves or not, and the outcome of this case literally will either cost Marines’ lives or save Marines’ lives.”
This case WILL determine how our troops conduct their business; you know, the business of getting rid of the ‘insurgents’ who would kill our troops who are determined to root them out, so that Iraq can live peacefully in their new-found democracy. The outcome of this case, which apparently is no forgone conclusion – although it should prove a total repudiation of all the trumped up charges against Lt. Col Chessani, – will ultimately dictate whether our troops have to continue to fight the “domestic enemies,” as well as the enemies in the sandbox.