When I asked Rooney about the irony of that decision, his response made the hair on my neck stand on end. The government sought a conviction, he said “At the highest rank possible, while at the lowest level possible.” That is why Jeffrey Chessani was thrown under the bus and left for dead. And that is why, for the first time in my adult life, I am unabashedly ashamed of my country and proud of it.
"I would rather be tried by a jury of my peers than be carried by six of my friends in a casket." - Justin Sharratt
Michelle Obama recently said that for the first time in her adult life, she was proud of her country. While I unequivocally disagree; while I have found many occasions in my adult life to be proud of my country, I can emphatically say that this is not one of them. As a matter of fact; for the first time in my adult life, I am unabashedly ashamed of my country. Ashamed that our Commander-In-Chief would order Marines from Lt. Col Jeffrey Chessani's 3rd Battalion to battle terrorists in Iraq only to turn his back and hold his nose while these brave men, who should be held aloft on our shoulders and celebrated, are viciously and selectively prosecuted. It is nauseating, this wretched betrayal.
According to Chessani's counsel and fellow Marine Brian Rooney, Chessani was well-respected by his men. He served 3 tours in Iraq and they served together in Fallujah. Rooney described the day Chessani was relieved of command as "The worst day of his life." That day notwithstanding, Chessani is described as an "unflappable" Marine, even while facing the prospect of being imprisoned.
What was originally labeled a massacre; cold-blooded murder of 2 dozen civilians committed by Marines under Chessani's command has --with the benefit of time and objective analysis of the evidence-- been shown to be no more than a sophisticated terrorist ambush and house-to-house firefight in which civilians were tragically used as human shields.
According to Rooney, there were over a dozen casualties sustained by Chessani's Marines that day; convincing evidence that they were under fire and not just reacting blindly to some imaginary threat. There were also literally dozens of people with knowledge of what happened in Haditha on November 19th, 2005, including numerous officers and mortuary personnel. None of them thought an investigation was necessary, all the way up the chain of command; from the battalion, to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Unit up to the top. Even General George Casey was aware of the allegations and thought nothing of them. Until McGirk's inflammatory Time Magazine article, that is.
McGirk's article began a chain of events that originally resulted in 8 US Marines charged. Four enlisted men of 1st Squad 3rd Platoon, Kilo Co. faced murder charges and 4 officers including Chessani faced various charges of obstruction, dereliction and disobeying orders for allegedly failing to properly investigate the civilian deaths. An (AR 15-6) Army investigation ensued to determine if the Marines had committed any Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) violations or failed to follow their Rules of Engagement (ROE), including positive target identification (PID). That investigation, conducted by Col. Gregory Watt, found that Haditha was buzzing with terrorists.
He determined that 8 of the dead were hostiles.
He determined that the incident began as an an ambush initiated by IED and included small arms fire from 3-4 mutually supporting positions.
He determined that Marines did not intentionally target civilians.
He determined that hostiles were indistinguishable from civilians.
He determined the amount of force was reasonable and proportional without putting the Marines at greater risk.
He determined that the Marines provided adequate medical care of casualties when the situation permitted.
He determined that PID was conducted in all but a few out of dozens of cases under extremely difficult circumstances.
He determined that the Marines did not violate their ROE or the LOAC.
He found that the bad guys did violate the LOAC by embedding themselves among civilians and not distinguishing themselves.
The Watt report nearly exonerated these men, but that didn't sit well in some circles. Someone had to be held responsible. An NCIS investigation of unprecedented scope with 65 agents was launched. But it needed some justification, given Watt's findings. A second Army investigation was ordered, this time conducted by Maj. Gen. Bargewell. His focus was the official reporting as well as the training of Chessani's Marines in the application of their ROE and the LOAC. He also examined whether the command climate encouraged disciplined application of ROE.
Despite Watt's findings that the Marines of 1st Squad properly applied the ROE and LOAC, Bargewell's report seemingly found their training inadequate.
He faulted Chessani for holding the deaths of Marines he was responsible for in higher regard than the deaths of Iraqis. Chessani possessed, as he called it, an "observed preoccupation with friendly casualties". As their senior officer, I would expect no less of Chessani, but I digress.
He faulted their reporting terminology and vocabulary.
He determined that all commands; from the battalion level up failed to verify the accuracy of the reports.
He determined that officers from the commanding general on down espoused a mindset that would discourage disciplined application of the ROE.
Bargewell's report received the prosecution's blessing and was subsequently leaked, which was severely prejudicial to the cases of all 8 men. As a result of Bargewell's findings combined with the NCIS investigation, 1 Marine was granted immunity for his testimony allegedly implicating his squad leader. He failed his polygraph and was refuted by physical evidence. Two enlisted men and 2 officers, one of whom was the battalion JAG were completely exonerated. All murder charges were downgraded to lesser charges. The government nearly injured itself bending over backwards to secure a conviction of someone.
It is quite apparent that Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani is that someone. He now faces dismissal, loss of his retirement and 3 years of confinement for allegedly violating an order that applied to every military officer in Iraq.
So why crucify Chessani? Even the battalion JAG was cleared of wrongdoing.
When I asked Rooney about the irony of that decision, his response made the hair on my neck stand on end. The government sought a conviction, he said "At the highest rank possible, while at the lowest level possible."
That is why Jeffrey Chessani was thrown under the bus and left for dead. And that is why, for the first time in my adult life, I am unabashedly ashamed of my country and proud of it.
Jeff Chessani's trial begins in just a few short weeks. Email your Congressmen and Senators and demand that all evidence and documents concerning the Haditha incident be released to Lt. Col. Chessani's defense.
Jayme Evans is a veteran of the United States Navy, a military analyst, conservative opinion columnist, and an advocate for disabled and other veterans. He has served for many years as a Subject Matter Expert specializing in the testing of systems software for numerous major US organizations. He has extensively studied amateur astronomy and metallurgy, as well as military and US history. His brutally honest, in-your-face political commentary has been published in many west coast newspapers, and he is a regular contributing columnist to a multitude of internet sites, including WebCommentary.com, The Conservative Voice, and Conservative Crusader. Mr. Evans has also written guest editorials for Military Magazine, and he has been a frequent guest columnist on WorldNetDaily, writing about legislative and veteran's issues.