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General's Report on Haditha Condemns Marines

Reuters staff

WASHINGTON - A U.S. Army general concluded the Marine Corps chain of command in Iraq ignored "obvious" signs of "serious misconduct" in the slayings of two dozen civilians in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.The report by Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell, obtained by the newspaper, also found that commanders fostered a climate that devalued the life of innocent Iraqis to the point that U.S. soldiers considered their deaths insignificant.

Bargewell's investigation found officers may have willfully ignored reports of the civilian deaths to protect themselves and their units from blame.

The investigation covered enlisted personnel through the two-star general commanding the 2nd Marine Division at the time.

Bargewell found no specific cover-up, but he concluded there also was no interest at any level in investigating allegations of a massacre, the Post reported.

Bargewell's report, now unclassified, focuses on the reporting of the incident and the training and command climate within the Marine Corps leadership. It does not address the November 19, 2005 incident in detail.

On that day, a roadside bomb exploded and killed one Marine in a convoy of Humvees. In reaction, a squad of Marines raided several homes and killed 24 Iraqi civilians.

The Marines have told investigators they believed they were taking small arms fire from the houses and were following rules of engagement when they responded.

The investigation began in March 2006 after an initial inquiry found the Marines did not intentionally kill innocent civilians.

A Marine Corps spokesman declined to comment, the Post reported. Marine officials have generally not discussed the incident because it is under investigation.

© Reuters 2007.

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