Tuesday, January 15, 2008

No Evidence Marines Attacked During Afghan 10-Mile Massacre

By Cernig

Does anyone recall the most under-reported alleged atrocity of the War on Terror to date, the case of a Marine unit in Afghanistan which the Afghani government and human right's groups in the country accuse of going on a ten mile rampage, massacring civilians? It happened in March last year but there's only now a Court of Inquiry to see if courts martial should be in the offing.
Authorities found no evidence that a Marine unit was responding to an ambush last year when troops allegedly opened fire indiscriminately on Afghan civilians, killing as many as 19, a Navy investigator testified Monday.

But, Navy authorities did not arrive on the scene until two months later and had only an hour to look at the site of the shooting, Marine Chief Warrant Officer Robert O'Dwyer cautioned.

"From a law enforcement standpoint, that's ludicrous," O'Dwyer said. He said that while one investigation later determined two civilians died and 23 were wounded, another concluded 19 died and 50 were wounded.

O'Dwyer's testimony opened the second week of a Court of Inquiry, a rarely used administrative fact-finding proceeding investigating the actions of two officers involved in the shootings: Company commander Maj. Fred C. Galvin, 38, of the Kansas City area, and Capt. Vincent J. Noble, 29, of Philadelphia, a platoon leader.

The court will recommend whether any charges should filed against the officers, and whether any training should be changed.

O'Dwyer said Navy Criminal Investigative Service agents interviewed Afghan police and civilians, and members of an Army military police unit that arrived on the scene less than an hour after the shooting. He said none confirmed the Marine unit's story that there was a coordinated ambush.

...Citing witness accounts, Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission concluded last year that the Marines fired indiscriminately at pedestrians and people in cars, buses and taxis in six different locations along a 10-mile (16-kilometer) stretch of roadway.

A Marine riding in the convoy testified last week that the convoy was shot at twice and Marines fired back over a span of roadway about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) long. Navy investigators said the firing occurred over about six miles (10 kilometers), O'Dwyer said.
Six miles is still a heck of a long way, and 19 to 23 dead easily puts this incident in the realms of the Blackwater incident in Iraq which has garnered so much press coverage.

Of course, it might be easier to tell what exactly happened if the on-scene Marine commander hadn't confiscated and destroyed photos and video taken by freelance journalists working for AP at the time, who captured much of what occured.

The justification used back then?
..."Investigative integrity is one circumstance when civil and military authorities will reluctantly exercise the right to control what a journalist is permitted to document," Col. Victor Petrenko, chief of staff to the top U.S. commander in eastern Afghanistan, said in a letter Friday.

He added that photographs or video taken by "untrained people" might "capture visual details that are not as they originally were."
Or, indeed, capture visual details at all.

The current article notes that the Marine unit in question was sent out of Afghanistan after the incident. What it doesn't say is that it was sent to Iraq. Although the Army has apologised for civilain deaths during the incident on the Marine Corp's behalf, the Corps insists that the apology was "premature".

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