Information Warfare: Turning a Battle Into a War Crime


May 16, 2007: One of the dirty little secrets about recent claims of massacres is that all too often, they really are not massacres. The latest case of this now appears to be Haditha, with testimony now emerging that shows that at least eight of the 24 "victims" were armed terrorists. If so, Haditha would have more in common with the 2002 battle of Jenin (also claimed to be a massacre) than it does with My Lai.

The efforts to falsely claim a massacre occurred in Jenin are instructive. After the 2002 battle, the Palestinian Authority claimed a massacre had occurred. The mainstream media and human rights groups quickly echoed their claims. However, further investigations showed that not only had the body count been exaggerated, but that most of those confirmed killed were, in fact, terrorists and not civilians.

In the case of Haditha, the testimony from an intelligence officer and a liaison officer that at least eight of the dead were terrorists calls into question the claims of a massacre and cover-up. In this case, it seems that the civilians' deaths may have been part of a firefight that resulted after an ambush. The initial Haditha investigations uncovered some apparent discrepancies in the Marines' stories, and a criminal investigation by NCIS was launched. This, and claims from human rights groups in the media, led to some criminal charges being filed earlier this year.

In this day and age, it doesn't take long for a misleading story to spread out. In 2005, Newsweek reported that guards at Guantanamo Bay flushed a Koran down a toilet, triggering riots that led to a number of injuries and deaths. Earlier that year, the false claims were about torture at the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, most notably in a speech by Senator Richard Durbin on the Senate floor. In both cases, the charges were investigated. In both cases, the claims proved to have little, if any, bearing to what really happened.

As was the case with Jenin, many of the claims of torture were found to be generally unfounded, and in the few cases where lines were crossed, corrective action had been taken, in some cases immediately (one such case involved an interrogator who smeared a detainee with red ink after that detainee spat on her). Worse, the lies were already spread around by the time the truth was determined and not reported.

If the testimony about Haditha bears out, then it will just be the latest example of media misreporting. At that point, though, the real cover-up will begin. Very little, if any, effort will be made to correct the record. Politicians like John Murtha, who repeated the most inflammatory charges, will get a pass. The troops are able to fight the terrorists, and usually win. Fighting false accusations from terrorists that get repeated by the media, human rights groups, and politicians is much harder. The worst thing about this is that the myth of the "Haditha massacre" will be used to by various terrorist groups for recruiting, and the new recruits mean that there is a greater chance that troops will get killed. - Harold C. Hutchison ([email protected])




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close