Here's what I think happened.
When NCIS investigators went to Haditha, they went around asking, "Was Uncle Waleed an insurgent? Say no, and you'll be paid compensation and a Marine will be punished."
So, not surprisingly, the NCIS came up with 24 innocent civilians.
When the "charges and specifications" were announced, the Marine Corps stated that 24 Iraqis had been killed in the vicinity of an IED blast in Hasitha.
It's the media who turned "24 Iraqis" into "24 innocent civilians".
The difference is key. Until a determination is reached after the Article 32s, these Marines are not even officially charged with anything. At this point, the Haditha Marines are roughly equivilent to civilians who have yet to be indicted (or not) by a grand jury.
A major point to be argued in the Article 32s is just how many of the 24 Iraqis were innocent civilians. It should also be strongly noted that the Marines have only been charged with 23 deaths (wonder why?)
For now, the Marine Corps has it right. Twenty-four Iraqis died in the vicinity of an IED blast. Let's have the hearings and sort 'em out.
Twenty-four Iraqis died in the vicinity of an IED blast.
I have NO problem with that statement.
It is the 24 "unarmed innocent Iraqi civilians including women, children and old men" where I have a MAJOR problem.