Skip to comments.Rumsfeld Created Haditha Group to Counter Murtha: Led to prosecution of Marines
Posted on 09/16/2008 6:59:26 PM PDT by RedRover
When Pennsylvania Congressmen John Murtha charged eight Marines with cold blooded murder and cover up at Haditha more than two years ago, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld immediately formed a study group to counter the powerful Democrats accusations.
The study groups analysis of the political and legal situation was used to help decide what course of action to take against eight Marines accused of massacre and cover up by Murtha in the deaths of 24 Iraqis at Haditha, Iraq on November 19, 2005.
The group was briefed by high ranking Marine Corps lawyers sent by Brigadier General Kevin Sandkuhler, Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Also in the mix was Peter M. Murphy, former General Counsel to the Marine Corps--a civilian who counseled Commandants and their lawyers for 20 years, according to retired Marine defense attorney Lieutenant Colonel Colby Vokey.
Murphy and Sandkuhler have since retired.
Vokey was the Regional Defense Counsel for West Coast Marines at Camp Pendleton, California when the Haditha scandal erupted in early 2006. The job of defending the defamed Marines fell on his tiny clan of appointed Marine Corps defense lawyers.
As soon as the SECDEF study group was formed, Marine Corps lawyers began trooping into Rumsfeld's office at the Pentagon while Commandant General Michael Hagee climbed up Capitol Hill to brief the money lenders on the progress of the investigation, Vokey said.
The prosecution actually believed and still believes it can win a conviction. It oversold that to General Sandkuhler and he believed it, Vokey said.
The Marine Corps has not responded to a request for comment.
Subsequently the Marines were charged with murder, assault, dereliction of duty, lying to investigators and conspiring to conceal the truth about what happened after a Marine died in a roadside ambush at Haditha.
The four enlisted men charged with pulling the triggers belonged to Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. Charged with cover up were Kilos company commander, the battalion commander, and two staff officers.
Major General Richard A. Huck, formerly Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Division, Colonel Richard G. Sokoloski, former Chief of Staff of the division and later the CoS of Multi-National Forces-West, and Colonel Stephen W. Davis, the former commander of Regimental Combat Team-2, the senior commander at Haditha, all received a Secretarial Letter of Censure from Winter on September 5, 2007 instead of being charged with criminal behavior.
Winter was particularly critical of the three senior Marines apparent reluctance to respond to multiple requests by Time magazine to reveal what happened at Haditha.
The magazines sensational reports claimed a squad of Marines under Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Chessanis command murdered 24 innocent civilians in retaliation for an IED attack that killed one of their numbers and wounded two others. Afterwards Chessani and his officers covered up the action to avoid recrimination, Time magazine reporter Tim McGirk and others claimed.
Even when made aware of the serious allegations raised by the Time magazine journalist, your response to higher headquarters was to forward incomplete, inaccurate, and inconsistent materials provided by a subordinate unit, rather than to initiate a thorough inquiry into the incident, Winter rebuked Colonel Davis.
Vokey said he was informed of the study group during briefings he received from Sandkuhler in June 2006.
Sandkuhler believed they were all guilty and the case was going to quickly be over. I tried to tell him I didn't think so. I said, General, I don't believe that is correct, but he thought that the prosecutors were going to win, that everybody was going to roll over on each other. It didn't happen that way."
Sandkuhlers appreciations of the situation were the basis of Rumsfelds apparent acquiescence to the Pentagons decision to publicly crucifying the Marines in both word and deed, Vokey surmised.
I was briefed by my boss [Col. Rose Favors], who was briefed by Sandkuhler on Hagees presentation to Murtha, Senator Carl Levin and the other Congressional leaders who control the money.
There was nothing in his [Hagee] remarks about cold blooded murder or massacre or anything like that.
With Rumsfelds endorsement, Secretary Winter launched the biggest and presumably most expensive criminal investigation in US Naval history from Naval Criminal Investigative Service headquarters in Washington, D.C.
It was unusual from the start, Vokey said.
The NCIS maintained both a field investigation and an oversight committee in Washington that kept tabs on the progress of the investigation. NCIS officials acknowledged during the preliminary investigation that at least 65 special agents were occupied with the case at its zenith in the summer of 2006.
Caught between Murthas scandalous charges and the Pentagons burning desire to protect its yawning purse from vengeful Democrats controlling the purse strings, Marine Corps prosecutors sincerely believed the Haditha defendants trying to duck the cross-fire didnt stand a chance, Vokey said.
In the summer of 2006 we had two major war crimes trials going on at once (Hamandiyah and Haditha) and it was straining our resources. The Marine Corps wanted to get them over with. Sandkuhler told me he thought it [Hamandiyah] would be over in three or four months and then we could get on with Haditha.
Tens years to life, roll over on the other Marines, and get it done," Vokey said.
When it didnt happen the way Sandkuhler anticipated Vokey was fired for assigning too many defense attorneys to the Haditha and Hamandiyah defendants.
Vokey was canned in September 2007 by Colonel Rose M. Favors, the Command Defense Counsel of the Marine Corps. She reported to Sandkuhler.
The prosecution called in reservists, brought in support staff, and created a task force to convict the Marines. The Marine Corps spent millions more building a media center staffed by recalled reservists at Camp Pendleton for the court-martials that never were.
Favors reportedly told Vokey that assigning more the one Marine Corps lawyer defense lawyer was unnecessary for them to receive adequate representation.
We had to literally beg for everything we got, Vokey said. The prosecution had all the resources.
Vokey was quietly reinstated after prominent Marine lawyers both inside and outside the Corps cried foul.
Retired Marine Corps Brigadier General David M. Brahms was among the lawyers enmeshed in the Haditha murder investigation who exploded into anger over Vokeys firing.
I am pissed, Brahms said in September 2007. The danger here is not malevolence; it is the appearance of evil and the effect upon those in the defense bar.
Brahms is a Harvard Law School graduate who became the Director of the Judge Advocate Division for three years prior to his retirement in 1988.
Adding to Vokeys burdens were copious leaks of sensitive NCIS documents that washed ashore at the Washington Post and New York Times.
Despite a defense demand for an investigation to plug the leaks they never stopped until the well ran dry after 14,000 pages of documents reached reporters hands, Vokey said.
Vokeys defense team suspected the information was flowing from Rep. Murthas executive assistant Gabrielle Carruth, a former career NCIS special agent married to an NCIS special agent on duty in Washington. Nothing ever came of their suspicions.
The [civilian] defense attorneys complained the newspapers were getting the NCIS reports evidence before they were receiving discovery information, Vokey said.
Despite the huge volume of evidence revealed in the news accounts and the long laundry list of heinous charges against the defendants, Sandkuhler told Vokey he expected the cases to be completed by the end of 2007 at the latest, Vokey said.
Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, the squad leader and last enlisted trigger-puller facing general court-martial, on reduced charges of manslaughter, is mired in pre-trial disputes between a television network and government prosecutors.
The prosecution claims the 60 Minutes television show has unaired footage of Wuterich implicating himself on a thrice-aired 60 Minutes interview.
Another hearing on the matter is scheduled for Wednesday in Washington.
Wuterich is represented by veteran military defense attorney Neal Puckett and his Washington, D.C. based team of experts. Puckett calls the governments ploy a fishing expedition that merely delays the inevitable exoneration of his client.
Recently, Haytham Faraj, a former Marine major, joined Puckett, Mark Zaid, and Marine Corps Captain Nute Bonner (just transferred to Marine Barracks 8th and "I" in Washington) as Wuterich's defense team.
Faraj worked for Vokey and was a defense team star during the summer long pre-trial investigations in 2007.
Since being charged in December 2006, six other defendants have been cleared during pre-trial maneuvering and a seventh was acquitted following his court martial at Camp Pendleton.
The government is also appealing the dismissal of all charges against former battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Chessani, cleared early last summer when evidence of improper command influence was revealed during pretrial procedures.
The impact of Murthas unrestrained remarks, coupled with medias specious, sensationalized accounts of the incident, was recently underscored by Iraqi negotiators discussing the future of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between Iraq and the US.
The negotiations reportedly came to a screeching halt last week when the Iraqis refused to budge over demands that US service members be denied immunity from Iraqi prosecution for alleged war crimes in Iraq.
US and Iraqi officials reportedly reached the impasse because most of the US Marines accused of massacring civilians at Haditha have been exonerated.
The specious Haditha incident was identified by name during the delicate negotiations in Baghdad to determine whether the United States intends to give up its traditional legal sovereignty over American service members, numerous news reports said.
The Iraqis want assurances they can exact their own brand of justice on American service members trapped in similar situations.
The US has SOFA agreements in 80 countries that give the US autonomy over disciplining American troops.
Save for later.
Excellent news, ‘peach! I’m proud to be in the company of LtCol Russell’s supporters!
Yes, because it is Time magazine's intention to portray any war situation in the most objective light. /extreme sarc
This is unbelievable. They didn't want the truth at all. They didn't care about these Marines. I could just scream.
OK movie. Great book
They hung the scum that slaughtered that Kansas family.
It should happen to Murtha. Slowly.
Never forget that fellow marines were willing to crucify the whole squad in order to protect their own power. Rums field was involved and probably ordered the whole thing to happen for his own reasons, probably to protect his own hide. So much for honor. Higher eschelon in the military who hold such absolute power over soldiers are easily turned into rotten, conivining worthless slaves to their own ambition, no longer soldiers at all.
I was hoping someone would make the connection!
Outstanding piece and investigative reporting. I suppose this is exactly what we expected from the beginning but it kind of hits between the eyes when it’s finally put in print.
There’s so much to say about this I really don’t know where to start. I guess I’ll simply say if this doesn’t show actual unlawful command influence and not just the appearance of it I don’t have the slightest idea what UCI is.
Did you read up the thread? Didn’t it say in one post that stated Lt.Col. Bill Russell raised $2 million? Then it said that 2 of 3 of his supporters were Mr. Rumsfeld and his wife! Fred Thompson was another! I don’t quite follow on your criticism of Rumsfeld. Please explain?
It seems to me that the article said he formed the study group to counter Murtha about the charges, didn’t it? I might not have read it thoroughly, but that’s what I thought was said! But I’ll read it again, and see.
What a great article by Nat Helms! He names names, and this article contains the names of an entire rogue’s gallery of genuine scumbags, most notably Winter, Sandkuhler, and Favors, although Hagee and Rumsfeld are probably just as sickening. Personally, I am not sold that Rumsfeld put together his “study group” to “counter” Murtha. It sure didn’t work out that way, and I ain’t buying.
But perhaps (here I go again....) the biggest disappointment in this whole mess is the guy who decided to leave the prosecution of the war on terror in the hands of a pack of scumbag lawyers, and who could have long ago picked up the phone and put an end to this “Haditha massacre” disgrace - - Commander-in-Chief, George W. Bush. The fact that he STILL refuses to stand up like a man speaks volumes.
Pick up the friggin’ phone, Dubya. Have you no shame?
Never. Not in a war zone.
Damn, you're dumb.
And as a bonus I'd get to piss you off.
If any piece of this story is true, then this is the most carefully orchestrated railroading of American troops by their own legal system in the history of the US military.
And it is so detailed and reasonably fit together with the facts, that it is apparent that all of the pieces of this story are true.
This means there has been criminal level unlawful command influence in this case. This means that the government intentionally set about to deny justice to these Marines.
I’m ashamed to have ever been associated with a UCMJ that could be so grossly abused. This is horrifying far beyond what Nifong did to Duke lacrosse players.
Agree, Chaplain - with the correction. :^)
I'm sure we all knew that UCI was involved, but this column lays out in lavender the details and time-line that created it, leaving me with more disgust. But this all goes back a long ways, even prior to the UCMJ; check my comment here on joanie-f's thread for added backstory.
Thank you, Red and Nate, for providing us with the sorry details. I pray to God that BO and his crew fail in their usurpation of our country, or things like this will become the norm, and none of us will be safe.
I'm praying with you, Brit.
Somebody needs to go to jail over this and it is not the soldiers who were in Iraq.
Tell that to the Haditha Marines. And tell that to the parents of KIAs who hesitated to pull their triggers for a split second because they wondered if they would go to jail for not correctly following the latest version of the "rules of engagement" or "battlefield ethics" or the "laws of war" or any of the other folly laid at their feet by a pack of scumbag lawyers, in the rear with the gear, who are effectively dictating how the war is fought.
Have yourself a blast, Bunky.
Actually, it did at a high-level. Murtha's major aim was to turn Americans against the war in Iraq. He succeeded, as measured by public opinion polls. But the anti-war movement failed. Haditha never became the rallying cry that Murtha hoped it would.
Also, no one is suggesting today that Rumsfeld and top Pentagon brass were in on a massive cover-up. And the media was suggesting that in the summer of 2006.
It wasn't the kind of "countering" I would have liked (see picture above), but that's Washington, I guess.
Thats a great response in a discussion forum. “Damn you’re dumb”. Your post precludes rebuttal. All I can say in response is “no... I’m, not the dummy, your the dummy”. So I guess we will keep it at that level. I think your response falls under the category of personal attack as opposed to discussion, (not that I am overwhelmed with grief at your pithy response). See FR posting guidelines.
Here is what the article said...
“With Rumsfelds endorsement, Secretary Winter launched the biggest and presumably most expensive criminal investigation in US Naval history from Naval Criminal Investigative Service headquarters in Washington, D.C.
It was unusual from the start, Vokey said. “
Thats right, nobody cared about the Marines involved. Not even Rumsfield. If you think any of this could have gone down without Rumsfield you are not facing reality. The UCMJ is not about fairness or justice. The UCMJ was created for one purpose and that is to serve the needs of the military. The needs in the military in this case was to avoid vindictive congressmen at budget time.
I'm very grateful for President Bush's and Sec. Rumsfeld's leadership during extremely difficult times.
But if only we had been blessed with your wisdom and leadership 9/11 would never have occurred, and all our enemies would be cowering in their caves. Obama, is that you?
You need to face facts, Haditha prosecution would NEVER, EVER go through without Rumsfield. Thats reality. You can argue on balance that Rumsfields positive traits outweigh his negative but reality is that in this case Rumsfield looks like a REMF covering his own @ss at the expense of the guys doing the heavy lifting at the front.
Fact - Donald Rumsfeld publicly resigned as SecDef the day after the November 2006 election, and his last day in office was Dec. 18, 2006.
Fact - Charges were filed against the Haditha Marines on Dec. 21, 2006.
Fact - Seven of eight have been acquitted or otherwise cleared of wrongdoing. The eighth victim awaits justice.
Had Donald Rumsfeld been the problem, Sec. Gates could have easily ended everything on Dec. 19th, 2006. Yet, if he had, those eight Marines would still be smeared and crucified to this day by scumbags like Jack Murtha and the disgraceful media. As painful as this process has been for those poor Marines and their families, it's been important to have it play out for all to see just how despicable the Democrats, media and some JAG officials truly are.
Perhaps you've missed the irony here, but I haven't. You and ol' Lancey are accusing Rummy and Dubya of crimes based on an article. Kinda like Jack Murtha did to these Marines based on a magazine article. And please don't attempt to say I'm putting Nat Helms on the same level as that scumbag from Time magazine. But the parallels here are striking.
There is a public official directly responsible for this fiasco. But it's not Sec. Rumsfeld or President Bush. He's a bloated Congressman from western PA, an ex-Marine named Jack Murtha. It's funny, but I don't recall seeing you or Lancey on any of the threads attemping to hold Murtha accountable for his despicable sell-out of fellow Marines. Of course, that would involve actually doing something constructive like supporting his opponent, LTC Bill Russell. Perhaps you're too busy jumping from thread to thread bashing Bush and Rummy. That's certainly much easier than taking action to right a wrong.
By the way, that REMF you alluded to was a fighter pilot. So was President Bush. Doesn't exactly fit my definition of an REMF, but to each his own.
Rumsfeld's concern had nothing to do with the accused Marines and everything to do with "countering" Murtha's and the rats' anticipated claims that if these rampaging, cold-blooded, civilian-killing Marines were not convicted and sent to jail, then it must be because there was a (spit) "coverup".
And the best way to "counter" the possibility of those mean rats and the Code Pink left and their media allies (TIME, etc.) from making such an accusation was to do everything possible to make sure the Haditha Marines were convicted and jailed. To ensure that result, Rumsfeld supported the biggest, most expensive investigation in NCIS history, with the corrupt NCIS apparently given carte blanche to do whatever was necessary. To further attempt to fix the result, the prosecution was lavished with all the resources it could ever dream of while the accused Marines were limited to the services of one lone military defense lawyer.
I get it now....
Thanks a lot, Rummy. How'd that work out for you?
Good riddance to bad garbage.
And now I need to go throw up.
The dishonor just continues to build on this whole issue.
There is an historical precedent to this disgusting atrocity of "military justice": the famed Dreyfus Affair which played out in France during the 1890's.
Perhaps the most damning accusation which could be leveled at our current corrupt military chain of command is that they have "become like the French".
Even worse, a far more damning indictment which could be leveled against the American people is that we have supinely tolerated this travesty, and that out of a population of 300 million people America, unlike the French, can't seem to produce a single individual, like France's Emile Zola, with the public celebrity, stature, credibility, integrity, courage and moral authority to stand up and publicly proclaim: "J'accuse!"
That should have been President Bush, but alas, he was no Emile Zola...
One need look no further than trying to limit the defense to one defense attorney per case while having no such constraints on the prosecution.
Of course, the bias was also evident with the continuing flow of leaks, and the damning amount of outright interference with defense discovery requests.
Keeping them from getting copies of the tapes of the UAV surveillance videos of the scene, and the audio recordings of the radio traffic that day...it was just criminal.
Pick up the friggin phone, Dubya. Have you no shame?
And do what? You condemm command influence with one breath,but want the President to do the very thing you condemm, befor this circus is over. Could you even think of what the press, both here and abroad, would be like?
As for Rumsfield, I think it's obvious that this witchunt didn't stop at his desk - as it should have, at least not initially.
His office would have cradled this bastard baby from hell for approximately 6 months, then he either resigned or was resigned. IF that had anything to do with Haditha/Hamandia, I'd think it would be an indication he was so strongly against what that monster had become, he couldn't be a part of it - go along guys don't usually get resigned.
Speaking of which, it'd be interesting to know when Murphy and Sandkuhler were resigned.
These were career guys, the kind that never leave, they never got censured, and apparently were Rumsfield's advisers. Did Rumsfield finally see the light, fire these two, and quit in protest when 1)Bush refused to call off the dogs or 2) Levin/Murtha refused to call off the dogs or 3) Bush found out what was going on and fired Rumsfield, Murphy, and Sandkuhler - or something else entirely?
I really don't have a clue, but I note that even though Rumsfield departed before any of the charges were filed, the ferocity of the prosecution and slimy "roll over" strategy hasn't diminished. Obviously, Rumsfield isn't the driving force right now, but it is a fact that someone is keeping this ball rolling.
Great article. I hope you & Nat can further unravel this can of worms.
(spit) Ironically, this whole "circus" started because cowards at the top of the food chain and in the rear with the gear - - most notably that scumbag Winter - - ran like scared bunny rabbits from stinking, fading TIME Magazine and the rest of the Democrat press instead of standing up for our warriors in the field.
This bizarre circus should have had its tent folded over a year ago, but here it drags on for Marines like Wuterich and Chessani who have been effectively removed from the field of battle (that's right, the insurgent propagandists won). And like a circus, the clowns never seem to stop piling out of that little clown car - - look!, here comes Rumsfeld... and Winter... and Hagee... and Sandkuhler... and Favors... and Mattis... and Helland... and Ewers... and Sullivan... and Broomfield... and Murtha... and McGuirk... endlessly, the clowns keep coming.
I have no clue to what is going on in this thread....I just came out of FR/news detox....I don’t suggest you try it.
All I know if FW is in Marine limbo and somebody needs to end this now.
There it is, the best explanation yet of how the UCI was perpetuated.
An eye-popping read, Red. even for those of us who have been following the story.
Dittos on Frank - when numerous principals in the case have retired and moved on, you know the concept of a speedy trial was never even considered.
And now Iraq wants jurisdiction in further prosecutions, and one of our presidential candidates would give it to them in a heartbeat.
Can you imagine the FUBAR au trois that would create?
On the mark, Smooth.
All I know if FW is in Marine limbo and somebody needs to end this now.
Absolutely, Lily! With this info, which I have to believe Frank's lawyers have had, I can't help but believe that UCI is going to end his courts-martial also. I hope I'm not just wishful thinking.
Welcome back, Lilylou! It’s not the same without you.
She replied, almost immediately, thanking me, so we'll see if they use it. It certainly adds more info for them to the great TV ad they ran in the 12th district during the Pittsburgh Steelers game on Sunday Night Football a couple of days ago.
Good thinking, Smooth. Seems to me it would be very appropriate to post this on their site. The more information available to the voters in the district the more people are going to vote for Bill Russell.
Good job, I like this response a whole lot better than your previous “you are a dummy response”. I would like to congratulate you on that point. I am a little bit reluctant to even continue a conversation with you because of the obvious emotional investment you have on this issue that seems to cloud perspective etc.
I have been involved on several threads from the beginning including advocating contacting the Murtha office to express outrage. I find it a unfortunate that I am persuaded by you a self appointed thread officer to present my credentials. Fine I guess I will play even though reminded of the parable of the pigs. To whit: “Don’t get into a wrestling match with a pig because you will get dirty and the pig will enjoy it.”
I never mentioned Bush, did not accuse him or Rumsfield of any crime.
As far as the REMF thing goes, I said “appeared” to be a REMF. Which in fact Rummy is, in the rear with the gear in spite of whatever previous heroic service he gave as a fighter pilot.
This thing could NEVER have got as far as it got without Rummy. In spite of the fact that he resigned three days before the charges were filed. Rummy had to have funded and staffed the investigation. Now if somebody can tell me that he was the reason that charges were not filed, and they waited until he left great, I would love to hear that.
It is just inconceivable that the situation would have got as far as it did without Rummy’s involvement. Root cause? Murtha and Media. Cost us blood on the street in Iraq and is unforgivable. I share your outrage at Murtha. In my opinion your excitable defense of Rumsfield is improbable. I could be wrong though.
I sincerely hope that 8 of 8 are acquitted. They have been put through an unimaginable hell.
Finally you do make a whole bunch of factually incorrect assertions as your emotions run wild. I have not spent a great deal of time, or much time at all bashing Bush and Rumsfield on these threads. I have agreed with Bush on some stuff and disagreed with Bush on some stuff. Rumsfield has also been a mixed bag. So have you and everybody else I have every met in my life. The Haditha incident was designed by Murtha to railroad those 8 Marines. For some reason Rumsfield allowed it to gain momentum on his watch. I think Rumsfield was wrong, and so are you until somebody proves otherwise. Thats my opinion. This is an opinion forum. You have an opinion, I have an opinion. We talk about it. You call people dummies. Oh my what fun!
I will mention your position on Murtha and the Haditha Marines. I share your position on that. Murtha is a walking disater for our military, and he should be horsewhipped for his vendetta against our Marines.
As for Rumsfeld, I will not speculate on his motives then or now, but I do find it instructive to note that he has contributed to Murtha's opponent, Bill Russell, this election cycle.
Kevin M. Sandkuhler
January 29, 2007 - Springfield, VA
The Board of Directors is pleased to announce that effective immediately Kevin M. Sandkuhler, Brigadier General, USMC (Retired), has been named President and Chief Executive Officer of Pinkerton Government Services Inc.. He will be based in Springfield , VA and will report to the board of directors of Pinkerton Government Services.
Peter M. Murphy
I stand by that post. When I see garbage posted, I tend not to put too much effort into my responses.
I assume the skrools no longer mention the revolt of the Pennsylvania line in history these days.
So you still will not address how the investigation was funded and gained momentum under Rumsfield. You just “stand by previous post”. The post where you say I am a
‘buster brown”. Or Maybe it was “stupid head”. I forget.
Thank you, Sec. Rumsfeld and President Bush, for your service to our nation.
I am trying to understand the gist of your post but am having trouble following your prose. Could you clarify please? I am not talking about the Pennsylvania line, I can Google that. Just the part before that. I see a lot of words but am having trouble ciphering your intent. Not trying to be rude, just trying to understand.
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