Skip to comments.SSgt Frank Wuterich and Our Future in Iraq (Defend Our Marines Exclusive)
Posted on 09/15/2011 5:24:53 PM PDT by jazusamo
Here in the United States, Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich is waiting for court-martial. He has been waiting five years. In Baghdad, State Department officials negotiating a new Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government need talking points to convince them that our country is all about prosecuting service members accused of crimes against the Iraqi people.
Frank Wuterich is a talking point. He first came to the attention of official Washington when he was accused of leading a fireteam of Marines on a rampage through Haditha, Iraq on November 19, 2005. He was indicted a year later for multiple murder and related offenses. Wuterich has been in limbo at Camp Pendleton, Calif. ever since. He cant get promoted, he cant get out and he cant catch a break.
Last Thursday State Department official Michael McClellan, Spokesman/Counselor for Public Affairs at the American Embassy in Baghdad, wrote Defend Our Marines publisher David Allender seeking assistance exploring our archives for information concerning the number of Marines and soldiers accused, tried and convicted of crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. This email is UNCLASSIFIED, the correspondence said.
"I spent much of this afternoon going through your excellent website as it is the best and only! website that has truly comprehensive information about trials of U.S. service members accused of crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan," Mr. McClellan wrote. "We are most interested in the Iraq-related trials, as this is relevant to on-going talks about a post-2011 U.S. presence here.
Flattery is a wonderful thing. The United States governments official mouthpiece in Baghdad seeking help from humble Defend Our Marines. Most reporters can count on the fingers of one hand how many times the government has reached out to them for special consideration when they werent getting indicted.
At the risk of looking a gracious gift horse in the mouth the request raised a couple of red flags with David. Why does the Department of State need anything from Defend Our Marines. And why does the State Department need to talk about the young men and women already convicted, sentenced and serving time? We thought we should try and find out.
DOM saddles up
Within the parameters of the curious netherworld we live in Counselor McClellan seemed an amiable enough fellow. We exchanged a few e-mails and shared a few stories before the Counselor for Public Affairs for the American Embassy in Baghdad sent DOM to the Department of State in Washington, D.C. for comment.
Actually, what we were looking for was simply a database how many trials, how many convictions/acquittals, sentencing, etc.," Mr. McClellan explained. "The info on your website up to 12/2006 was actually very helpful and gave us at least some numbers to compile. This is really about having the facts at hand in case questions come up relating to SOFAs, immunities, etc. Our interest is not so much in particular trials, but the overall picture of trials and the results thereof. Does that make sense?
It didnt so DOM asked him to explain.
As for the talks, we are not making any comment at this time beyond what comes out of Washington, so just watch the news every night, Mr. McClellan wrote. Thanks again for your help your website is a very valuable resource as believe it or not those data simply do not exist anywhere else that I have been able to find.
It sounded like more grease.
Taking the gentlemans advice anyway we contacted the Department of State (DOS) where another friendly gentleman named Harry Edwards works as a department spokesman. Edwards used to be a navigator on a B-52. He garnered international attention providing the official U.S. response to an e-coli outbreak in Europe. Killer cucumbers! Another time he explained the State Department usually didnt talk about bounties, in this case $25 million reward for the head of Osama bin Laden. Definitely not a light weight.
I have made contact with a DOD source that says he will put you in contact with his experts who may have more info. I have nothing from my experts on any of this. You will need to talk to DOD, Mr. Edwards wrote in a subsequent email.
A winding trail
Talk about red flags. The State Department asks DOM for information intended for treaty talks apparently being conducted by the Department of Defense. It didnt make sense! We couldnt imagine the Department of Defense conducting treaty negotiations the State Department didnt know anything about.
Taking Mr. Edwards advice we hooked up with Maj. Christopher Perrine, a Public Affairs Officer for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The good major was a Marine tank officer before he was a PAO. He was quick to remind me that he was not speaking for the Corps. He was on detached duty to the OSD.
The reason the OSD was handling the inquiry instead of DOS was because the treaty being negotiated wasnt really a treaty, it is an agreement, Maj. Perrine explained. The Department of Defense apparently can negotiate agreements.
We rushed to the dictionary. A treaty is a formal contract or agreement negotiated between countries or other political entities. An agreement on the other hand is a contract or arrangement, either written or verbal and sometimes enforceable by law, at least according to the Encarta Dictionary.
If we are going to have a continued presence in Iraq they (service members) have to have the legal protection of a SOFA, Maj. Perrine said. The SOFA he was talking about is the new Status of Force Agreement to base troops in Iraq after the current agreement expires on Dec. 31, 2011. It is the unpopular agreement the Iraqi government has been sitting on for two years.
In 2008 the Iraqi government, under considerable financial and military pressure from the United States, adopted a temporary agreement based on the premise all US forces would be out of Iraq by the end of the 2011. The long name is the Agreement Between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq On the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities during Their Temporary Presence in Iraq."
Things got so heated during the negotiations one Iraqi reporter threw a shoe at former President George W. Bush after the agreement was grudgingly adopted by the Iraqi Parliament. The agreement provides a legal framework for American operations inside Iraq until December 31, 2011.
SOFA: No sticks
So what does all this have to do with SSGT Frank Wuterich? Nothing and everything! Wuterich is an embarrassment to the U.S. negotiators. They really cant use his prosecution as a shining example of American military jurisprudence despite the fact the so-called Haditha Massacre indictments were arguably the most publicized criminal cases to come out of the Iraqi War. The usually stingy Marine Corps even built a $3 million Justice Center at Camp Pendleton to make sure justice was applied in appropriate style. In it seven of the Marine staff sergeants co-conspirators indicted for murder, massacre and cover up were either exonerated, had their charges dismissed, or were found not guilty. One Marine general officer and two colonels were cashiered by the Secretary of the Navy for failing to adequately inform the press what really happened there. Many other careers were destroyed. Wuterich is the last man standing and he is far from a sure bet.
I dont think that helps them at all, Maj. Perrine said.
Being a former enlisted man this reporter has a very narrow view of the entire SOFA arrangement. For the ordinary service member the local SOFA is what protects them from prosecution by foreign governments without at least the appearance of due process. How and when they are arrested, by whom, and how they are treated while being held for crimes against the host nation are all laid out in black & white. Any veteran who served overseas anywhere heard all about the local SOFA the day they arrived in the host country. In the more amenable countries comfortable with legal due process there is a reasonable assumption the service members hosts will provide enough protection to allow the accused a realistic expectation of fair play.
For example foreign jailers are not supposed to beat jailed American service members with sticks or other damaging objects while incarcerated. Stick beating is a favored form of corporal punishment in Iraq. A Marine lieutenant testified during the investigation that at Haditha he twice had to take a stick away from an Iraqi soldier beating his fellow citizens with it after the alleged massacre. Why Americans should expect better treatment was not discussed.
The Major held up Japan as a shining example of a good SOFA partner.
We will do the same thing in Iraq, Maj. Perrine explained.
That brought us back to talking points. SSGT Frank Wuterich is not the issue confronting the U.S. officials urging the Iraqi government to adopt a SOFA that allows the U.S. to base American troops in Iraq beyond 2011, Maj. Perrine said.
It is merely one tiny issue among hundreds, the biggest objection being the many Iraqis want us to leave and dont understand why we dont want to go. Those vehemently opposed to a continued U.S. presence are using the Haditha Massacre, the alleged murders at Fallujah in 2004 by Marines from the same platoon, and a laundry list of other cases that were dismissed, reduced or later thrown out in American courts to demonstrate how callous the U.S. is to the sensitivities of the Iraqi people. This is the same guys Maj. Perrine says we are depending on to provide due process to American service members and civilians charged with crimes in Iraq.
The real issue is apparently finding common ground for keeping American service members in Iraq beyond 2011. Who and when the Iraqis can imprison Americans is a big sticking point. The Iraqis insist on having original jurisdiction in the prosecution of U.S. service members. Essentially they want a free hand in prosecuting and imprisoning American troops stationed in peaceful Iraq after the U.S. finishes pulling out its combat forces after Christmas. Maj. Perrine said that U.S. troops in other countries that have status of forces agreements are often handed over to the hosts for trial and punishment once the ground rules have been established.
Unfortunately, any agreement will likely be unenforceable once the U.S. pulls its combat troops out of Iraq before the new year. That means the U.S. is going to have to depend of the tender mercies of the Iraqi government to protect our citizens and ensure justice is done.
The current number of troops, that can expect fair play in Iraq after 2011, is about 3,000, a number South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced as official on Fox News last week. Moqdr al Sadr of Sadr City, the radical Sunni cleric who really doesn't like Americans at all, says he will "dismantle" the current government if it succumbs to U.S. pressure to keep "any" troops in Iraq. Sadr's political cronies represent about 10 percent of the Iraqi Parliament, according to the Iraqi government. Sadr recently announced in the world press he was halting his follower's attacks against withdrawing U.S. troops so they can all leave.
So if it isnt 3,000, how many troops do we intend to keep in Iraq beyond December 31, 2011?
That has not been established yet. No decision has been made, Maj. Perrine said.
When asked what would happen if the U.S. doesnt obtain a new SOFA, he said, I dont have anything on that.
So I said, You dont have any information at all?
Maj. Perrine said, When we say we dont have any information on that, it doesnt mean we dont have any information, it just means we dont have any information we are going to tell you.
Transparency in the 21st Century.
Nathaniel R. Helms
Note: Nat Helms is a Contributing Editor to Defend Our Marines. He is a Vietnam veteran, former police officer, war correspondent, and, most recently, author of My Men Are My Heroes: The Brad Kasal Story (Meredith Books, 2007).
© Nathaniel R. Helms 2011
Go to the Defend Our Marines main page
Contact us at WarChronicle@verizon.net
It-the visit-indicates that this one is in need of a resolution asap.
More of you is better than less.
“Who and when the Iraqis can imprison Americans is a big sticking point. The Iraqis insist on having original jurisdiction in the prosecution of U.S. service members. Essentially they want a free hand in prosecuting and imprisoning American troops stationed in peaceful Iraq after the U.S. finishes pulling out its combat forces after Christmas. “
This seems like a very bad idea.
We’ve missed you Lily, where in the heck have you been? ;-)
Perhaps at this point he would not want to go back into the barn. After all they pulled off on him.
Hello Jaz! I’m pretty sure I have been past your house a few times, but I didn’t honk!
Hola!!! You were right about me loving living here.
I’ve been asking EVERYONE this question.
Maybe you know.
What EXACTLY is it that we OWE the Iraqi’s?
Im pretty sure I have been past your house a few times
Sounds like she done did and got herself a paper route! YAY for Lily!!!!
Of course I don’t know.
Welll, the last time I checked we didn’t owe them a GODD###ED thing.
So the best thing to do, of course, is to waste thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars on a third world shi##hole.
YAY for us!
I was refferring to the actual prosecutions/persecuters of Frank being stowed away in The Barn Of Really Bad Ideas, not Frank himself.
I flipped a coin as to what you meant. heheh. No problem.
Since the Haditha case was a centerpiece of an ACTUAL discussion, and since Wuterich is the sole remaining defendant in that case, there is no way that does not give the appearance of tampering with Wuterich’s case and his future.
To the extent that DOD was involved, there are, then, clear command lines that go directly to Wuterich.
I believe we just had an admission (again) of Unlawful Command Influence. Now it's at the highest levels of our government, both DOD and State.
We all know the original UCI was perpetrated by the despicable former Congressman John "In Cold Blood" Murtha.
Since then the taint of UCI has spread in many directions. If John Murtha has a legacy, it is most certainly one of destruction.
Agreed, xzins. This affirms that people at the highest levels of government are fine tuned to the prosecution of SSgt. Wuterich and have been since BEFORE charges were even filed against the Haditha Marines in December of 2006.
smoothsailing: We all know the original UCI was perpetrated by the despicable former Congressman John "In Cold Blood" Murtha.
You couldn't be more correct, smooth.
John Murtha was meeting with high officials at DOD and shooting his mouth off publicly on national TV months before charges were filed. He was shouting out to anyone willing to listen to his perversion of the UCMJ that these Marines were guilty of being cold blooded killers long before the investigation was even completed.
Murtha's meddling as a US Congressman thus denying these Marines the right to be presumed innocent should have been cause for all charges to have been dismissed in the Article 32 hearings, IMO.
The longer this travesty has continued the more evident it is that officials in Iraq are insisting to high ups in DOD and the State Department they want a conviction of this last Marine and it stems from the very beginning and John Murtha's outrageous statements.
All the more reason for the US to just pull out everything, every single last troop from Iraq. We were victorious there years ago, and have lingered only to try building a model society in a pig pen. They will return to their dictators sooner rather than later.
Once we are out of there, and there remains no longer any reason to kowtow to them, then Wuterich might be able to get a fair hearing.
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