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Truth Of Haditha Case May Never Come Out: Wuterich Defense Attorney

Above: Frank Wuterich is the last of his squad to be on trial for the Haditha case.

Aired 1/30/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Neal Puckett, represented Frank Wuterich in the last Haditha court martial at Camp Pendleton


The public may never know the truth behind the trial of Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich at Camp Pendleton, Wuterich's defense attorney told KPBS today.

Attorney Neal Puckett said if all the Marines who were involved in the 2005 incident in the city of Haditha that left 24 unarmed Iraqis dead had been brought to trial, the truth would have been more likely to come out.

"If all the Marines had gone to court martial, some measure of justice would have been achieved," he said. "If all the facts came out in the crucible, in the truth finding process of the court martial, perhaps our client wouldn't have gone to trial on the more serious charges."

Of the eight Marines initially charged, Wuterich was the only one who pled guilty. One Marine was acquitted and six others had their cases dropped. Puckett said the other Marines' charges were dismissed in exchange for their testimony against Wuterich.

"Understand that I'm not accusing anyone of bad actions, criminal actions," Puckett said. "Because the Marines had their charges dismissed and were given grants of immunity from the government, we'll never know the results of their trials to better find out the truth of what happened in rooms where weapons were fired and where Frank Wuterich could not see."

Wuterich's trial ended with a plea deal that meant he did not serve any jail time. Wuterich pleaded guilty for negligent dereliction of duty, but Puckett said he thought his client could have won if he had finished the trial.

"But it was his desire to plead guilty, solely to take responsibility for everything that happened that day, to take responsibility for his Marines, his own tactical decisions because he felt that he was in some measure morally responsible for things going bad that day," Puckett said.

Puckett also said if other Marines had been brought to trial, the Iraqi people might have felt differently about the conclusion. He said there were no other Marines who should have been charged, and would not reveal further details about the case that did not come out in trial.

"The problem is those answers can never officially be known," he said. "We have theories about what happened, but one of the problems in us being able to not know either is Frank Wuterich was not in every room in every house that day. He didn't fire his weapon in either house where people died. So things that went on outside of his vision, he had no way of knowing what happened."

Puckett said Wuterich believes each of his Marines performed his duty the best he could, but added "we're not so sure."

After Wuterich is discharged from the Marines in the coming weeks, he will look for jobs in the information technology field, Puckett said.

Evening Edition

Neal Puckett, the defense attorney for Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, speaks with host Joanne Faryon on KPBS's evening edition.

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Avatar for user 'Startaster'

Startaster | January 31, 2012 at 8:41 a.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

Iraqi Civilian deaths by year: a conservative estimate from
2003 12,087
2004 11,152
2005 15,491
2006 28,225
2007 25,063
2008 9,385
2009 4,713
2010 4,045
2011 4,087
Other sources combined reveal far more killed as a result of the US invasion and occupation. See Wikipedia:

How many, many times over the deaths of 9/11 could we calculate here? Why isn't the US government itself on trial? Why hasn't the conscience of a nation awakened all of us to the shame and degradation of our actions? Why don't we talk about this and work to heal the wounds and make amends, strive to change our ways and question a system that drives us to such violence?

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 31, 2012 at 9:45 a.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

Startaster, I've thought about many of the points you bring up and have come to the simple conclusion that radical nationalism, which is alive and thriving in the U.S. today, causes many to look at fellow human beings who are of a different nationality as sub-human.

Of course other countries engage in this as well, with levels dependent on the circumstances of the individual country.

I've noticed that particularly when you have very large countries with large populations in the interior that are generally not exposed to multiculturalism, this view of others as subhuman is elevated.

Look at the "red state" conservative interior of America and compare that to urban areas on the coasts like New York and Los Angeles. Much of the xenophobia generated from radical nationalism permeates from these areas, and many in our military are young men and women from these internal small-town America regions.

The mindset is nationalism over humanity, people are Americans FIRST and humans SECOND.

And this phenomenon is not unique to war zones. Look at the illegal immigration debate. This radical nationalism has caused many Americans to look at illegal immigrants from Mexico as sub-human.

I think some of this detachment of emotion and viewing of foreigners as "enemies" instead of human beings probably emerged from past wars, especially WWII, but it is so engrained in our culture and society (especially that of small town Red State America) it will likely not change significantly, at least in our lifetime.

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Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | January 31, 2012 at 1:20 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

Some of the comments here are way too inclusive - including illegal immigration into this topic takes the red state America argument a bit too far. I say it’s intellectually dishonest to equate the two as synonymous. I've voted Democratic for the past 10 years and I do not believe it's radical to expect that people who come here do so legally - neither is it radical to expect that your government would enforce immigration laws just as they would any other of our laws.
The differences of opinion between those who live in rural areas as compared to the city are due in large part to different experiences. What might be a blessing in one place isn’t necessarily so in the other or in some cases it’s simply that the threshold has been met. I believe America is far more moderate than many choose to believe, that we highlight the extremes too much. And let me just say that as a person who has traveled a bit in the military – some of you have no clue just how nasty, cruel, inhumane, and sick many people are abroad. We, on our worst day in the media, pale in comparison.
That said, I won’t give the military a free pass on bad behavior, or the American public a pass for supporting wars that are generally not justified, but what I won’t do is paint so many people with broad strokes when I haven’t walked in their shoes. Some of you need to get out of the city, and go find out what your fellow Americans have to put up with that live on the border, or in the areas where most of your food comes from. You need to see that those are real people too, not sub-humans.
Invest in these people first – your fellow Americans. You might find that you also have things in common that you wouldn’t expect.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 31, 2012 at 1:54 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

Randolph, I wasn't bringing up illegal immigration to imply it is synonymous with this issue, but rather to make a general point regarding xenophobia and creating an emotional detactchment from people of other countries.

When I talk about radicals I am not referring to those who simply want our border secure or who want us to win in war.

I am talking about those who go a step further and actually wish harm on immigrants or others.

Illegal immigration and Muslims have become two ver testy, hot-button issues in our society.

I don't go a day without hearing or reading something hateful in regards to both groups.

Ugly, over-generalized comments that sometimes wish physical harm on people.

I have also heard this statement uttered many times in response to people in Iraq and Afghanistan being killed:
*"Tthat's too bad, but better **them** than **us**"*

My point was simply that hot-button issues that fester in our society and become even more distorted by politicians and rhetoric tend to build an emotional nationalistic wall up that prevents us from making a distinction in the value of human life depending on one's race or nationality.

As far as the red state thing, it's just fact that racism and ignorance regarding other cultures exists in those areas that have little or no exposure to other cultures.

I have travelled this country well, and can tell you that you are far less likely to hear people mumbling racist comments under their breath in New York City, Chicago, or San Francisco than you are in Tulsa, Mesa, or Chatanooga.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 31, 2012 at 1:59 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

STARSTARTER, there are many answers to your question. Some easy and some complex. As far as the Left/progressives/liberals, there was much more outrage in 1967 and 1968 because these people were more ideologically consistent. Today's Left didn't want to get too cozy with Iraqi insurgents because of the Islamic factor and September 11th.

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