Canal Killings...Justice or Murder?

Canal Killings...Justice or Murder?

Posted in the Hindman Forum

Knott County Momma

United States

#1 Nov 19, 2009
Vilseck, Germany (CNN)-- U.S. soldiers interrogated by the Army in the 2007 murders of four Iraqi detainees blamed a military policy they said made it too hard to detain suspected insurgents, a CNN investigation has found.
Soldiers questioned in the killings said the sergeant in command of their detachment ordered the suspected insurgents killed because Army rules made it too difficult to hold them.
"They're gonna be right back on the streets," one soldier put it.
CNN obtained an extraordinary 23½ hours of Army interrogation videotapes that detail the March 2007 executions of the prisoners by three sergeants who were attached to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment.
The tapes, to be shown on CNN's "AC360," show one of the sergeants confessing to the crime, as well as agents from the Army's Criminal Investigations Division telling soldiers involved in the crime that the military's reputation was at stake.
On one tape, an Army interrogator compares the potential fallout from the slayings to the scandal over the treatment of inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, telling a soldier, "This is gonna be ugly,'cause it is."
"Just like them knuckleheads who were stacking naked prisoners in the pyramids at Abu Ghraib," the interrogator says. "We walk down the streets, and that's a shame we all carry. And I had nothing to do with that.
"I don't know about you, but I wasn't at Abu Ghraib, but I can tell you half the time I'm walking down the streets, that's what people think when they're lookin' at us:'Oh, there's those damn Americans that abused those poor prisoners.' "
He added, "Frat boys get abused worse during pledge week in college than that crap. But it's what the media made of it. What the hell do you think they're gonna make of this?"
Video: Soldier's Iraq murder confession
Video: Q&A with CNN's Abbie Boudreau
Video: Killings at the Canal
U.S. Army
Iraq War
Fort Leavenworth
The soldiers, who were based in Schweinfurt, Germany, were videotaped in January 2008 during the Army's investigation into what happened at a Baghdad canal the previous March. On the tapes, soldiers blamed the Army's policy of detaining prisoners for the frustration that led to the shootings.
By all accounts, the incident began after soldiers from the company were fired upon. The soldiers went to a house where they found four Iraqi men and a small weapons cache.
The men were loaded into the back of a Bradley fighting vehicle. But instead of being taken to the detainee housing area, they were driven in a convoy of 13 soldiers to the canal and killed, according to trial testimony and other documents in the case.
Pfc. Joshua Hartson, who has since left the Army because of a serious injury, recalled a conversation he had with 1st Sgt. John Hatley, who was in charge that day.
"My first sergeant comes up to me, and pulls me away from everybody, then he asked me if we take them to the detainee facility, the 'DHA,' that they're gonna be right back on the streets doing the same thing in a matter of weeks," Hartson told CNN. "He asked me if I had a problem if we take care of them, and I told him no."
Hartson and other soldiers interviewed by CNN said Hatley was frustrated by the Army's rules for evidence required to hold Iraqi detainees. Hartson was not charged and received immunity for his testimony.
Knott County Momma

United States

#2 Nov 19, 2009
The three sergeants who killed the detainees were convicted of premeditated murder and conspiracy in a military courtroom in Germany earlier this year. All three are serving their sentences at the U.S. military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Hatley received a life sentence that was later reduced to 40 years; Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Mayo, who had pleaded guilty to the charges, and Sgt. Michael Leahy, a medic, are serving 20-year terms. Hatley and Leahy are appealing their convictions, while Mayo is seeking a lighter sentence.
Hatley and Leahy were found not guilty of killing an injured Iraqi in a prior incident.
CNN obtained the 23½ hours of interrogation videos, which include Leahy's confession. The Army, citing an ongoing investigation, refused to release the Leahy tapes after CNN requested them under the Freedom of Information Act.
However, CNN obtained those tapes and others in which other soldiers who were at the canal were also questioned about their knowledge of what happened.
On the tapes, Leahy is asked by an Army interrogator where he shot the Iraqi detainee.
"It was in the back of the head," Leahy said. "I guess in the back of the head."
Leahy admits he fired two shots, but killed only one detainee. The interrogators press him about who killed the fourth Iraqi.
"Like, my arm went up to the right, and I fired again. I'm pretty sure I didn't hit anybody, but I'm not gonna say that because I don't know for sure. I wasn't even looking when I shot the second time. My arm just went to the right."
Leahy finally admits on the tape that his bullet struck the second detainee, but said Hatley fired two more shots that killed the man.
Besides Hatley, Leahy and Mayo, two other soldiers received prison sentences but have since been released. The other soldiers at the canal that day were not charged, and received immunity for testifying.
The tapes, and the investigative case file obtained by CNN, reveal how the soldiers believed the policy for taking in and holding detainees was not working, and was the reason for the murders.
"Seems like, even if you do your job and take these guys to the detainee center, they just come right back," Leahy said on tape. "The same [expletive] guys shooting at you."
CNN obtained a copy of a January 9, 2005, memo, marked "draft," that imposed detailed standards for evidence soldiers needed before taking in suspected insurgents in Iraq. The memo was written by Maj. Gen. William H. Brandenburg, who oversaw detainee operations at the time.
Knott County Momma

United States

#3 Nov 19, 2009
"Failure to follow these regulations may result in acquittal or premature release of detainees," the memo states.

Brig. Gen. David Quantock, who now holds that position, told CNN the rules specified in the memo were in effect through the end of 2008.

"Before the memo was written, a person could just bring a detainee to our facility," Quantock told CNN. "We could take them in with little or nothing."

The memo states that "circumstances permitting," evidence of criminal activity should include "photographs of the physical evidence," "photographs of the detainee at the crime scene or place of capture," as well as "photographs of the detainee next to the evidence."

Other evidence should include a sketch of the crime scene, all physical evidence of the crime, and "statements written by first-hand witnesses to the criminal activity."

Sgt. Daniel Evoy, who was at the canal but not charged, said on one of the interrogation tapes that getting two statements from Iraqi witnesses was nearly impossible.

"It's pretty hard to get somebody to give us a sworn statement unless they're pretty bad guys. So what we normally do is we pick them up, drive them around a little bit to scare them and then drop them off somewhere," Evoy said.

Quantock said Iraqi witnesses were preferred, but not required.

In documents obtained by CNN, an Army intelligence officer attached to Alpha Company said "statements from U.S. service members were not accepted as proof of insurgent activity" and that the detention facility "required at least two witness statements from Iraqis."

Frank Spinner, Leahy's attorney, told CNN that soldiers are not trained to be police officers who collect evidence.

"As it was, they had to take off their soldier helmet, put on their cop hat, take them to a civilian sort of police station and show evidence that these were people that were shooting at them and if there wasn't enough evidence then they were gonna be released on the street," Spinner said.

"But soldiers aren't trained to be cops, and they're not trained to collect evidence and they're not trained in the ways of civilian criminal prosecutions."

Hatley did not testify at his trial. But in a letter from prison to CNN, Hatley wrote "the guidelines established for detaining and prosecuting the enemy has extensive flaws. Furthermore, the enemy is well aware of these flaws and consistently exploits these to facilitate their release.

"I challenge you to imagine the frustration felt after being engaged in firefights for several hours with the enemy and capture them only to have them released 2-3 days later because you're being told the holding area needs more information on them," he wrote.

According to the U.S. military, 76,985 detainees have been released out of the 87,011 captured during the Iraq war.

"We've repeatedly found ourselves fighting the same enemy again and again," Hatley wrote.
Stefanie Fletcher

Sun Valley, CA

#4 Nov 19, 2009
There is certainly no easy answer or comment to make about this horrible situation. It is disturbing to hear the story told by these soldiers, in a somewhat abstract and calm manner. There are many conflicts and issues affecting our soldiers deployed to Iraq. However, a soldier's good judgment and her or his humanity should never be an issue.

After working with the Department of the Navy as a civilian ICU nurse for many years, I have deep respect for active duty military members. They make a commitment to serve our country and it comes with risks that most people will never see in a lifetime. As civilians, we may not understand daily life as a soldier, yet we do appreciate the gravity of this situation and its far-reaching future impact.

The comments posted here, from those who feel sorry for these soldiers or who seem upset because they were reported, are disquieting and unfortunate. There seems to be a complete disconnect between how our behavior, in any foreign country, directly affects future behavior toward us.

We now occupy Iraq; presumably for the purposes of “helping” the Iraqi people restructure their government, rebuild their homes, their businesses and their lives. Yet there seems to be numerous reports of violence toward civilians, by American soldiers or private mercenaries representing the United States, for no acceptable reason.

These men confessed to murder and there should be every expectation, they would be held accountable.

The actions of a few, whether committing good acts or committing crimes, defines us as a nation.

Collingswood, NJ

#5 Nov 19, 2009
We need to release these guys. They killed some terrorists in a war zone. They saved other soldiers from getting killed by these guys. They made the right decision. They didnt cut off their heads and drag their bodies through the streets while burning their flag. Thats what they do to us in this situation. Dont get me wrong America is better than this. But these soldiers dont deserve this sentence.
Knott County Momma

United States

#6 Nov 20, 2009
Stefanie Fletcher wrote: "We now occupy Iraq; presumably for the purposes of “helping” the Iraqi people restructure their government, rebuild their homes, their businesses and their lives. Yet there seems to be numerous reports of violence toward civilians, by American soldiers or private mercenaries representing the United States, for no acceptable reason."

What about the violence towards American soldiers by Iraqi civilians?

I respect your service with the Department of the Navy as a civilian ICU nurse, but unless your on the front lines, taking enemy fire, watching your brothers in arms die, you can't honestly know how you would react under those same circumstances.

It's too easy for us to sit in judgement when it isn't our ass taking fire.
Tanny Sunny

Lawrence, KS

#7 Nov 20, 2009
Let's not jump into conclusion. Is this a war crime? Truly, it is. Even if those Iraqis would have gone back to the street and then plan to kill American soldiers again. You have to look at this from the military point of view. American soldiers are fighting a war, even if it's against the invisibles. A war is a war, and these Iraqis are not killing unarmed Americans, but they're killing armed military men who have the rights and ability to kill anyone who fought against them. The way innocent Iraqis were treated in their own country led to this. We rarely heard of the bad things American soldiers had done to innocent Vietnamese civilians, and the pain they inflicted on them till today... the millions of land mines, that blew up the legs of so many innocents. Do they have the means to sue America for that? How many amputees are there in Vietnam and Laos? How many more land mines are there still in those countries?

The same thing goes with Iraq. They are attacking American soldiers, yes, these soldiers are hero, but they cannot take laws into their own hands. They should disobey their superiors by insisting that these Iraqis be detained for longer period.

I can bet you, there are millions of Iraqis out there who hated America.... and the presence of military in their country. Why? Most of them will want to kill American soldiers. Do you simply go out and kill them all?

Chesterfield, MO

#8 Nov 20, 2009


#9 Nov 22, 2009
These men committed murder.Once those Iraqis were taken into custody,they were prisoners of war.Instead of taking them in for detention as prisoners,they decided to execute them.After WWII,there were members of the German and Japanese military who were put on trial,convicted and executed for perpetrating the exact same type of crimes against American soldiers that they had taken prisoner.This incident is no different and these men recieved the sentence they deserved.
Let Em Go

Saint Louis, MO

#10 Nov 22, 2009
Way to set our military up to fail with horrible policy...great system we have going on over there...I wonder if our captured soldiers get the same rights as the detainees? Wow...With such handicapping of our military why fight...Our military personal need to go on strike...this is crap
Let Em Go

Saint Louis, MO

#11 Nov 22, 2009
Until the bureaucrats in Washington start defending our soldiers with proper policy and letting them be soldiers our soldiers need to quit defending US. If they want police officers over there, then train and hire police officers...send the soldiers home and the police over. Americans need jobs...
Ron Houston Texas

United States

#12 Nov 23, 2009
as with vietnam our goverment is asking our brave soldiers to fight a war with one hand tied behind their back. Considering over 80% of detaines that our soldiers bring in as prisoners of war are released within weeks and the killing of two of Alpha soldiers days before along with the knowledge that the other side does not detain americans they behead them on camera amoung many other things I can understand why the did what the did. When was the last time they let a captured american soldier go alive? their savages fight fire with fire
Glenn Anderson

Kent, WA

#13 Nov 25, 2009
Stefanie Fletcher said, "We now occupy Iraq; presumably for the purposes of “helping” the Iraqi people restructure their government, rebuild their homes, their businesses and their lives."

I want to know why the Army of the United States is rebuilding a country when our own country needs rebuilding. We should not be in Iraq and Afganistan. All we are doing now is trying to save face. We lost the war a long time ago. Go home, they don't want us there anyway. Can someone tell me how we are protecting american interest by spending millions and loosing american lives over there?
Glenn Anderson

Kent, WA

#14 Nov 25, 2009
It makes me mad when I hear that soldiers being shot at capture the four gunmen and find bomb materials and small wepons in the house and they are accused of murder. I supose the Iraqis firing on them were inocent bystanders. When one of the Iraqis was asked if he made bombs and killed American soldiers he laughed.

When the American policy for procecuting and detaining the enemy make it imposible for a soldier to do his duty the policy makes are to blame. Why is it noone askes these questions to the people who are really responsible? I think the U.S. is more concerned at saving face with the Iraq government and people than they are concerned about thier own soldiers lives. What kind of a war is this, to protect and serve the people of Iraq above the safety of our own soldiers. If this were a real war thousands of people would protest in the streets of America to get out. But because it only effects the soldiers and their families they are the only ones who suffer.

The problem is Americans are so concerned about having a fair war they take reaponsiblity for the hateful attitudes of the jihadists, somehow we are at fault for the hate they feel. So we make excuses for them, congress puts pressure on the top brass to change our policies of engagment so we look more humain. The outcome, soldiers are blamed for what the policy makers created.

We should leave Iraq and Afganistan. And before we go to war again it should really be to defend America, not to defend Americas image in the world.
Tanny Sunny

Lawrence, KS

#15 Nov 26, 2009
Glenn Anderson wrote:
It makes me mad when I hear that soldiers being shot at capture the four gunmen and find bomb materials and small wepons in the house an.......
That's why this war is a mess. George Bush didn't know what kind of mess he's getting into. People who are familiar with the politics in Middle East exactly know why Saddam Hussein was needed to keep the country together. You can keep on complaining whether this is fair to our soldiers or not, but the truth is.... just get out of there as soon as we can. We don't know what mess we're getting into.

Naperville, IL

#16 Nov 27, 2009
Cowards execute, honorable men kill face to face in battle.
Glenn Anderson

Kent, WA

#17 Nov 28, 2009
American wrote:
Cowards execute, honorable men kill face to face in battle.

That's easy for you to say safe and secure at home. Let's see what you would say if the peple killing you and your fellow soldiers are let go after they are caught. And your are told to appologize to the same terrorist after our people let them go to kill more of our soldiers.

Did you read the full report of this incedent?

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