From the WaPo’s Ann Scott Tyson and Josh White comes this depressing story about Marines running amok in the wake of a roadside bombing in the Nangarhar region of eastern Afghanistan: Excessive force by Marines alleged.
A platoon of elite Marine Special Operations troops reacted with “excessive force” after an ambush in Afghanistan last month, opening fire on pedestrians and civilian vehicles along a 10-mile stretch of road and killing 12 people — including a 4-year-old girl, a 1-year-old boy and three elderly villagers — an investigation by an Afghan human rights commission alleges.
The investigation, based on dozens of eyewitness interviews, found that Marines in a convoy of Humvees continued shooting at at least six locations along the road, miles beyond the site where they were ambushed by a suicide bomber in a van. They fired at stationary vehicles, passersby and others who were “exclusively civilian in nature” and had made “no kind of provocative or threatening behavior,” according to a draft report of the investigation obtained by The Washington Post.
Shortly after the incident, the Marine platoon and its parent company were pulled out of the area and are in the Persian Gulf with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Gunnery Sgt. Michael Turner, a spokesman for Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command at Camp Lejeune, N.C., said yesterday that the company commander and senior noncommissioned officer were redeployed to North Carolina after they were relieved of command on April 3. Special Operations officers “had lost trust and confidence” in the unit’s leadership, Turner said.
I’ve got no reason to think this is anything other than what it’s being presented as: A case of a small number of Marines overreacting to a roadside bombing, with their superiors neither encouraging what they did nor condoning it after the fact. It’s awful enough as an example of the horrors of war just as it is.
Horrible things happen in war. And it can be hard to know when we’re getting the real story. Even fifty years after the fact, the urge to bury the truth is strong. Consider the No Gun Ri massacre, an incident during the Korean War in which hundreds of refugees fleeing the fighting, women and children, were killed by US soldiers. The Army’s 2001 report on that incident declared that the killings were “not deliberate.” But now high-level documentation has come to light that makes a compelling case that the killings were actually official policy, that the soldiers who shot those refugees were following orders. What’s more, it looks like the investigators who issued that 2001 report were aware of that documentation, and chose not to mention it.
The details are available in this story from Charles J. Hanley and Martha Mendoza of the Associated Press: Letter reveals U.S. intent at No Gun Ri.
It’s not a pleasant story. But it’s the truth.