Serious and/or informed opinion requested about USMC killing

#21
cheesypoptart said:
Having served on both sides of the pond, including the USMC, I can tell you that the Marines surprised me with their thorough professionalism. From the minute you are handed your Eagle, Globe and Anchor, you are expected to better your skills through Marine Corps Institute courses and the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP). Their standards of training and bearing are exceptional for a force that large. I compare the standards of their NCOs and officers favourably with the British Army. In fact, I rate their officers and SNCOs equally.

Biped is right that US military professionalism has massively increased since 2001. That's particularly valid for the US Army. Their TTPs have improved a great deal. And FM 3-24 was a revelation - not proof that the US can be novel but that it can get the basics right and tie them together with advanced concepts. One of the reasons Septics don't listen to their cousins anymore is because they see that HMAF has been much less dynamic in its evolution and committed in its execution (in Iraq).

Biped does get it wrong when he mentions Septic "witless imbecilic dupes". I have not seen a particularly larger number of these types in the USMC infantry than the British Army's queen of battle. It's all about standards of training. I'm sure most infantrymen among us have witnessed examples of unpolished specimens sneaking their way out of ITC. Having seen how well even the stupidest person can perform given sufficient training, I blame the bad reputation of US Army soldiers in particular on weak training and standards. These things have impressed dramatically since 2001.

That said, I am going to have to lay into the Corps a little. Ace Rimmer's comparison with Bloody Sunday is apt in one sense: the attitudes of the soldiers/Marines involved. Like other elite organizations, the USMC remains too aggressive. Too much emphasis is still placed on becoming a killing machine in both boot camp and School of Infantry. In the former's case, excessive focus on breaking down of individuality clashes with the level of individuality required of soldiers/Marines serving in COIN environments.
In the latter school's case, the infantry training is quite excellent, but they're not making the most of opportunities to temper aggression with institutional wisdom. That's left to when the new Marines get to the Fleet Marine Force, by which time these new Devil Dogs have to be essentially "de-programmed" by veterans who've learned COIN the hard way - or they end up commanded by a Staff Sergeant with equal levels of aggression at which point you have a squad that's an incident waiting to happen.
Astonishingly, almost all Marine NCOs do indeed become "strategic corporals" despite their initial training (high on standards, low on brains), because the Marines in the fleet are much more experienced and practical. But there's a clear weakness in the system that allows a sizable number of NCOs to miss out on this transformation. Their attitudes are the same taught in boot camp and SOI. You mix these NCOs with Marines straight out of training and, hey presto, powder keg.

While I reserve judgments on the incidents Ace Rimmer mentions, I do believe the Marines (and similar organizations) are asking for trouble by continuing to overemphasize aggression. That said, I'm not going to label line infantry as all good to go. We've seen the TV footage of certain British line infantry battalions stepping over the line in Iraq. Leadership and training are always key to tempering our innate desire to brass things up.

PS: The problem with aggressive organizations is that they tend to be quite emotional. The Marines can deny it all they like, but they're an emotional Corps. When you have young men who are unable to deal with their emotions, it's easy for grief to turn into blind anger and even hate, which impacts these men's judgment and execution of their mission.
I would say that this is a fair assessment. However, I do see something that you all are glaringly missing.

The Marine Corp core mission.

They were neither designed nor organized for the purpose that they were used for in Iraq.

Marines are "Shock Troops" for lack of a better term. Get in, break stuff, get out. So the whole killing machine mentality serves a purpose in that capacity.

Also, to those Brits casting aspersions to the US on massacres, let us not forget that it was Britain who gave the US it's first taste in massacres in a not so small town called Boston.

I'm sure that there were several things wrong with what happened in Haditha however the only "Sources" to what happened remain anonymous (imagine that).

So to answer Ace_Rimmer, Do the actions of eight marines represent the entire 200,000 troops posted there? Well, what do you think?
 
#22
Let's face it, the American ethos is different to ours, based on economy of scale. they have assets to use and they damn well use them. After all, only US lives are important, aren't they?

The US military also appears to have a culture of not admitting blame and appears reluctant to convict the guilty.
 
#23
ghost_us said:
I would say that this is a fair assessment. However, I do see something that you all are glaringly missing.

The Marine Corp core mission.

They were neither designed nor organized for the purpose that they were used for in Iraq.

Marines are "Shock Troops" for lack of a better term. Get in, break stuff, get out. So the whole killing machine mentality serves a purpose in that capacity.
And therein lies the rub. What is the core mission of the Corps? As evidenced by the debate in which everyone up to our Commandant has engaged, the Corps' core mission is up in air in light of the present and future expectations of the natures of our mission. If the Corps is going to engage in extended COIN operations, it must change its attitude. In fact, our de jure core mission is irrelevant, considering the de facto mission we face.

The Marines' core mission(s) already includes, and will almost certainly include, both conventional and unconventional operations. So does the British Army's. Hence the "beret on vs. helmet on" split mentality. Each type of warfare requires a different mindset.

We mustn't forget the Marines' history as "State Department troops". The Second World War gave us an amphibious, shock troop focus but we mustn't forget all of our history. We're very much torn between past and present, with big question marks on the Marines' future role(s).
 
#24
I think you are all missing the point. The whole story about Haditha was planted by insurgent propagandists, and reported by Time Magazine. It seems that is never happened as described in that article, but the validity of the story was not questioned until much later. A Democratic Congressman (Mr Murtha) claimed that the Marines were 'cold blooded killers'. He claimed that he got his information from a Marine Corps briefing, but later had to admit that he got the whole story from Time. It is well documented. Consequently 9 Marines were charged with everything from murder to failure to properly investigate an incident. All except 1 have now been completely exonnerated. The remaining Saff Sgt faces a charge of manslaughter. He is the one who 'cleared' the room I believe. Time magazine has corrected this story on 2 occasions - but it has been buried in the small print. Like most of the liberal, anti war, anti Bush media they only appear to want to publish negative stories. There have been incidents where troops have been convicted for killing Iraqis, but Haditha is not one of them. I can't believe that none of you appear to know this. Mr Murtha is currently being sued by some of the Marines for his comments.
 
#25
So to answer Ace_Rimmer, Do the actions of eight marines represent the entire 200,000 troops posted there? Well, what do you think?

That's the question that prompted the whole debate. I was trying to make excuses saying "That's bollox, even the US wouldn't enter residential homes using grenades etc.etc." but quickly realised that I had no reason to actually believe that! I don't believe that the actions of eight marines represents the whole force and I would hope to God that it doesn't. The things is, the film pretty much made out that this type of behaviour was expected, all the way up the chain of command.



Let's face it, the American ethos is different to ours, based on economy of scale. they have assets to use and they damn well use them. After all, only US lives are important, aren't they?

The US military also appears to have a culture of not admitting blame and appears reluctant to convict the guilty.
I think, sadly, that is too true. Our soldiers are arguably the best trained and most aggressive fighters in the world but we very rarely seem to lose all compassion and a sense of scale. One example is the story today of how the marine captured the suicide bomber and didn't just shoot or beat the shit out of him.

I think the statement I've quoted is probably the crux of the issue. While the US and the UK often have similar goals, the way in which we go about them and the "rules" we employ are often very different. It stands to reason seeing that (for now at least) our societies reflect different values.


I think you are all missing the point. The whole story about Haditha was planted by insurgent propagandists, and reported by Time Magazine. It seems that is never happened as described in that article, but the validity of the story was not questioned until much later. A Democratic Congressman (Mr Murtha) claimed that the Marines were 'cold blooded killers'. He claimed that he got his information from a Marine Corps briefing, but later had to admit that he got the whole story from Time. It is well documented. Consequently 9 Marines were charged with everything from murder to failure to properly investigate an incident. All except 1 have now been completely exonnerated. The remaining Saff Sgt faces a charge of manslaughter. He is the one who 'cleared' the room I believe. Time magazine has corrected this story on 2 occasions - but it has been buried in the small print. Like most of the liberal, anti war, anti Bush media they only appear to want to publish negative stories. There have been incidents where troops have been convicted for killing Iraqis, but Haditha is not one of them. I can't believe that none of you appear to know this. Mr Murtha is currently being sued by some of the Marines for his comments.
Again, I agree with this to some extent. I think the issue was reported with a particular bias. However, it makes no difference when you look at the facts (I admit that I may not have all of them), that for 24 civilians to die from multiple gunshots and grenade wounds is the product of unacceptable action. Leading me back to the initial question of "Is this how the USMC operate normally".
 
#26
That programme is nothing more than a left wing propaganda effort to portray the Marines as crazed baby killers, a possibility outlined on the original post.
The whole story which went out round the world, that the Marines simply went on a rampage killing innocent Iraqis, in retaliation for the death of a comrade, is blatantly false.
As I said previously, it is based on a Time magazine story by a reporter whose only sources were known insurgent propagandists and Al Qaida supporters. Time was forced to retract parts of the initial story on more than one occasion.
In response to the Time story charges, including multiple murder, were brought against a number of Marines. Following Article 32 hearings, the investigating officer, Lt Col Ware, recommended that all charges be dropped. The Marines’ commanding general, General Mattis, agreed. However, the Pentagon ignored this and recommended that they be brought to a court martial.
Since then all of the Marines have been exonerated except Staff Sgt Wuterich, who is facing a manslaughter charge. He claims that he followed ROE.
One of the reasons for the decision was the testimony of an intelligence officer, Maj Dinsmore. He was able to provide photos from an unmanned aerial vehicle and transcripts of radio communication etc. It was accepted that this proved the Marines actions were proper and justified. Strangely the prosecution filed a motion to prevent him from testifying but this was overturned.
This is the story as far as I know it:- following a roadside bomb which killed one Marine, the surviving Marines came under fire from 2 houses near the site. A white Sedan appeared on the scene and refused to stop when ordered to do so. The Marines had been warned of an impending attack involving a white Sedan, so the occupants were shot by Staff Sgt Wuterich. (Maj Dinsmore also confirmed that the Marines had been warned of an impending attack involving a white Sedan, and I believe there is video footage. 4 of the 5 killed were later confirmed as being insurgents. He also confirmed that the Marines had been told not to go into suspect buildings without first clearing them using grenades and gunfire) A rapid response team arrived on the scene shortly afterwards and Wuterich and his men were ordered to clear the 2 houses. In the course of this operation around 15 Iraqis were killed, of which I think 8 or 9 were insurgents .
The Thomas More Law Centre which has been involved in defending the Marines has claimed that there were political motivations behind the prosecutions – a desire to appease the anti war politicians and media following Abu Ghraib etc.
It has also emerged that the 2 sources (Al-Hadithi and Al Mashhadani )for the Time magazine story were known insurgents, whose cell phone calls were being monitored by Intelligence – it was in fact the calls between them which alerted Intelligence to the impending ambush. Coincidentally Al-Mashhadani just ‘happened’ to be there to video the aftermath.
I could write lots more about this but I hope you get the picture.
 
#27
Ace_Rimmer said:
Again, I agree with this to some extent. I think the issue was reported with a particular bias. However, it makes no difference when you look at the facts (I admit that I may not have all of them), that for 24 civilians to die from multiple gunshots and grenade wounds is the product of unacceptable action. Leading me back to the initial question of "Is this how the USMC operate normally".
Correction.

It was not reportedly 24 civilians that died but 9 combatants and 15 "alleged" non-combatants. The marines were engaged in a ambush firefight. I don't have the slightest idea of British military doctrine, but US Army doctrine is that you move decisively and aggressively against your attackers.

In a combat environment, what is an acceptable action? Would you personally take a bullet or allow your girlfriend to take a bullet so as to ensure there was no one but bad guys in a room before you toss in a grenade?

Do I think marines lined people up and shot them? I highly doubt it. Especially children. I know some marines that would have jumped on a grenade to save a kid.

Do I think some bad choices were made under duress? Certainly. Do I think that the enemy forces played this up to their advantage with the media buying in and frenzy feeding on it? absolutely.

A better question is: Have the Marines learned from it and adjusted their doctrine and strategies. The answer to that is a simply yes.

Who's account did the guy that made the movie use? Were any of the marines that were there used as consultants?

From what I understand, the only witness was a 9 yr old boy who changed his story 3 times and a guy that lived 100 yards away and took video the day after.

And Wiki is not a good source at all. Just remember, the internet is the best disinformation tool known to man.

I was always brought up with Mark Twains paradigm.

Mark Twain said:
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect.
 
#29
ghost_us said:
Do I think marines lined people up and shot them? I highly doubt it. Especially children. I know some marines that would have jumped on a grenade to save a kid.

Do I think some bad choices were made under duress? Certainly. Do I think that the enemy forces played this up to their advantage with the media buying in and frenzy feeding on it? absolutely.

A better question is: Have the Marines learned from it and adjusted their doctrine and strategies. The answer to that is a simply yes.
Thanks for voicing the other side of the argument. I didn't want to try and establish fact or real detail about the incident as there is absolutely no way of verifying facts/sources. To be honest, the official US statement is as likely to be as imaginative as the Iraqi one. I certainly wouldn't take the movie as a reliable source! In fact I was outraged that they could get away with making a docu-film like that.

My main intrigue was about whether this kind of thing was likely to happen given the way the USMC train and operate - as I have no experience of them but they are ALWAYS portrayed as gung-ho oo-ra mentalists in the media. Given that the stereotypes of British forces are largely exaggerated, very hammed-up but "never" entirely off the mark leads me to think that the same is likely of the US Forces.

It's a very subjective matter with large scope to cause offence so I'm glad it's been discussed with a bit of objectivity and rationality. I'm sure not-one of us would condone the deliberate killing of civilians/non-combatants and all appreciate that under those circumstances it takes spectacular leadership and individual courage to ensure a decent outcome. I think it's impossible for a civilian film maker to make an accurate film about war for release to the general public. Let's face it, it would be extremely dull for the most part, with smatterings of violence of such nature that the public simply couldn't handle (well that's my uninformed opinion, anyway).
 
#30
CheesyPopTart's posts reflect my own thoughts and experiences.

Having had the honour of working closely with both USMC and US Army pers on Ops, fighting the Hollywood stereotype is a constant struggle for all of them. When incidents such as Haditha are portrayed through the media of film, the truth becomes at best blurred.

I agree that OP BANNER has been possibly the major factor in differences between US and UK COIN / FIBUA doctrine. The caveat being that there are many who have no experience prior to Ops, and that there are chods in both the US and UK military system, that no matter how good the training, how good the leadership is, and how good discipline is within any unit, each is an individual. These incidents represent a few individuals, many of whom would be making the same errors of judgment if they were in civvy street.

The USMC portrayal reflected in Hollywood movies is, (and I suspect the USMC milks this for everything it's worth), probably the best recruiting MSG for Quantico's finest.

The few, the proud.
 

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