KILLINGS OF AFGHAN CIVILIANS RECALL HADITHA
After it became clear last year that several marines had killed 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq, following an attack on their convoy of Humvees, the Marine Corps, which had initially played down the massacre, began an offensive of a different kind.
Last May, Gen. Michael W. Hagee, the commandant of the Marine Corps at the time, went to Iraq to express deep concern to his marines and to reinforce what he called the "core values" that required them to respond to danger with thoughtful precision.
But almost a year later, marines killed at least 10 civilians in Afghanistan in an episode that bore some striking similarities to the Haditha killings and suggested that the lesson had not taken, even in a platoon of combat veterans wearing the badge of the elite new Marine Corps Special Operations forces.
Marine Corps officials said the unit, whose members undergo at least four months of specialized military training, did not receive specific values training addressing the lessons of Haditha. The actions of the 30 marines on patrol in Afghanistan appeared to contradict many of the edicts General Hagee had implored the marines to remember.
"We use lethal force only when justified, proportional and, most importantly, lawful," General Hagee declared in a series of talks he gave at Marine bases around the world. "We must regulate force and violence," he added. "We protect the noncombatants we find on the battlefield."
A preliminary military investigation found that the marines killed at least 10 civilians and wounded dozens along a stretch of road near Jalalabad on March 4, and no evidence that they were being fired upon.