Monday, May 29, 2006

"We will find out what happened, and we will make it public"

No, it's not as snazzy as the NY Times or Wa Po stories.

WASHINGTON, May 29, 2006 No good can come of speculation surrounding a Nov. 19 incident in Haditha, Iraq, in which 24 Iraqi civilians, including women and children, were killed in the aftermath of a roadside bomb attack, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace is interviewed by CNN anchor Miles O'Brien at the Pentagon May 29. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF (Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace also stressed that investigations into alleged misconduct by U.S. Marines in the incident are not yet complete.

Appearing on CNN's "American Morning" for what was to have been an interview focusing on the nation's Memorial Day observance today, Pace told Miles O'Brien that two investigations are still in progress: one to find out what happened, and another to find out why senior officials were not aware of the misconduct allegations until February.

"We will find out what happened, and we'll make it public," Pace said. "But to speculate right now wouldn't do anybody any good."

Army Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, initiated a preliminary investigation Feb. 14 when reporters told U.S. officials about allegations of possible violations of the rules of engagement by Marines. In a March 17 news conference, the general said he had ordered further investigation based on the results of the initial probe.

"I understand it's going to be a couple of more weeks before those investigations are complete, and we should not prejudge the outcome," Pace said today. "But we should, in fact, as leaders, take on the responsibility to get out and talk to our troops and make sure that they understand that what 99.9 percent of them are doing, which is fighting with honor and courage, is exactly what we expect of them."

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael W. Hagee is in Iraq doing just that, the chairman said, "because regardless of where this investigation goes, we want to ensure that our troops understand what's expected of them in combat."

Asked if he suspects that a cover-up at lower levels of command caused the delay between the incident and senior officials becoming aware of possible misconduct, Pace said he doesn't suspect anything, but rather is waiting for the investigation to yield the facts.

"If the allegations, as they're being portrayed in the newspaper, turn out to be valid, then of course there will be charges," he said. "But we don't know yet what the outcome will be. It'll take its course. It will be made public, and we'll all be able to make our own judgments."