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American Journalism Review
Haditha Timeline  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  Features
From AJR,   June/July 2006

Haditha Timeline   

By Lori Robertson
Lori Robertson (, a former AJR managing editor, is a senior contributing writer for the magazine.      

November 20, 2005: The military issues a report saying that the day before, a Marine and 15 Iraqi civilians had been killed by a roadside bomb in Haditha in Iraq's Anbar Province. Eight insurgents were killed in a firefight, according to the report. Taher Thabet, an activist/aspiring journalist, videotapes the scene in Haditha and at the morgue. Many media outlets run briefs on the deaths.

December 2005: Families of the 15 civilians receive compensation from the U.S. military, $2,500 per victim.

January 2006: The Hammurabi human rights group gives a copy of Thabet's video to Time magazine's Tim McGirk, who is pursuing a story on civilian deaths.

February 10: Seeking comment on the incident, McGirk gives a copy of the video and reports from witnesses to Col. Barry Johnson, chief military spokesman in Baghdad.

February 14: Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, head of U.S.-led ground forces in Iraq, orders a preliminary investigation, which concludes that the civilians were killed by gunshots, not by an IED. The investigator, Army Col. Gregory Watt, later recommends further inquiry.

March 12: The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is notified.

March 16: CNN breaks the news that the military has launched a criminal investigation into the deaths of Iraqi civilians in Haditha to determine whether the Marines indiscriminately shot civilians. Many media outlets run brief stories.

March 19: Time posts a detailed story on the incident, with interviews with witnesses, on The story runs in the magazine's March 27 issue, which hits newsstands March 20.

March 19: Chiarelli launches a second investigation: Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell will look into a possible cover-up of the incident.

. April 4: CNN airs video, shot by Britain's ITV, of an interview with Eman Waleed, a 9-year-old witness to the incident.

April 7: Three leaders of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, which had responsibility for Haditha when the shooting occurred, are relieved of their command.

April 8: Knight Ridder runs a story including interviews with more witnesses. It is the first U.S. news organization to send someone to Haditha.

April 28: "CBS Evening News" reports that Pentagon officials say evidence shows Marines deliberately shot civilians at Haditha.

May 2: CNN reports that investigators have still photos that show civilians were killed by gunfire.

May 17: Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) mentions Haditha at the end of a long statement on the need to withdraw American forces from Iraq. "Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood," he says. The networks and cable news jump on the story, but Haditha doesn't make page one in major newspapers for more than a week.

May 25: ABC's "Nightline" identifies the ranking officer involved in the Haditha incident as 25-year-old Sgt. Frank Wuterich.

May 26: The New York Times publishes a story about the investigation on A1 for the first time.

May 27: The Washington Post publishes a page-one story on Haditha.

May 31: President Bush publicly comments on Haditha, saying that there will be punishment if wrongdoing is uncovered.

June 1: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki criticizes U.S. attacks on civilians, which he calls "a daily phenomenon."

June 11: Numerous media outlets run Sgt. Wuterich's side of the story, as told by his lawyer. Wuterich says he and his troops followed the rules of engagement.

Sources: Time magazine and media reports



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