The details of a secret interrogation involving a 2005 Iraqi massacre in Haditha have been discovered as U.S. troops withdraw from the country.
The hundreds of pages detailing the secret interviews were supposed to be destroyed as secrets of war. However, they were found by a New York Times reporter in junkyard outside of Baghdad, where someone had been using them as fuel for a fire to cook dinner.
The documents contained a Marine’s accounts of a 2005 massacre of Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha. Marked as “secret,” the documents are proof of an internal investigation of an incident where Marines allegedly killed 24 civilians, including a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair, women, and children as young as 3-years-old.
According to the testimony of Maj. Gen. Steve Johnson, the commander of American forces in Anbar, Iraqi civilians were being killed all the time. He later called it “a cost of doing business,” according to an MSNBC report.
The testimony alleges that some soldiers could not handle the stress of combat. Many troops were traumatized by the violence and always felt like they were under attack. They grew paranoid and began killing many civilians in accidental encounters, say reports.
Anbar was a stronghold for disenfranchised Sunnis and foreign fighters who wanted US forces out of Iraq. The Marines reportedly found themselves under constant attack from guerilla fighters, who could have easily been disguised as civilians. Of the 4,483 US casualties in Iraq, 1,335 were killed in Anbar.
Some became so insensitive to the deaths that they deliberately fired on civilians while their comrades snapped photos. According to the documents, Marines started to view 20 dead civilians as routine.
The massacre, which happened in November 2005, involved Marines from the 3/1 Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion 1st Marines. They opened fire on civilians in retaliation of and IED attack by insurgents, which left one Marine dead and two injured.
Events such as these helped to fuel an already obvious distrust of the U.S., especially since no Marine was convicted. Charges were dropped against six of the accused Marines in Haditha, while one case remains and will go to trial next year.
Col. Barry Johnson, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq, said that many of the documents remained classified and should’ve been destroyed, according to MSNBC.
“Despite the way in which they were improperly discarded and came into your possession, we are not at liberty to discuss classified information,” Johnson said. “We take any breach of classified information as an extremely serious matter. In this case, the documents are being reviewed to determine whether an investigation is warranted,” he added.