Marine Commandant 'Gravely Concerned' Over Alleged Misconduct in Iraq
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 7, 2006 The Marine Corps will get to the bottom of allegations that some of its members wrongly killed a number of civilians during two separate operations in Iraq, the organization's commandant told reporters here today.
Gen. Michael Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, said during a Pentagon press briefing June 7 that three Marine officers, a battalion commander and two company commanders, have been relieved of duty while investigations continue on two incidents of Marines' alleged misconduct in Iraq. Photo by Helene C. Stikkel
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
At a Pentagon news briefing, Gen. Michael W. Hagee said he couldn't comment on specifics regarding ongoing investigations centering on events surrounding alleged Marine misconduct that took place at Haditha, Iraq, on Nov. 19, 2005, and other alleged misconduct that took place April 26 this year in Hamdaniya, Iraq.
News reports have said at least 15 civilians were killed during the alleged incident at Haditha, while one Iraqi was allegedly killed in Hamdaniya.
"As commandant, I am gravely concerned about the serious allegations concerning actions of some Marines at Haditha and Hamdaniya," Hagee told reporters. "I can assure you that the Marine Corps takes them seriously."
The Marine Corps is committed to fully support the investigations of both incidents, the general said. "We want to ensure the investigations are complete with respect to what actually happened on the ground and actions taken or not taken by the chain of command," Hagee said.
Hagee recently returned to Washington after visiting with Marines and soldiers serving in Iraq.
"I can tell you that their morale is really quite high. The operational tempo is also high. They are very proud in what they're doing. They know they're well-equipped, they know they are well-trained, and they know that they are making a difference," the general said.
Hagee said he couldn't discuss specifics of the investigations until they're complete. However, he confirmed that three Marine officers, a battalion commander and two company commanders, have been relieved of duty.
"We intend to keep you informed to the fullest possible extent possible without interfering with the legal process," Hagee told reporters.
Marines are trained to perform their duties to the highest professional and ethical standards, Hagee said, noting that thousands of Marines have performed superbly on the dangerous, complex and stressful battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq.
However, if any Marines are found to have broken the law and their services' ethos, then they will be held accountable, Hagee said, regardless of rank or position.
"While I am concerned about the current allegations, I am confident that the American people recognize that Marines are men and women of the highest caliber," Hagee said. During more than 230 years of Marine Corps' history, its members have "acquitted themselves with honor, dedication and dignity in some of the most difficult and dangerous environments imaginable," Hagee said.
"We don't intend to change," he said.