- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2007

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) — A Marine general testified yesterday that he initially saw no reason to investigate the killing of women and children by troops in the Iraqi town of Haditha andthat he didn’t learn about claims that civilians were intentionally targeted until three months later.

Maj. Gen. Richard A. Huck was the top general in charge of Marines in Iraq’s Anbar province when 24 civilians were killed in Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005. He testified that he knew about the deaths that day but considered them simply a “truly unfortunate” consequence of war at the time.

“I had no information that a law of armed conflict violation had been committed,” Gen. Huck said.

The two-star general spoke via video link from the Pentagon at a preliminary hearing for Capt. Randy W. Stone of Dunkirk, Md., one of four officers charged with dereliction of duty for failing to investigate the killings. Three enlisted Marines are charged with murder.

Gen. Huck said he learned on Feb. 12, 2006, that a Time magazine reporter questioned the official U.S. version of the attacks. He said he was “highly irritated” to discover that senior military attorneys knew about accusations that civilians were targeted at least two weeks before he did.

Gen. Huck was commander of the 2nd Marine Division at the time of the killings. Capt. Stone’s attorney, Charles Gittins, called him to testify.

Mr. Gittins wants to show that Capt. Stone did nothing wrong because Marines throughout the command chain knew about the killings but agreed not to order an investigation because the deaths were deemed to have been lawful.

Court documents show that Gen. Huck was briefed about the killings soon after they occurred and that they did not seem suspicious to him. He told investigators that “no bells and whistles went off.”

“It was just here is something that happened, and it was onto the next thing,” Gen. Huck told investigators.

Yesterday was the third day of Capt. Stone’s hearing. On Wednesday, a Marine sergeant testified that his squad leader shot five Iraqi men as they stood with their hands in the air and then told comrades to lie about it.

Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz said that in the moments after a roadside bomb hit a Humvee in his convoy on Nov. 19, 2005, he saw five men standing by a white car with their hands interlocked behind their heads. The squad leader, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, then fired about six to eight rounds at the men, Sgt. Dela Cruz testified.

After the five men died, Marines led by Sgt. Wuterich cleared two houses with grenades and gunfire in an effort to find insurgents. The dead included women, children and elderly people.

Sgt. Wuterich’s attorney Neal Puckett said in a phone interview Wednesday that Sgt. Dela Cruz’s account was false.

Sgt. Dela Cruz initially was charged with murder, but prosecutors dismissed charges against him last month. He has been given immunity to testify.

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