Battle for Haditha (2007)

 

 

 

 

Director:     Nick Broomfield.

Starring:     Matthew Knoll (Cpl. Matthews), Elliot Ruiz (Cpl. Ramirez), Eric Mehalacopoulos (Sgt. Ross), Nathan De La Cruz (Cpl. Marcus), Andrew McLaren (Capt. Sampson), Jase Willette (Pfc. Cuthbert), Thomas Hennessy (Doc), Tony Spencer (Pfc. Roberts), Vernon Gaines (Lance Corporal Sosa), Antonio Tostado (Lance Corporal Jimenez), Ali Adil Aj-kaa (Iraqi Translator), Yasmine Hanani (Hiba), Siham Rashid (Asthma), Majd Hijjawi (Woman shot in street), Falah Abraheem Flayeh (Ahmad).

based on the Haditha killings incident in which US marines killed 24 Iraqi men, women and children on November 19, 2005

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.  Lots of curse words. 

 

"On 19th November 2005 an IED bomb planted in the roadside in Haditha, Iraq, killed 1 marine and injured 2 others. In the following hours marines killed 24 Iraqi men, women and children."

18th November, 2005, 6:30 a.m.   Two humvees are racing across the desert. 

In Haditha the marines stop and patrol a divided highway.  Sgt. Ramirez says:  "Found 119 IEDs, and these faggots are playing on the side of the road."  He adds that all the insurgents came from Fallujah. "We're just live bait." 

Haditha.  60 marines killed in I.E.D. bomb attacks.  29 Iraqi police officers publicly executed by Al Qaeda in the football stadium. 

An Iraqi woman dressed in black with one of her children on her hip and accompanied by her mother are shopping in the market.  They pick up two live chickens.  A crowd gathers around the English teacher laying dead on the street.

A middle-aged Iraqi man named Ahmad comes home and says:  "Those Al Qaeda idiots just killed the English teacher." 

Two marines on patrol stop in to get some war-scenes on DVDs from a local shop owner.  The young man, after giving them the DVDs, says his uncle will take care of them.  He rushes out the door and gets in the back of a pick-up with the middle-aged Iraqi Ahmad.  The two men are on their way to pick-up an I.E.D. bomb.  Ahmad tells the younger man, Jafar, to be careful with these Al Qaeda fellows because they are crazy.  Moreover, they are the ones who killed the English teacher.

The IED is huge.  The detonator is attached to the cylinder of gas.  One of the foreigners shows the two recruits how to arm the IED.  They will detonate the bomb by calling the cell phone attached to it.  When burying the bomb, they are to leave part of the cell phone aerial above ground.  The instructor now gives the two men $500 dollars.  They will get another $500 dollars if they are successful. 

One of the foreigners tells Ahmad to stop going to the alcohol vendors.  Ahmad wants to know who told them he drinks?  The fellow says that they know everything about Ahmad.   He adds that they have given the alcohol vendors three days to stop selling alcohol.  If they don't, Al Qaeda will kill them. 

In the barracks Cuthbert shows a fellow marine the DVD of IED explosions of marine vehicles on the same streets that the current marines are patrolling.  The other marine says:  "Makes me want to go out there and fucking just kill the motherfuckers more."   Corporal Ramirez is asked why he joined the marines?  "To get the fuck out of Philly."

Corporals Ramirez and Marcus report to an officer, Captain Samson.  Samson tells them to go down to the road block to make sure the marines there have chow. 

Meanwhile the woman that was shopping earlier is on the back of a truck with part of her family coming up to the roadblock check point of all vehicles.  She says the roadblock is jammed with vehicles and she is worried because they still have to shop some more for the party they are having.  Ahmad is also approaching the roadblock.  He's mad at the Americans because all these roadblocks cost them a lot of time going from one place to another. Moreover, he says:  "We've got no water, no electricity, our kids can't even go to school."   He complains that couples on their honeymoon used to come to Haditha, but not anymore.  Now Haditha is known as the City of Death. 

The woman shopping for a party and her family now walk through the checkpoint.  Now Ahmad and Jafar have to get out of the truck and are checked.  No one, however, even looks at the stuff in the back of the pick-up truck.  When their truck passes through the checkpoint Ahmad and Jafar just laugh because the Americans didn't even search for the IED. 

The Muslim woman, named Hiba, returns home.  Her children are with a neighborhood child taking turns swinging on the swing hanging off a tree branch.  The family has a small  herd of goats.  Hiba's husband, Rashied, calls down to her asking her to come up to the apartment because he has something to show her. 

Hiba comes up and takes off her black outfit.  She and husband are getting ready to have sex.

After the marines' work day is done, they clean their rifles and then store their gear away.  Cpl. Ramirez talks with Cuthbert and tells the private that he is all over him because the private reminds him of himself on his first tour of duty.  The corporal pulls down his pants to show the scars on the back of his right leg.  He says he almost lost his leg.  The Marine Corps was going to let him out of the service on 10% of his pay, which comes to only $300 dollars per month.  He adds:  "That's why I'm telling you, nobody gives a shit about you but you.  Take care of yourself.  The Marine Corp don't and this fucking country don't.  Remember that."

Sgt. Ross tries to psyche up his men readying them for patrol duty.  He says he's "not feeling it".  So a black marine says:  "I'm ready to take down some fucking rag heads, Sergeant."  Sgt Ross replies:  "I know you are.  That's good.  That's why we train, train, train:  to kill, kill, kill."'

Cpl. Ramirez has his men practice taking control of a building or an apartment.  His instructions are a bit too wild in a war where there are civilians all around the area.  "You go in this house, anybody has a weapon, anyone's hiding behind someone with a weapon, they all go!  Don't think twice.  It's gonna get someone killed."  But in a war such as the Iraq War the soldiers have to think twice. 

Ahmad and Jafar have the top of their heads and their mouths covered with a black headdress.  Their pick-up truck stops on the divided highway not far from Hiba's apartment building.  Ahmad and Jafar get out and start ripping up a piece of the pavement, close to the curb.  A little girl named Safa sees the bomb being planted and she rushes to tell her father.  The father tells her to tell the other children and return to their apartment.  He will be along soon. 

The bomb is armed and then put in the hole.  Then the bomb is covered up with dirt and the pieces ripped out of the highway.  The aerial of the cell phone is left sticking out of the ground a bit. 

Hiba sees the men working on planting the bomb and tells her husband about it. 

Ahmad and Jafar finish planting the IED bomb and pick out a house to go to on the other side of the highway. 

Rashied tells his father about the bomb.  Dad says he will go tell the sheik about this and he will sort it out. 

Ahmad and Jafar with their AK-47s knock on a door.  The door is opened and the two men rush in scaring everyone in the house.  Ahmad tells the adults to grab their children and get out.  They then go up to the roof and plant themselves by a window from which they can see the bomb site.  In another of the houses, the women gather together to prepare the food for the party.  Did the father tells the sheik about the bomb?  Yes, but the sheik only told him to pray to God and He will help them.  Habib asks if they are still having the party?  Yes. 

The people start gathering for the party.  It is a circumcision party.  The terrorists are still on the roof ready to explode the IED.  Cpl. Ramirez and the guys are listening to the pounding sound of heavy metal music.  The guys are psyching themselves up for the mission as if they were preparing for a football game, including the knocking of helmets together.  Captain Samson gives Cpl. Ramirez a list of the terrorist suspects to be rounded up.  He shows Cpl. Ramirez the two houses he wants searched on the map.  Ramirez now goes out to his crew and further revs up their engines. He speaks of remembering the 50 marines killed in the area by IEDs.  He asks in a scream:  "Y'all ready to fucking kill?"  Yes.  "Then let's all fucking go right now!"  With their adrenalin all pumped up, they now rush to their humvees. 

Ahmad and Jafar watch as another local family flees the area.  Ahmad admits that the citizens know all about the bomb.  Jafar wonders if anyone will tell the Americans, but Ahmad is not worried.  He knows that the residents know what will happen to them if they cooperate with the Americans.  Ahmad says that the Americans were the ones who made the insurgency when they got rid of the country's army. 

The marine patrol is headed to their target area.  They arrive at the houses and bust through the doors.  The inhabitants are taken away. 

Rahied and his family have their circumcision party.  Rashied tells Hiba that his father wants Hiba and the family to go visit Hiba's family for their own safety.  Habib says she doesn't want to go.  Instead, she suggests they run  away to Syria or Jordan.  Rashied still pushes for her to go to her family's house.  Habib says she doesn't like this plan. 

At night the marine patrol find a room full of explosives.  They go downstairs and ask the owner of the house about the IED bomb factory upstairs.  He says he doesn't know anything about it.  So all the men are hooded and then taken with the marines down to headquarters for interrogation. 

The women talk about the IED again.  One woman says:  "If we tell the Americans the terrorists will kill us.  If we keep quiet the Americans will say we're cooperating with the insurgents.  What should we do?"  Another woman says:  "I can't think of any safe place."  The men are outside dancing. 

The American patrol passes in front of Ahmad, but on the wrong side of the road.  The two Iraqis hope they will come back on the other side of the road.

An Iraqi walks along the road with a hoe slung over his shoulder.  The guys at the computers make the decision to take him out.  One second he's there and another second he's gone. 

The Iraqis brought in by Cpl. Ramirez and the patrol will now be interrogated. 

19th of November, 5:45 a.m.  Ramirez goes to speak with Captain Samson.  He tells him: "I'm kind of having difficulty sleeping at night."  Ramirez is having bad dreams about the terrible things he has seen. He asks to speak to a doctor. The captain says: "I'm sorry, but you can't see a doctor until your tour of duty's over. Just the way Marine policy is."

Ramirez and his patrol head over to the vehicle checkpoint. Ahmad and Jafar are waiting for their return. The marines decide to stop a vehicle filled with Iraqi men. But as the three vehicles are about to catch up with the car, Ahmad calls the telephone number. The blast goes off, destroying the humvee.

Habib hears the explosion and starts screaming. The still unhurt soldiers rush over to the wreckage of the exploded humvee. A soldier named TJ is badly wounded. Meanwhile, Ahmsad and Jafar are running away from the housing area.

The Americans fire at the fleeing terrorists. The terrorists shoot back at them.

The news comes into headquarters that a patrol has been hit by an IED. There's one killed and two severely wounded. They send a helicopter out to pick up the three casualties.

Ramirez tries to comfort the badly wounded Roberts. When he gets up from the man's side, he sees Cuthbert with both of his legs completely torn off at the hips. Ramirez is very upset and tells Cuthbert's body: "I'm sorry I let you down, man."

Ramirez gives the order for the various fires teams to start clearing the houses. He shouts: "Whoever fucking did this shit is around somewhere. We're gonna make them fucking pay!" In this state of rage, Ramirez orders the men to get out of the vehicle that they made to stop.  The men are in a line and Ramirez demands answers right now from them. When the men say they don't know, that's not satisfactory as far as Ramirez is concerned. He shoots one man in line after another until all five are dead. Another soldier uses his automatic weapon to spray the bodies with more bullets.

A man having watched this war crime from his balcony, grabs an AK-47 and starts firing at the marines. The marines return fire, but they probably don't know where the shots came from.

Captain Samson calls up a superior officer in Ramadi, Iraq and explains the situation to him. The superior officer, a major general, says: "I don't want any more marines killed. Am I clear? Take whatever action is necessary."

Habib tells her little girl to get away from the window and stop watching the marines. Ahmad and Jafar are still running away. Ramirez asks Captain Samson for permission to clear out a house from where they are being fired at. The Captain makes sure they are sure of the house and says: "Take the motherfucking house, then."

Ramirez throws a grenade over a wall.  Then he and his men walk up the steps.  They bust into Rashied's house. Ramirez shoots the father dead. His wife rushes over to her husband's room and is shot dead. (2 civilians dead.) One of the male children is shot. (3 dead.)

They rush into another room and kill at least three more civilians (a woman and two children -- 6 civilians dead).

Captain Samson is told the bad guys got out the back door. The captain asks if it's house four? Yes. "All right, go get them."

Ahmad and Jafar now watch the American soldiers playing payback in the houses. Another man with them says: "The world will see today how the Americans behave."

Rashied runs around the house saying the children are dead and cries over the bodies of his mother and father. He does find, however, his little girl. Hiba outside the house walks up the outside steps.

More men arrive and they go to take down house four. The owner of the house is shot and killed. (7 dead.) It looks like a soldier is killing one or more other Iraqis on a bed.

The marines are taking some of the men prisoner, which may be the only way they can escape certain death.

Now Ahmad says: "I wish I hadn't done it." He had no idea that the bombing would unleash such a fury of American violence. The holy man says that Ahmad just doesn't understand. Those people dying today are martyrs. He now gives Ahmad the extra $500 dollars since the mission was a success.

On camera from an overhead drone, headquarters sees what they think are ten insurgents coming toward the patrol. The drone wipes them out.

Ramirez says about the captured prisoners: "One of these motherfuckers know who planted the IED."

Rashied goes from door to door calling out for Hiba. Three soldiers on the roof see Rashied running on the ground and they shoot him. Rashied falls down and then rolls down the hill. On the ground he is shot two times in the back.

Hiba yells for a little girl named Safa to get out of the road. She opens a gate and lets Safa in. She has been hurt on the right side of her face near the ear. Hiba tries to clean Safa up with water, but it looks like the wounds are nasty and someone will have to sew them up.

Ramirez and his men find the place from which the IED bomb was set off.

The three soldiers on the roof see Hiba as she keeps shouting Rashied's name. She goes down to her husband's body. Ramirez is on the ground now and he yells at Hiba to get away from the body. She ignores him. Ramirez gets close to her and asks her to please get away from the body. She gets up, spits at him and tries to hit him. A little later, in private, Ramirez throws up a bit.

The captain comes over and congratulates Ramirez on his handling the situation so well. He is promoting Ramirez to sergeant and is recommending him for a bronze star.

Ahmad and Jafar now head for home. A marine patrol passes right by them. Ahmad arrives home. His little girl runs to him and he picks her up and kisses her again and again.

20th November. Ramirez tells his sarge that he can't sleep. He keeps having visions of dead women and their kids. And sometimes he sees his mother laying next to the Iraqi dead. He adds: "And I'm gonna fucking live with this guilt for the rest of my life, man."

There is a big funeral for those who were killed in the reprisal raid. The living men shout for vengeance on the Americans. The women are segregated from the men and they wail and wail away. The men fire their weapons into the air.

Now the two terrorists, Ahmad and Jafar, film the victims of the massacres telling their terrible tales of woe. Safa is one of those interviewed.

The sheik shows the completed film to an audience of men. He comments: "The marines have lost the battle for Haditha. Everyone has joined us and we control the city."

The American Major General who said he wanted no more marines killed, now learns that none of the Iraqi dead in the massacre matched anyone in their insurgent database. The general says he is not concerned. The report goes out that 15 Iraqi civilians were killed by the roadside bomb and only 8 were killed by the marines.

Four months later. Student footage reveals a marine cover-up. Safa says on tape that the marines shot every member of her family of 9, except her. And Hiba Abdhullah and 3 of her children are the only survivors of a family of 12. The marines failed to investigate the events of November 19th.

President Bush says if the charges are true, there will be real punishments for those involved. 

March 8, 2006.  Marine High Command, Camp Ramadi.  The two corporals, the sergeant and another soldier are brought before the major general involved in the massacre. 

Sgt.Ramirez is charged with 13 counts of murder. Corporal De La Cruz is charged with 5 counts of murder. Cpl. Matthews and Sgt. Ross are both charged with 3 counts of murder.

 

The United States Marine Corp is famous or infamous for its fighting spirit.  These men are taught to be killers of other men and they are good at it.  And that's what they are trained to do  -  what they're supposed to do.  A big problem, however, is how to harness the marines' fighting spirit so that it does not overflow onto the civilian population in a war area?  The killing message is okay, but it has to be modified somewhat to soothe it down a bit so that civilians are not ready-made targets.  In the film it is quite apparent that the men are psyched up in a fever to get their adrenalin pumped up so they can be ready for a good fight. That's good in a war with clearly marked friends and enemies, but in and among civilians, it is not so good.  American soldiers/marines cannot afford to stop their thinking about what they are doing or they may find they have committed a war crime by killing innocent civilians.  If the marines are only being told to kill, kill, kill and then kill some more, in civilian areas they are likely to shoot civilians, including men, women and children.  

My father was in the Marine Corps for 20 years and fought on the island of Guadalcanal.  So I grew up around marines and marine corps type thinking.  Dad would always say you got to treat these marines roughly, because that's the only thing they understand.  But, after the corps, when dad applied his way of thinking to civilian life, he made some big mistakes in interacting with others by always playing the tough guy who will knock you down and out if you get in his way. I tried to warn him that he can't treat all people like marines and that such thinking would get him into trouble in the civilian world, but he rejected that notion. 

Warfare in recent decades have been characterized by a softening of the kill, kill, kill thinking to allow for some effort not to kill civilians.  A new, kinder type of marine basic training code has to be applied or else war crimes like the ones committed in Haditha will harm the reputation of the American armed forces and lower their morale.  (This does not mean that marines will be mammy-pammied in their training.  To be an effective infantry soldier you have to be able to pull the trigger.)

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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