WASHINGTON – Three Marines have been relieved of their commands in connection with problems during their deployment to Iraq, including their battalion's actions during a firefight that left 15 Iraqi civilians dead.
No charges have been filed against the three officers, who were reassigned to new duties within the division because of a "lack of confidence in their leadership abilities," said Lt. Lawton King, spokesman for the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton in California.
"There was no one justification for the move," said King. "In fact many considerations factored into the decision to relieve the commanders.... It stems from their performance during the entire deployment."
The officers are Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, commanding officer of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment; Capt. James S. Kimber, commanding officer of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, and Capt. Lucas M. McConnell, commanding officer of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.
Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, commanding officer of the 1st Marine Division, made the decision to reassign the officers. The action is separate from the criminal probe, and King said it is too early to tell if the officers will be charged.
About a dozen 3rd Battalion Marines are being investigated for war crimes in connection with the November 2005 incident to determine if they violated the rules of military engagement.
A videotape taken by an Iraqi shows the aftermath of the alleged attack by U.S. troops on civilians in Haditha: a blood-smeared bedroom floor and bits of what appear to be human flesh and bullet holes on the walls.
The video, obtained by Time Magazine, was broadcast a day after Haditha residents told The Associated Press that American troops entered homes and shot dead 15 members of two families, including a 3-year-old girl, after a roadside bomb killed a U.S. Marine.