This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," June 20, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: The investigation continues into what happened in Haditha last November. Several Marines are under investigation for allegedly killing unarmed Iraqi civilians. But will we ever know the full story about happened? And are U.S. Marines capable of doing what some people say is the unimaginable?
Joining us now, in a "Hannity & Colmes" exclusive, is the former commander of Kilo Company, Third Battalion, First Marine Regiment, First Lieutenant Jesse Grapes.
Lieutenant, thank you so much for being us with tonight.
FIRST LIEUTENANT JESSE GRAPES (RET.), FORMER KILO COMPANY CMDR: Appreciate it, Alan.
COLMES: Thank you. Let me ask you, this began with the death of Miguel Terrazas that led to what is being alleged. Could that incident with Terrazas have led — could that have caused the kind of rage that led to the events that have been described?
GRAPES: Well, I think "rage" is a bad term. Certainly, anytime in a platoon of Marines with such bonds of fellowship — they've served together on multiple combat deployments — it causes immediate despair and anguish anytime you see one of your brothers who you often become closer to than some members of your own family, anytime you see them hurt, injured or killed, it causes immediate despair and it's a tough thing to get over.
COLMES: Well, what do you think happened? I mean, reports of soldiers going into civilian homes and doing things — and the question is whether or not they were provoked or not provoked. Did they believe that there were insurgents in those homes? And that, of course, is the big question that has to be answered. What's your take on this?
GRAPES: Well, what I can only speak of is from my history with these same men, and that history is in the city of al-Fallujah and suburbs where they were prosecuting counterinsurgency operations and also high-intensity combat operations and successfully making the transition from one of those types of missions to another, where it's often not a black-and-white environment, where the enemy is faceless.
There are attacks occurring against you, but you can't identify who is the face on those attacks. I've seen these Marines. Some of them perform with valor and distinction in those same occasions, and so that's really all I can speak to.
COLMES: You know, Lance Corporal Ryan Briones photographed the corpse. You're probably familiar with this story. He says they ranged from little babies to adult males and females. He said, "I'll never be able to get that out of my head. I can still smell the blood. This left something in my head and heart."
How could it possibly be — how could the result be that little babies would wind up dead with this happening in a civilian home? How can that possibly happen?
GRAPES: Well, you know, of course we are not out there targeting innocent civilians and, of course, we are not out there targeting women and children. That is against everything we stand for as Americans, as citizens of this great nation, and as Marines.
Now, do civilians get killed in combat operations? Yes. And it is very unfortunate; it's tragic. It breaks my heart, as well as every other American in this country.
What the circumstances are regarding how that could have happened in this incident, I wasn't there. Unfortunately, I can say that I've seen civilians killed in the line of fire, and it's a tragedy, but I know that our troops, from personal experience in the most intense combat, are trying to mitigate that as much as possible.
COLMES: Now, I know that Jack Murtha has become a bogeyman for conservatives here because he has spoken up about it. He's referred to the Time magazine story. He's also indicated a cover-up, in addition to whether or not there was an event, as alleged, that took place.
Is that fair? Aren't there those using Murtha for their own political purposes here? And shouldn't we get to the bottom of this without playing politics?
GRAPES: Oh, I agree, we should get to the bottom of it without playing politics. I think that it really is unfair to rush to judgment on these Marines, whether it's the commanding officers or the Marines directly involved, before the investigation is done.
As we all know, there's two investigations going on. And the military justice system is more severe than our own common law here in the United States. So they will get to the bottom of this.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Lieutenant, John Murtha has been a disgrace in this campaign, because before the investigation was concluded, he said that your men, the people you were the commander of, killed innocent civilians in cold blood. He wouldn't even give them the presumption of innocence. He's disgraceful, not even worth talking about.
Have you spoken to these troops that you were leading for a period of time?
GRAPES: Some of my men, since they have returned from Iraq, I have spoken to. They would write me letters while we were over there. Again, once you serve with these guys for so many years, you just develop bonds that you can never break.
HANNITY: Why don't you remind everybody what happened this night? There was an IED that went off. There was a Marine that was literally split in two. Take it from there. What do you know that happened this night?
GRAPES: I mean, from what I understand from my Marines who were there, Miguel Terrazas, another Marine, James Crossan, who was wounded in the same incident, I served with these men for multiple years and in the most intense environments imaginable.
And what I know from the Marines who were there is that they were emotionally ruined for a short period of time. Miguel Terrazas was unquestionably the most popular Marine in that platoon, the kind of guy with just a million-dollar heart and smiled 24/7.
HANNITY: Sure. But they deny these allegations. They were under fire at that moment. They had to defend themselves and protect their colleagues, correct, their fellow Marines from being under attack? They followed the rules of engagement, and that's what they're telling you, correct?
GRAPES: Well, from what I understand, from the Marines who were there, they say that they have acted according to the rules of engagement, as they are defined by the military.
HANNITY: All right. There was a report that some of the pictures may have been part of a set-up of the Marines by a phony civil rights or human rights group. Has anyone brought that to your attention or that allegation to your attention? For example, some of the shell casings, we're told, may have been from weapons that were not used by U.S. Marines. Have you heard any of these things?
GRAPES: I have not heard those allegations. I can't comment on that. Sorry.
HANNITY: All right. Then let me go back to the Jack Murtha question here. What does it mean to Marines that are on the ground, putting themselves in harm's way, watching their fellow Marines be destroyed this way, and their lives taken away from them, to be accused by a United States congressman without the full investigation, of killing civilians in cold blood, or as John Kerry said, that, you know, our troops are terrorizing women and children in the dark of night in Iraq.
What does that mean to the troops that have put everything on the line to serve their country and their commander in chief?
HANNITY: It's incredibly disheartening, especially when these same Marines — now, the investigation will prove whether, you know, they are guilty or innocent, but these same Marines regardless have performed with valor in previous deployments. I mean, Sean, I think you'd be interested to know that 15 of these Marines in that same platoon were decorated for valor on their last deployment. And is that heard? I'm not sure.
HANNITY: Let me ask you this, Lieutenant, because I know the people have politicized this. I think this is important. You have served with these men. You were their commander. We've heard all these vicious allegations that our troops committed all of these atrocities.
What do you say to our audience, the American people, that are hearing these horrible things about our troops at this particular moment? What would you like to ask them? What would you like them to know about these guys?
GRAPES: I'd tell you that I would serve with any one of them again in a second and that the situation in Iraq is not always black and white. In fact, it is gray more times than not, especially in a counterinsurgency where the enemy doesn't wear a uniform, where they operate using a cell phone or a walkie-talkie instead of a gun. It's not easy to figure out who is right, who is wrong. And, unfortunately, in that type of warfare, some mistakes can be made.
COLMES: Lieutenant, we thank you. As I understand it, though, Jack Murtha's information came from the military.
HANNITY: Thanks. I appreciate you being with us. Thank you very much.
COLMES: We do appreciate you being with us.
GRAPES: Thank you, gentlemen.
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