CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – A Camp Pendleton Marine testified Wednesday that his commanding officer called for violent retaliation before his squad killed 24 Iraqis, including women and children, in 2005.
According to U-T San Diego (http://bit.ly/zztsBi ), Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz said that Sgt. Frank Wuterich told his squad how they should react if they were attacked again.
"If we ever get hit again, we should kill everyone in that vicinity," Wuterich allegedly told his men, according to Dela Cruz' testimony.
Wuterich, who faces nine counts of voluntary manslaughter, is the last defendant in the biggest and lengthiest criminal case against U.S. troops to arise from the Iraq War. The attack is considered among the war's defining moments, further tainting America's reputation when it was already at a low point over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
Wuterich's comment allegedly came in the wake of the death of a Marine in Camp Pendleton's 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.
The killings in Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005, came after the squad was attacked by a roadside bomb while running a supply convoy.
Dela Cruz and Wuterich, 31, were among the first to jump out of their trucks that day.
He said he saw Wuterich had taken a knee and was pointing his gun at a group of Iraqi men standing in front of a white car nearby.
Dela Cruz testified that he assumed his squad leader had seen something threatening and was shooting, so he also opened fire.
Dela Cruz also performed a "dead check" by spraying bullets at the bodies from a close range.
No weapons were found on the Iraqi men, and none was linked to the insurgency.
Dela Cruz also testified that he regrets urinating on the skull of one of the dead Iraqis, saying he was taken over by grief for his dead comrade.
"The emotion took over, sir. We had just had one Marine (who) died," said Dela Cruz.
Six squad members have had charges dropped or dismissed, and one was acquitted.
Wuterich's charges were reduced to voluntary manslaughter in nine of the 24 deaths and other crimes. Wuterich also has been charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, dereliction of duty and obstruction of justice.
His lawyer, Neal Puckett, has said Wuterich is confident the all-military jury will acquit him.
Information from: U-T San Diego, http://www.utsandiego.com