By Marty Graham
Tue May 8, 4:16 PM ET
The first officer to arrive after a U.S. Marine was killed in Haditha, Iraq, testified on Tuesday that he ordered Marines to clear two houses in a response that ended up killing many civilians.
Appearing before a military tribunal, 1st. Lt. William Kallop, who has immunity from prosecution, testified he was trying to evacuate two wounded and one dead Marine when the rescuers and survivors came under gunfire attack in 2005.
Sgt. Frank Wuterich, one of three Marines now facing murder charges for what local Iraqis have called a revenge killing of 24 people, went into the houses on his orders, Kallop said.
"I pointed to a group of building and said 'Flush them out, try to find the trigger man,"' Kallop testified, speaking in a matter-of-fact tone.
Minutes later, after Wuterich's squad finished, Kallop walked through the two houses, where the majority of the 24 victims died, either from grenades or gunfire.
"I thought 'Hey, what the crap, why aren't there any bad guys, any insurgents here?"' Kallop said. "I thought that was within the rules of engagement because the squad leader was about to kick in a door and walk into a machine gun nest."
Kallop testified at a pretrial hearing in Camp Pendleton for Capt. Randy Stone, who faces three charges related to failing to report and investigate properly an alleged violation of the law of war.
Stone, who was once praised by U.S. President George W. Bush, is one of four officers charged in connection with the November 19, 2005 killings and the first to appear in court.
Tuesday's proceeding was an Article 32 hearing in which a military court reviews whether there is enough evidence in a case to bring the matter to trial.
PRAISE FROM THE PRESIDENT
A few months before the 2005 incident, Bush singled out Stone in a speech marking the 60th anniversary of VJ Day. "He's guided by the same convictions (the World War Two generation) carried into battle. He shares the same willingness to serve a cause greater than himself," Bush said of Stone.
After a roadside bomb ripped Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas in half, squad members went to several houses in the village, searching for the bombers and leaving a trail of dead Iraqi men, women and children. Marines also shot five men who were riding by in a taxi.
The Marines charged in the killings contend that they were following procedure while prosecutors have accused them of murder in the town 60 miles north of Baghdad.
Three Marines are charged with murder, while four officers -- a lieutenant colonel, two captains and a lieutenant -- have been charged with failing to investigate the incident until Time magazine reported on the deaths.
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