Military investigation into Haditha massacre almost finished

The military is close to finishing its investigation into the alleged Marine massacre of civilians in Haditha, according to Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., who was briefed by the two top U.S. generals in Iraq over the weekend.

Kline, a former Marine, said that Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the second-ranking U.S. general in Iraq, was expected to get a preliminary version of the investigation “as early as today.”

It remains unclear, however, when Congress and the public will see the Naval Criminal Investigative Service report of the incident last Nov. 19, in which a Marine convoy is alleged to have shot and killed as many as 24 Iraqi civilians.

“(Chiarelli) doesn’t want to sign a report and put it out there for us to look at it, and you to look at it, and then have another key piece of information three weeks from now,” said Kline, who led a congressional delegation to Baghdad to assess the progress of the Iraqi army.

Kline also responded to a harsh assessment of U.S. troops by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and echoed on the frustration of two top Iraqi generals with the slow progress in filling out Iraq’s new government, which still lacks ministers to oversee the new Iraqi security forces.

“You should have seen our eyes pop out when they gave us a very blunt assessment of their frustration,” said Kline, speaking from Germany, where he visited a military hospital.

Kline, who has emerged as a leading voice in Congress on the Haditha incident, did not meet with al-Maliki, but took issue with his comment that that U.S. forces have shown “no respect for citizens, smashing civilian cars and killing on a suspicion or a hunch.”

Kline said his concerns were relayed through Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the highest-ranking military commander in Iraq.

“We were assured by Gen. Casey and our embassy personnel that they’d had a discussion with the prime minister about how you talk about your friends and partners,” Kline said.

Kline said he does not believe that the reports on Haditha and two other incidents of alleged misconduct by U.S. troops have affected military morale in Iraq.

“It simply was not an incident on their radar screen,” Kline said. His remarks were backed by the three other members of the congressional delegation: Rep. Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-N.C., Rep. K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas.

“The American forces are trying very hard to provide security,” Kline said. “Way over 99 percent of the American soldiers, Marines and sailors serving there are doing their job, and part of that job is treating Iraqi civilians with dignity and respect and compassion.”

Kline said he does not believe the prime minister’s remarks are an indication that the new Iraqi government is trying to hasten a U.S. troop withdrawal.

Kline said that two Iraqi Army generals he met with made clear their frustration that they cannot “reach their full potential” until the government establishes a fully functioning ministry of defense, which oversees the military, and ministry of interior, which oversees the police.

Political infighting has left the two critical posts vacant, defying efforts are recently as Sunday to install an interior minister.

The Iraqi military men, identified as Maj. Gen. Bashar Ayoub, who is the commander of the 9th Mechanized Division, and Maj. Gen. Jamal Khalid, of the 2nd Army Division, reportedly told the visiting members of Congress that they lack the logistical support to complete their missions.

“The army is doing great,” Kline said. “But we need the rest of the civilian government in place.”