Sumaidaie: Marines shot my cousin
We must 'remove the bad apples,' new Iraqi ambassador says
Iraq's ambassador to the United States, Samir Sumaidaie
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush welcomed the new Iraqi ambassador to the United States at a White House credentialing ceremony Tuesday, saying, "The United States stands ready to help the Iraqi democracy succeed."
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer spoke later in the day with Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie about U.S. military investigations into alleged killings of Iraqi civilians in Haditha last year by U.S. Marines.
BLITZER: What do you know about what happened at Haditha?
SUMAIDAIE: Well, I heard the report very soon after the event in November from some relatives. And as it happened, my own security detail [man] comes from that neighborhood. And his home is hardly a hundred yards from the home which was hit.
And he was in touch through the Internet with his folks and neighbors. And the situation which he reported to me was that it was a cold-blooded killing.
BLITZER: By who?
SUMAIDAIE: By the Marines, I believe. Now, at that time, I dismissed the initial reports as incredible. I found it unbelievable, frankly.
BLITZER: You were at the United Nations then?
SUMAIDAIE: I was at the United Nations, and I found it unbelievable that the Marines would go in and kill members of a family who had nothing to do with combat. But I was under pressure by my friends and relatives to raise this issue.
Without any evidence in my hand, I didn't really want to make any claims that I could not substantiate. That was, remember, before any video came out. It was just word of mouth, people telling me what happened.
And I know the power of the rumor and the power of allegations without foundation. But in this case, it was more than that.
BLITZER: Well, you didn't raise it?
SUMAIDAIE: I did not raise it. I noted it. But I did not raise it. I raised it unofficially by -- through private conversations.
BLITZER: But even months before the incident in November, you lost a cousin at Haditha in a separate battle involving United States Marines.
SUMAIDAIE: Well, that was not a battle at all. Marines were doing house-to-house searches, and they went into the house of my cousin. He opened the door for them.
His mother, his siblings were there. He led them into the bedroom of his father. And there he was shot.
BLITZER: Who shot him?
SUMAIDAIE: A member of the Marines.
BLITZER: Why did they shoot him?
SUMAIDAIE: Well, they said that they shot him in self-defense. I find that hard to believe because, A, he is not at all a violent -- I mean, I know the boy. He was [in] a second-year engineering course in the university. Nothing to do with violence. All his life has been studies and intellectual work.
Totally unbelievable. And, in fact, they had no weapon in the house. They had one weapon which belonged to the school where his father was a headmaster. And it had no ammunition in it. And he led them into the room to show it to them.
BLITZER: So what you're suggesting, your cousin was killed in cold blood, is that what you're saying, by United States Marines?
SUMAIDAIE: I believe he was killed intentionally. I believe that he was killed unnecessarily. And unfortunately, the investigations that took place after that sort of took a different course and concluded that there was no unlawful killing.
I would like further investigation. I have, in fact, asked for the report of the last investigation, which was a criminal investigation, by the way.
[Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq] is aware of all the details, because he's kept on top of it. And it was he who rejected the conclusions of the first investigation. I have since asked formally for the report, but it's been nearly two months, and I have not received it.
BLITZER: Did you raise these concerns you had with the president today when you were at the White House presenting your credentials?
SUMAIDAIE: No, I did not, because I did not want to bring a personal note into a much wider brief that I have here.
BLITZER: But what I hear you saying -- and I don't want to put words in your mouth -- is there maybe, in Haditha, at least, a pattern to what happened to your nephew, what happened apparently in November when these other Marines went in?
Are there any other examples of cold-blooded murder that you are familiar with in Haditha?
SUMAIDAIE: I am familiar with at least one other killing of three youths, which happened very soon after the killing of my cousin. They were in a car. They were unarmed, I believe. And they were shot.
Now, in that case, there could be possibly [an] excuse or explanation that the Marines were afraid. They were approaching them too fast, or whatever. But the details as they were related to me were such that there was no possibility of misunderstanding.
But in all these situations, you know, you have the word of the community, people around, civilians around -- and you have the word of the individuals in the Marines. ...
When it comes to comparing these two sources, I mean, if my uncle, whom I have known all my life since childhood, and I know he would not make up stories, and I know he would not lie, and I know what is at stake is the life of his grandson, then, you know, I know which word to take.
BLITZER: Do you have confidence the U.S. military will do a thorough investigation?
SUMAIDAIE: Ultimately, possibly, yes. But in situations like this, the ramifications are so profound that they -- they would initially take the attitude that they hope this would go away.
If it can be swept under the rug, it would. But when -- when it goes up higher in the hierarchy, then there are people who recognize the potential damage of cover-up, and there is a better possibility of it being opened up.
BLITZER: So you're concerned there could be a cover-up?
SUMAIDAIE: There is always a concern against cover-up. But let me say this, Wolf, events like this, Abu Ghraib, killing, intentional killing like this, ... as I said in my statement at the time in July of last year, ... are a betrayal to the American people. They're a betrayal to what the Marines are doing and what the American Army is doing.
On the whole, the United States and the military are doing an honorable job on an honorable project, which is of immense potential benefit for the United States and for us. Such crimes detract from that.
The focus in all the international media has been on these things, not on the good things. And I do believe that for every bad apple, bad Marine, there are thousands and thousands of good -- good ones doing [a] good job, doing the best they can under difficult circumstances.
However, it is absolutely imperative that we remove the bad apples and we expose them and we don't try to cover them up.
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