We learned from Time magazine's justification for their mistakes and outright lies about Haditha that their reporting methodology consisted of sending emails back and forth to Thaer Thabit al-Hadithi and other "witnesses".
In the ensuing weeks, McGirk and TIME's Baghdad staff members interviewed more than a dozen Haditha locals by e-mail (travel between Baghdad and Haditha is exceedingly dangerous for Iraqis, let alone foreign journalists), including the mayor, the morgue doctor and a local lawyer....
Sweetness & Light provides some additional information about these sources: the mayor, the doctor, and the lawyer. They are not, to say the least, trustworthy.
Now, Bill Roggio provides a first-hand account of Haidtha the week after the incident and this summary of where the facts stand now:
The accusations of a Marine "massacre" in Haditha continue to dominate the headlines, but the fact is we still do not know what happened in the city on November 19th, 2005 in the aftermath of the roadside bombing on the Marine patrol. What we do know is one Marine from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment was killed and another wounded, and in the subsequent violence 24 Iraqi civilians were killed, some with gunshots to the head and chest. The news reports portray the event as a cold blooded murder and massacre, but it is possible the Marines, in a rare instance of a breakdown in discipline, violated the rules of engagement and used excessive force. Until the results of the investigation are released, we have no way of knowing.
This is reasonable enough, but I would add that the news "sources" that suggest even a violation of the rules of engagement are dubious (e.g., the doctor mentioned above who claims to have proof the victims were shot at close range), and that it is possible that not even a violation occurred.
However, the point of Roggio's post is not to address the details of the evidence, but to describe the Marines stationed in Haditha and what they do every day to fight the Sunni terrorists in that town:
The media will not tell you how the Marines of the 3/1 retook the Haditha Triad region during Operation Rivergate in the fall of 2005 with minimal civilian casualties. The operation was planned in such a meticulous manner and with the intention to safeguard the residents of the city of Haditha that no civilian, Marine or Iraqi casualties were taken. The media won't tell you how the Marines worked for days on end to ensure a safe environment for the Iraqi people to exercise their right to vote in the December 15 Parliamentary elections. You won't hear about how a young Marine, upon positively identifying a vehicle that was used to attack Marines and Iraqi civilians alike, chased the car, on foot, through the streets of Haqlaniyah, and held his fire while the car escaped as he feared injuring civilians. You won't hear about how,after Election Day, insurgents mortared the polling center in Barwana, and killed five children and wounded several others. The Marines of the 3/1 rushed the children to Al Asad Airbase for medical treatment, and saved the life of one Iraqi child.
He concludes with this point, which should written on the hands of every reporter covering this story so that they might be reminded to treat the not-even-charged-with-a-crime Marines:
The charges leveled against the Marines of Kilo Company are serious and deserve to be investigated. The Marines deserve to have judgment withheld until the investigation is completed and the results released. Prejudging these Marines, as has been done in numerous media outlets and by a sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives, is irresponsible. No matter what the results of the investigation, anything but a charge of murder will now be viewed as whitewash. Our Marines deserve far better than this.
Haditha also discussed here: Possible Reasonable Doubt In The Haditha Case.
Via Sweetness & Light, here's a link to a Washington Times story about Time magazine's reporting.