Recently unclassified documents suggest that senior officers viewed the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha in late 2005 as a potential public relations problem that could fuel insurgent propaganda against the American military, leading investigators to question whether the officers’ immediate response had been intentionally misleading.
Col. R. Gary Sokoloski, a lawyer who was chief of staff to Maj. General Richard A. Huck, the division commander, approved a news release about the killings that investigators interviewing him in March 2006 suggested was “intentionally inaccurate” because it stated, contrary to the facts at hand, that the civilians had been killed by an insurgent’s bomb.
According to a transcript of the interview, Colonel Sokoloski told the investigators, “We knew the, you know, the strategic implications of being permanently present in Haditha and how badly the insurgents wanted us out of there.”
But Colonel Sokoloski told them he believed that the news release was accurate as written. “At the time,” he said, “given the information that was available to me and the objective to get that out for the pres"