"Haditha" film shows both sides of Iraq killings

Wed May 7, 2008 9:40am EDT
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By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - "Battle for Haditha" dramatizes one of the most controversial incidents of the Iraq war -- the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines -- but former Marine Elliot Ruiz who stars in the film says it doesn't give the Marine Corps a bad name.

"We're not going after those Marines; this film doesn't blame those Marines for what happened. It's not really putting the blame on anybody," Ruiz told Reuters in an interview ahead of the film's release in New York on Wednesday.

"It puts the situation out there and lets you decide for yourself who's responsible."

The film is based on real events that happened in November 2005 in Haditha, west of Baghdad. A convoy of U.S. Marines was hit by a roadside bomb, killing a popular officer, and 24 Iraqi civilians were shot dead in the aftermath.

Eight Marines were charged in the case but charges have been dropped against five. Three, including accused ringleader Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, still face court-martial.

Iraqi witnesses say angry Marines massacred unarmed civilians after a popular comrade, Lance Cpl. Miguel "TJ" Terrazas, was ripped in half by the roadside bomb. Defense attorneys maintain that the civilians were killed during a pitched battle with insurgents in and around Haditha.

Ruiz, who fought in the initial invasion of Iraq, said he spoke to his Marine Corps buddies before taking the part of Cpl. Ramirez, who is based on a real character but with the name and many other details changed.

"I didn't want to do anything that was going to give the Marine Corps a bad name," he said.   Continued...

<p>A video provided to Reuters on March 21, 2006 by Hamourabi Human rights group shows covered bodies, which Hamourabi says, are of a family of 15 shot dead in their home in Haditha, in western Anbar province, Iraq. REUTERS/Hammurabi Organisation via Reuters TV</p>