WASHINGTON - An investigation into allegations that the Marine Corps delayed sending blast-resistant trucks to Iraq also will examine whether the Marines were negligent in delivering a laser to divert drivers and people from checkpoints and convoys, according to a memo obtained by the Associated Press.
Marines on the front lines sought the tool, known as a compact high-power laser dazzler, but stateside acquisition officials didn't deliver it, said a civilian Marine Corps official. A less capable laser was eventually sent, but delays of nearly 18 months may have led to Iraqi civilian casualties, according to allegations by the official, an internal critic whose claims are being investigated.
The deaths and injuries occurred when civilians mistaken as the enemy got too close to guarded areas and US troops lacked a non-lethal way of forcing them away, said the official. The Iraqi government has complained about such occurrences.
The dazzler emits a powerful stream of green light that stops or redirects oncoming traffic by temporarily impairing the driver's vision. Without it, troops have to open fire when warning signals are ignored or not seen.
The Marine Corps has stressed that the allegations made by the official, Franz Gayl, reflect his personal views. Gayl's conclusions stem from a series of case studies he was conducting for the Marine Corps plans, policies, and operations department about the wartime acquisition system.
Gayl has been ordered to terminate the project, however, according to Adam Miles of the Government Accountability Project in Washington. Gayl filed for whistle-blower protection last year.
The AP reported Monday the Marine Corps had asked the Pentagon inspector general to look into Gayl's charges that a nearly two-year lag in the fielding of mine-resistant, ambush-protected trucks, known as MRAPs, resulted in hundreds of Marines being killed or injured by roadside bombs.
A Feb. 20 memo from General Robert Magnus, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, to the Pentagon inspector general requests that the Dazzler allegations also be investigated.
The memo, obtained Tuesday by AP, notes that a Naval Audit Service review of the system for rapidly shipping needed gear was recently completed. The Marine Corps said that audit found shortcomings and fixes are being made.
After the Naval Audit Service began its review, "allegations surfaced that the Marine Corps had not acted with alacrity in responding to the needs of deployed units, and specifically that mismanagement on the part of Marine officials cost Marine lives by not acquiring [MRAP] vehicles or laser dazzlers in a timely fashion," Magnus wrote.
The memo from Magnus "stands as our position," said a Marine Corps spokesman.
Gayl, a retired Marine, is a science and technology adviser to General Richard Natonski.