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November 16, 2004
Marine Shoots Wounded Iraqi, Film At 11

An NBC News embed videotaped a Marine shooting an apparently wounded Iraqi POW in a Fallujah mosque yesterday, giving American audiences a front-row seat to an apparent war crime and sending antiwar activists into paroxysms of recrimination:

The U.S. military is investigating whether a Marine shot dead an unarmed, wounded insurgent during the battle for Falluja in an incident captured on videotape by a pool reporter.

The man was shot in the head at close range Saturday by a Marine who found him among a group of wounded men. The wounded men were found in a mosque that Marines said had been the source of small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire the previous day. ...

The Marines told the pool reporter that the wounded men would be left behind for others to pick up and move to the rear for treatment. But Saturday, another squad of Marines found that the mosque had been reoccupied by insurgents and attacked it again, only to find the same wounded men inside.

Four of the men appeared to have been shot again in Saturday's fighting, and one of them appeared to be dead, according to the pool report. In the video, a Marine was seen noticing that one of the men appeared to be breathing.

A Marine approached one of the men in the mosque saying, "He's [expletive] faking he's dead. He's faking he's [expletive] dead."

The Marine raised his rifle and fired into the apparently wounded man's head, at which point a companion said, "Well, he's dead now."

It's important to remember that (a) we have only seen one aspect of this incident, (b) none of us yet understand the context of it, and (c) this represents one Marine's actions, not official US policy or the American rules of engagement in Iraq. However, as Mitch Berg notes, that hasn't stopped some on the port side of the blogosphere from turning this into another Abu Ghraib:

But a number of leftyblogs, not being themselves rocket scientists, are trying to create an Abu Ghraib-like scandal out of this - and pin it on the Administration:

Lambert, while showing captures of the photos of the murder: "Let's watch Bush win Iraqi hearts and minds!"

Matthew Gross entitled his piece "Culture of Life", and said "Someday, not too far away, we'll tell the kiddies how the U.S. was once looked up to around the world, as a beacon of moral virtue. And you know what? They won't friggin' believe us."

Get a grip, people. It's not an administration policy, and it's not a sign that America is in decline. It's an alleged murder, with (it is likely) extenuating circumstances, none of which will help the Marine much if he's found guilty. It's a symptom of what a rotten thing war is.

Demagogue also has a typically helpful comment: "Remember, we are at war and it is important that we "Support Our Troops" - even the ones who are executing captives."

Well, we are supporting our troops, even when they get charged with war crimes -- at least, we'd like to see a court-martial before we give the Marine a first-class hanging, a concept that seems alien to some bloggers. Already, though, more context for this incident has surfaced, even in the CNN report. Perhaps this was on the mind of the Marine who killed the wounded captive:

About a block away, a Marine was killed and five others wounded by a booby-trapped body they found in a house after a shootout with insurgents.

Perhaps incidents like this were on the mind of the young Marine while in the middle of the combat zone, with responsibility for the safety of his unit. Or perhaps incidents like this, related to me by CQ reader Peyton Randolph, where a young woman was maimed for her efforts in assisting the wounded. The missing woman, Peyton reports, is a veteran of Iraq who had been home for three weeks after a wounded civilian she went to assist pulled out a gun and blew her kneecap off. The actions of the enemy in this war have to have some impact on the reasonable actions our forces take in protecting themselves and the people around them.

I suggest that everyone take a deep breath and let the Marines and the Navy Dept. investigate the incident and issue a report. Unless someone comes up with a memo that shows Donald Rumsfeld telling our troops that they can shoot anything that moves, this isn't an indictment of the war effort; at worst, it's one Marine that committed a crime, and from where I sit, it's probably not even that.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 16, 2004 11:59 AM

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