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November 17, 2004

Comments

This is the best commentary on this event that I've read to date:

This whole war was billed as 'self-defense.' In fact, Iraq was not a threat to the United States and everyone but us could see that; but since we claimed that we perceived that Iraq was a threat to us, it was OK for us to invade it and kill 100,000+ people. So I guess it shouldn't surprise me that NBC wants to claim that this soldier perceived that a guy who was unarmed, bleeding, and probably already dying was a threat, and therefore he was within his rights to kill him at point-blank range.

Well, suppose that doesn't work. Suppose they do prosecute this soldier for murder, as it seems they might be planning to do. We're still mired in hypocrisy, because then punishing this one soldier becomes our way of trying to make it look as if we still have some moral standards. By making an example out of one guy who had the misfortune to be tailed into the mosque by a reporter, we whitewash the much larger crime of which this smaller one is merely an infinitesimal part.

After all. When you give 150,000 people overwhelming force and send them to a country that posed no threat to you and tell them to take it by any means necessary, you are in no fucking position to then complain that they didn't always kill people according to the rule of law. Especially when you have already decided that the Geneva Convention is "quaint" and that torture is a legitimate intelligence-gathering technique.

In short, yes, this was an atrocity: one atrocity amongst many. That there is no intention of pursuing any wider investigation says to the US military: Don't commit atrocities on camera. The lesson of Abu Ghraib: the problem wasn't the torture, the problem was the photos.

I thought about writing a post about this incident when I first heard about it, but didn't, mostly because of exactly the ambivalence you describe. Leaving aside the fact that I know next to nothing about the relevant parts of the law of war, I thought: this is a case that seems to me to depend so heavily on what the soldier thought, whether he thought as he did for any good reason, and so forth, that I really don't know what to think about it, except that one way or another it's awful. And there are unfortunately enough other examples of violations of the law of war that I thought: the broader point has already been made.

One thing I do think hasn't been talked about enough is this: one of the costs of war is that, predictably, some of our soldiers are going to do bad things, things they might never have done had they not been sent into combat. They are of course adults, and as such responsible for their actions. But the people who decide to send them to war, I think, owe them not just as much protection as possible from bullets and car bombs and the like as they can provide, but also the training and support needed to minimize these things. And this is not just because war crimes are awful for the victims and for our reputation as a nation, which of course they are, but also because if we can spare our soldiers a lifetime of knowing that they did something truly awful, or even a lifetime of wondering whether they did, we owe them that.

The fact this incident is even being debated as possibly justified is simply Orwellian and points to the much larger issue of conservatives trying to create reality.

In any war there will be atrocities. It's a given. I'd suggest that if any one of us had just spent the last week in a state of near-constant apprehension and very little rest, punctuated by periods of pure terror, watching your buddies get shot at, wounded and killed--you or I would be sorely tempted to wax the next Iraqi unfortunate enough to cross our path.

But that does not excuse this incident.

However, there appears to be a concerted effort to pretend this isn't a war crime or an atrocity for purely political motives.

I disagree Jadegold.

I believe this soldier was overwhelmed and should have been taken off duty had there been a replacement available, but given the nature of the offensive in Fallujah and our shortage of troops overall, this is something I blame the administration for, not this individual. Bush should have more troops over there (I've said it again and again and again).

I agree with hilzoy that "the people who decide to send them to war...owe them not just as much protection as possible from bullets and car bombs and the like as they can provide, but also the training and support needed to minimize these things."

In a better prepared/staffed situation, someone would have had the wherewithal to notice this soldier was not mentally ready to explore that mosque and not sent him in there. Again, I don't blame him for it.

This santized version of war we're fed in the safety of our homes, complete with pithy patriotic battle names, country music theme songs, news program icons, and stars and stripes galore, is immoral in my opinion.
I agree. All voting-age americans ought to look at the killing and pain we're supporting, with our tax dollars, in the face. This is a good place to start to see a few things the world is seeing that our media is NOT showing us.

I don't want to go on about what an evil person this soldier is, but I think he needs to be punished fully according to the UCMJ. I don't think the rules of engagement can be "wounded, apparently unarmed prisoners are fair game because they might be booby trapped." It's a despicable thing, to booby trap a prisoner. But part of the reason it's despicable is that it's DESIGNED to get Americans to start committing atrocities, so that the population will turn further against them. It's a very, very, very old terrorist technique, and I don't think we should play into those designs--any more than we can start bombing ambulances because some were used in attacks, or we can just casually obliterate the Ali Shrine because Moqtada shot at us from the cemetery. Even leaving morality out of it, you don't win a guerilla war by alienating the population.

And I have no respect for people who shrug and say "war is hell, support the troops," because they are so often the same people who pretended this war would be cheap and easy, and who still get furious when the media pretense that this is cheap and easy cracks for even a second.

Good points Katherine.

I can't help but feel like this particular soldier will pay for the administration's refusal to send enough troops to do the job correctly and professionally, though.

Nearly all the men in my family have served in the military (none are in Iraq, thank God), so when I hear of an instance like this, I immedately imagine it was one of them. In Abu Grhaib, I would have been right up there demanding they pay for those crimes, like everyone else, but in this instance, knowing what the details are, I can't help but feel this soldier was somehow set up via the grotesque incompetencies of those who sent him in there.

That may not be doing justice to his fellow soliders who were more careful or better trained, but when I heard the audio and felt the fear and anger in his voice, it made me sympathetic.

He's supposed to be a professional, I know. But professionals are supposed to be supported and supplied before being sent to do their jobs. IMHO, this man should not have been sent into that mosque.

As someone who is tired of seeing Hollywood come up with new and horrible ways to blow up the world and give people blueprints for terrible things to do, even the worst horrormeister hasn't invented something as horrendous as being in Iraq, whether as a freedom fighter or an occupying soldier.

This is more nightmarish than Steven King's worst purple imaginings. What hell hath we wrought? We should never have gone and should not be there today. Look what we are doing to our children as well as theirs. Have you been on a college campus lately and taken a look at the 19 and 20 year olds? They are babies my friends and we have sent them to the meatgrinder.

Can I ask something? Why the hell do "multiples" of you still link to Glenn Reynolds? First of all, it's not like he needs the publicity. Second of all:

"FALLUJAH MARINE IN TROUBLE FOR "PULLING A KERRY:"

Patrolling the Bay Hap River, Kerry and his crew discovered they were about to be ambushed by a Vietcong soldier who had just popped up at the shoreline with a loaded rocket launcher in his hands. With the VC about to fire, Kerry crewmate Thomas Bellodeau shot and wounded the attacker, saving the entire boat.

Only then did Kerry leap to the shore to chase the wounded enemy down - finishing him off behind a hootch.

When critics suggested that Kerry's actions that day were something less than heroic, they were hooted down by the press.

Certainly the as yet unnamed Marine in Fallujah deserves, if not the Silver Star, the same slack the press cut Kerry

This is a twist.

UPDATE: Bigwig says it was a fully justified Kerry."

In the incident Reynolds is referring to, the Viet Cong in question was still carrying a loaded rocket launcher capable of blowing up Kerry, his boat, and all the men under his command. I'm also not clear on how severely wounded he was, but he was running and perhaps going to re-aim, not lying on the ground.

I would guess Reynolds knows this.

Katherine: I don't want to go on about what an evil person this soldier is, but I think he needs to be punished fully according to the UCMJ.

But what about all the other soldiers who did the same thing, but who didn't do it on camera?

Here's what bugs me about this: Sure, the Marine shouldn't have done it. But neither should the other soldiers who also shot helpless prisoners in a mosque. A full investigation could establish who they were, just as a full investigation could establish who the people were who gave the orders for torture in Abu Ghraib prison, and so on up the chain of command.

But that won't happen. One scapegoat will be picked out and the rest will get away with it. This Marine is no more deserving of punishment than any of the soldiers who will get off scot-free, just because he happened to kill an unarmed, wounded man on camera.

Why are our soldiers commiting heinous, unwise, acts of fury? Because they are in hell, and it appears to them they have little hope of getting out of hell. The soldier was shot in the face the day before and was sent back the very next day on this incredibly dangerous mission? I realize this is war, but we are invaders, not defenders. We should be better prepared. We shouldn't be operating on the "we need every man we can get" premise, but apparently we are. Throw the wounded back in there. If we excuse his action because he was shot the day before, perhaps we should blame those that sent him back or allowed him to go back. Perhaps we should be looking at the support network and leadership these soldiers lack, that leads them to kill or torment.

When I hear these stories I don't think "My God, what kind of person would do that?" I think "My God, what caused that kid to turn into that kind of person?"

Excellent distinction someguy. I hope someone tells Reynolds he's leaped before he looked.

I agree exactly with Caitlin's 11:23 post.

I suppose it could be an innocent mistake, but I'd bet $10 Reynolds knew exactly what he was doing. Those facts about Kerry have been known for months, and this is exactly Reynolds M.O. If someone sufficiently high profile calls on it he'll post a correction--if an ordinary reader emails him he'll ignore it. Either way he'll continue to to do the same thing in the future. And yet decent blogs link to him like it's required.

Katherine, you unfold the too many facets of this tragedy so succintly yet exhaustively; I guess it's just in it's nature to make one few-worded and weary.

(the Red Cross says it's not clear whether the guy was a prisoner or had surrendered, and that's something we need to know.

I don't want to prejudge the soldier's guilt or innocence, and I certainly think it was a mistake to send him in there after what he'd just been through and that should mitigate any punishment. I assume these things are considered in court martials. The military justice system is actually very decent, once it gets going in a particular case. The rules protect defendants a bit less than civilian courts, but only a bit, and the lawyers are much better than your average public defender.

Like Jes, I am very, very worried about our tendency to ignore and not investigate questionable deaths and atrocities that occur off-camera.)

just to add a little more despair... patriotboy has rounded-up a bunch of freeper comments on this. they apparently think the real criminal in all this is ... the reporter who broke the story.

Dear Lord, cleek, that's scary stuff.

If the government won't police the press there will come a day when the people will.

er, genius...the government supposedly IS the people.

Katherine, thanks for your as-ever thoughtful posts.

but as the husband of a public defender, i wonder why you slammed them. the pd's i know are an incredible bunch of adrenaline junkies who face a system with the dice loaded against them every which way. mostly, their clients are guilty of some portion of that which they are accused. and they fight very hard to get fair and reasonable outcomes.

(sorry for the threadjack, but i couldn't let that go.)

Francis

ABC World News did a story last night showing reaction to the video. First they showed Rush's comment poo-pooing the atrocity then went to Kos' post yesterday and then went to a talk radio freeper saying the soldier should have shot the Iraqi and then turned his gun on the cameraman. And then they moved on to another story and it actually gave the impression that the freeper had a legitimate viewpoint. That was frightening but it's what we'll see more of now that the inmates have taken over the asylum.

Complicated moral issues? Assigning culpability based on differing frameworks of responsibility? Hm…

I'm going to take the easy way out and just second that Insty is a world-class jerk.

In a better prepared/staffed situation, someone would have had the wherewithal to notice this soldier was not mentally ready to explore that mosque and not sent him in there. Again, I don't blame him for it.

I think we're more in agreement than not, Edward.

As a vet, I know you often don't have the luxury or opportunity to assess how your subordinates may or may not respond in a high-stress situation such as combat or an emergency situation. The military is big on training and drills but it's no substitute for the balloon going up for real. That's why, in every war, atrocities are committed.

You're absolutely correct that these troops haven't the proper support. And this is the wrong war.

"But part of the reason it's despicable is that it's DESIGNED to get Americans to start committing atrocities, so that the population will turn further against them. It's a very, very, very old terrorist technique, and I don't think we should play into those designs--any more than we can start bombing ambulances because some were used in attacks, or we can just casually obliterate the Ali Shrine because Moqtada shot at us from the cemetery."

What ought to be the consequences to the enemy when the enemy repeatedly uses ambulances, booby-traps bodies, disguises themselves as civilians, or feigns death to ambush? Is the answer, nothing? Is the answer, we have to allow them to kill our soldiers that way? I'm not convinced that is an intelligent answer because it provides an active incentive to always fight Americans that way.

I'm not convinced that is an intelligent answer because it provides an active incentive to always fight Americans that way.

slightly OT, but what incentive does anyone have for fighting the US the proper and expected way ? there are few countries that could expect to do any serious damage to the US in a conventional tank-on-tank / fighter-on-fighter war. if you're going to fight the US, it seems that fighting dirty is the only way you're going to accomplish anything.

AFAIK the mosque was conquered the day before. The iraqi's seem to have been treated by the previous group of Marines, but were not put in the care of medics, presumably because the hospitals are secured and bombed by the US and cannot provide medical aid anymore, whilst the red crescent (offering help en goods) is stopped by the military.

In effect I assume that makes the Iraqi's POW's, but I am no lawyer.

If those people *had* been sent to hospital, none of this would have happened though.

I did not see the video, I read about it. What I read was that the other soldiers reacted quite calmly to the shooting, which is scary since that means it is not perceived as something extra-ordinary.

It does not help that this is not the first case in which something like this happends. I remember a photo (from a video?) from a soldier shooting a wounded Iraqi teenager after they shot at the garbage collection truck. I think he claimed he 'put him out of his misery' because the teenager cried so loudly. And there is the case of the officer who ordered two soldiers to kill a wounded Iraqi in Baghdad in August.

I do think that the soldiers who commit the atrocities should be held responsible. War comes with atrocities, but tolerating them will make things worse for everybody there who comes home and slowly realizes what he or she actually did, in the heat of things.

Is the answer, nothing?

The answer surely isn't putting a 500 lb bomb in the center of a residential area.

But this is a deflection from the issue; the video clearly shows an incapacitated Iraqi being summarily executed.

As abiola says on his site: "I don't see anything in it indicating that the Iraqi openly let on that he was alive, let alone motioned to surrender. On the contrary, the marines called out as they approaching the building, asking if anyone was in it, and yet no one responded. What is more, another insurgent who was lying on the floor, and who made crystal clear that he was alive and willing to surrender, was left unharmed by the very same marine who shot the other fellow. The presumption of innocence seems particularly well deserved in this case."

No deflection intended.

The presumption of innocence seems particularly well deserved in this case.

whose innocence?

the dying, likely terrified Iraqi's?

Citing abiola is much like citing LGF or Tacitus; they're going to 'see' what supports their almost prurient desire to see more killing in Iraq.

fdl--that was careless phrasing. I conflated public defenders and court appointed counsel, and I made it sound like the problem is the competence of the lawyer when usually it's the resources he is given. I should actually have said, "the lawyers probably give them a better defense than the average public defender or court-appointed counsel is able to give." Most public defenders do the best work possible in an impossible situation, making a fraction of the money they could elsewhere, working long hours doing incredibly emotionally draining work. I couldn't do it myself. I admire the hell out of them. But there are exceptions--all those famous Texas death penalty cases--and more importantly, there are times when you can have the hardest working, smartest lawyer in the world and he still can't do an adequate job. It takes time, and money, to prepare a defense, and they do not have enough of either in many states.

cleek: they apparently think the real criminal in all this is ... the reporter who broke the story.

Well, yes. The same people doubtless think that John Kerry was a traitor for his testimony to Congress about war crimes in Vietnam: that Joseph Darby is a traitor for outing the abuses at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison: we've all seen this, over and over again. People who think that Sy Hersh was a worse criminal that William Calley. There will always be people who deny that the US military ever commits atrocities, and that people who expose atrocities committed by the US military are traitors or criminals.

"What ought to be the consequences to the enemy when the enemy repeatedly uses ambulances, booby-traps bodies, disguises themselves as civilians, or feigns death to ambush? Is the answer, nothing? Is the answer, we have to allow them to kill our soldiers that way? I'm not convinced that is an intelligent answer because it provides an active incentive to always fight Americans that way."

Well, killing civilian ambulance drivers and children does not harm the enemy. It harms other people--civlians the enemy may know, but has proven itself quite willing to sacrifice for the cause by the very tactics you describe. So they will probably gladly trade them for our help in recruiting.

Now, shooting wounded insurgents is a bit different. It does harm the enemy. But it also helps them, and harms us, indirectly. It prevents our troops from being ambushed in false surrenders, but it gives insurgents who might genuinely have surrendered incentive to fight to the death. If we take no prisoners, we do not get the intelligence these prisoners might have provided. And when the dead man's brother or cousin or nephew hears the story--how his brother was lying on the ground wounded and the marines shot him--it motivates them to forget their doubts and join the cause. And when the video airs on Al Jazeera, it will motivate many more people than that.

In the long run, I think there is an excellent chance that a policy of "then every soldier kill his prisoners" will kill more American soldiers than it saves. I would guess it is more likely than not. And I would have to be pretty confident that it would save American lives before I agreed to it, because it will certainly lead to the deaths of Iraqis who really were trying to surrender.

To Edward, Jade, Jes, Katherine

I find your posts here to be some of the most repulsive posts from Americans that I can imagine. I can no longer post at ObWi in good conscience. I cannot lend my support to a site where the posters behave in this manner. I am truly ashamed to have involved myself with this site now that your colors show so truly.

Many of you here are so quick to sympathize with the enemy and hold Americans doing an extremely difficult job to such a high standard that it will always be impossible to meet.

Sincerely,

Blue

"Citing abiola is much like citing LGF or Tacitus; they're going to 'see' what supports their almost prurient desire to see more killing in Iraq."

Nice bit of ad hominem there. So much more pleasant than actually examining others' arguments on their merits, isn't it? And for the record, it's "Abiola", not "abiola."

Katherine,

While we're at it, perhaps once you're done savoring your feelings of moral and intellectual superiority to myself, you can actually explain for us all why this supposedly psycho marine didn't shoot the other guy who made clear that he was alive and unarmed?

Blue: if you can bring yourself to post here one more time, I'd like to hear what, exactly, you find so offensive. Mostly, what I hear from my fellow commenters is an unwillingness to pronounce one way or the other absent more good information about the case than we have, a respect for the rule of law during wartime, a concern about the effects that incidents like this will have on all concerned, including our own troops, and a wish that our troops had been given more support so that something like this would have been less likely to happen. We have not leapt to the conclusion that this marine was guilty, despite the fact that he clearly shot an unarmed Iraqi who posed no threat to him, since we recognize that we would need to know what threat he perceived that Iraqi to be, and what justification he had for that perception, and we don't think we know that. Nor, unlike the Freepers patriotboy quotes, have we leapt to the opposite conclusion, despite the fact that all of us can empathize with the marine. What about this bothers you so much?

Blue: I am truly ashamed to have involved myself with this site now that your colors show so truly.

Thanks, Blue. I take this as a compliment, and I'm sure the others will as well. As they say "A man is known by his enemies".

I don't think he's a psycho. I don't even know for sure that he did anything wrong, and if he did I would not be able to say I wouldn't do the same in his place. I have never been shot at and never had to shoot someone. That doesn't make me better than him; if anything his decision to enlist may make him better than me. All I can say for sure is that I'm luckier than him.

I think there is sufficient cause to turn the case over to the military justice system, and basically I trust them to sort it out. But people who have already decided that what this soldier did was justified, seem to be suggesting that we change the rules against shooting prisoners. I am arguing that that is maybe not a good idea, not least because it may lead to more soldiers getting shot at down the line. If that is enough to get me accused of smug, moral superiority, opposing the troops and siding with our enemies, and who knows what else, then God help all of us.

Blue,

hilzoy's right...the gist of my post is that the jury is still out, that's it's a morally complicated situation, and that although my gut tells me to side with the Marine the video gave me doubts.

Sorry for being human, dude.

"I don't want to go on about what an evil person this soldier is, but I think he needs to be punished fully according to the UCMJ."

That's the only sentence of mine I can see possibly provoking the reaction I've gotten. I can how you could misinterpret it to mean:
--he is evil, I just don't want to talk about it.
and/or
--he is clearly guilty and needs to be punished.

That would be an understandable reading, because I wrote a little too quickly and did not phrase things as carefully as I could have, but it would be quite incorrect. I meant that, I do not think we should conclude this soldier is evil and we should not say he is, but insofar as he violated the UCMJ he should be tried and punished for it. I think the later comments should have cleared this up, or at least should have been sufficient to get people to ask for clarification instead of assuming the worst about what I meant. But if there was a misunderstanding, it was at least partly my fault and I apologize.

"Don't assume the worst before knowing all the facts" seems like a pretty good rule across the board.

Do we know, in fact, whether the person who was shot was armed or booby trapped? I had the impression that he turned out not to be--but I could be wrong about that. I realize whether he was armed is a different question from whether the soldier reasonably believed he was armed.

"But people who have already decided that what this soldier did was justified, seem to be suggesting that we change the rules against shooting prisoners."

Why isn't the presumption of innocence allowed to hold here, as it does anywhere else when a case is to be tried? Would you prefer that we presumed all Guantanamo captives were guilty? If not, why does this marine deserve worse treatment?

Besides, the fact is that the man who was shot was not a "prisoner" - unlike his companion who declared himself alive and was left alone, he did not surrender to anyone, preferring to play possum. Is is really so difficult to imagine that a marine who'd lost fellow soldiers to tricks of that sort, and who'd recently been shot in the face himself, might perhaps be unable to afford the luxury of humoring such pretences?

If he is guilty of something, let a military court decide that. As it is, the (full, unedited) video of the incident simply doesn't establish beyond all doubt that he was unjustified in pulling the trigger, which is the presumption that seems to be carrying the day here.

Katherine, Edward, as far as I can see what Blue is objecting to is that we consider the shooting of an unarmed, wounded Iraqi soldier by a US Marine to be a crime. If Blue no longer wishes to associate with us because we are not prepared to look the other way and say everything's fine when US soldiers commit atrocities, well, that puts us in good company - and Blue in very bad company.

"Citing abiola is much like citing LGF or Tacitus; they're going to 'see' what supports their almost prurient desire to see more killing in Iraq."

Nice.

Have you all seen the full video? It is absolutely clear that there is an injured Iraqi who signals that he is alive and willing to surrender. He is not shot, despite being very close to the soldier who shoots the Iraqi who feigns death. I don't know what you 'see' in that, but I see a soldier who is quite willing to accept surrender from combatants who are actually surrendering.

Now, shooting wounded insurgents is a bit different. It does harm the enemy. But it also helps them, and harms us, indirectly. It prevents our troops from being ambushed in false surrenders, but it gives insurgents who might genuinely have surrendered incentive to fight to the death.

Katherine, please note how your argument shifts over the space of two sentences. Are we talking about 'wounded insurgents' or 'false surrenders'? The video shows a surrendering insurgent and a non-surrendering insurgent. The non-surrendering insurgent gets shot, the surrendering insurgent does not get shot. Isn't that exactly what you want?

I think it's more than that Jes.

Even the Freepers are speaking from their hearts about the journalist being to blame, I suspect.

If your loved one was in harm's way, anyone or anything that threatened him/her would be a fair target to you. I believe Blue when he says he sees the expressions of interpretable nonsupport as "sympathizing with the enemy."

We're here, safe, making abtract judgements and our soldiers are over there being killed...to many people that situation demands we all shut up and "support the troops."

The irony here, though, is that this one Marine's "mistake" (and even Blue would have to conceed that shooting an unarmed man who was very possibly already a POW doesn't represent the finest of US military thinking or morality), will do more harm to our soldiers than anything you or Katherine or I could write.

Images of him shooting that man are the only things the Arab world are talking about. Our being mum about it, despite our own misgivings, won't change that, regardless of how much comfort it may provide for Blue.

even Blue would have to conceed that shooting an unarmed man who was very possibly already a POW doesn't represent the finest of US military thinking or morality

I've seen no sign that Blue would concede any such thing.

To Edward, Jade, Jes, Katherine

What good company. I'll bring an '86 Chateau Margaux.

Sebastian: War is not a child's game of cowboys-and-indians. Believe it or not, not everyone conforms to your rigid Marquis of Queensbury Rules and Miss Manner's Etiquette for Combat Operations.

I'd ask you to imagine yourself in a combat situation; you're wounded, you're scared crapless, you're defenseless--and you're being approached by an enemy you've long believed are ruthless killers. What do you do?

You may well begin asserting your rights under the Geneva Convention. You may well start humming The Star-Spangled Banner and asking about the Red Sox. You may well just lie there and wish it would all go away.

I don't think the video is that clear--not the version I have seen.

My argument shifted because the question shifted. You made a statement that seemed to imply that we should be able to shoot troops that had surrendered and/or were wounded and unarmed and incapable of continuing combat, given the tactics the enemy had used.

"Wounded" was short for "wounded to the point of being incapable of further combat." I was under the impression that a wounded enemy incapable of further combat was in the same category as an enemy who had surrendered. It seems like you could fake one thing as well as the other.

Maybe I misunderstood you.

It is also possible that, never having been in combat, I underestimate how severely wounded you have to be before you are incapable of doing further damage. And maybe the version of the video I saw was crappy enough that I missed a sign that the guy was feigning injury, or actually had a concealed weapon.

I trust the military justice system to get it right more than I trust knee jerk emotional reactions to a video--whether they're my knee jerk reactions or yours.

"Sebastian: War is not a child's game of cowboys-and-indians. Believe it or not, not everyone conforms to your rigid Marquis of Queensbury Rules and Miss Manner's Etiquette for Combat Operations."

And statements like that in this context are EXACTLY what Blue is talking about.

You extend benefits to the enemy that you do not extend to our troops. You think it is an ok argument to say that we of course can't expect our enemies to follow the rules WHILE YOU ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF CONDEMNING our soldiers for not following the rules.

To everyone else. If you respect the ideals behind the Geneva Conventions on War, you are going to need to come up with a way to encourage our enemies to follow them. You apparently reject the traditional approach, the rules are available for the protection of those who follow them. If you can't come up with another approach, the Conventions are going to fall by the wayside, because the American public isn't into rules that only serve to get our soldiers killed. My question about what to do about the use of ambulances to attack was dead serious. If we can't figure out a way deal with problems like that, we are in serious trouble--not just in Iraq, but in America.

Sebastian: If you respect the ideals behind the Geneva Conventions on War, you are going to need to come up with a way to encourage our enemies to follow them.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration has ensured that the enemies of the US can say exactly the same thing.

If the US won't follow the Geneva Conventions, how do you suggest that enemies of the US "encourage" the US to follow them?

To everyone else. If you respect the ideals behind the Geneva Conventions on War, you are going to need to come up with a way to encourage our enemies to follow them.

Or they no longer apply to us? I don't follow this logic. We can become the sort of people we insist shouldn't exist just because they do exist?

What we're really talking about here is unrestrained warfare that leaves us morally superior...an oxymoron if there ever was one.

oxymoron, paradox...whatever...

Hilzoy,

The Mercury News reports:

Marine Lance Cpl. Jeramy Ailes, 22, of Gilroy was killed Monday in Al-Fallujah by small arms fire. "They had finished mopping up in Fallujah and they went back to double-check on some insurgents. From what we gathered, somebody playing possum jumped up and shot him,'' said his father, Joel Ailes, who learned of his death Monday evening. "It's extremely hard."

... His first time in Iraq, Jeramy Ailes gave $10 to each child he came across because he knew it would feed their families for 30 days. This time, he asked his family to mail as many soccer balls as they could. His family sent 300 balls, and Jeramy Ailes' platoon handed them out to children.

Joel Ailes warmly remembered the last conversation he had with his son last month, in which Jeramy Ailes recounted how he had come across a large man walking with a 12-year-old girl carrying a huge bale of straw on her back. His son, who spoke and read Arabic, exchanged words with the man. And, for the next seven miles, his son carried the girl on his back and the man carried the bales of straw. "That was my son," Joel Ailes said.

Jes:In short, yes, this was an atrocity: one atrocity amongst many. That there is no intention of pursuing any wider investigation says to the US military: Don't commit atrocities on camera.
You see Hilzoy, it is the U.S. that is really committing one atrocity amongst many.

Jade:However, there appears to be a concerted effort to pretend this isn't a war crime or an atrocity for purely political motives.
Hilzoy it is OUR government that is really covering this up, even though it has been on the frickin' world wide news over and over and over and over and over.

Katherine:don't want to go on about what an evil person this soldier is, but I think he needs to be punished fully according to the UCMJ.
Hey Katherine, here's a wake up call. The evil person was already punished. The bastard engaged in combat with our troops instead of leaving the city or giving up before we went into the city. It appears that our Marine thought he was faking dead like others have before. So he killed him.


Hilzoy, Isn't it obvious that Katherine's already geared up on how this Marines court martial should proceed.

Wilfred:Look what we are doing to our children as well as theirs.
What, trying to help them?

Jes:Sure, the Marine shouldn't have done it. But neither should the other soldiers who also shot helpless prisoners in a mosque.
Hilzoy, don't you see? Our guys are bad... our guys are bad...

Caitlin:Why are our soldiers commiting heinous, unwise, acts of fury?
Hilzoy, and more of the same.

Dutch:I do think that the soldiers who commit the atrocities should be held responsible
And more...

Edward:whose innocence? the dying, likely terrified Iraqi's?
And more...

Hilzoy, let's just be honest. Many people here didn't want us to invade Iraq. Many people here hate Bush. They think the war is horrible and they are just wanting and waiting for bad things to happen so they can say, "I told you so."

They are helping the enemy. I don't want to be a part of it. I hope ObWi fades into oblivian and in so doing the enemy will receive less support.

You extend benefits to the enemy that you do not extend to our troops. You think it is an ok argument to say that we of course can't expect our enemies to follow the rules WHILE YOU ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF CONDEMNING our soldiers for not following the rules.

Who's "extending benefits" here? I don't see anyone doing that; what I do see is a bunch of people recognizing the truth that the enemy is going to fight outside the rules. We can either choose to fight outside the rules ourselves, which has a whole host of negative consequences, or we can accept the handicap and keep fighting inside the rules, which also has a whole host of negative consequences. This is why counter-insurgent warfare is difficult.

The only good way to solve a problem like this is to not get into it in the first place.

I think you're overreacting Blue.

Nothing we're writing here is truly helping the enemy.

In fact, in a country where the free exchange of ideas is considered a right, to supress that could arguably help the enemy more...

regarding my statement that the dying Iraqi was "innocent"; at the moment he's lying, wounded, unarmed, he's clearly entitled to the "innocent until proven guilty" benefit of doubt, no? Or do we have license to kill them all and let God sort them out?

And Blue,

Please consider this letter to Andrew Sullivan from a former Marine:

This conduct by U.S. military personnel cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. As a former Marine, I strongly sympathize with the Marine involved, but killing unarmed people only undermines our cause in Iraq and elsewhere. The Marine involved, like all Marines, is taught the rules of war and is indoctrinated with American and Marine Corps ideals. If the allegations are true, then what he did is a betrayal of both his country and his service and he should be punished to the fullest extent permitted under the UCMJ. We as civilians have the responsibility to ensure that what our military personal do in our name comports with American standards of human rights and decency. We cannot compromise our standards regardless of the circumstances. We, the civilians in charge, must investigate every allegation of wrongdoing and bring those responsible to justice. This has not happened with Abu Ghraib - it must happen here.

I have never seen such hateful and despicable behavior on this site as I have on this thread. Never, ever, ever.

I don't know what we're playing at, banning the curse words but allowing people to charge each other with treason for being upset about this video and not being willing to say that the soldier was clearly in the right, and ignore and deliberately mischaracterize each other's arguments. Not that I have any answers either, as far as posting rules go, but allowing anything will choke off discussion as quickly as banning people who don't deserve it.

I had long since given up on useful political discussions here, but I thought some things transcended our political divisions, or that things might fade after the election. Apparently not.

Mind you, I'm a lot less than thrilled with the implication that expecting insurgents not to booby trap prisoners is "Marquess of Queensbury rules", either. I find it a lot more understandable for a marine who has been shot the day before and seen his friend killed by someone who was faking a surrender to panic and shoot a wounded, apparently unarmed* soldier, than I do to booby trap a wounded soldier or use an ambulance as a bomb. But Sebastian--the Geneva Conventions don't get unplugged for all prisoners the minute one prisoner violates them. That's just not how it works. And the U.S. military code applies no matter what. It puts the good guys at a disadvantage, I know, and it's unfair, but the alternative is worse. You know very well that I can't get the Fallujah insurgents to follow the rules of war. I certainly would support making reasonable changes in soldiers' orders to protect them from these atrocities and give insurgents an incentive not to commit them, but the only suggestion I've seen is "if they don't follow any rules we shouldn't have to either", and that's not a solution.

This Michael Ignatieff piece is relevant:

Al-Zarqawi is a cynic about these matters: the truths we hold to be self-evident are the ones he hopes to turn against us. He thinks that we would rather come home than fight evil. Are we truly willing to descend into the vortex to beat him? He has bet that we are not.

But his calculation is that either way, he cannot lose. If we remain, he has also bet—and Abu Ghraib confirms how perceptive he was—that we will help him drive us into ignominious defeat by becoming as barbarous as he is. He is trailing the videos as an ultimate kind of moral temptation, an ethical trap into which he is hoping we will fall. Everything is permitted, he is saying. If you wish to beat me, you will have to join me. Every terrorist hopes, ultimately, that his opponent will become his brother in infamy. If we succumb to this temptation, he will have won. He has, however, forgotten that the choice always remains ours, not his.

The choice is ours, but I am afraid we have already made it, or are well on our way.

You extend benefits to the enemy that you do not extend to our troops. You think it is an ok argument to say that we of course can't expect our enemies to follow the rules WHILE YOU ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF CONDEMNING our soldiers for not following the rules

No, Sebastian. I expect our troops to conduct themselves with the professionalism befitting the armed services of this country. I don't give two ----- what the enemy does. When we start permitting insurgents and terrorists to dictate and guide the standards of conduct of our servicemen--we may as well pack it in.

I don't know what we're playing at, banning the curse words but allowing people to charge each other with treason for being upset about this video

I think we're trying to acknowledge that some folks see criticizing the troops as helping the enemy but explain why we don't agree. I can't blame someone for feeling upset that we're not 100% behind that soldier. I think they're letting their heart do the work they should let their head do, especially as it's their responsibility, here on the homefront to protect our values...even those regarding how we conduct ourselves in war. But I can understand how strongly they feel in their heart that this soldier did what he felt he had to and that to criticize him is unfair.

I watched "A Few Good Men" again the other day. The end, where the younger defendent was confused about why if he was acquitted for murder he was still dishonorably discharged and his co-defendent/friend explains because they had still failed to perform their duty, is a good example of the issues at stake here.

The Marine's actions in the mosque may be understandable, but that doesn't make them acceptable.

Law of Armed Conflict?
War crimes?
rules of engagement?
Geneva conventions?

Yes war is so civilised now, as if you can kill someone and call it civilised. I find all of the above concepts incredibly amusing. Had we fought a "civilised war" during the revolution we would still be part of the British Empire. I think everybody needs to get off this guys back. I read a quote once by David Drake, a vietnam veteran and sci-fi author:

When you send a man out with a gun, you create a policymaker. When his ass is on the line, he will do whatever he needs to do.
And if the implications of that bother you, the time to do something abut it is before you decide to send him out.

Which could also be paraphrased:

When you fight a war, you are allowing your foreign policy to be created by scared eighteen-year-olds with guns

So you know what, leave the guy alone. If you've got a problem with what he does, look to Washington.

So you know what, leave the guy alone. If you've got a problem with what he does, look to Washington.

We, the people, ARE Washington. We, the people, decided when we signed the Geneva Convention treaties that we DO have a problem with that kind of behavior. It does not reflect what we hold to be the right kind of behavior. That Marine was taught that before we sent him out.

That doesn't mean we condemn him, but it does mean we get him out of there and explain to his fellow soldiers why his behavior was unacceptable.

"We, the people, ARE Washington. We, the people, decided when we signed the Geneva Convention treaties that we DO have a problem with that kind of behavior. It does not reflect what we hold to be the right kind of behavior. That Marine was taught that before we sent him out.

That doesn't mean we condemn him, but it does mean we get him out of there and explain to his fellow soldiers why his behavior was unacceptable."

If it was unacceptable. If the Iraqi soldier was not signalling surrender, and by all appearances he was not, than the Marine did nothing wrong. In fact he was not only justified, he did the right thing in shooting the man.

The Geneva Conventions are not going to last if we are the only ones following them. This is not an argument I'm making, this is a fact of human reality. If one side regularly ignores the rules, it is neither moral nor wise for you to sacrifice our soldiers for rules which are not effective. Often we did not allow Japanese soldiers to surrender, BECAUSE THEY REGULARLY USED SURRENDERS TO AMBUSH US. We did not give up the war. We did not throw our soldier's lives away. We did not allow them to surrender at many battles. We did not do that to the Germans because they generally followed the rules of war. We did that to the Japanese because they did not. Pretending that the insurgents are doing anything other than gaming the rules is silly. Katherine, I know you pay attention enough to know that such tactics are not incidental or 'one-ofs'. Why do you keep arguing as if they were? And since they are not, what do you think we ought to do about it? Sacrifice our soldiers to constantly fake surrenders? If so, you need to say so directly.

If the Iraqi soldier was not signalling surrender, and by all appearances he was not, than the Marine did nothing wrong. In fact he was not only justified, he did the right thing in shooting the man.

Nope.

The fact is the Iraqi was wounded--likely incapacitated--and unarmed. The Marine shot him at point-blank range which indicates to me the Marine wasn't really too concerned about a booby-trap.

This incident has zip to do with the Geneva Conventions; its overtones reek of Klaus Barbie.

Sebastian: "You extend benefits to the enemy that you do not extend to our troops. You think it is an ok argument to say that we of course can't expect our enemies to follow the rules WHILE YOU ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF CONDEMNING our soldiers for not following the rules."

I extend the same benefits to everyone and to our troops: the 'benefit', for what little it's worth, of having anyone who harms them in the course of committing a war crime be condemned by me. I may not always post about it here -- the sheer number of war crimes committed on the globe makes that impossible -- but I condemn war crimes regardless of who commits them. I have not concluded anything about whether a war crime was committed in this case, but if it was, then I will criticize the marine. I also criticize anyone who plays dead and then opens fire.

It is true that I merely expect things, one way or another, from the insurgents, but argue about what our government and our armed forces should do. But that's not because of a double moral standard; it's because our government and our armed forces are, well, ours, They act in our name, and we (collectively, at least) might have some influence on them. The insurgents, on the other hand, are not. It's the same reason why I merely speculate about what, say, Tony Blair might do, but get to decide on what I will do, since I am me, and can therefore control my conduct in a way I can't control Tony Blair's.

"It is true that I merely expect things, one way or another, from the insurgents, but argue about what our government and our armed forces should do."

Thats fine, but it doesn't go very far analytically. If you like the rules, you should want to see them continue working.

Constantly sacrificing our soldiers when we know the rules are being used to kill them isn't a good strategy in my mind. It demeans the rules, makes it certain that no one will ever bother with them when fighting us, and it makes it very likely that the populace of the United States will actively reject them. If you don't want that, we probably need a different approach.

They [ObWi lefties?] are helping the enemy.

Bollocks.

There really isn't a whole lot more to say than that.

Sebastian: it wasn't meant to go very far analytically; just to explain the thing you objected to.

Actually that is an expansion on what Blue objected to. I object to the rules of war being used in a transparently one-sided way. I'm against sacrificing our soldiers to the altar of international law when doing so only makes it less and less likely that any of our future enemies will bother with them.

The rules of war were meant to benefit both sides. If they are only used to hurt us, they aren't going to last. I think that would be a bad thing, because when both sides use them, war is somewhat safer for civilians.

I object to the rules of war being used in a transparently one-sided way.

I don't see anyone disagreeing with that. I don't see anyone praising the insurgents for not following the conventions. I don't see how their failure to do so means we can pick and choose which ones we follow though.

The Conventions were signed between nation states that had something to lose if they didn't follow them. We're not fighting that kind of enemy, but we're hoping to leave a society that will agree to those values when we're done. I don't see we have any option but to take the high road. Otherwise, we'll leave a society that was taught the rules are only followed by chumps.

More than that, however, we have to assume the Iraqi had the ability to reason or comprehend what was going on before he was killed to argue that he deserved to be killed. From what I could see in the video, he was not conscious enough to surrender. All we know from the audio was that he was breathing. For all we know he was in a stupor.

It's quite a leap from that to assuming he deserved to be killed.

Has anyone considered that the guy was incapable of making any kind of surrender signal due to his injuries?

I suspect that being severely wounded could look an awful lot like "playing dead", and if that was the case, it would paint the Marine's actions as careless, or at least a tragic mistake, rather than purposeful barbarism.

Just wondering.

I must say the video is pretty damning, but I assume that there are codified rules and procedures for how to handle this situation, and the UCMJ will determine whether they were followed.

If the rules are unworkable, you don't break them at will. You change them. Until you do that, you follow them.

If you could suggest specific changes that seemed workable, I would support them. You've been very vague. I'm getting that, unless someone surrenders, we kill them, even if there is an excellent chance they are physically incapable of surrender, and maybe we also kill them if they do surrender and stop accepting surrenders entirely. I see why you want to do this, but for the reasons I stated at 3:42 I do not think it will save U.S. soldiers' lives in the long run.

Part of the problem is that I have no idea how many U.S. soldiers have been killed in cases of false surrenders or where the insurgents have feigned injury or death. I'm not sure there's any way to get information on that, but to the extent you have it it would be useful.

Once again, I am talking about U.S. law more than international law.

It may be that this soldier violated neither, but I don't think we know that and am not prepared to take your word for it on either the factual or legal questions.

Dutch:I do think that the soldiers who commit the atrocities should be held responsible
Blue: And more...

I quoted three instances were appearantly unarmed Iraqi's were killed - and yes, I think it is very important that the rules and laws are followed. First of all because getting lax about them will lead to worse behaviour. It gets easier and easier if it is tolerated. Which is also very very damaging for all the soldiers in the war. People don't think of themselves as bad, and when with hindsight they must admit that they did bad thing it is very hard for them and damaging. It is unseen damage that will harm quite a number of them the rest of their lives. In a way you must protect them from actions fueled by their anger, frustration and other emotions, because the emotions will go but the actions will not.

"I think we're trying to acknowledge that some folks see criticizing the troops as helping the enemy but explain why we don't agree. I can't blame someone for feeling upset that we're not 100% behind that soldier. I think they're letting their heart do the work they should let their head do, especially as it's their responsibility, here on the homefront to protect our values...even those regarding how we conduct ourselves in war. But I can understand how strongly they feel in their heart that this soldier did what he felt he had to and that to criticize him is unfair."

I strongly disagree. Emotions run high on all sides here. Some things still aren't acceptable--not comparing a soldier who was shot in the face a day ago and who saw a friend die in a false surrender earlier in the week to Klaus Barbie, and not accusing you and hilzoy of treason for suggesting this may have been a serious and unfortunate mistake. If that is acceptable I don't see why anything isn't. I'm not saying it should get people banned, but if it gets no stronger reaction than "I understand how you feel but disagree" from the people attacked, and no defense at all & partial agreement from your right of center fellow poster--it will continue, and the center will not hold. This thread about ruined my day.

(To clarify for every one else--I am no longer a moderator here, so my opinion is no more authoritative than any other poster's.)

I'll second Katherine's notion that the UCMJ will sort it out. I haven't seen the video, so I'm unbiased in both directions: I don't know if either the Iraqi or the American did anything wrong. But, hey, I'm not required to know. We have a military justice system to sort out the individual circumstances of the general case: soldiers shouldn't shoot unarmed, defenseless people. There are obviously special circumstances where that general rule should be violated. Is this one? I have no idea, but I really do trust the military to work it out.

I'll object stongly to Blue: we clearly have the right to discuss and (if so moved) condemn the actions of the soldier. Our discussion doesn't change the facts, and doesn't make us any less patriotic. People died long ago to give us the right to speak freely, and those ghosts would be ashamed if we didn't use those rights. As such, the reporter who made the film was well within their rights, and should be commended: we should all see that which we have given consent to.

And I'll give a firm nod to Bill, for quoting David Drake (an indifferent ScFi writer): when you put young, only moderately well-trained soldiers in a fairly chaotic battle, you get mistakes. It's the nature of the policy they've been charged with carrying out. Even if this particular case isn't a mistake (and the jury is still out), I'm sure there are plenty unreported cases. This one is just on video.

Sebastian: I object to the rules of war being used in a transparently one-sided way.

Guantanamo Bay? Bagram Airbase? Abu Ghraib? It's hardly one-sided: Guantanamo Bay was illegal from the start, and Bagram Airbase predates Guantanamo Bay. That the US is apparently declining to prosecute anyone responsible for the abuses of Abu Ghraib beyond a few low-level grunts who were caught on camera is further proof for any Iraqi that the US is not obeying the rules of war.

I'm against sacrificing our soldiers to the altar of international law when doing so only makes it less and less likely that any of our future enemies will bother with them.

I think you are confused as to who is "sacrificing soldiers on the altar of international law". As has been pointed out by more than one person already on this thread, if it is known (or even only believed) that US soldiers routinely kill prisoners, it makes it less likely that insurgents will surrender rather than fight to the death.

And while an atrocity that takes place on camera may be penalized and will fuel anti-US hatred outside Iraq, it's folly to suppose that the atrocities that took place off-camera are not well known in Iraq. Rumor is a powerful communication force.

"It's quite a leap from that to assuming he deserved to be killed."

He CHOSE not to surrender before the Marines actually went in Falluja. He deserved to die.

He CHOSE to stay in Falluja and fight. He deserved to die.

He CHOSE to fight with people who follow no rules to warfare. He deserved to die.

They all had the ability to CHOOSE differently.

Those who stayed and fought made their CHOICE.

End of story!

They all had ATLEAST 3 weeks warning of the attack.

Those who stayed CHOSE to ignore it. They all deserved to die.

And that helps Katherine figure out a fair rule of engagement with an enemy who doesn't follow any rules.

You get warned of the attack and that you need to surrender. If one CHOOSES to ignore it you get killed.

"I may not always post about it here -- the sheer number of war crimes committed on the globe makes that impossible -- but I condemn war crimes regardless of who commits them."

You certainly don't post about it here. I've read your posts here for quite awhile Hilzoy... your above comment is such a farce. If you and other like minded people spent 1/10 of the time focusing on the horrible crimes the enemy has undertaken all over the world our guys might not even be in Iraq today. But you don't and neither do people who think like you. So we have Marines dieing in Iraq.

"despite the fact that all of us can empathize with the marine. What about this bothers you so much?"

It's the many posters here that are so quick to empathize first with the enemy and mostly with the enemy that I find so disgusting. You, Katherine and others give lip service to the Marine's plight, but then full throttle launch into what needs to happen to the Marine. I've tried to ignore it and find common ground. But there is not common ground to be found.

"Has anyone considered that the guy was incapable of making any kind of surrender signal due to his injuries?"

It's comments like this that I find so disgusting. The whole world knew Falluja was going to be invaded and it was going to be damned ugly. And now we are worried about some bastard who CHOSE his path in life. I hope every insurgent in Iraq sees the video and I hope that when they are planning their next attack they say, "Don't try that fake surrender routine anymore a Marine is going to put a bullet through you f...g head."

Whether it is intentional or not... your type of dissent supports the enemy. If one gets drunk and drives down the road it most likely is not their intention to hit another car and kill someone. Many posters here are like drunks behind the steering wheel. They don't intend to aide the enemy. But, they do.

The whole world knew Falluja was going to be invaded and it was going to be damned ugly.

Yeah. So does that make all the US soldiers who took part in that ugly invasion of Falluja guilty too?

"The failed US attempt to "pacify" Falluja via "overwhelming" military means was first and foremost a disaster for its civilian population. The fact that it also embarrassed those who ordered it is of little sigificance in comparison, except in one regard. Current US plans to launch a "final assault" on Falluja, supported by back filling from UK troops, suggest that we can expect another human catastrophe whose scale no one can judge in advance but which will certainly result in the destruction of innocent lives. The question planners in Washington, London and Baghdad - and the public at large - need to consider is this: are the next attacks being planned as a true measure of last resort? If not, it is not just mass slaughter that is being contemplated here, but mass murder." cite

You remind us, Blue, that this one atrocity is a small thing in the massive atrocity that is the US "pacification" of Falluja, in which hospitals and clinics have apparently been targetted so that there shall be no independent record of the thousands of civilians killed.

having read the thread here and, for balance, threads at both command post and lgf, i find that more than anything else i'm just sad.

I'm sad at the loss of life. I'm sad at the terrible burdens the survivors of the combat will bear. I'm sad at the bloodthirstiness found in other threads. I'm sad that even with the election behind us many of us have lost the ability to engage in reasonable discussion.

I confess that i'm finding myself gripped with terrible rages at the WASTE -- the waste of life, of money, of opportunity.

Blue, if you are still reading this thread, take a look at how Riverbend feels about the video. I've never been in combat, i'm not qualified to speak as to whether the american was right or wrong. but everything that this administration tries to do in iraq seems to turn to s--t. even if the soldier acted properly, can you understand that some of us fear that the blowback which the US will suffer for its actions is far worse than anything saddam could have done?

i dunno where we go from here. i just don't know anymore.

Francis

They all had ATLEAST 3 weeks warning of the attack.
Those who stayed CHOSE to ignore it. They all deserved to die.

Are you seriously saying that everybody who did not leave Falluja should be killed?

"Updated: 11:11 a.m. ET Nov. 17, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq - As U.S. and Iraqi officials expressed concerns and regrets about the fatal shooting by a U.S. Marine of a wounded and apparently unarmed man in a Fallujah mosque, the U.S. military said Wednesday it is investigating whether other wounded Iraqis in the mosque were similarly killed."

"It's comments like this that I find so disgusting. The whole world knew Falluja was going to be invaded and it was going to be damned ugly. And now we are worried about some bastard who CHOSE his path in life. I hope every insurgent in Iraq sees the video and I hope that when they are planning their next attack they say, "Don't try that fake surrender routine anymore a Marine is going to put a bullet through you f...g head.""

So anybody who might have stayed in Fallujah deserved to die. We must have had to destroy that village in order to save it. And whether or not the guy could actually surrender is beside the point. He had some nerve being wounded.

I especially like the part where it's a warning that the fake surrender will be met with a Marine putting "a f...g bullet in your head". Like the guys who pull that actually expect to live more than ten seconds after doing it. Gotta love the logic of threatening with death one who's prepared to die for his cause.

When you're done watching Apocalypse Now on repeat mode, maybe you can consider that of the 1000+ killed in Fallujah, the military estimated that 12-15 were foreign fighters, meaning that most of those killed are Iraqis. Also consider that to them we're perceived as foreign invaders and occupiers in their home. They didn't ask us to come, and yet we're there.

Try considering something from other than your egocentric, solipsistic point of view for a change.

And yes, I have been in combat, jackass.

Blue: I should have called you on a rules violation when you wrote that other posters were helping the enemy, but unfortunately I didn't catch that when I first read your comment. Now, having gone off to do other stuff and now come back and found your latest comments, I am calling you on it. "Be reasonably civil" and "do not consistently abuse other posters for its own sake" rules out accusations of aiding the enemy that cannot be backed up by some real specifics, and posting our opinions here does not count.

For what it's worth, you're wrong about whether or not I focussed on Saddam Hussein's crimes (assuming that's the enemy you're talking about.) I haven't spent a lot of time on it here, since by the time I joined ObWi Saddam was history, but I did when he was in power, starting back when Republican administrations were still feeding him our classified satellite data.

And I deeply resent the claim that I and people like me are responsible for our soldiers dying in Iraq. You have no idea what I did and did not do or say before the war, and you have no right to blame the deaths of our soldiers on me without explaining exactly which assumptions about me you're basing this on, and why you make those assumptions. Given your accuracy about the rest of my remarks -- I challenge you, for instance, to say where I "full throttle launch into what needs to happen to the Marine" -- I won't be holding my breath.

This is just my response qua me. My response qua member of ObWi is: one more accusation of treason or responsibility for the deaths of soldiers and you are banned. Feel free to criticize our arguments, but do not criticize anyone here as a person, or accuse them of extremely serious things without correspondingly strong evidence.

I object to the rules of war being used in a transparently one-sided way. I'm against sacrificing our soldiers to the altar of international law when doing so only makes it less and less likely that any of our future enemies will bother with them.

What makes you think that any of our future enemies will bother with them anyway? Seems to me most of them are likely to be insurgents or terrorists, and neither of those groups are particularly well-known for having any respect for the rules of war. Kind of the opposite, in fact.

The rules of war were meant to benefit both sides. If they are only used to hurt us, they aren't going to last. I think that would be a bad thing, because when both sides use them, war is somewhat safer for civilians.

Except that the insurgents are not interested in making war safer for civilians. It runs completely counter to their interests. Insofar as they can get us to kill civilians and come out with more images like the one that started this thread, that's a good thing from their perpective.

yeesh. I'm glad I restricted myself to the relatively safe view, "Glenn Reynolds is a jerk." And all I will do now is recommend this post by Juan Cole and this Kos diary by a soldier who served in Fallujah earlier in the war.

As the object of mountains of abuse, I sometimes don't take the problem of policing the site seriously enough, but suggesting that Hilzoy and Katherine are traitors is indeed out of bounds.

I think a legitmate area of complaint, however, is the lack of understanding which seems apparent in holding US Soldiers to ridiculous standards. The reason the rules of war don't allow false surrenders is that the drafters fully understood that if false surrenders were common, soldiers would have to shoot people who were surrendering. Focusing on the latter half of the equation while failing to deal with the former half is a serious problem. The Geneva Conventions require that you put your military HQ in a non-civilian area because the writers knew full well that a military HQ ought to be bombed wherever it is found and they wanted to protect civilians as much as possible.

I find it repeatedly annoying that so many defenders of the Geneva Conventions and other laws of war fail to bother with the fact that they are reciprocal agreements for a reason. If you ignore that reasoning, they become another tool for killing our soldiers.

I am not willing to sacrifice our soldiers that way. I also know enough about human nature to realize that when our enemies see that there is absolutely no reason to follow the rules, they won't follow the rules.

How do you intend that we encourage them to follow the rules? It seems that you don't care to provide incentives to follow the rules. Is that correct? Do you not care? I suspect not, but that is how it is coming off.

also, even in that disturbing Freep thread, there's one ex marine who takes everyone else to task better than I could. all is not lost. not yet, anyway.

I don't know how to give terrorists incentive to follow the rules, and I'm not sure shooting prisoners would be effective in deterring them. Terrorists, over and over, deliberately provoke abuses from governments to win sympathy from the population. It's disgusting, but it works, and it's very much damned if you do damned if you don't. I'm not sure there's any satisfactory answer. I would guess that killing or refusing medical care to all prisoners is not only inhumane, but lousy strategy in the long run. It's just a gut reaction, I don't have numbers to support it, but neither do you, and if we're just going on our guts I think you certainly err on the side of following the law.

Juan Cole's post makes it sound as if these were prisoners disarmed and left behind for medical pickup but there was some confusion about this and the second team of marines didn't realize it.

Sebastian: I find it repeatedly annoying that so many defenders of the Geneva Conventions and other laws of war fail to bother with the fact that they are reciprocal agreements for a reason

Yes. Bagram Airbase, Sebastian. Guantanamo Bay. Abu Ghraib. The looting post-invasion, which Donald Rumsfeld was legally required to prevent and did nothing about (beyond posting troops to protect the Ministry of Oil.) You are not discussing the point that the US military has recently and repeatedly violated the Geneva Conventions on protection of civilians and on prisoners of war when you assert that the agreements are supposed to be reciprocal.

The insurgency in Iraq didn't spring from nowhere: thousands of Iraqis didn't just decide, out of the blue, that they'd rather die than submit to a US occupation.

Going back to April 2003, when the hospitals, shops, and ministries that were looted, while US troops who were legally responsible for protecting Iraqi civilians in the city they were occupying stood by and did nothing, that was a clear breach of the Geneva Convention on protection of civilians in time of war. Donald Rumsfeld ought to have resigned or been fired: instead, he made jokes about it and kept his job.

Through 2003, when the first priority ought to have been the reconstruction of Iraq by paying Iraqi companies with Iraqi employees to rebuild the damage done by 10 years of sanctions and the recent bombing, the first priority was to enrich large American corporations. The second priority ought to have been setting up elections as fast as feasible: the second priority was putting a US-appointed "council" in charge of Iraq to legalize the looting.

The first was legal, but stupid: it's one of the very few subjects on which two people as widely separated politically as myself and Tacitus were in absolute agreement: money for reconstruction is double-value when it's paid to Iraqis, because it both rebuilds the country and boosts their economy: it's a double-loss if it's funnelled back to US corporations, because they do the same job more expensively and the money is lost to Iraq.

The second was illegal. Just plain illegal. And the only thing that frustrated it was the growing insurgency. I do not believe those two were unconnected.

Finally, Abu Ghraib. The Red Cross had been expressing concerns about what had been happening to prisoners almost since the beginning of the occupation: and it's not unreasonable to suppose that while the rest of the world found out when Joseph Darby was brave enough to blow the whistle, rumors had been current in Iraq for months - Iraqis had been swept up by the occupied forces, taken to Abu Ghraib and other prison camps, and returned dead, injured, tortured, or not at all.

The insurgency didn't come out of nowhere. It came out of a series of devastatingly bad decisions made by the Bush administration: not merely the decision to invade Iraq and ignore Afghanistan, as someone said upthread, but a series of decisions ranging from the stupid to the illegal.

As the object of mountains of abuse,

Sebastian, as far as I'm aware, your ideas are being attacked, not you.

I bet Blue thinks that Internal Affairs departments are fair game for other cops to abuse and possibly murder, because they're traitors to the badge.

I find it repeatedly annoying that so many defenders of the Geneva Conventions and other laws of war fail to bother with the fact that they are reciprocal agreements for a reason. If you ignore that reasoning, they become another tool for killing our soldiers.

I've heard you advance this line of argument more than once in this thread, and while it's certainly valid, you seem far more motivated by the pragmatic and reciprocal benefits of following the Geneva Conventions than by what I consider to be far more important: the fact that by and large they're the right things to do.

All pragmatic considerations aside...

We don't shoot people who no longer pose a threat because it's murder.

We don't indiscriminately shoot where there are civilians because it kills innocent people.

We treat prisoners of war with decency because it's right and humane.

It's easy to rationalize violations of any of these. Our soldiers are at a disadvantage if the enemy knows they can fake surrendering. We are at a tactical disadvantage because we have to be careful where and how we shoot or bomb. And we undoubtedly treat our prisoners better than terrorists would treat ours.

But Sebastian, we don't--or shouldn't--be measuring ourselves against a bar set by our enemies, and we should be viciously skeptical of any argument that tries to rationalize or justify atrocities. We should follow these rules not just because they have reciprocal benefits against a civilized enemy, but because they're the right thing to do.

Was that Iraqi faking? Was he even an insurgent? We'll never know. He could have been unconscious, or too dazed to know what was going on. He could've had family in Abu Ghraib, and was hoping they'd leave him for dead rather than taking him prisoner. We'll never know, though, because he was shot dead.

You, or Blue, or anyone else are free to think I'm giving more benefit of the doubt to the Iraqi than to the Marine. But the fact is, we might never know whether he was an insurgent or why he didn't try to surrender--but anyone who watches the video can see a US Marine making a calculated decision to kill him. There's not a whole lot of benefit of the doubt to be /had/ there, and what little there is doesn't exactly favor the person doing the shooting.

quoting Blue:
He CHOSE not to surrender before the Marines actually went in Falluja. He deserved to die.
He CHOSE to stay in Falluja and fight. He deserved to die.

Blue, maybe you are not aware that before the attack on Fallujah, American troops were screening the refugees leaving Fallujah and sending the adult men back into the city. They were instructed to remain unarmed, stay in the middle of the buildings, away from windows, and they would live through it.
It is quite possible that the wounded man was one of these refugees sent back.
If you want to verify this, check with Amnesty International, which is documenting war crimes being committed by both sides in this conflict. Or read some BBC or other international press reports.

re: being called a traitor for expressing my views on this.

I never took that personally or seriously (believing, again, it came from the heart and not the head), so it never upset me. I leap frogged over it and went on to where I thought I could find common ground with that person to see if I could work my way back to why it seems a false accusation.

In doing so, however, I did allow that person's labels to stand unchallenged (assuming I'd have time to come back round to them when the person was calmer), which after reading Katherine's later comments, I now see only threw gasoline on the fire. While not a moderator, per se, anymore, along with Moe and von, Katherine's voice defines the goals/aspirations/values of this site, so I not only respect her opinion here, I give it extra consideration.

I took Blue's initial comments as sincere, however, and I'd hate to see him leave the site over this. I believed he'd eventually come to understand that our statements were VERY American and that our homefront role here is to encourage the soldiers, but also to make sure they're upholding our values, even in the thick of the fight.

I do disagree with Sebastian that there's a gray area with regards to whether or not we have to comply with the rules if the enemy is not. We comply with the rules as a matter of principle (and those citing potential future wars hit the nail on the head). But we also do it because we BELIEVE IN THEM. Not complying with them, to me, means the enemy is winning...they're changing who we are without our wanting to change.

Er...as the morning fades, I'm beginning to see more clearly.

Defending the soldier has morphed into blaming the reporter, and that sort of tunnel vision mentality is frightening, and each step of denial along the way helps push those now saying the reporter should be killed. It's accumulative. It's only by stopping with the Marine in question, and holding him to the letter of the law, that we stop that nonsense. Suggesting the fog of war or the enemy's refusal to "war by the rules" makes this gray for us, only serves to muddy all kinds of other issues.

Katherine's right. The military courts will handle this with all the compassion and consideration the Marine is due. There's no reason for the rest of us soften our determination to uphold our values and insist our soldiers do as well.

Blue,
don't stop commenting on the site because of this discussion. I believe that if you reread everything that Edward_ and Katherine said, then you will see that they are not being unreasonable.

The problem is see here is that hilzoy, who has generally been reasonable, admonished Blue:

Feel free to criticize our arguments, but do not criticize anyone here as a person, or accuse them of extremely serious things without correspondingly strong evidence

while giving Jade a pass on this:

"Citing abiola is much like citing LGF or Tacitus; they're going to 'see' what supports their almost prurient desire to see more killing in Iraq."

I read LGF (but don't get into the comments), and Tacitus, and I don't have any prurient bloodlust, you will have to take my word for it. Plus, as far as I know, the original point of ObWi was not to denigrate Tacitus. Am I missing something here?

My hat's off to Katherine and Edward for trying to keep things civil and for looking at both sides of the matter.

Sebastian had commented on the Abiola quote, but you're right, DaveC it too violated the posting rules and should have been pointed out as such.

Jadegold, please note that you're commenting on those who read and comment on those sites (including myself...I comment on Tacitus) when you generalize like that...and such generalizations violate the posting rules. Please refrain.

"But we also do it because we BELIEVE IN THEM."

What do we believe in? Do you believe that rules exist for the fun of it, or for a purpose? Do you believe that the purpose has anything to do with reciprocal responsibilites or not? Do you believe that the US was wrong to treat the Germans under the laws of war while shooting surrendering Japanese after it became clear that they regularly used false white flag tactics? What is the purpose of the laws? I'm not suggesting that we flatten cities and indicriminately kill civilians. I'm suggesting that playing hyper-technical games with actual combatants isn't useful when the game is only being played by us.

I'm suggesting that playing hyper-technical games with actual combatants isn't useful when the game is only being played by us.

You're also forgetting or ignoring the fact that the U.S. military and the insurgents are not the only interested parties here. The fight against the insurgency is not merely military; there's also a strong PR component to it too. It behooves us to hold ourselves to a higher standard than we do the insurgents because that's how we convince everyone watching that we're the good guys.

What do we believe in?

As Josh notes, we believe we're the good guys.

I'm not suggesting that we flatten cities and indicriminately kill civilians.

You don't have to: it is happening whether you suggest it or not.

And yet, as Edward and Josh have said, Americans manage to believe "we're the good guys" - often regardless of actual behavior. See the anger directed at John Kerry, at Joseph Darby, at this reporter who filmed a soldier shooting a wounded, immobile Iraqi: the anger is inappropriately directed at people who make clear that the Americans are as capable of being "the bad guys" as anyone else.

It's no fixit simply to believe that "Americans are the good guys": what's necessary is to behave well, and to enforce rules of good behavior.

Falluja is one giant PR disaster: it is a Pyrrhic victory for the US. As Blue reminded us upthread, as Sebastian (unconsciously?) points out in his recent comment, it does the US occupation no good at all to be seen as the people who flatten cities, who indiscriminately kill civilians - or wounded and helpless men, whether civilian or not.

What do we believe in?
I, for one, believe in the intrinsic dignity of every human being. I believe that's what "the rules" derive from, and that's why it's important to abide by them, regardless of the other party's behavior.

What do you believe in?

"I, for one, believe in the intrinsic dignity of every human being."

Er, no, there are people in this world who neither have nor deserve to be treated as if they had "intrinsic dignity." Osama bin Laden has none, nor did Joseph Stalin, or Mao Zedong, or many others in the halls of infamy.

Dignity can be forfeited through barbarous conduct, and lacing yourself up with explosives and then acting dead, or waving the flag of surrender only to open fire as the enemy approaches, or using mosques as refuges for fighting, or firing RPGs from buildings in which helpless civilians are cowering in fear, or using ambulances to transport weapons or as suicide vehicles - none of these activities are in keeping with "intrinsic dignity" of any sort, and those who adopt them are not entitled to dignified treatment.

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