At least, that's the headline most editors decided to go with today. By now you probably have heard about the Marine that shot an (apparently) unarmed terrorist in a Mosque.
I've received a few emails from some folks who want me to explain why a Marine would do such a thing. These are from left-wingers, against the war, who don't like my pro-military blog. Tough.
Okay, whackos, here's my response.
First, Kevin Sites, the embed reporter from NBC (who's video footage of the shooting has been broadcast around the world) is an blatant opportunist who had a responsibility to turn over the video footage to Marine Authorities, but, instead chose to broadcast it, give the entire tape to Al Jazeera, etc. It should not have been used for publicity, for television ratings, etc. Sites should have turned it over with the expectation that he would get it back. The video was broadcast (in full) on Al Jazeera - including the identities of the Marines.
So now, you have the world aghast at this shooting (especially, the Arab world - although in undeserved moral outrage), you have Marines identified before trial, and you have a reporter continuing to follow a story. Kevin Sites continues to report and continues to be embedded with the same Marines.
If I were one of those Marines, I wouldn't want that guy around. Actually, if I were his producer, I'd get him out of there for his own safety.
Now, here's what I believe:
That Marine who shot the wounded terrorist had been in combat for eight days. He's tired, hungry, frustrated, angry, and, had been wounded the day before.
That Marine who shot the wounded terrorist had lost his best friend to a booby-trapped (wounded or dead - it's not clear, yet) terrorist.
That Marine who shot the wounded terrorist decided to shoot that one and not the others (who didn't make any moves).
The Marines had cared for the wounded terrorists the day before when they took that Mosque the first time. The next day, those terrorists opened fire on Marines from the same Mosque.
Here is what should happen:
This case should be investigated fully, along with the other charges by Kevin Sites that three other "prisoners" were killed.
This case should be followed by the media.
What happened is a nasty, dirty part of war. For anyone to suggest that these kind of incidents haven't been done by US forces in every war is sadly mistaken. We follow the Geneva Convention. So we will always investigate charges of violations of the Convention. We should. And those guilty of violations should be punished.
Every war that we have fought in the last 60 years has been against a foe that does not subscribe to the Geneva Convention. There is no doubt that a Marine's treatment at the hands of the terrorists would be worse. Much worse. This makes it difficult to follow the Convention because of the tactics used by the enemy. Tactics like faking wounds to draw US forces closer in order to kill them.
I am not suggesting that we brush these incidents aside as "this is what happens in combat". But I think that, in the end, you will have a Marine that was justified in using deadly force.
Update: You can go to MSNBC to the Today Show's footage. The introduction by Matt Lauer is one sided (guess which?). The report given by Jim Miklaszewski is balanced. There is a Marine statement about the investigation, followed by an explanation and camera appearance by Kevin Sites.
Update 2: After checking out more of Kevin Sites' work, I may have been a bit harsh on him. A lot of people may agree with that statement. And if you watch the video that I linked above, you can see that Sites gives, at least, an indication that things were confusing. Fog of War, et. al.
However, this is a big story and I believe that he should have not turned over the tape (no matter what legal rights he obtained and followed) to the media. It's a huge scoop, a coup for him, and I think that came before the Marines fighting in Fallujah.
I can understand why some of you give Sites credit for reporting the story. And you should understand that I think that he did not act with any kind of implied journalistic moral authority (which some claim exists) to broadcast it.
I think it was a self-serving act to not to give the tape to the Marines first to investigate the shooting. I understand that Sites is not obligated to the military. That's what makes his act fair in some of your minds. He had a choice to make.
Sites chose headlines over our Marines.
Update 3: MilBlogger American Soldier writes about his recent urban combat experience in Iraq. Must Read.