A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Judgment Withheld

Well, it’s the big story everyone is blogging about: The questionable killing of a wounded Iraqi insurgent by a US Marine. Caught on tape too, much to the delight of radical Islamists in Iraq and anti-war fools here in America. Another PR catastrophe a la Abu Grhaib is on the way!

Personally, I think this post by Dale Franks (hat tip to Mike of Cold Fury) sums it up best; I was instantly reminded of my own reaction when I read his first couple paragraphs.

You know, there’s a part of me that just doesn’t care. These "insurgents" have been booby-trapping bodies. Wounded people have opened fire on our guys. So screw ’em. That’s the first thing that comes to mind. These are bad guys, and they’re killing our men, so whatever they get, it’s better than they deserve.

But, almost immediately, the second thought is that this can’t be condoned. This is precisely the type of thing that eats into a unit’s discipline, and changes them from soldiers into a very, very lethal armed mob. It eats into the core of what being a soldier, rather than a simple killer is all about.

I’m in complete agreement; my first instinct is to immediately jump to the Marine’s defense. Bodies have been booby trapped, and dying insurgents have pulled weapons on soldiers that were trying to take them prisoner or even treat their wounds. In fact, the Marine we’re talking about here had had, just the day before, someone in his unit killed by exactly that tactic. Is it any wonder he took a cautiously aggressive approach? Clearly the other Marines behind him didn’t believe the insurgent was incapacitated; they can be heard yelling “He’s faking! He’s faking he’s dead!” on the tape.

But like Dale says, you also have to consider the possibility that this was a brutal act. Though I’m still inclined to support this Marine, our forces cannot be allowed to become an unruly, superbly-armed mob. Military discipline is what keeps tired, angry, adrenaline-charged troops from slipping into complete callousness and bloodlust. That being the case, I believe the current investigation is the correct thing to do. No one – not even these humblingly brave Marines – are above military law and the justice it seeks to ensure. I hope they get to the bottom of this quickly.

And I hope that the shootings in that mosque were as justified as I think they were.