Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Don't rush to judgment on injured Iraqi "prisoner" shooting

The news is abuzz with the "execution" (in the words of the British press) of an "unarmed" Iraqi insurgent "prisoner" by a US Marine.

And the news is NOT reporting the facts as they happened. I know this for sure.

How? Because the pictures, which most civilians will assume show a "crime" clearly being committed, actually support an opposite conclusion.

Now, I am not one of those knuckleheaded Fox news morons who will say stuff like "he was under stress" or "they aren't playing by the rules either" or "kill 'em all." The same idiots that excuse Abu Ghraib as "pranks" and "justified" when that behavior was inexcusable and pisses off real warriors who understand the meaning of the words "honor" and "dishonor." If a prisoner is executed under any circumstances by a member of the US military then the executioner should go to jail, no excuses, no "he was under stress" talk. Imagine: EVERYBODY IN COMBAT IS UNDER STRESS. Everybody in combat is angry at the enemy. By allowing such excuses we simply dismiss the Geneva Conventions - which are US law and which nobody, not even the President, has the power to do, despite his best attempts and Guantanamo's shame.

BUT, but, but - that is NOT what happened here. Note how the press is saying a Marine shot an "unarmed Iraqi prisoner." We don't know for sure he was Iraqi, but it is likely. We don't know for sure if he was unarmed - chances are neither did the Marine. But we know one thing for sure: he was NOT a prisoner. He was still a combatant. And the Marine did the right thing. I would have shot him too.

The reason we know this is because the pictures show Marines with weapons in the ready position, moving through an objective they had apparently just taken. They were in the process of securing that objective - the fight was NOT over. And one thing you NEVER do, if you are well-trained and want to live, is turn your back on the enemy - even a "dead" enemy, until you know for sure he is dead or "hors de combat."

Combat soldiers can tell you that they have been trained to "double-tap" on the objective. That is, they shoot every enemy soldier twice in the head as they sweep the objective - dead or not, because countless times in every war the enemy feigns death and tosses a grenade or opens fire as soon as your back is turned. The only exception is for those clearly out of combat - obvious grievious, incapacitating wounds, or hands in the air surrender, or in the judgment of the soldier the bad guy is clearly no longer a threat. This "double-tap" drill is not against any of the Geneva Conventions - nor is it immoral. It is common sense. Until the objective is secure you are in the fight, and killing the enemy. Once the objective is secure you can then secure prisoners - but they are not prisoners until then. They are people that are trying to kill you, and you are trying to kill them, and you don't turn your back on somebody that is trying to kill you unless you know for sure he is dead.

So imagine which is the greater threat - somebody with obvious grievous injuries, who appears unconcious, or somebody that is wounded and looking right at you with no weapon in his hand, watching you, or somebody that looks slightly injured and appears to be playing dead - you can see he is breathing but he is acting dead?

It is clearly the guy who is playing dead - he is planning on killing you as soon as you turn your back. The terribly injured guy is "hors de combat" - out of the fight even if he wanted to continue. The guy looking right at you is not faking - he has no weapon, is concious, and isn't trying to hide anything. The guy who might be playing dead? His intent to deceive is for one reason only - to fool you so that he can kill you. So you shoot him in the head, twice, just as you are trained. Maybe you are wrong. Maybe the guy was no threat - the guy who was just doing his best to kill you and your buddies, maybe is no threat now. But would you chance it? I wouldn't - and I wouldn't let my soldiers chance it either, I would ORDER them to finish off the threat. Because when you become a combatant you take your chances that I might miss the exact moment when you change into a non-combatant. I would rather make the mistake that kills YOU, instead of the one that kills ME. And this is NOT a war crime. This Marine, from what I can see, did everything correctly, even to the point of firing only twice - double-tap - in the head.

In the video the words "He's playing dead" are heard, followed by "bang bang" and "He's dead now." And in the same mosque, same battle, same marines, exact same time, living Iraqis are seen, and they are NOT executed. Not an example of an out-of-control incident, but an example of EXACTLY what well-trained troops should do in such a situation.

And when it is captured on film it turns into an "execution" of an "unarmed" "prisoner." No. Not what happened. And the squeamish who wonder how anybody could do such a terrible thing should go to hell, because that is where these soldiers and Marines are right now - hell - and the rules are different when killing is not murder but your job. There are still rules, but they are sensible rules - despite rednecks who claim otherwise - and they won't get you killed. You can follow all of the Geneva Conventions and never put yourself or your troops or your mission at any more risk than if you didn't. Actually, when you follow them you are reducing your risk - the enemy is more likely to surrender, less likely to fight to the death, you are more likely to gain living prisoners and the intelligence they have, you are less likely (but by no means guaranteed) to have your soldiers survive when captured, and it will be easier to restore order and a just peace after the end of hostilities. It will be easier to end hostilities. The laws of war are sensible, just, and wise. And they were decidely NOT violated here.

But we will see if any of the coverage - both in support of and against this Marine - actually understands what took place here. Those who want him punished will see an unarmed prisoner executed in cold blood. Those who wish to defend him will try and explain that it was okay to execute this unarmed prisoner because it wasn't in cold blood. But the facts given are false, as I have explained. There was no prisoner to execute, there was only an enemy soldier, and it was the job of the Marine to kill him before he could be himself killed.

Good job Marine. You make this soldier proud of the Corps, even if others don't understand that you did no wrong.


vrangel said...

Finally a post I can completely agree with. I thought I will never see the day... ;)

Media is as clueless as ever.
Soldier has no obligation whatsoever to take chances in these circumstances. Suppose the guy faking death has suicide belt on him (not unusual). If he blows himself up everybody in the room will be dead.
Soldier who hesitates puts himself and his buddies at risk.
I saw the footage, its not gratification or revenge killing. Just not taking chances. Good job, marine.

vrangel said...

Another take on it:

"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."


via instapundit

Jamie said...

Those resistance fighters had been disarmed the day before. When the reporter entered the mosque the resistance fighters lying on the ground were freshly wounded. So we might have 4 summary executions here. The body language of the soldiers on the tape show they were in no immediate danger and no immediate threat. While "booby-traps" are a possibility, the man was seriously wounded, so if a seriously wounded man is "faking" his death which is a reason to execute him, I guess you can throw out the rules of warfare altogether.

From CNN: "U.S. rules of engagement prohibit American troops from killing any prisoner who does not pose a threat, and commanders say they are worried the video might encourage more insurgents to fight to the death rather than surrender."

This was a deliberate shooting of a seriously wounded fighter who posed no immediate threat. For what its worth, the media has been making more excuses for this guy than a pregnant nun.

This is not the first case of human rights violations committed by US troops in Iraq, and I'm sure it isn't an isolated incident. The only reason this has been brought to light is the misfortune of the video. Which is also not the only one that exists of a war crime committed by US troops. So to be up in arms about human rights orgs asking for an immediate investigation is counter productive to solving this problem and if you don’t hold yourself accountable to your principles who will?

vrangel said...

"Resistance fighters", you say. Our guys are fighting for civilization you enjoy and you dare calling the other side "resistance". You fucking freeloader.

Dutch freeloaders wised up after Van Gogh murder. Canada will have its turn eventually. Until then we have to endure lectures from parasites about how we should fight for our and their freedom.

this we'll defend said...

Jamie -
What source do you have that these enemy fighters had been disarmed the day before? Because if that is true it means the Marines had ignored enemy soldiers in their midst after disarming them - and failed to give them medical treatment - and failed to secure the objective - and failed to ensure their own security from the threat, and failed to follow any of the basic "S"s of prisoner handling - including "SEARCH", "SPEED to the rear" and "SAFEGUARD." It also means that the Marines seen with rifles at the ready, carefully searching through the smoke-filled building, were doing so just for the hell of it, with no real threat existing. This doesn't pass the common sense test.

The only explanation that seems to fit their behavior prior to the shots is that they were in the process of securing a recently taken objective, and that the "prisoners" were not in fact prisoners yet. If they were they would have been zip-stripped and presented no threat. It takes only seconds to zip-strip a guy, and all soldiers and Marines know how, and prefer a zip-stripped prisoner over an enemy that is not yet secure and can hurl a hand grenade, or set off a bomb, or shoot them, or holler and reveal their position, or whatever. And the dangers of unsecured "wounded and dead" enemy soldiers is drummed into soldiers and Marine's heads again and again in countless exercises. Because there are countless American dead as a result of "dead" enemy soldiers who "don't appear to pose a threat." I lost friends to enemy prisoners who "didn't pose a threat."

Thus I doubt that the wounded enemy were prisoners, unless the unit that just swept through the building was the most inept, poorly trained, ignorant fighting force on the battlefield, and unconcerned with their own safety, and didn't bother to even zip-strip the enemy wounded, or confirm they were dead (I was taught two techniquest - the "eye flick" when a buddy aims a rifle on them - flick a guy in the eye and he will react involuntarily if he is alive, and the "kick them in the fucking balls as hard as you can" test, which I prefer - guy is dead he won't care and you KNOW he is dead. Guy is alive he will show it AND be incapacitated during the time it takes you to zip-strip OR shoot his ass.

Your claim that they were disarmed and then ignored simply goes against every common-sense lesson that infantrymen are taught when dealing with enemy wounded and dead.

The body language on the tape shows rifles to shoulders - not something you do all day long because it gets tiring. You do that when you expect that you might fire. That doesn't show no immediate threat. It shows threat.

And "executing" a seriously wounded man is obviously wrong and illegal. Shooting an enemy before he shoots you is NOT the same thing, and just because you don't see any weapons when it happened doesn't mean you are right and all the training and experience of men who have served under fire is wrong.

In Panama I lost friends to "secure" EPWs who were already surrounded by barbed wire and under guard. They had just been captured and not yet thoroughly searched. One of them pulled a hand grenade out from under his HAT and threw and killed several soldiers - and the surviving US soldiers opened fire on the POWs and killed them. A first sergeant was court-martialed over the incident, and acquitted - because he and the troops who killed the "prisoners" were right to do so. They sure as hell presented a threat. And that was AFTER they were formally EPWs and non-combatants. When one threw a grenade they were combatants again. Taking prisoners is a very dangerous thing, and in this war the Iraqis and foreign fighters have consistently used false white flags, car bombs, ambulances, fake surrenders, suicide bombers, and anything else they can think of. "Wounded" and "dead" iraqi insurgents have been FILMED shooting at US troops - in one case, during the initial invasion at Objective "MOE" when the 3rd ID took three highway intersections and held them under intense fire for hours. An NBC crew filmed a wounded US soldier being taken to an ambulance on a cot - and suddenly a "dead" Iraqi grabbed a rifle and was shot - by the wounded soldier on the F'ing stretcher, firing while he laid on his back being carried away. If he hadn't reacted that fast he and his four buddies would be dead. From a "dead" guy that "didn't appear to pose a threat." Execution?

That does NOT mean we can throw away the rules, but it does mean that when dealing with wounded enemy soldiers a lot more caution is called for and you should err on the side of safety. By killing those who appear to be faking death.

The only reason to "fake" being dead is because you want to continue the fight - deceive the enemy and when his back is turned you strike. It happens ALL THE TIME. And thus we do double-tap those we believe are faking - because if they AREN'T faking then no big deal - nobody is hurt, the bastard was already dead. And if they ARE faking then nobody on OUR side is hurt, and the dead guy F'ing deserved it because he was still an enemy combatant. That isn't execution, that is war. I trained my guys to shoot the dead as they swept the objective - if a guy is fucking missing a head and you can't shoot him in it then shoot him in the chest twice dammit. I trained them to do that, and it was NOT a war crime. I taught my guys to leave NO doubt when moving across an objective, unless the enemy was clearly attempting to surrender. Unconcious and unable to make such and attempt? That's their fucking bad luck. They should have surrendered earlier. Shoot them.

Terms like "surgical strike" and such nonsense imply that combat can be precise and almost bloodless. Hand grenades are not precise, and infantry combat is as brutal as it was when Roman soldiers hacked their enemies to pieces with swords.

So your quote that the ROE prohibits killing prisoners who don't pose a threat is accurate - and clearly doesn't apply to the enemy who is not a prisoner and does present a threat. As I said, don't rush to judgment and conclude that you saw an execution just because some or ALL of the media say so. I saw alert troops with rifles at the ready moving through a battlefield littered with dead and wounded who found an injured guy pretending to be dead - and they shot him. As they should. To call that "executing a wounded prisoner" is to say that sniping is execution - after all, the guy you shoot might be unarmed or not shooting at you just then. And that is all well and good for those who aren't getting shot at, but those of us who have been know the truth. Nothing dishonorable appears on the tape unless what you say is true - that this unit ignored wounded enemy soldiers lying around them for a day - enemy soldiers that could kill them at any time - and then killed them the next day just for the hell of it. It doesn't pass the smell test - not at all.

Jamie said...

The footage I saw has the riflemen walking into the mosque with rifles relaxed to the side and infantry men talking casually about the clash with a different marine unit a day earlier, and that these were the wounded that were left behind. To me that says:

1) They had been disarmed from an earlier raid

2) The relaxed body language suggests no immediate threat.

Watch the tape again. I have seen hours of Iraq footage of threats, and non-threats, and this was a non-threat especially allowing the reporter to accompany the infantry and follow them in a building that was no longer hostile.

This raises questions. I might not be right, but it is right to ask these questions and not dismiss this as a routine killing.

I do not disagree with your opinion, I just would ask questions based on what was seen and reported from Kevin Sites.

Maybe they thought the site had been retaken from the resistance, but I didn't see a charge into the mosque guns sighted, I saw casual walking and casual language, until someone thought the man was faking his death.

Here is one source, but I have heard it reported more explicitly on TV from Sites himself.

CBCSorry if I didn't address your entire post..

ALa said...

TWD: Thank you for writing this post...seriously. Joe Lieberman said..."Has this marine not earned the right to the benefit of the doubt..." ...and I say YES! Senator Lieberman gives me hope...

this we'll defend said...

If the Marine did in fact kill in violation of the ROE and the UCMJ (which incorporates the Geneva Conventions, with Congress making them US law) then he should be punished accordingly. My point is "don't rush to judgment" and the fact that they seem relaxed until they find a guy faking his death does NOT mean a crime was committed or anything amoral took place. It also does not mean it should be dismissed out of hand either. But I am NOT convinced based on the media reports and the footage that an "unarmed prisoner" was shot. Not at all. Innocent until proven guilty, and your take on the video is different from my - experienced in infantry fighting - take on it.

Another thing - you said that this is not the first example of US troops committing war crimes. True. So what? In a population of 140,000 there are bound to be bad guys in the lot, and when they commit crimes they are arrested and punished. What bugs me is when people think that this typifies the US military, as if the US military or America herself had committed the crimes instead of errant individuals going against everything we stand for. Somewhere in America a murderer just killed somebody - that doesn't mean I am a murderer. And when war crimes are committed it doesn't mean the Army or Marines have done wrong either.

And I never criticized calls for investigations - I criticized those who rush to judgment, who say, as you said, "This was a deliberate shooting of a seriously wounded fighter who posed no immediate threat" or "This is not the first case of human rights violations committed by US troops in Iraq, and I'm sure it isn't an isolated incident." Well, Jamie, I guess we don't need jury trials anymore - or even judges, or hell, even trials at all. You ahve decided, based on a grainy video, that a war crime was committed, and you are sure that such crimes occur frequently.

I respectfully disagree and think that there might be more to this than you realize - which is the point of my post - don't rush to judgment without knowing all the facts. And from what I have seen, there is nothing that automatically causes me to think a crime took place. I need more facts - how long had it been since the objective was taken? Was there fighting still going on nearby? Had the "prisoners" been searched? When they were "disarmed" was it a thorough search and secure drill, or was it Marines grabbing weapons and continuing on as they closed with other enemy soldiers, leaving the dead and wounded behind to be secured and, if necessary, finished off, by the suppport element?

The link you sent seems to confirm what I said:

"The men had been wounded in a clash with a different marine unit a day earlier. That unit treated the men and left them in the mosque, said Sites."

- Jamie, this indicates that the situation was so fluid that the area was not under US control and the first unit had to treat them and leave, meaning another unit entering the area must consider it hostile until proven otherwise.

"Earlier reports indicated the men in the mosque were prisoners, but their status remains unclear."

-Jamie, my point exactly. Their status remains unclear.

"A second group of marines, the 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment, entered the mosque on Saturday, believing it had been retaken by the Iraqi militants, say reports."

- Jamie - see, it appears they were entering under the assumption that a threat existed. So it was a combat situation, a battle, and no noncombatants were involved. The wounded who were treated and left were not prisoners, but enemy, and it was unclear whether they were combatants or not.

In the video, a marine enters the mosque and can be heard yelling that one of the Iraqis is pretending to be dead.

"He's [expletive] faking he's dead. He's faking he's [expletive] dead," says a soldier on the video.

The video then shows a marine firing his gun at the man's head, Sites says.

- Jamie, aside from the bonehead calling a Marine a soldier (there is a fucking difference, and soldiers and Marines really wish "military correspondents" could tell the goddamn difference) - this shows that what I surmise might have taken place did take place. A guy was "faking he's dead" and when that happens on the battlefield the right, moral, and legal thing to do is to KILL HIM. No war crime, just a threat eliminated.

Vrangel - the whole "don't call them resistance fighters, call them terrorists" thing is propaganda bullshit. These guys are the enemy, but they aren't Al Queda. And they are resisting us. Hence "resistance fighters." A large portion of them are Saddam-era Iraqi soldiers. They are in fact resistance fighters, and we should respect them - and kill them. We don't need to dehumanize them or call them criminals or cowards (something done suprisingly often when referring to those foolhardy enough to attack US military units - which takes insane courage) or terrorists.

In Vietnam the "NVA Regular" was replaced by "Communist soldier" in US military reports. "Viet Minh" and "Viet Cong" was replaced with "terrorist." It didn't take and soon those terms fell into disuse. Simarly, "search and destroy" was replaced by "search and clear." When we start worrying what words to use instead of how to fight and win we enter dangerous territory.

Thus Al Quada, Al Zarquawi, and anyone else who kidnaps and beheads civilians are "terrorists." Those foolish enough to stand and fight US troops are not, they are insurgents, or resistance fighters, or the enemy. And calling them that does not infer any support or condone their cause. They think they are fighting for Islam, we think we are fighting for civilization. In reality we are fighting for what post-war Iraq will look like.

In order to win we must not fall prey to our own propaganda but must seek to understand the enemy and describe his strengths and weaknesses honestly and accurately. And then kill him. Anything else and we fall into the Bush habit of believing what we want to believe and being surprised when the post-war occupation turns out exactly like the Army said it would. And that costs US lives and endangers our success on the battlefield and off.

So they are resistance fighters - they are fighting us and resisting us. And we will kill them.

Karl Rove O'Brien said...

Okay, some background: Kevin Sites, the journalist who broke this story, had been with a different Marines company the prior day which had secured these prisoners and left them behind in the mosque to be taken care of by a follow-on unit. Apparently there was a FUBAR and the follow-on unit that was to secure these prisoners and transport them for medical treatment was diverted elsewhere.

So the next day, yet another Marine company is dispatched with Mr. Sites along. Nobody told these Marines about any prisoners in the mosque. Mr. Sites didn't tell them, because he'd assumed the prisoners had been taken care of. There was apparently fire from the direction of the mosque as the Marines patrolled, and the Marines re-swept the mosque, finding five Iraqi men inside, who they promptly tapped. Mr. Sites arrives on scene, with camera, and realizes these are the same five Iraqi men he'd seen taken prisoner the previous day. As he films them, STILL not bothering to inform the Marines he was with that these were prisoners from the prior day, the scene we have been describing happened.

There was, indeed, a violation of the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners, but it happened the prior day, when the injured prisoners were not treated by their captors and transported to a POW camp, rather than this day. There was no way that these Marines could have known that these were prisoners rather than combatants. As for Mr. Kevin Sites, the reporter involved, the reason he most probably is making a big deal of all this is because he feels guilty himself.

Not that reality matters, of course. The Enemy has learned the lessons of The Party, that if they repeat something as being true for long enough, it is true, regardless of what actually occurred in real life. This incident will long be used in the region to justify hatred of America and Americans, though there were indeed a multitude of other incidents which really were war crimes that have received no such outcry, such as when the AP photographer witnessed the family of five, women and children included, being shot dead by American fire as they tried to swim across the Tigris to get away from the bombardment of Fallujah. However, without compelling film footage, apparently The Enemy has decided that this incident shall serve well enough as a placeholder for those other incidents. The only question, then, is what becomes of the Marine who did his duty. We shall see...

- O'Brien

this we'll defend said...

Karl Rove O'Brien (great name, by the way): Thanks. That supports what I hope happened - that no war crime took place here.

The FUBAR the day before was also not a war crime. War crimes are like other crimes - they take intent or at least reckless disregard, and a FUBAR means nobody did it on purpose. So no crime because no, in lawyer words, "mens rea" - no guilty mind. Nobody intended the wounded to be left to die, and thus it was a tragic mistake, not a crime.

For Vrangel who thinks leaving them to die might not be "tragic" - it is. Human life is sacred, even enemy life, and if killing the enemy doesn't help you accomplish your mission or protect your soldiers or civilians then you simply don't do it. In this case Karl Rove OB is right - this filmed incident will harm our cause and make it harder for us to accomplish our mission, regardless of the actual truth.

As for the machine-gunning of the family - well, anecdotal evidence is not enough. What are the details? did the soldiers (or Marines) firing know what they were shooting? A blockade of a city with only designated checkpoints allowed for exiting (so that all can be searched and men of military age turned away) means just that. And one reason the Army was so reluctant to go to war in Iraq was not only because it would harm the United States, but also because war is evil and ugly and innocents die, even babies, even cute and cuddly five-year olds clutching teddy bears, and it is the result of both sides - not deliberately, but unavoidably. Children burn to death, mothers fall dead before their children's eyes, and soldiers do and see things they never, ever wish they had to do or see, ever. But that doesn't mean the river-crossing was a crime, other than that all war is a crime. War is the infliction of pain and suffering, and to expect war without pain and suffering is delusional - just as the President is delusional. His pain and suffering is the glorious military funeral weep for the dead type, but he didn't (or doesn't) realize the lack of glory and ugly, gritty, bloody hell ground combat really is. It stinks, it smells, it is loud and scary and shitty and filthy. It is evil. It always has been.

Which is why the cavalier attitude of Bush and his "bring 'em on" and flight suit antics enrage true warriors so much. They have seen the face of evil and know that Bush has not - and that a wiser man, a man who had seen the nature of war, would have tried harder to accomplish our goals without resorting to the death, misery, and destruction of combat.

"Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the bright splendid shroud of your son,
Do not weep.
War is kind."
-Stephen Crane

vrangel said...

TWD, "iraqi patriots" is even better than "resistance fighters". M.Moore even called them "minutemen".

Its not a matter of nuance or correct definition, its an attitude. You name them depending on which side you're on. I call them the enemy, period.

HowardFromPhilly said...


Thank you for your insightful analysis concerning this situation. Why aren't we getting this kind of news coverage and analysis from the news media???

I certainly don't have enough life experience or psychic ability to look at somebody's "body language" and read what is in that person's mind. But I've been around long enough to know when a story on the news sounds legitimately credible.... or just more agenda-driven media bullshit.

I was interested to get home to get your take on this situation. I wanted the view of a man who has undoubtedly been in similar situations (unlike the Peter Jenning's of the world); and that rarest of rare things in this current environment in American society, a legitimate, honest-to-goodness OBJECTIVE person who will set aside the axes they have to grind and simply tell you what they think. I've listened to the story from a number of news sources from both liberal and conservative media and so-called "military experts" ad nauseum.... but your take on the story is the first explanation of the events that have taken place that actually make sense. Thanks again.

I wish you had a news analysis show on one of the national networks, or a regular column in a major newspaper. Or better yet... a seat in Congress.

We need as many bright, articulate people out there making their voices heard as we can possibly get telling us what is ACTUALLY going on in the world. We're certainly not going to get that watching the network news. I'm damn glad I found your blog.

Keep up the good work, and God bless you and yours.

Karl Rove O'Brien said...

Regarding the family of five killed in front of the AP photographer: It is unknown, and unknowable, whether the helicopter gunship crewman who fired upon and killed them had positively identified them in any way. What is known was that he was explicitly shooting at them, and not just in their general direction. The gunship crewman may have seen a man, woman, and three children swimming the Tigris towards the rear of the Marine's positions, and had orders to kill any men swimming towards the rear of the Marines' positions. The cannon bursts from a gunship do not have the accuracy to take out just one person in a cluster of five people clinging to a single floating object.

One of the interesting things about the Battle of Fallujah is that, in many ways, it is a manufactured battle. There is no real strategic goal here. There is no oil in Fallujah. There are no oil pipelines going through Fallujah. The main highway and railway pass to the north of Fallujah and are relatively easy to secure, so its location on the main route between Baghdad and Jordan is not even particularly interesting. However, we of the Party needed a victory to hold in front of our base, red meat to throw to the two-legged human animals who wish their patriotism fed with the blood of victory. It is apparently policy that any man of military age who is in Fallujah is an insurgent, and shall not be allowed to leave the city. USA Today published an AP story on the second day of the battle where several hundred men, women, and children attempted to leave the city. The women and children were allowed to leave. The men were searched, found to be unarmed, but not allowed to leave -- they were sent back to Fallujah. A U.S. colonel explained, "if they don't have guns, we don't know whether they're an insurgent or not, what else could we do?" (hint, sir: we gave the REAL insurgents over a week's notice to leave Fallujah, it is likely that the majority of them left, and the ones remaining certainly would not be leaving on the second day of the battle when the opportunity of ascending to their hundred virgins in Paradise still awaited). Apparently our soldiers are using the same insurgent detector that the Serbs used at Srebrenica (i.e., if it is male and military age it is an insurgent), but at least our military is not simply marching them off to mass graves, unlike the Serbs, who after the surrender of Srebrenica simply shot the entire male population of Srebrenica in the head and bulldozed them into mass graves.

The lesson of Srebrenica is still fresh in the Muslim world. It is likely that most of the men we sent back into Srebrenica^wFallujah indeed, viewed their choice as either to die fighting, or to die after being executed by a shot in the head after our soldiers came (note: I am not saying that our soldiers would do this, only that Muslims have ample experience with Christian mendacity and would assume this to be the case -- after all, the Muslim men killed at Srebrenica had been promised refuge by the Christian Serbs, then were executed). It is no surprise that in this case, that many would decide that they'd rather die fighting than cowering.

None of this is, of course, the fault of the men on the ground. They view the Iraqi people as The Enemy, and are concerned only about getting home alive. Rather, we of the Party needed a military victory, and to have a military victory, we needed a battle. What better way to have a battle than to give the men of the city the choice of dying either with honor, or unarmed with a bullet in the head? And if the officers to whom we gave the orders are ignorant of the historical background here -- that sending men back into a beseiged city is, in the Muslim world, typically the prelude to Srebrenica-style mass murder -- and thus unwitting that this is the choice we are giving the men of the city, it is even better! Why, then both sides are unknowingly serving as tools of the Party in our quest to tighten our rule on the American provinces of Oceania. Human ignorance is, indeed, the most important weapon in the arsenal of the Party!

- O'Brien

free0352 said...


Shar said...


Actually on this clip (it has no commentary) you can hear when they walk in, Sites saying to someone that these are the guys from yesterday, before the shooting starts, and then later after the shooting, you can hear it being said again.

According the Sites they were treated for their wounds and left for pickup.

Sites also says that they thought they were taking fire from the mosque and on the tape you can hear one guy ask who's in there and when the first squad comes out (that had entered from the other side of the building, the back I believe) the marine in the front says "you almost got shot" Which seems to make it appear that one group of marines wasn't aware that the other squad of marines had entered the mosque from a different direction. Sites also says that it could be construed as a case of self defense because of the booby traps.

I'm not saying that the marine was wrong to shoot. Nor am I saying that the marine was aware of what Sites had said, in fact I doubt that he was, since he appears to be in front of Sites and whomever he was with. I'm just saying that yes, Sites did tell someone.

Also, that prior to releasing the tape to NBC, the marines command was already aware of the situation and had removed the marine who shot who from the field of operations. That is what Sites says during his commentary.

Being embedded it would not be up to Sites as to whether it was released or not, this tape would have gone to the marines first and then it would have gone to NBC editors, and then would have been released to the pool. This happened on Saturday and the tape wasn't released until Monday to the public. When it was decided to release the tape, Sites would have been asked to do the commentary over for it at that time.

Peter V said...

Thoroughly enjoyed your post; very informative and very educational. Your perspective on the incident (that of a solider) provides an insight that civilians just do not have. We are not trained in the rules of war. I'd be interested to see your critique of MSM; who got it and who didn't.

The passion you show for the military is that same passion you show for your politics. I thoroughly disagree with you politics but I respect and enjoy your military analysis. Gulliani in 2008

Jensun_Clemike said...

Well stated, powerful observation.

vrangel said...

From powerlineblog.com:

email from a Marine in the 11th MEU:

"This is one story of many that people normally don't hear, and one that everyone does.
This is one most don't hear:
A young Marine and his cover man cautiously enter a room just recently filled with insurgents armed with Ak-47's and RPG's. There are three dead, another wailing in pain. The insurgent can be heard saying, "Mister, mister! Diktoor, diktoor(doctor)!" He is badly wounded, lying in a pool of his own blood. The Marine and his cover man slowly walk toward the injured man, scanning to make sure no enemies come from behind. In a split second, the pressure in the room greatly exceeds that of the outside, and the concussion seems to be felt before the blast is heard. Marines outside rush to the room, and look in horror as the dust gradually settles. The result is a room filled with the barely recognizable remains of the deceased, caused by an insurgent setting off several pounds of explosives.

The Marines' remains are gathered by teary eyed comrades, brothers in arms, and shipped home in a box. The families can only mourn over a casket and a picture of their loved one, a life cut short by someone who hid behind a white flag.

But no one hears these stories, except those who have lived to carry remains of a friend, and the families who loved the dead. No one hears this, so no one cares."

Because mainstream media is dominated by left wing garbage.

this we'll defend said...

Great comment, shows what I have been saying.

EXCEPT: "mainstream media" and "left-wing garbage."

Notice how once again, even though the election is over, right-wingers still think of the military as "theirs" instead of seeing the institution as a serving the American people - all of us, left wing and right wing, republicans and democrats alike.

Don't let them continue to get away with such fascist bullshit! Just like "Ronald Reagan won the cold war" - ignoring the fifty years of containment that was followed by BOTH PARTIES, and ignoring that Harry Truman, Democrat, set up that successful policy that defeated communism without a nuclear holocaust, and ignoring that the Berlin Wall did NOT come down on Reagan's watch, it came down during Bush I. If anything, Reagan's profligate spending threatened our economic security, and thus helped our enemies. But ask anybody and they will tell you - Reagan beat the Soviets.

It's bullshit.

So is the idea that the "mainstream media" is a tool of the left wing. They are tools, as Jon Stewart made clear on Crossfire, but they sure as hell aren't in the pocket of the left wing.

And exactly what is meant by "mainstream media" anyway? Does it include such ministers of disinformation and propaganda as Fox News? Nooooo - they are "fair and balanced." They aren't "the filter."


I'm liberal, left wing, a veteran, a Christian, a patriot, and anybody that tries to claim that being liberal means you aren't just as likely to be a veteran, a Christian, or a patriot is a fascist redneck asshole.

The inaccurate reporting on this incident is not politically motivated, and disparaging the military is not a tactic the left wing employs. Insulting military honor is something reserved for the Republicans - waving the flag while cutting VA funding, landing on an aircraft carrier and swaggering about in uniform after cravenly dodging the draft, saying "bring 'em on" Clint Eastwood style - because real war is so far from you and your rich asshole family that it might as well be a movie - wearing "purple heart band-aids" at a convention to mock a true war hero; refusing to increase the end-strength of the Army for political purposes so that the OPFOR from Fort Irwin have to be deployed, as well as multiple multi-year tours for those that thought they were in the reserves; demeaning Gen. Eric Shinseki and publicly humiliating him for daring to give his professional military opinion to Congress - even without the fact that he was shown to be exactly right and Bush and the other fascists exactly wrong - that is the right-wing garbage that the Republican party and its Dear Leader dishes out to our military.

The inaccurate reporting of this incident is due to ignorance, apathy, or ineptitude - or a combination of all three. But it sure as hell can't be laid at the feet of the left, the party that wants America to be better for all, not just for those already well off.

The extremist radicals now control the white house, congress, the Supreme court, AND the media. Anything that goes wrong in the next four years - and LOTS will due to the incompetence and arrogance of the fascist-in-chief - can only be laid at the feet of the Republican party, the false party that claims to be for Jesus and America but preaches hatred and harms our great nation.

So don't give me the "mainstream media - left-wing" bullshit about this story. It's crap, and if you don't know it then you are deluded - just like your party and 51% of the electorate.

God help our nation during the next four years. I don't know if our freedoms and our republic will survive.

Jensun_Clemike said...

It is difficult to believe your last couple of posts were the creative thoughts written by the same person. Emotional outbursts and name calling do not become thee sir.............

free0352 said...

as usual, I 80% agree with you. I'm a real warrior, and the flight suit thing motivated me. Bring it on say's I.

Jimmi Carter was loosing the cold war, Regan turned it around...sorry if you don't like it, belive it...or accept it. Truth hurts sometimes...Carter is an idiot then and now.

My guess is the Jarheads recived orders to make entry and waste all non-surrendering bo-zo's down range. "He's faking it dude...bang-bang." It's what I would have done. Hey, he should have stuck his hands up. If the hajji was too wounded and the Marine was wrong...oh f'n well...ain't war hell? I liked what you said about people wanting war without tragety...war is a tragety. You and I disagree with wether or not this particular tragety was nessisary...I think it was, you do not. What irks me is those who buy into the magical idea that tragety is never nessesary. It says something for you that while you disagreed with the outset, you stick up for the right thing now...as well as recognize no matter what- we need to finish this thing. It blows me away how many people out there just don't understand war. I guess at least you and I know. After a few stars on my combat action ribbon, I think I "get it." The only way to win is to KILL the enemy. If they surrender fine, but it you're a hajji and the shooting starts - you took you're chance...I'd better see a real clear white flag, no AK-47s, and nobody else had better be firing at me or anywhere near me.

The enemy is just that, refer to him as such. He "may" be Al'Queda-they are in country. He may be an Iranian or Syrian or Kuaiti or a from where ever nut wad -or a Mercenary. He may be ex-Saddam Army, I don't care if he's an Emperial Storm Trooper from Star Wars...if I take fire or see small arms, bye-bye dude.

We bend over friggin backwards to save non-combatants, I'd say more than any war previous. Do we get one shred of credit for that. Noooooooo. Thanks jerks out there in the bloggsosphere! I'm not a war criminal thank you! If I take a prisoner, I extract his funky butt to the rear-rear most ricki tick. If there is a fire fight going on and some hajji drops his AK-74, I'm gonna assume he's a butterfingers and thank him for the easy kill, not ask him ever-so nice to come with me please. Whit flag-hands up-or I'm going to shoot you- like it or not. I'll waste my Corpsman's time treating "Surrendered wounded way back in the rear-rear" not "Enemy wounded"

Bottom line-no EPW, dead...that easy. Saves -American- lives. How's that?

~Jen~ said...

TWD -- This post is terrific.

I enjoyed reading the discussion on the thread too. Very informative.

Thanks everyone.

Peter V said...


What a rant. There were so many inaccuracies and distortions I don't feel it's worthy of refuting. I think you're attempting to incite and inflame. Such an insightful analysis of the incident with the Marine and the terrorist; such malice and rancor when discussing politics.

I live in the bluest of the blue states, New Jersey (governor, both house of the state leg., majority of congressional delegation, both US senators are democrats). I don't curse the majority of the citizens of the state; I discuss my views, vote, and move on.

An intelligent debate requires a thorough understanding of the OTHER side. Don't get all you information from the New Yorker, the Atlantic, NPR, NYT, LAT, NBC, CBS, ABC, the Nation etc.

Read the WSJ, the City Journal (the OpinionJournal.com lists a number of interesting web sites conservative and liberal) try and understand why the majority of Americans in this election didn't agree with you and realize they are still decent human beings.

How can the party of Zell Miller be the party of Al Sharpton? Possibly the same way the party of Orin Hatch can be the party of Rudolph W. Giuliani.

IMHO Harry Truman was one of the seven (maybe five) greatest presidents of the US.

vrangel said...

TWD, when I call mainstream media for what it is I mean this:


"America's agenda-setting press has been quite impressed by the thugs who have been targeting, kidnapping, and murdering defenseless Iraqi civilians. A front-page headline out of Iraq in Friday's New York Times, for example, reads, "Showing Their Resolve, Rebels Mount Attacks in Northern and Central Iraq."

Got that? These murderers have been demonstrating "resolve." Indeed, throughout the battle of Fallujah and in the battles that have followed, American journalists have discovered many impressive attributes in these criminals. According to a week of major-press stories, the "insurgents" are a cunning and courageous band who have been putting up a tenacious struggle.

Here's an alternative headline the Times' staff might have considered: "Showing Their Resolve, Rebels Terrorize Families, Target Children, Disembowel Women, Behead the Elderly."

And I repeat : our mainstream media is dominated by left wing garbage. They root for the other side, they deserve nothing but comtempt and I am glad they were defeated at the polls.

Carter said...

I still haven't decided how I feel about this situation. However you brought up some good points, except you forgot one thing. In your discussion of double taps. When I was a young soldier, we were told that you are allowed to shoot a downed soldier, just as you said. BUt, the geneva convention does state, that after you pass that soldier you cannot turn around and shoot him again. THat's what our sargeants told us. It's okay to shoot to ensure death, but not return, even after one step past them.
Maybe I'm wrong, but that's how it was explained to me.

this we'll defend said...

I've heard that before, but it isn't a law or a regulation, just a way to train. The rationale is that it helps trainees to tell the difference between combatant and non-combatant status, something very difficult to discern in the chaos of combat. It draws a bright-line rule, but such methods help explain why many soldiers come to see the Geneva Conventions as silly, nonsensical legalisms that can get them killed. There is no such bright-line rule, it was made up to make teaching the rules easier.

Along the same lines, a myth is that you aren't allowed to shoot paratroopers while they are in the air but only once they are on the ground. It comes from similar methods used in perfunctory classes taught by those who don't know the material - the rule is that downed airmen who are drifting to earth can't be shot at because they no longer present a threat. Paratroopers in the air are fair game because they are coming to kill you, but many young soldiers think the rule is as I described, and therefore dismiss the Geneva Conventions as stupid.

Another myth is that the .50 cal machine gun can't be employed against troops, but can be used against their equipment - and that helmets, belts, etc. are "equipment." It's not true. You can employ the .50 cal against troops - that is what it is for. I saw that taught in a class when I was visiting the SC National Guard. I corrected them, but I could tell many grizzled old Guardsmen didn't believe me because they had been taught that for years, but nobody ever went back to the original source or training materials, they just continued to employ the "telephone game" method of training. "A guy told me this, so I will teach this, so young soldiers will believe it and teach it when they are NCOs." And nobody ever thinks the original "guy" can be wrong. In this case it comes from an anachronism in the Geneva Conventions that says you can't use dum-dum or hollow-point bullets because they result in unnecessarily painful wounds, and that you can't employ weapons that cause "unnecessary suffering." Yet the "tumbling" nature of the 5.56mm Nato round (the standard "M-16" round) causes wounds at least as bad as hollow-points, and soldiers know this. They know this because they are taught that even though the round leaves a hole in targets that looks like a .22 caliber "poodle-puncher" round, when it hits flesh it leaves an exit wound big enough to put your fist in, and will kill an enemy when hit center mass. (when I was a drill sergeant we used to demonstrate this by shooting a watermelon, first with a .22 - the watermelon would appear unharmed, and then with a 5.56 round - the back half of the watermelon would explode. The troops would "ahhh" and "ohhh" while we drill sergeants would eat the leftovers.) So many soldiers therefore think that the rule is stupid, and somewhere along the line somebody came to the conclusion that the .50 cal was like a hollow-point or dum-dum round too, and illegal. In fact the rule comes from a time when lower-velocity large-caliber weapons were used, and "dum-dum" or hollow-point bullets were employed as a terror tactic to cause maximum suffering despite not being any more likely to kill or disable. a large, low-velocity hollow-point is not the same as a small, high-velocity hollow-point. Without the hollow point a large, low-velocity round will still kill you. Without tumbling or a hollow tip a small, high-velocity round will usually pass through the flesh without damage. Therefore tumbling and hollow-point ammon on modern weapons doesn't cause unnecesary suffering, and are not illegal. Also common years ago were bullets tipped with poison, etc. A wounded enemy would die in agony days after being shot, and this was unnecessary. Today's smaller rounds use "tumbling" and high velocity so that they are effective, not to cause pain. The Geneva Conventions simply haven't been updated to reflect new technology, but in any case if they were they wouldn't add a ban against 5.56 or .50 cal rounds. They don't cause "unnecessary" suffering, they kill. They might outlaw napalm though.

I didn't employ the "telephone game" or "bright-line rule" methods when training my troops, but instead explained the reasoning behind the Geneva Conventions how they were expected to use their best judgment, and that anyone who simply kills when they don't have to is dishonorable and harms our cause, while those who don't eliminate threats can die or get their buddies killed. I also explained how the Geneva Conventions don't put you at more risk, but actually reduce the risk due to avoidance of incidents that can be used to harm your cause - like this video, and how making the enemy afraid to surrender means he won't, and nobody prefers fighting against a shooting enemy battling to the death over taking prisoners.

The laws of war, when employed properly by soldiers who are taught correctly, never result in increased risk to soldiers. Misused flags of truce, for instance, can be ignored when soldiers think it is a ruse. A group of armed men approaching you with a white flag, who don't drop their weapons and raise their hands, are to be killed, and no violation. A group of seemingly unarmed men with raised hands are to be approached with maximum caution. But ignoring white flags and raised hands because you think it is always too dangerous to take prisoners means your enemy will ALWAYS fight to the death - and therefore by ignoring the rules you are increasing the threat to you.

However, in this video it appears the Marine encountered a wounded enemy (he was decidely NOT a prisoner - prisoners are zip-stripped and sent to the rear quickly, not left to lay about on their own). The enemy appeared to him to be faking death, something he was properly trained to be very afraid of, and he eliminated what he saw as a threat, just as he was supposed to do. Civilians who are told even before viewing the video that it shows a shooting of an unarmed, injured prisoner are therefore shocked, but it is untrue. We also have videos of soldiers and Marines getting injured and killed from "dead" and wounded enemy, and few civilians think to connect the two. Had this Marine not fired it is quite possible that he and his friends would not be alive today.