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.