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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

NBC Says Marine Shot Wounded Terrorist

Wounded Iraqi Was Faking Death.

NBC is reporting the shooting of a wounded Iraqi fighter by an American Marine. (NBC misleadingly assumes he that the fighter should properly be called a prisoner.) It seems that five wounded Iraqis were taken prisoner by one batch of Marines, who then abandoned them. Another group of Marines came upon the wounded fighters and when one of these Marines thought he detected that one of the Iraqis was pretending to be dead, he shot him up.

If the Marine was right that the Iraqi was feigning death, or if he drew a reasonable inference of the same, then shooting the wounded man first and asking questions later might well have been the correct thing to do. War is not like police work where an officer has a duty not to kill unless he absolutely has to. A soldier's duty is to kill every enemy he can who is not actively trying to surrender. Feigning death is not trying to surrender, and a fighter in such circumstances could very well inflict terrible damage. Some of the fighters in Fallujah have been strapped with suicide bomber belts. In this circumstance, any covert activity, like feigning death, would seem to call for instant death.

Of course there may be more to the story. Maybe standing orders addressing such situations demand forbearance. Maybe both of the fighter's hands were already blown off and surreptitious action was clearly impossible. NBC reports that the "prisoner" (I have to put that in quotes) "did not appear to be armed or threatening in any way," but appearances can be deceiving. If the Marine detected deceit, then acting on the presumption that appearances ARE deceiving seems warranted. It is certainly not obvious that the Marine acted wrongly, never mind criminally.

If he was in the right, or was at least not criminally in the wrong, I hope the Pentagon has the balls to come out and explain to the world media--who will doubtless be crying for the Marine's head--that this is war.

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