Wednesday, November 17, 2004
The news media (and the Blogosphere) are debating, endlessly, about the recent case of a U.S. Marine, in Fallujah, who shot an enemy combatant under questionable circumstances.
Personally, I think it's nonsense, and there's little point in talking about it. (Why? Because the Marine has already been removed from combat operations, and will have to answer for his actions before his superiors. There will be an investigation. All this is as it should be... and until this process completes, there's nothing more to be learned about it. Certainly we at home can add nothing new to the situation. And if we speculate endlessly on what he did or didn't do, what he should or should not have done, then we're putting him on trial in the court of public opinion, where he can't defend himself... and that is not as it should be.)
My off-the-cuff opinion breaks in favor of the soldier. Let's face it, mistakes are made in wartime under the best of circumstances. This man was not at his best -- he'd been wounded the day before (shot in the face), and had lost a good friend (also the previous day) due to a booby-trap -- yet he was still in there fighting, supporting his comrades-in-arms. A terrorist, believed to be dead, is discovered to be still alive, with his hands not visible... and the Marine takes action by shooting him dead.
It's a gray area. The ethics of being a soldier say that, when faced with a threat -- for example, an armed enemy -- you kill him before he kills you. On the other hand, when faced with a combatant who is no longer a threat to you, that combatant should be treated as decently as circumstances permit.
It's a judgement call, on the part of the soldiers doing the fighting: is an enemy combatant a threat, or not? Yes, these decisions are made -- often in split seconds -- by young people who are tired, hungry, and pumped full of adrenalin, which is far from an ideal way to make important decisions. But no one else can make such decisions. It's not a great situation, in other words, but it's the best we can do.
This leads to the quote for today. It was one of the comments to this post, and I thought it worth remembering:
War is hell. War should be hell. It's what makes it a thing to be avoided. But sometimes the alternative to war is worse than hell. And so we must fight.respectfully,
UPDATE: Blackfive's commentary on the matter is far better than mine -- no surprise there. Check it out. (Check this out, too.)
UPDATE II: Please check out this as well -- a letter to PowerLine from a Marine in Iraq. Listen in particular to his closing words:
For those of you who sit on your couches in front of your television, and choose to condemn this man's actions, I have but one thing to say to you. Get out of your recliner, lace up [your] boots, pick up a rifle, leave your family behind and join me. See what I've seen, walk where I have walked. To those of you who support us, my sincerest gratitude. You keep us alive.UPDATE III: Now there is a petition, to be sent to the U.S. Congress, in support of the (still unnamed) Marine and his actions. If you support this, please take a moment and sign it. Thanks.
UPDATE IV: Here's a list of related quotes, with the pedigree of each. It was inspired by a different event, but I think it's quite relevant nonetheless.
"War is cruelty. There's no use trying to reform it, the crueler it is the sooner it will be over." -- Gen. William T. ShermanCheck 'em out!