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What Else Is In Scott's Head?

The blog site for writer Scott C. Smith. Some observations on the world we live in and life in general. And maybe some politics.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Fallujah: The Killing of an Insurgent

Did a U.S. Marine commit an act of murder on November 13? Or was it an act of self-defense?

By now most people are familiar with the story: a group of Marines enters a Mosque in Fallujah and finds a group of injured insurgents, who had apparently attacked U.S. forces from the Mosque the day before.

One Marine spots an insurgent he believes is "playing dead" and proceeds to shoot the man.

Cue the media outrage.

I hadn't commented on this incident as an investigation is still underway. Being a veteran, I want to give the Marine the benefit of the doubt. I know in combat there are times when split-second decisions have to be made.

Why did this Marine shoot the apparently injured, unarmed Iraqi insurgent?

One fact we do know: a Marine from the same unit had been killed on November 12 by the booby-trapped body of an insurgent.

The media, punditry and the Blogsphere have divided into two camps over the shooting: the shooting was an act of self-defense (conservatives); the shooting was an act of cold-blooded murder (liberals).

The embedded reporter with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Kevin Sites. Sites has written about the shooting at his blog. It's worth a read to gain some perspective on the whole incident.

As I've read about this particular incident and shooting, I was reminded of another shooting, from a different war, with some similarities to what happened in Iraq.

The shooting occurred during the Vietnam Conflict. The shooter was John Kerry.

Kerry earned a Silver Star for his actions that day when he killed an enemy soldier. Except in Kerry's case, it is the conservatives who are attacking his motives, and the liberals defending them.

Here's what the Swift Boat Veterans for The Truth have to say about Kerry's shooting of an enemy soldier, from the book Unfit For Command:

"Kerry's boat moved slightly downstream and was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. ... A young Viet Cong in a loincloth popped out of a hole, clutching a grenade launcher, which may or may not have been loaded. ... Tom Belodeau, a forward gunner, shot the Viet Cong with an M-60 machine gun in the leg as he fled. ... Kerry and Medeiros (who had many troops in their boat) took off, perhaps with others, and followed the young Viet Cong and shot him in the back, behind a lean to.

Whether Kerry's dispatching of a fleeing, wounded, armed or unarmed teenage enemy was in accordance with the customs of war, it is very clear that many Vietnam veterans and most Swiftees do not consider this action to be the stuff of which medals of any kind are awarded; nor would it even be a good story if told in the cold details of reality."

John Kerry's Silver Star citation contradicts the Swift Boat Vets claims, as do some eyewitness accounts.

Now, the comparison I'm making has to do with conditions of war and the split-second decisions that have to be made. And while John O'Neill's group would describe the incident as Kerry shooting a "teenage enemy," Kerry believed the man had a loaded rocket launcher and was ready to use it against U.S. forces.

In Iraq, a Marine makes a decision to shoot an enemy insurgent, whose body may have been booby-trapped.

If it turns out the shooting was illegal, the Marine will be punished.

I don't think this should be a liberal vs. conservative issue. It's an ugly war in Iraq, and our troops are in harm's way daily. I wish they could come home now, but that's just not going to happen. And until all of the facts are known, I do not wish to condemn the young Marine for what he did.

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