Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Real World, Fallujah: Unfortunately, war was not made for TV. While the Pentagon has reaped the benefits of positive coverage by embedding journalists with U.S. troops, officials there also have to grapple with negative perceptions from time to time.

The latest one stems from the NBC video showing a Marine shooting what appears to be an unarmed injured Iraqi insurgent. Some observers are claiming that the killing was a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions.

But in the world of warfare, not everything is so cut and dry. I've never served in the military or seen real combat, but the situation seems more complicated than some are letting on.

Our enemies in Iraq are committing war crimes every day. They're booby-trapping dead bodies. They're faking surrender, then attacking our troops. They're faking death, then attacking our troops.

In addition to that, they don't wear uniforms. They are hiding among civilian populations. They kidnap and torture prisoners. And they video tape the torturing and killing of the prisoners. All these actions are illegal.

That doesn't give our troops the right to disregard the laws of warfare. But it does put their actions in a different context. Apparently, a Marine in the same unit as the one in the video had been killed tending to a dead Iraqi who had been booby-trapped. The Marines didn't want to take such a risk again that could cost them they're lives.

In the video, the Iraqi appeared to be dead, but the Marines believed he was faking. So that leaves two possible outcomes: Either the man really was dead, and the Marine wasted ammo by firing into a carcass. Or the man was alive but pretending to be dead, which means he was trying to trick the Marines for some reason. And that leads me to believe that the Marines were acting in self-defense.

Let's have an investigation. Let's make sure nothing went wrong so we can put the issue to rest. But let's not assume we know better from the comfort of our living room couches. In war, you can't presume innocent until proven guilty. These troops are facing realities that many of us could never imagine.


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