November 17, 2004

Fallujah Killings

Sully says it better than I could:

The video is grim enough; and if the marine in question is found guilty of violating rules of conduct, then he should face punishment. But I have to say I cannot stand in judgment of this young man, after what must have been brutal, terrifying days of urban conflict. This is surely what they call "what happens in wartime." It may not be morally defensible; but it is psychologically understandable. Frankly, I'm grateful for what this man, half my age, is doing with his fellows in unspeakably terrifying circumstances. Compare his action with Abu Ghraib, and you can see the difference. One a snap judgment in a furious battle context; the other a pre-meditated example of abuse and murder of prisoners in U.S. custody.

And then, this:

In the south of Fallujah yesterday, US Marines found the armless, legless body of a blonde woman, her throat slashed and her entrails cut out. Benjamin Finnell, a hospital apprentice with the US Navy Corps, said that she had been dead for a while, but at that location for only a day or two. The woman was wearing a blue dress; her face had been disfigured. It was unclear if the remains were the body of the Irish-born aid worker Margaret Hassan, 59, or of Teresa Borcz, 54, a Pole abducted two weeks ago. Both were married to Iraqis and held Iraqi citizenship; both were kidnapped in Baghdad last month.

US and Iraqi troops have discovered kidnappers’ lairs filled with corpses or emaciated prisoners half-mad with fear, and piles of bodies of men who had refused to fight with the insurgents. As the guerrillas run their last sprint from death, sympathy for their cause is running out among Iraqis.

Sully: "There you see the difference between the occasional horror of war and premeditated, conscious barbarism."

Amen, Andrew. Amen.

Posted by Gregory at November 17, 2004 05:17 AM

For those interested in judging for themselves, you can see the whole unedited video from Reuters HERE (other places are showing edited bits and pieces which is misleading):

Things of note:

1. When entering the mosque there were several wounded, and apparently dying, terrorists. They were left alone on the video. They were an obvious non-threat so the Marines seem to ignore them.

2. There was off-camera shouting about a guy far in the background "faking" being dead, he was shot around 3 seconds after the shouts (which were of loud concern, not anger or anything else). The Marine Unit as a whole seemed to regard him as a threat more than anything else.

3. ANOTHER uninjured Iraqi after the shooting reveals himself under a blanket and puts his hands on the supporting pole, he is left alone, unmolested after he reveals he's nearly naked under the blanket.

The Marine and his unit did not hose everything down, and did not shoot the clearly surrendering uninjured prisoner in the video. The ONLY one shot in the sequence is the one who was thought to be "faking" being dead and thus a threat. A judgement call and in my view the right one given the circumstances. The Marine and his unit showed remarkable discipline and courage when the easy thing to do would have been to shoot everything in the Mosque. Particularly when another Marine a few blocks down at around the same time according to Sites was killed approaching a "dead" terrorist by a bomb on the body; and another female Marine was maimed for life (her kneecap blown off) by a "possum playing" jihadi a few days earlier in Fallujah when she approached him (he was wounded) to give aid.

The great thing about the Internet is you can judge for yourself, see the raw, unedited footage and draw your own conclusions. I urge you to do so but be warned the video lingers on the dying Iraqis and like War is not pretty.

One last thought ... if John Kerry wants a continued life as a politician instead of a Dukakis joke, he'd better get out in front of defending the Marine for actions pretty similiar to his own in Vietnam. Right now his silence doesn't make him look particularly good.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at November 17, 2004 07:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Let's hope it's "occasional". As far as I can see, the main distinguishing feature of this is that it was filmed, not that it was clearly rare. I hope Sully is right, I even think he is, but I was I could be sure.

Posted by: PJ at November 17, 2004 01:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, I'm sure. You had to be there, not watching pictures. Give the nod to the guys on the scene with their lives on the line. I don't even see why we're discussing it.


Posted by: Ramrod at November 17, 2004 05:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The point is not that the marine in question did anything terribly wrong. The way I see it, there were two possibilities:

1. He rightfully perceived a threat and acted accordingly.

2. His nerves were so frayed, and his mind so taxed by the burdens of combat, that he over-reacted.

In either scenario, I would not place the blame on the marine out there risking his life in an unbelievably dangerous setting.

The same goes for stories of entire families of civilians being shot while trying to escape Fallujah. The soldiers do not have the luxury of differentiating between combatants and innocents. Escape routes need to be sealed, and in the process, all trying to use them are legitimate targets. It is unrealistic to expect them to, at least in combat zones such as this. (link to story:

Still, incidents like these should serve as cautionary tales to those who believe, somewhat naively, in the ability of military invasion and action to be a force for democratic change and winning over hearts and minds.

These stories, and images, will travel far and wide in Iraq, and the larger Muslim world, severely hampering our efforts at spreading democracy and undermining our credibility in the region where our image is in such dire need of repair. Especially pernicious is the setting of a Mosque where the wounded captive is killed. This will add an unfortunate religious dimension that will exacerbate some of the religious overtones that Bin Laden has been propagandizing about.

Iraqis and Muslims, will not give the GI the benefit of the doubt, and perception is everything when nation building and attempting to win over the populous.

Further, incidents such as these are an inevitable reality in war. Certain decisions must be made that will cost widespread civilian casualties, and some soldiers will break down mentally and commit atrocities. It has always been this way, and it will in the future.

That is why we must be realistic about the efficacy of invasion and forcible regime change in terms of engendering support for such a delicate operation as nation building and democracy building. The military actions themselves will alienate large segments of the population and poison the well for our diplomatic efforts and nation building operations.

Posted by: Eric Martin at November 17, 2004 05:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric -- Iraq was probably a bad call in the first place (at least I think so) but it's not hearts and minds.

The Sunni Baathists who were Saddam's willing executioners and benefited from Sunni dominance/control over Iraq will never be comfortable with the regime change. The Kurds want a continued American military presence so as to preclude more mass graves. The Shias figured out that an election puts them in control of Iraq (and the oil goodies) so they're waiting till then.

The Sunni strategy is to make the country ungovernable, and "hope" for a Saddam 2 regime when the Americans pull out. Given that there is about 8-12K terrorists active according to CNN vs. 135K US troops, there's an overwhelming US advantage and after we've unfortunately killed most of the terrorists the Sunnis will have to face reality and the loss of control, some form of payback for past atrocities as memories are long there.

The Kurds and Shia won't care much about this, and likely neither will the Sunnis who will be losers one way or another and will have to come to terms in mitigating their losses by some sort of deal with the Shia government of the future. Set against all the blood feuds from Saddam's long bloodbath ... this won't even rate regardless of how much Al Jazeera plays it on TV.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at November 17, 2004 07:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Per Froggy Ruminations, Froyy is a SEAL reservist.

They're Called Security Rounds

Its a safety issue pure and simple. After assaulting through a target, put a security round in everybody's head. Sorry al-Reuters, there's no paddy wagon rolling around Fallujah picking up "prisoners" and offering them a hot cup a joe, falafel, and a blanket. There's no time to dick around in the target, you clear the space, dump the chumps, and Are Corpsman expected to treat wounded terrorists? Negative. Hey libs, worried about the defense budget? Well, it would be waste, fraud, and abuse for a Corpsman to spend one man minute or a battle dressing on a terrorist, its much cheaper to just spend the $.02 on a 5.56mm FMJ.

By the way, terrorists who chop off civilian's heads are not prisoners, they are carcasses.

UPDATE: Let me be very clear about this issue. I have looked around the web, and many people get this concept, but there are some stragglers. Here is your situation Marine. You just took fire from unlawful combatants shooting from a religious building attempting to use the sanctuary status of their position as protection. But you're in Fallujah now, and the Marine Corps has decided that they're not playing that game this time. That was Najaf. So you set the mosque on fire and you hose down the terrorists with small arms, launch some AT-4s (Rockets), some 40MM grenades into the building and things quiet down. So you run over there, and find some tangos wounded and pretending to be dead. You are aware that suicide martyrdom is like really popular with these kind of idiots, and like taking some Marines with them would be really cool. So you can either risk your life and your fireteam's lives by having them cover you while you bend down and search a guy that you think is pretending to be dead for some reason. Also, you don't know who or what is in the next room, and you're already speaking english to each other and its loud because your hearing is poor from shooting people for several days. So you know that there are many other rooms to enter, and that if anyone is still alive in those rooms, they know that Americans are in the mosque. Meanwhile (3 seconds later), you still have this terrorist that was just shooting at you from a mosque playing possum. What do you do?

You double tap his head, and you go to the next room, that's what.

What about the Geneva Conventions and all that Law of Land Warfare stuff? What about it. Without even addressing the issues at hand you first thought should be, "I'd rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6." Bear in mind that this is a perpetual mindset that is reinforced by experiences gained on a minute by minute basis. Secondly, you are fighting an unlawful combatant in a Sanctuary which is a double No No on his part. Third, tactically you are in no position to take "prisoners" because there are more rooms to search and clear, and the behavior of said terrorist indicates that he is up to no good. No good in Fallujah is a very large place and the low end of no good and the high end of no good are fundamentally the same... Marines get hurt or die. So there is no compelling reason for you to do anything but double tap this idiot and get on with the mission.

If you are a veteran then everything I have just written is self evident, if you are not a veteran than at least try to put yourself in the situation. Remember, in Fallujah there is no yesterday, there is no tomorrow, there is only now. Right NOW. Have you ever lived in NOW for a week? It is not easy, and if you have never lived in NOW for longer than it takes to finish the big roller coaster at Six Flags, then shut your hole about putting Marines in jail for war crimes. Be advised, I am not talking to my readers, but if this post gets linked up, I want regular folks to get this message loud and clear. Froggy OUT.

Posted by: Tamquam L. Rugiens at November 17, 2004 08:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


You make a fair point, but in the interest of clarification, I was not suggesting that these incidents from Fallujah alone will hamper our efforts in Iraq writ large.

As you pointed out, the Shia and Kurds won't care much - only certain Sunni factions. I am also not convinced that all Sunnis are terrorists, or that all combatants in Fallujah are terrorists. That is a pretty loose definition you are employing. Many certainly are, but not all.

That being said, there are other incidents and actions, inevitable to war, that have alienated significant segments of the Shia population. Still, they seem content to tolerate our presence because it should result in their dominance at the polls, but it is, nevertheless, a tenuous relationship. The eventual Shia leadership may not be as pro-Israel, or even pro-America, as we would like. Assuming democracy and not civil or regional war is the outcome - and given the level of Sunni unrest, the future remains in doubt, despite the numbers you cited.

Kurds will likely be on our side, at least as long as we are on theirs which is not 100% guaranteed given the rumblings coming out of Turkey these days.

Posted by: Eric Martin at November 17, 2004 08:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


If you support terrorists, then you are a terrorist, or at least deserving of the same treatment they get.

Anyone in Fallujah fighting against the US is, as a minimum, supporting terrorists.

I do find it amusing how many Muslims seem unwilling to listen to God. Folks, here's a hint: If you have to resort to terrorism to keep up the fight, it's a message from God. The message is "you're not supposed to win."

Posted by: Greg D at November 17, 2004 11:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Is that the stance you would take toward Jews who employed terrorism in their struggle against the British for Palestine?

Further, what about the Bush administration's support for Cuban terrorists who have deliberately targeted civilians, including a commercial airliner, in order to destabilize the Castro regime?

Are you suggesting that the Bush administration is composed of terrorists because they supported these Cubans? I do not, but your criteria are insufficient and lead to problematic logical conclusions.

It should be noted that Saddam himself could not tame Fallujah. The tribal leadership, and people, are fiercely independent. Some who resist the US presence there are of the same ilk that rejected Saddam's presence. Some, on the other hand, are foreign fighters and Baathists. These would be accurately described as terrorists or supporters thereof. Still, I repeat, some are not accurately described as terrorists.

Posted by: Eric Martin at November 18, 2004 12:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sully? I wouldn't sully myself.

Fresh from Sully's and Kerry's defeat, perhaps there is room for reason beyond the bath house.

Like Abu Ghraib (not much news on this recently you say?), the mainstream media will use this story in an attempt to tarnish the military that defeats their very freedoms. I don't imagine Sully, the NY Slimes, nor the Washington Post would have gotten much leeway in Fallujah.

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