NOT THAT SIMPLE. Media Log will offer no snap judgments in the matter of the US marine who is being investigated for shooting an apparently wounded, unarmed Iraqi insurgent in Fallujah. According to reports, the marines couldn't have been in a more terrifying situation: some of the insurgents have faked being dead, only to rise up with guns ablaze, and some of the bodies have been boobytrapped. Moreover, the marine who's been charged in the shooting had been wounded the day before.
It's very easy to leap to the conclusion that the marine committed a war crime, and perhaps the facts will make that conclusion inescapable. But it's hard not to imagine that this sort of thing goes on all the time, given the chaotic, frightening environment into which these young men have been dropped. In this case, a camera crew just happened to be there.
The larger crime is that their - that is, our - government put them in that situation in the first place.
The Boston Globe's Bryan Bender digs deep on these moral ambiguities today. Also well worth reading: Anthony Shadid's account in the Washington Post. Shadid finds that Iraqi man-on-the-street opinion is more mixed than you might expect. By contrast, Eric Schmitt's New York Times coverage is thorough but one-dimensional.
Andrew Sullivan offers the proper comparison between this and Abu Ghraib: "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."
Typically repulsive was Jay Severin yesterday on WTKK Radio (96.9 FM), who said that the marine ought to get a medal for killing "vermin." You don't have to endorse such idiocy in order to feel sympathy for the plight of this young marine.