Wednesday, November 17, 2004

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.


Anonymous said...


Really, what is so disgusting about the "vermin" comment. This guy might not have been Iraqi but Iranian, Suadi or other. But, what he was was a terrorist combatant, who, until shortly before his death, was shooting at our troops (and might have killed one or more of our guys). My deeper self says that this type of action shouldn't be, and maybe there are circumstances to be revealed that explain or justify the killing. But, bottomline: as with Arafat, good ridance to any Islamic terrorist. To me this isn't only a war against terrorism but also a war defending Western Civ from barbarians.
Mike in Rockville, MD

zadig said...

Anonymous, what is so disgusting about the "vermin" comment (and many other things that Severin says on a regular basis) is that the insurgent was *most likely* an Iraqi (in spite of your comment, recent military reports show that only about 5% of those fighting in Fallujah are foreign to Iraq, excluding our troops, of course).

The Iraquis are fighting for an honorable cause... a foreign military power (the U.S.) has invaded their land. Our troops should and must defend themselves, and that means killing anyone who's fighting them, but let's not take any pleasure (and the vermin comment is doing just that) in killing people who were doing what we ourselves would do in the same circumstance.

I feel sorry for the marine in the news story for being put in that situation, but I'm not calling for his head. I am, however, calling for the head of those who put him there.

Of course, since right-wingers in our country don't distinguish between criticizing our leadership and criticizing our troops, I'll be accused of bashing our military. So be it -- I condem the leadership, and hope our troops get out of there safely.

Anonymous said...

Dan, I completely agree with you comments on this situation. It may very well be that it's cold blooded murder, but I find it hard to judge this Marine when I'm sitting comfortably in my office 7000 miles away (and not under fire or any other sort of combat stress). War is an awful thing, where black and white decisions on what is considered "good" and what is considered "evil" often times are blurred by circumstance. I'm not saying that a war crime was not committed hear, but as I said before I do not find that I am qualified to judge or condemn this Marine's actions, only the circumstances that put him in a position to commit such actions.

Scott M. Bernard

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Jay Severin, now might be the time to revisit your reports on his use of "wetback" to refer to Mexican immigrants. If the same thing got Mark Spelling suspended, why are there no repercussions for Jay?

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with "wetbacks" anyway? It's a great metaphor for illegal aliens. If they don't like it, they can do it the right way, like us drybacks.

Anonymous said...

I have heard many media opinions on this issue.
None as simple-minded or mean as Severin.
For the record, he was a chicken hawk.
I have heard him say his biggest regret was not having served his country in th arm service.

Most talk host break down along the lines of where the stood on the issue of the war in the first place.
Those who supported the war and George Bush, like Severin, Howie Carr and Savage, defend the soldier.
Those against the war, mostly on NPR are giving a more critical view to the event.
One exception is Paul Sullivan on WBZ, who was against the war,(but somehow supportive of Bush)seems baffled that anyone would question the actions of the soldier.
He wasn't as harsh as the others, but certainly not his light hearted self when the issue came up.