An old high school buddy of mine named Jeff Laird dropped me a line the other day after having found out about this blog. He is a Marine and a Gulf War veteran. The following are his observations on the recent shooting of a terrorist by a Marine in Fallujah.
I think you're right about the impending "Abu Ghraib-like scandal" over the dispatch of the terrorist in the mosque by the Marine. I know the bleeding-heart freaks among us will lament the poor, unarmed victim, who, if he had been allowed to live, whould surely have gone on to win the Nobel Prize for his profound contributions to world peace. But alas, we will forever be without him.Thanks for this, Jeff. Thanks, too, for your service to our country.
It's far too easy for people in their living rooms to criticize our troops. It is simply nauseating that the beneficiaries of this Marine's bravery will sit in their recliners, see a video clip, and self-righteously judge the correctness of the decision made by one of the world's best fighting men after 6 brutal days of continuous combat. People who have never been in combat, never been shot at, never held a buddy as he died, and then re-lived the moment days later as you pause to wonder what the stain is on your clothes (you've somehow misplaced the knowlege that it was the warm blood of your friend), have not earned the right to judge the actions of our Marines.
No one except the Marines and terrorists in the mosque know what happened, but my understanding is that the mosque was being used as a fortification from which Marines were being fired upon. The Marines took the mosque, and left survivors inside to be cared for when it was practical. Later, Marines again took fire from the mosque, and upon re-entering, who should they find? Why, only a few, poor, injured and helpless citizens of Iraq. Give me a break. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the terrorists who were left behind waited until they had an opportunity to kill more Marines, and they took it. Although the terrorists were shown quarter, and they violated that by re-engaging the very people who had spared them. But maybe if they play dead when the Marines come back, no harm will come to them, and they can do it again, right? Or, at the very least, they can booby-trap their bodies so that they blow up those who return to check on them.
As a country, we laud the Marines, are proud of them, and even drop their name as a threat (remember the "Tell It To The Marines" posters of WWII?). We expect the Marines to be the "First to Fight," and celebrate their nickname "Devil Dogs," without thinking much about it. The Marines earned that name not here at home, but in WWI at the Battle of Belleau Wood in France (the first time we saved the French). Who gave them that name? The Germans they were fighting. Was it because the Marines fought a kinder, gentler war? Of course not. It was due to the ferocity with which the Marines fought and killed the Germans. War is not pretty, kind, or fun, but if you''re going to fight, you might as well be good at it.
We, as a country, expect the Marines to be the equivalent of a big, tough, snarling pit-bull and the end of Uncle Sam's leash, and then we are aghast when we see them bite. We demand that they are ready and able to protect us at a moment's notice, yet smiling and friendly every Christmas at the Toys for Tots barrel. In war, we can't have it both ways. Would we, as a nation, prefer to see footage of Marines running away, slipping into civilian clothing, and acting as cowards? It doesn't matter - it will never happen.
The Marine who shot the terrorist did his job. He did not torture the terrorist. He did not cause him pain. He did not put him in front of a camera and slowly saw his head off. He shot him one time in the head. The terrorist's brains were on the wall before the sound of the shot even reached him - he neither suffered nor knew it was coming. As far as battlefield death goes, this was as humane as one could hope for. Had the Marine been the vicious, torturous villain the press is making him out to be, believe me, he could have truly made the terrorist suffer. The Marine did his job and moved on. While ugly to see, that's war, and his actions probably saved the lives of other Marines.