War does funny things to people

Kevin Sites, NBC News embedded reporter (and great blogger, too), tells a strange story of a wounded man being held in a mosque in Fallluja.

A second group of Marines entered the mosque on Saturday after reports it had been reoccupied. Footage from the embedded television crew showed the five still in the mosque, although several appeared to be already close to death, Sites said.

He said one Marine noticed one of the prisoners was still breathing.

Marine can be heard saying on the pool footage provided to Reuters Television: “He’s fucking faking he’s dead. He faking he’s fucking dead.”

“The Marine then raises his rifle and fires into the man’s head. The pictures are too graphic for us to broadcast,” Sites said. No images of the shooting were shown in the footage provided to Reuters.

The report said the Marine, who had returned to duty after being shot in the face a day earlier, had been removed from the field and was being questioned by the U.S. military.

Sites said the shot prisoner “did not appear to be armed or threatening in any way.”

Right out of an Oliver Stone movie. War really does suck.

The Discussion: 21 Comments

There are pictures of this on boingboing and all over the net, I imagine, by now.

November 15, 2004 @ 8:40 pm | Comment

It’s just too horrible….

November 15, 2004 @ 8:42 pm | Comment

War does suck. Never has been a pretty thing. But maybe offing one or two of these fanatical bastards will spread a little fear in their hearts. They’re not reluctant to kill our boys by any means. Rather have a Marine out there killing those guys then insurgents beheading our guys.

November 16, 2004 @ 10:18 am | Comment

This is not your ordinary war, and the question of who is worse, the insurget or the marine, is a hard one. It was not a hard question prior to Abu Ghraib, but after that we lost all claims to the moral high ground, and we became a legitimate enemy of the people. That’s the day we lost the war, and nothing we can ever do now will change that. Certainly the murder of an unarmed wounded man captured on videoptape for the whole world to see won’t do much to further our cause.

November 16, 2004 @ 11:05 am | Comment

How do you know it was murder, Richard? Aren’t you being a premature in your conclusion when all of the facts are not out yet? You assume he was unarmed. How do you know he was not booby-trapped like the insurgent the day before that killed a Marine and wounded five others. The facts are not in yet. Let’s wait to pass judgment.

November 16, 2004 @ 2:29 pm | Comment

I heard Kevin Sites describe it — he said the man was unarmed and had no visible weapons. It was all caught on videotape. Even if he was armed, do you not find it odd for a soldier to walk over to him and shout he was faking his death, and then to put a gun in his face and blow his head off? (And obviously, if he was armed or a threat, would the marine have walked over to him? Of course not.) And did you see the video clip? If you did, I don’t think you’d have left that comment.

November 16, 2004 @ 3:06 pm | Comment

I’ve seen the full uncensored footage of the event. A group of soldiers entered a building (a mosque) which was barren inside. Upon entering the building, someone states “These are the wounded that they never picked up” which is likely referring to the earlier U.S. squad that sweeped the area and left the wounded to be picked up later. There were a number of wounded iraqies lieing around on the floor. That man did not have a weapon and was simply lieing on the ground. One of the soldiers said hes pretending to be dead, “He’s f*cking faking he’s dead”. Another soldier in the background said “Yeah He’s breathing”, the first soldier then said He’s faking he’s f*cking dead” and then proceeded to shoot the man on the ground. The reports said it was only one gunshot, but it sounded like the rifle was fired on burst mode because the footage sounds like multiple shots, though it could be poor quality or reverberations from the gun discharged indoors. Immediately after the soldier shoots the wounded Iraqi a bunch of chatter erupts and I can’t make out things too clearly. One persons calls to check to see if anything is on the roof. It may have been just my imagination but I think I heard someone in the background say “What the Hell” immediately after the Iraqi was shot. What makes it really strange is that is that there was another wounded Iraqi lieing on the ground who moved his hands in what appears to be a “dont shoot me” sign after the first prisoner was shot and someone, possibly the same person who killed the other Iraqi said “Hey, this ones still alive”. The Iraqi who was shot could have been boobie trapped, though you cannot tell from the video and no soldiers bothered to check, the one guy just simply shot him. The time in between the U.S. soldiers entering the room with the wounded to the shooting was barely 20 seconds. In either case, theres no real justification for the soldier shooting the wounded Iraqi prisoner who was lieing on the floor. He was unarmed, and just lieing there, and wasn’t really moving. Bob is just prevaricating because it is politically unpalatable among some people to accept that a U.S. soldier blatantly killed a wounded prisoner. Their ideological devotion to the Iraq war means they will dig up any number of half-assed excuses to justify it, ranging from “they are terrorists anyways” to telling themselves that “he was boobie trapped” to “OMG look at the militants murdering kidnapped people” to “This is all a traitorous lie made up by the dreaded Mainstream Media”. You can read yourself the whole gamut of self-delusional group thinkism that is reinforcing itself over at the Free Republic. They have dozens of threads dedicated about this now and the circle-jerk of self-denial would be a treasure trove for psychologists to analyze.

November 16, 2004 @ 9:16 pm | Comment

Thanks Jing. While I sympathize with the Marine, who under ordinary ciurcumstances would almost certainly never have acted like this, there’s no sense denying what is there for all to see. It isn’t hearsay — it’s right there on the tape, complete with audio. Can you imagine the stress, the mental torture he must have been under to allow himself to do this? He had just seen his fellow soldiers killed, and who knows, maybe the insurgent was a demon who had it coming. But it’s still a crime to kill the unarmed simply for being there. For all my sympathy, I feel only disgust at the warbloggers who are trying to lionize this guy as some kind of hero.

November 16, 2004 @ 9:56 pm | Comment

I had read earlier that the rules fo engagement (ROE) was for the Iraqi soldiers to enter a mosque. Why wasn’t this ROE practised? Would certainly have save the US Marines this embarrassment of a war crime. Whatever justification or denial, it’s still a crime to shoot an unarmed person, particularly one that was already wounded.

It’s all a little too late now to say this could have been avoided had Bush and gang not politically marginalise the Sunnis, or gave them the impression they were going to be marginalised. There would have been no Falluja – no thousands killed, including US marines. Yes, war is bloody dirty. When old men make mistakes, young men die.

November 17, 2004 @ 12:04 am | Comment

In response to Jing & Richard, I provide the following quote from an AP article that appeared on 11/17 attributed to a spokesman for the International Red Cross:

“It’s clearly recognized that people in combat situations are under enormous strain,”‘ international Red Cross spokesman Florian Westphal said in Geneva. “Obviously, we were not on the spot so we cannot judge the precise circumstances of what was being shown here.”

I repeat, let’s wait to pass judgment until all the facts are in. If the International Red Cross is willing to wait for all the facts to filter in, why can’t you gentlemen.

November 17, 2004 @ 8:09 am | Comment

Bob, I acknowledge that he was obviously under severe strain before he murdered the guy, and it may well be a justifiable murder. But we all saw what he did with our own eyes, and I’m not going to simply forget what I saw when the bush spinsters try to whitewash the murder. My point, about war doing terrible things to people, remains.

November 17, 2004 @ 9:34 am | Comment

Richard, if I may be so bold as to correct you – there’s no such thing as a ‘justifiable murder’, maybe a justifiable killing, but murder is murder.

I too saw the unfortunate video clip, and I cannot support anything other than the marine deliberately and cold bloodedly executed the dying man. The entire scene plus the recorded conversation, particularly “He’s still breathing” & “He’s now dead” say it all regarding the marines’ awareness of the actual situation.

Whether that marine had been shot in the face the previous day, that his best mate was killed, etc, do not excuse him from executing a wounded and unarmed man. Booby-trapped insurgent? – why then approached the bloke and shot him at point blank range – doesn’t add up to that excuse.

I feel sorry for him, but there had been too much provocative hyped up pep-talk blah blah about ridding the scums from the surface of the earth (“The enemy has a face. It is Satan’s. He is in Fallujah, and we are going to destroy him.”
– Colonel Gary Brandl, US Marines) do not help sustain the discipline and control in him. He’s been primed to kill ALL Iraqis in Falluja.

November 17, 2004 @ 1:32 pm | Comment

Here’s what Andrew Sullivan says today, and I agree with him:

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.

November 17, 2004 @ 2:21 pm | Comment

I don’t know what happened and neither do you. The charges will be investgated and, if the Marine violated the UCMJ, action will be taken. To equate the Marines with the insurgents, however, as you do above is obscene. A Marine is shown killing a “prisone” on video is an abberation that is denounced. The insurgents commit their ritual slaughters of the innocent to video as a matter of pride.

November 18, 2004 @ 12:51 am | Comment

That’s why they are called terrorists; and we are not.

Any form of killing is bad, but in war it happens. But when wars require our armed forces to fight and thus kill, the troops of a civlized nation must exercise the highest standards possible, to ensure due diligence in its observance of international laws.

That’s how the Australian military, particularly its air frorce had conducted themselves during the invasion of Iraq, refusing at times to drop bombs on a target when there had been the slightest element of doubt that Iraqi civilians might be hurt or killed.

Yes, sometimes things did go wrong but the troops must be able to say, “We did exercise the greatest care possible.” And when that can be said, we may then acclaim we are not like the terrorists.

November 18, 2004 @ 1:57 am | Comment

Peter, I agree with you, we should bring our troops home immediately. I understand there are no rules in war. Unfortunately for this poor marine, he was not on the battlefield and no one was threatening him. If this had happened in the heat of battle it would never have even been reported by the media. But under these circumstances, it is a different story, and sadly it makes us look very bad. And please, never, ever equate us with the terrorists and insurgents with the reasoning that they kill unarmed people and behead them. That’s what’s supposed to differentiate us from them. Once we set the bar to their level, we become barbarians ourselves.

November 18, 2004 @ 8:19 am | Comment

Fair enough. But there are rules and laws, and, for better or worse, when someone goes above the law and gets caught they’re are punished. As I said, I hope this guy isn’t punished. I know what war does to people. But this wasn’t supposed to be a war like that. We were fighting for, not against, the people of Iraq. Now they almost all see us as the enemy. That mey be unfair and wrong. Our intentions are still honorable, and we treat our prisoners infinitely better than Saddam or the insurgents would. But perception is what matters, and this is one more spike driven through the heart of our good intentions, and so we are perceived as monsters. Perceived. And perception is always far more meaningful than reality. And thus we cannot win. It’s too late to turn this perception around. The very idea of somehow winning hearts and minds on a broad scale in Iraq is laughable.

November 18, 2004 @ 7:00 pm | Comment

I don’t believe he will be punished. I find it hard to believe a Bush who sent his soldiers of Christ on a ‘righteous’ crusade, will then punish one of these soldiers for killing “Satan in Falluja” (from a pre-battle pep-talk by Colonel G Brandl USMC). If Bush has the nerve to punish this Christian Marine, his position via-a-vis his Christian constituency will be devilishly untenable.

November 19, 2004 @ 3:51 am | Comment

“The greatest care possible.” That’s true horse-shit coming from someone with no military training. If you go into combat using “the greatest care possible” you will be as dead as possible.

War is violence and destruction and killing and death. Sometimes innocents die, but not this time. A fucking hostile enemy combatant, who was violating the rules of war by fighting from a sanctuary, got killed. A little while earlier he was trying to kill Marines. It appears that he was no longer a threat and that the killing was wrong. That’s bad. But to compare that to the murder of an innocent aid worker after weeks of making her be for her life on tape is obscene. To compare US Marines in comabat to these barbarians is disgusting.

Seriously, Richard can be dead wrong sometimes but he gets that. Some of you fuckers, however, really are morally grotesque.

November 19, 2004 @ 9:54 pm | Comment

“from someone with no military training …..” has been hopeful at best and really argumentative to defend an indefensible situation – how would you know whether blokes who put in their comments here have no combat experience?

“If you go into combat using “the greatest care possible” you will be as dead as possible.” – not one Aussie bloke including its SAS had been killed in Iraq. The SAS in fact were the first to move into Iraq. I am sorry to say this that while Aus has been/is America’s ally in a number of conflicts and will publicly support the US, in private our troops have different and less complimentary things to say about some (not all) American troops.

“Sometimes innocents die, but not this time” – no innocents died in Falluja? Maybe you’re right – an Iraqi once wrote that anyone killed by the US military are automatically insurgents. That sounds better than “collateral damage”.

November 21, 2004 @ 2:09 pm | Comment


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July 22, 2005 @ 12:21 am | Comment

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