Thursday, November 18, 2004

I admit to being surprised that the videotaped shooting of a wounded Iraqi prisoner by a Marine has gotten as much attention as it has. I suppose it's because it was videotaped. Murders like these probably happen much more often than we think in Iraq; the fact that this one was captured on tape and aired on network tv in the U.S. and on Al Jazeera in the Arab world is what's made it so hard for the Pentagon to ignore. Kind of like the Rodney King beating, although the outcome of the King trial shows that even a videotape cannot overcome business as usual.

The military authorities are already saying that the Marine involved was shot in the face the day before and had lost a buddy to a booby-trapped corpse; and that these facts constitute extenuating circumstances. Obviously it's a no-brainer that soldiers in war get horrendously injured and see their friends die horribly, and that such traumatic events can cause soldiers to do things they would not otherwise do. Temporary insanity, combat style, if you will. But when all is said and done, this argument does not cut it for me. Getting your face shot or your limbs blown off and watching your friends get killed is routine in war. That's why they say that war is hell. If the fact that war is hell were to become an excuse for murdering unarmed and gravely wounded prisoners, then all bets are off; and we might as well agree that shooting prisoners of war is fine.

And maybe that's what will come of this ruckus in the end. I don't see how the military can punish an individual Marine for violating the "rules of war" by shooting unarmed and wounded prisoners when the Commander in Chief himself and his new pick for Attorney General declared the Geneva Convention to be irrelevant and inapplicable to any U.S. military actions after 9/11.

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