Sometimes soccer balls aren’t enough to win the battle for hearts and minds. Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. As in Falluja, where it’s hard to avoid the echo of the legendary (and, naturally, disputed) Vietnam quote reported by Peter Arnett, “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” But beyond the spectacle of blowing the town to bits in order to make it safe for democracy, our mission to destroy the most evil of the evildoers produced an incident that’s sure to make us even more beloved not just throughout Iraq, but everywhere in the world where people are just hoping we’ll show up to spread our special brand of liberty. Not to be too elliptical, NBC reporter Kevin Sites (check out his blog; it’s excellent) witnessed a Marine execute a wounded Iraqi insurgent in a mosque.
From MSNBC’s online account of the incident:
“Sites saw the five wounded men left behind on Friday still in the mosque. Four of them had been shot again, apparently by members of the squad that entered the mosque moments earlier. One appeared to be dead, and the three others were severely wounded. The fifth man was lying under a blanket, apparently not having been shot a second time.
“One of the Marines noticed that one of the severely wounded men was still breathing. He did not appear to be armed, Sites said.
“The Marine could be heard insisting: ‘He’s f—ing faking he’s dead — he’s faking he’s f—ing dead.’ Sites then watched as the Marine raised his rifle and fired into the man’s head from point-blank range.
” ‘Well, he’s dead now,” another Marine said.
“When told that the man he shot was a wounded prisoner, the Marine, who himself had been shot in the face the day before but had already returned to duty, told Sites: ‘I didn’t know, sir. I didn’t know.’ ”
One may object to this incident being singled out since, hell, we’re up against savages and after all, this kind of thing happens in every war. Maybe so. But part of the mission ought to be to cling to whatever separates us from the savages, and the fact this happens in every war is no endorsement for it; in fact, it’s the strongest argument for making war the absolute last resort.