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November 23, 2004

The Marine in Fallujah.

You know which one. The only one the MSM or Euros, or other whingers seem interested in. The one Kevin Sites (who I'm not yet convinced deserves a lot of the opprobrium he's received on the subject) recorded and reported. I'll provide Rusty Shackelford's discussion on that subject from the other side for your consideration. As I'm not really writing about Sites, I'm not going to say any more on the subject, as at this point, my opinion is insufficiently formed.

Update: Some people who's opinions are sufficiently formed have spoken. Bill at A Small Town Veteran, and Greyhawk, at Mudville Gazette. You can count me in their camp. A small quibble, Bill. I do reserve the right to judge, after I have enough info that my opinion is sufficiently formed, but I'm not much of a turn the other cheek kind of guy, either.

Update II: A journalist's view. As I said, even though I said I lean towards Kevin Site's side of the picture - there is certainly a body of evidence that is keeping me from being a staunch defender. Hat tip to CAPT H for the pointer.

I've been asked what I think on the issue of the Marine, so I guess I'll take a stab at it. And having gotten the 1MEF brief on what they found in Fallujah, I've got the ammunition I need for it.

First, go read this, at Bill Faith's Small Town Veteran. I'll wait.

Back? Okay, now go down one post and read the 1MEF briefing if you haven't already seen it.

Guess what? This isn't a moral equivalency argument I'm about to make. Nope. If the Marine did what it kind of looks like he might well have - then the system will deal with it. Which is more than what we can say of what Wahabist Muslims will apparently do to those who profane their holy places.

But then, Wahabists haven't signed up for the Accords, have they?

During the March Upcountry and in subsequent operations, I've heard people pooh-pooh the idea of "Laws of War" as an oxy-moron, or a silly idea. If that's how you think, you're the moron.

As I've noted before (but am unwilling to search the archives - feel free, the link for searching is in the left sidebar) the codified rules of conflict exist for a purpose. To reduce the unnecessary suffering and infliction of damage by the combatants, to acknowledge that some level of horror is implicit, and to provide a juridical and philosophical basis for that, and to set conditions by which people can withdraw from conflict - both in the heat of the battle (still problematic) and in terms of the greater, overarching conflict that brings about the clash of arms.

The point is - the purpose of the "Laws of War" is actually to set some limits on indiscriminate violence that serves no purpose - and to provide a recognized mechanism by which conflict can be ended, both retail and wholesale, by giving a recognized, agreed upon framework to signal one's intent to cease hostilities - with a recognition that given those signs, the victor will respect the vanquished's intent to cease fighting. There are three basic underpinnings: proportion, discrimination, and the written laws of war. War crimes are acts that exceed the legitimate requirements of military neccessity in the conduct of military operations.

Proportional means that the amount of violence applied and misery inflicted must be proportionate to the military ends being achieved. Which means you can inflict one hell of a lot of pain in the here and now - with the expectation that that will reduce the amount of pain later, by shortening the conflict overall. Therein lay the angst of Mutual Assured Destruction - did killing everything in order to make sure the other guy didn't win meet the test of proportionality? Not just an idle question among those of us in the nuclear weapons business, I assure you.

Discrimination means that direct intentional attacks on non-combatants and non-military targets are prohibited. Guess what? Pretend to surrender in order to lure someone on - you've reinserted yourself as a military target. Set up shop in the hospital, oprhanage, mosque - you've made that location a legitimate military target. The response to that must be proportional to the need, but that means if you want to fight from your national treasures and sacred sites - I can blow them into little bitty pieces if I need to in order to protect myself and advance my military requirements.

The codified rules and laws of war are just that - traditions passed down by custom and treaty, whether explicit or implicit - such as the Geneva Conventions, which apply to non-combatants, and The Hague conventions which cover combatants. What, you say? POWs are covered under Geneva - so they are - because they are technically non-combatants, at the mercy of their captor.

And you almost always have a right to self-defense. This is where the grayness comes in for the Marine. But you lose that right when you opt to surrender - in that if you change your mind and wanna fight after all - you're probably going to die, and if you survive, you may not be allowed to surrender the next time - see the Baldilocks example in Saving Private Ryan.

The insurgents, by failing to abide by those rules - and in fact deliberately abrogating them in order to achieve no useful military purpose other than the infliction of death and destruction simply because they can (or they feel their religion compels them to) have set the conditions under which Coalition soldiers have every right to be aggressive in protecting themselves.

If you'd like a reasoned, well argued discussion of the underlying principles of the LOW as it applies in this situation you need read no further than Mac Owen's piece in National Review, which I pretty much agree with - and which matches my own 25+ years of experience in and study of things military.

Mac provides examples of how the insurgents set those conditions in his piece.

There are more examples of perfidy on the part of the mujis.

And more.

And more.

And more.

And more.

And more.

And more.

And more.

And more.

And more.

And more.

And more.

And more.

In contrast, there is this - in diametric opposition. Ya want the good guys to behave - behave like this.

Bottom line - this Marine will go through the whole investigative process, with due process, and may or may not face charges. From what I know of the event so far, he probably stands a 50/50 chance of coming through without negative action being taken. And if he is charged and convicted of something, I suspect the extenuating and mitigating circumstances will limit the consequences.

Whether or not justice will be served with that outcome, I don't know, because I don't know the true status of the man who was shot. We may never know. It may come out in the investigation. But it was the mujis who set the conditions for that act to occur - and for it to be hazy.

But I do know that no one danced in the streets over that film in this country.

I doubt the same would be true were the situations reversed, in much of the Muslim world, though I am sure there are those who would be appalled and speak out - and there are even more who are afraid to speak out. And I strongly doubt there would have been an investigation, much less anything approach judicial proceedings.

Which is exactly why the incident happened. The people we are fighting aren't playing by the rules we govern ourselves with. As a result - they set themselves up, and perhaps possible innocents, like the man the Marine shot - for incidents just like this.

And that, Virginia, is why there are Laws of War in the western way of war. Whether you think it's a good idea or not.

I think it's a good idea. And one we should continue to follow.

Only one thing is certain in the crucible of close-quarters combat.

Life's a bitch.

Oh, yeah - I haven't said it lately, either. Wahabism Delenda Est!