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NBC: Marine Kills Wounded Iraqi

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Here comes the next Abu Ghraib scandal, brought to you with great relish by NBC: Report: U.S. Marine Kills Wounded Iraqi.

NEW YORK - A U.S. Marine shot and killed a wounded prisoner in a Fallujah mosque, according to a television pool report broadcast Monday. A Marine spokesman said the shooting was being investigated.

Pool pictures taken by NBC correspondent Kevin Sites embedded with the Marines 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment, were recorded Saturday as the Marines returned to an unidentified Fallujah mosque. …

According to the Sites report of events that led up to the shooting, the Marines had stormed the mosque a day earlier — Friday — after a firefight with insurgents who had taken up a position inside. Ten men in the mosque were killed and five were wounded. The wounded were left behind as the Marines moved on.

The videotape shows some of the Marines approaching the mosque a day later — Saturday. Gunfire can be heard from inside. At the mosque entrance, Marines who were already inside emerge from the building and are asked by the approaching Marines if there were insurgents inside, if the Marines had shot any of them and if the enemy fighters were armed?

Sites reported that the Marine who was questioned shrugged his shoulders.

Sites account said four of the wounded men hurt in the attack the day before had been shot again by the Marines who returned Saturday.

The videotape showed two of the wounded propped against the wall and Sites said they were bleeding to death. According to NBC’s report, a third wounded man appeared already dead, a fourth was severely wounded but breathing and the fifth was covered by a blanket but did not appear to have been shot again on Saturday.

On the video, a Marine can be heard shouting obscenities in the background, yelling that one of the men against the wall in the mosque was only pretending to be dead. The video then briefly shows a Marine raising his weapon toward one of the inert prisoners. The video is then blacked out, but the report of the gunfire can be heard and Sites said in a written report that a Marine said “Now he is.”

I don’t know the full story yet, but the mujahideen are well-known for fighting until martyrdom, blowing themselves up, hiding weapons, and treachery, and I am extremely skeptical of this report. A quick Google lookup on Kevin Sites reveals quite a bit of admiration at lefty sites for his past work, which causes my antennae to tingle.

UPDATE at 11/15/04 6:35:38 pm:

Good analysis of this incident from Alec Rawls at Error Theory:

If the Marine was right that the Iraqi was feigning death, or if he drew a reasonable inference of the same, then shooting the wounded man first and asking questions later might well have been the correct thing to do. War is not like police work where an officer has a duty not to kill unless he absolutely has to. A soldier’s duty is to kill every enemy he can who is not actively trying to surrender. Feigning death is not trying to surrender, and a fighter in such circumstances could very well inflict terrible damage. Some of the fighters in Fallujah have been strapped with suicide bomber belts. In this circumstance, any covert activity, like feigning death, would seem to call for instant death.

Of course there may be more to the story. Maybe standing orders addressing such situations demand forbearance. Maybe both of the fighter’s hands were already blown off and surreptitious action was clearly impossible. NBC reports that the “prisoner” (I have to put that in quotes) “did not appear to be armed or threatening in any way,” but appearances can be deceiving. If the Marine detected deceit, then acting on the presumption that appearances ARE deceiving seems warranted. It is certainly not obvious that the Marine acted wrongly, never mind criminally.

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