Tuesday, November 16, 2004

NBC tape apparently shows prisoner shot

Maybe you've seen this footage, maybe you haven't. Maybe you only heard the audio, like I did on my way to work this morning while listening to WLS. The Marine in question who shot this wounded terrorist is in the clear as far as I'm concerned. According to the article, the wounded terrorists were treated for their injuries and left in the mosque for a period of 24 hours. That's long enough for someone to arm them, wire them up with explosives, whatever it takes to kill American troops. I'd have done the same thing in that Marine's case. If it's a matter of heading off an ambush or suicide attack and keeping the my unit safe, then I'd shoot first and search the bodies later, too. No, I'm not trying to sound macho or bloodthirsty, and if you come away from this discussion with that impression then the fault is yours for reading too much into it. I would make the same judgment as that Marine, personal consequences be damned.

I'll be the first to admit that the Air Force didn't have much in the way of small unit tactics, even with airbase ground defense training. (What I would do to improve combat training in the Air Force is fodder for future posts.) We did, however, learn to work as a team, and part of that training is to keep your teammates alive and accounted for. If that meant killing a potential yet still-unverified threat to the team, wounded enemy combatant or not, so be it. My teammates would still be alive, and that would allow us to continue our mission.

One thing I have noticed is a lot of people trying to apply a law-enforcement approach ot the situation, where the use of deadly force is a last resort. War is quite different from law enforcement, no matter how many of the same terms may be used by both police and military units. The criteria for using deadly force are quite lower in war than in law enforcement. I haven't seen the terrorists in Iraq follow the Geneva Convention yet, but they seem to get a pass on that. It makes me wonder if the Convention laws were designed in such a manner to cause every move by one of the signatories to that treaty to be viewed as a potential war crime. That's great if you're trying to keep Denmark and Germany from fighting a border war, but it doesn't seem to work against people who will use mosques as staging areas for their attacks.

So, why are we being restrained when our enemy isn't? Following the Geneva Convention to the letter while fighting against a non-signatory group seems like a great way to lose a war. It's going to be very difficult to win a war when we have to agonize over every single soldier's actions. We've been pretty nice as far as conducting warfare is concerned. It may be time to stop being so nice and stop letting our enemies use our laws against us. Am I advocating scorched-earth warfare? No. There has got to be a better way for us to fight the terrorists in Iraq. Cutting and running is out of the question, so let's see what other options we have. Any ideas?

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