Thursday, November 18, 2004

Death by Self-Destruction

There is a "defense" of the Marine videotaped shooting a wounded combatant in the Wall Street Journal today titled Death by Adrenaline by Edward N. Luttwak. First he explains the physiological state that a soldier is in when he is in a kill-or-be-killed combat zone, and the effect all that adrenaline has on one's judgment and actions.
That is why fighters kill surrendering enemies -- they are still chemically compelled to kill, and have someone to kill in front of them. A moment later, with the effect dissipated, that same fighter becomes a person once again or, in the case at hand, a disciplined and presumably decent Marine who would never dream of killing a defenseless, harmless, wounded prisoner.

Is the "case at hand" about a Marine killing "a defenseless, harmless, wounded prisoner"? Only Kevin Sites, and various media who have echoed him, think this combatant was a prisoner. Later, Luttwak acknowledges the combatant was not a prisoner, so why does he confuse the issue by implying it here. As far as the combatant being harmless, that has to be a judgment left up to those who will pay with their lives if they are wrong. He then mentions the booby-trapped bodies that the Marines have been encountering,
But it is quite unnecessary to add any further explanation, or excuse for that matter. For the U.S. Marine Corps -- as for any decent and law-abiding military force -- the deliberate, cold-blooded, killing of unarmed prisoners is murder full stop, and must be punished as such.
Is this at all relevant to this incident? Apparently not -
But that is irrelevant in this case (unless the anonymous Marine happens to be a common murderer by some remote chance) because the incident took place on the battlefield in an unsecured environment before prisoners were taken.
He then offers his defense explaining this adrenaline fueled "compulsion to kill is entirely involuntary and inevitable" in infantry combat. He concludes,
it was a pool of unpatriotic American television reporters and the Marine officers who started an immediate judicial investigation, for strict American legalism is alive and well even in the Marine uniform.

Those are two things for which we can be very thankful. The last thing we would want are patriotic reporters who would conceal errors, embarrassments and crimes in our armed forces, thus favoring their present reputation at the expense of their improvement, or military officers who would condone atrocity. ... We want both the unvarnished truth from our media and strict legalism in our armed forces. But the anonymous Marine cannot be punished for an inevitable consequence of his duty as a combatant in war.
We can be thankful for pool reporters who produce out-of-context videos that the enemy uses as propaganda. I think not. The military has a moral responsibility to protect our troops. Although the military needs to have internal checks and balances to ensure errors and crimes are reported and dealt with, when we have soldiers in combat fighting for their lives this should not be a process reveled in by worldwide media. It endangers the lives of our troops.

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