al-Reuters and NBC are reporting that a U.S. Marine shot "an unarmed Iraqi prisoner" inside of a Mosque in Fallujah on Saturday:
A television pool report by U.S. network NBC says that a U.S. Marine shot dead an unarmed and wounded Iraqi prisoner in a mosque in Falluja.
The Iraqi was one of five wounded prisoners left in the mosque after Marines had fought their way in on Friday and Saturday. There was no immediate comment from the Pentagon on Monday's report.
U.S. forces launched an offensive one week ago on Falluja, and have gained overall control of the formerly rebel-held city, although scattered resistance remains.
The pool report by NBC correspondent Kevin Sites said the mosque had been used by insurgents to attack U.S. forces, who stormed it and an adjacent building, killing 10 militants and wounding the five.
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He said one Marine noticed one of the prisoners was still breathing.
A Marine can be heard saying on the pool footage provided to Reuters Television: "He's fucking faking he's dead. He faking he's fucking dead."
"The Marine then raises his rifle and fires into the man's head. The pictures are too graphic for us to broadcast," Sites said. No images of the shooting were shown in the footage provided to Reuters.
The report said the Marine, who had returned to duty after being shot in the face a day earlier, had been removed from the field and was being questioned by the U.S. military.
Sites said the shot prisoner "did not appear to be armed or threatening in any way".
There are too many suspicious aspects of this story for me to take it at face value. First, Kevin Sites is a favorite of the bloggers over at BoingBoing, which makes me, like Charles Johnson, immediately wary of anything he reports. Moreover, I trust a Marine to judge whether an enemy is "armed" or "threatening" over a journalist. Our Marines deserve the benefit of the doubt in a combat situation; they've certainly earned it.
Second, why is the shot Iraqi a "prisoner" and not an "enemy combatant?" Wouldn't he have been an enemy combatant right up until the point where our soldiers took over the mosque? And did he actually surrender? Not as far as we know.
Third, and most importantly, the video is not as Reuters describes. The Iraqi jerks suddenly, and the Marine fires an insurance shot (presumably into the head; it's blacked out on the video). The insurance shot is as old as this country itself; of course, it used to be called "running through with a bayonet." The fact of the matter is, there's no way to know what the guy was doing when he made his sudden move. Perhaps he had a grenade, or a hidden pistol. For all the Marine knew, the Iraqi could have been wearing a Centex vest or otherwise been rigged to explode when our soldiers got close.
The bottom line is that the military is the appropriate body to investigate -- which it is -- and punish if warranted. If he murdered the Iraqi in cold blood, may that Marine rot in Leavenworth. If he acted appropriately, let's move on. Either way, let's hope that he and his comrades in arms come home safe when their difficult job is done.