Tuesday, November 16, 2004

War Happens

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.
The video, according to a version aired by CNN, showed a Marine raising his rifle toward the prisoners but neither NBC nor CNN showed the shooting itself. The video was blacked out but the report of the rifle could be heard.

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."

This is an atrocity. But war itself is an atrocity. The Marine committing this particular atrocity lives in hell. He is going to be punished, we are told. Will the ones who created the hell, who started this war, who caused such stress on human beings that they kill each other just for the killing, will those powers ever be punished? Will they sleep well at night? Will they grow rich on the carnage? Will they tell us why this particular atrocity is nowhere near as bad as the atrocities of the other side, the disembowelings and chopped limbs?

So many seem to want a war, a war like a computer game with a Great Hero leading the troops on his white horse, wielding the Sword of Justice. So many count the points each side scores and make bets about the winners. So many feel as if they are the Great Hero, as if the war that happens far away somehow makes them more real, more powerful, less humiliated. Purer.

Wars are not like that. They are exactly like the above events in the Mosque. They are about making the enemy into a thing, something squeaking in the undergrowth, something stinky and smelly and killable. On both sides. But the price of doing this is losing our own humanity, becoming the same squeaky thing in the undergrowth, only bigger, more bloodthirsty, less killable.

Do we really want to do this?