In the space between the fog of war (confusion, peril and instant reflexes) and the edited news break (carefully scripted and produced filler between Viagra commercials), a young Marine hangs out to dry.
Maybe I should say he hangs crucified, although that particular metaphor these days isn't just politically incorrect, it's radioactive. But what I'm getting at, in this land of free speech and home of brave Marines, is my unequivocal belief that Marine X committed no "war crimes" in that fortified Fallujah mosque last week where he shot and killed a prone and wounded terrorist. He was just doing his job -- his hellishly dangerous job -- and thank God for him.
This is hardly the consensus view, at least not the one that is actually spoken out loud. And I don't mean just on Al Jazeera, where the NBC News "get" of the week -- a video sequence of the Marine in question shooting a wounded Fallujah fighter after shouting that the man was "faking" his incapacity -- has been airing at half-hour intervals as if it were the Lost Episodes of Abu Ghraib. "Enlightened" people everywhere are clucking -- but not over the heinous execution of CARE's Margaret Hassan, the mutilated bodies found on Fallujah's streets, the beheading chamber discovered by U.S. soldiers, the Taliban-like decrees threatening death for Fallujah women who don't "cover," or the bomb-making workshops seized before creating more craters of carnage. They emote over the death of a terrorist dedicated to all of the above.
Seeing may be believing, but a minute of video doesn't tell the whole story. And the whole story is not that an American soldier stormed a house of worship to shoot a pious Fallujah citizen in cold blood -- the "war crime" we are led to imagine has happened. The mosque served as a fort; the citizen was an apparently wounded, apparently dangerous combatant; and the Marine was fighting the urban war of his life.
Even so, Amnesty International is already tsk-tsk-ing that "this latest incident is just a further reminder that one cannot take it for granted that troops ... will strive to abide by the ... law," while the United Nations, naturally, has called for an investigation into alleged "abuses" by U.S. troops in Fallujah. (Anything to detract from the grostesqueries of the U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal.)