November 22, 2004

Call It What It Is: Callous, Brutal, State-Sanctioned Murder

War correspondent Kevin Sites, in his own words about his Falluja shooting video:
"While I continue to tape, a Marine walks up to the other two bodies about fifteen feet away, but also lying against the same back wall.

Then I hear him say this about one of the men:

'He's fucking faking he's dead -- he's faking he's fucking dead.'

Through my viewfinder I can see him raise the muzzle of his rifle in the direction of the wounded Iraqi. There are no sudden movements, no reaching or lunging.

However, the Marine could legitimately believe the man poses some kind of danger. Maybe he's going to cover him while another Marine searches for weapons.

Instead, he pulls the trigger. There is a small splatter against the back wall and the man's leg slumps down.

'Well he's dead now,' says another Marine in the background.

I am still rolling. I feel the deep pit of my stomach. The Marine then abruptly turns away and strides away, right past the fifth wounded insurgent lying next to a column. He is very much alive and peering from his blanket. He is moving, even trying to talk. But for some reason, it seems he did not pose the same apparent 'danger' as the other man -- though he may have been more capable of hiding a weapon or explosive beneath his blanket.

But then two other marines in the room raise their weapons as the man tries to talk.

For a moment, I'm paralyzed still taping with the old man in the foreground. I get up after a beat and tell the Marines again, what I had told the lieutenant -- that this man -- all of these wounded men -- were the same ones from yesterday. That they had been disarmed treated and left here.

At that point the Marine who fired the shot became aware that I was in the room. He came up to me and said, "I didn't know sir-I didn't know." The anger that seemed present just moments before turned to fear and dread."
As Juan Cole puts it:
If guerrillas had stacked four wounded American Marines up somewhere, and then a second set of guerrillas came in, and a guerrilla shot one of the unarmed, wounded Marines in the head on camera, I guarantee you no one in the American media would be talking about extenuating circumstances. This act would be seen as cowardly and perfidious, with no need for further investigation.

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