Shooting the Wounded: What Are the Rules Now?

News Abroad

Mr. Allen is a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a writer for the History News Service.

Once again, disturbing images are surfacing from the war in Iraq, this  time of a young Marine shooting a wounded Iraqi prisoner in Fallujah. The soldier in question has been removed from duty and may face a court martial. U.S. military and Iraqi officials have decried the incident.
This sort of act is nothing new in war. Unarmed, or seemingly unarmed, people have been killed before and will be killed again by soldiers making split-second decisions under almost inconceivable stress. This event, however, and the reactions to it, illustrate exactly why the United States may be forced to follow Vermont Senator George D. Aiken's advice on ending the war in Vietnam -- just declare victory in Iraq and withdraw.
In the past, the United States has tried to apply the principle of" civilized warfare." After the World War II, we tried German and Japanese officers for mistreating prisoners of war and civilians. We were one of the first nations to sign the 1949 Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war. When the Viet Cong in the 1970s and the Iraqis in 1990 paraded captured Americans in front of television cameras, the nation was appalled. Despite urging from some quarters, the United States has not used nuclear weapons since 1945, and in recent bombing campaigns one of the goals of the Air Force has been to minimize civilian casualties.
Still, there has been a dark side to our conduct. While the Allies tried and hanged the architects of the German concentration camps in the 1940s, charges that U.S. soldiers starved and beat German POWs were generally ignored until the last decades of the twentieth century. Tales of Americans committing atrocities in Korea have persisted for decades.  While it is reasonable to assume that most of these accounts are North Korean propaganda, the Pentagon reluctantly admitted in 2001 that U.S. forces had killed refugees at No Gun Ri in 1950. These stories did not appear in textbooks or popular histories, and when they were brought up in public discourse, they were dismissed as anti-American naysaying.
With the Vietnam War, this attitude started to change. The army publicly charged and convicted Lt. William Calley of killing 22 villagers at My Lai. He may have become a sort of folk hero during his trial and was later paroled, but the taboo against discussing the less-than-honorable actions of U.S. soldiers had been broken. Stories of necklaces made of Viet Cong ears, burning villages and American-caused civilian casualties became the fodder of the nightly news. That is where they remain.
The United States puts itself forward as a force of civilization and justice in the world. Our soldiers are supposed to behave honorably, even if that is not always the case. Recent images from Abu Ghraib and Fallujah offend the national sense of decency. While there are always those who will rush to defend each atrocity as an unavoidable response in the war against terrorism, there are many more whose feelings range from disappointment to disgust. The armed forces themselves are taking these incidents seriously and are trying to maintain some humane standards, but will that be enough to keep barbarism at bay?
Unfortunately, the insurgents in Iraq will do anything to drive the occupying forces out. They have killed civilians, faked surrenders in order to draw out U.S. troops, booby-trapped corpses, and beheaded hostages. And while the temptation is there to ignore the rules of civilized warfare and to adopt their tactics, doing so will only strengthen the insurgency and bring down more international outrage.
The United States is faced with a difficult choice. On the one hand, the leadership in Washington and Baghdad can forget the Geneva Conventions and allow -- or even encourage -- the soldiers in the field to be as brutal as possible. This will just make the enemy stronger and put the United States in violation of international law. Or the armed forces can continue to fight hamstrung by humanitarian rules, leaving the soldiers exposed to ever more dangers. Americans like to believe that the moral fabric of their nation will not allow them to become war criminals, even if that means losing a war. It is time to admit this and start preparing an exit strategy for Iraq.

This piece was distributed for non-exclusive use by the History News Service, an informal syndicate of professional historians who seek to improve the public's understanding of current events by setting these events in their historical contexts. The article may be republished as long as both the author and the History News Service are clearly credited.

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Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

The war for oil argument is irrational. For starters, why go to war to get something we could easily purchase on the open market at less cost than a war costs us?

If all we wanted to do was secure massive supplies of oil we had easier recources than conquering Iraq. For one thing, why didn't we conquer instead our natural & all but declared enemy Saudia Arabia, with its much larger reserves of oil than Iraq? Secondly, there's the Alaskan Arctic Wildlife Reserve yet to be adequately
explored for oil, which is suspected to contain a very large reserve? Thirdly, why go all the way to the Middle East when much nearer Venezuela's political instability nearly gives us an excuse to take over the place to protect both its people and its huge oil reserves & its economy?

This kid, schoolboy, Allen, relies upon rumors of atrocities & accepts them as if they are proven fact.

It is a mite frustrating that Bleed'n Heart types who've never, nor never will wear the uniform in peacetime, let alone during as shooting war insist upon closing their ears to the testimony of those such as I, onewho fought in Viet-Nam for 22 months & someodd days, until WIA, Lieutenant, 1st Infantry Division, 1966-7; Captain, 101st Airborne, 1969-70 and never once, save for My Lai, even so much as hear of a single atrocity committed by U.ZS. troops.

Oh no, armchair warriors like Allen would rather accept the unsupported word of a ninny such as barely 4 1/2 months in-country & a spokesman for the discredited Winter Soldier witch hunt Kerry. B.S.!

Moreover, as events have shown both in Viet-Nam and in Iraq the Left-leaning so-called but dyting mainstream news media delights in relating negative reports of U.S. & U.S. G.I. activities, but eresists relating positive news about them.

In adsdition, wasn't it but a few weeks ago that Kerry was being lauded for having earned (sic) his Silver Star for no mughter deed than having gunned down a wounded teen-ager in Viet-Nam?

Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Even if some G.I.s did cut off the ears of dead enemies so what? Once a guy's dead, does he care if his body is mutilated? Get this: dead is dead. Nothing hurts anymore once one is dead

By the same token, it tickles me than so many spineless Westerners become upset when it is reported that someone has been beheaded by terrorists in Iraq or somewhere else? Again, so what? Death by beheading is probaly more humane than by handing. In any event, dead is still dead, however one buys the farm.

On the other hand, a major reason when assigned to a Pershing I nuclear missile unit in Germany between my tours in 'Nam I requested reassignment back to Viet-Nam was I more dreaded having the responsibility in a battalion warroom of decoding a message from N.A.T.O. HQ ordering us to launch our nuclear missiles than I dreaded having to again go shoot men with a rifle.
A mite illogical? Maybe so. So certainly is getting excited about beheadings.

Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Michael Barnes,

Kerry admitted to blowing away the kid. In any event, IMO he wasn't wrong to do so, no more than was the Marine much maligned for killing a wounded terrorist in Iraq. Frequently wounding doesn't necessarily make an enemy incapable of firing a weapon at one or at one's comrades. So, unless an enemy makes a clear effort to surrender, one reasonably should consider him not only capable of attacking one, but that he, the enemy, maintains the intention to do so. Then, blow the rascal away! On the other hand, if the enemy is clearly no longer capable of offering resistance, certainly one attempts to capture instead of kill him. And subsequently treat the captive according to the rules of the Geneva Convvention, if and only if he is a combatant of a signatory to the Convention, including adequate treatment for his wounds.

Terrorists, spies, & traitors do not qualify for the measured good treatment ordained for uniformed soldiers.

Yes, I'm aware that the dead don't fret over their bodies being mutilated. For one thing, the antimating force, the soul, of the body upon death is either hell-bound, heaven-bound or headed for a stay in Purgatory. Ergo, in any case that person is way too busy to fret about the beauty or ugliness of the shell he or she no longer has.
Michael di Torre,

Because I've lived abroad for years at a stretch, Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa (Liberia), soldier in SE Asia (Viet-Nam) & in Europe (Germany)I'm not terribly concerned about my supposed, as you apparently would have it, lack of perspective of how other peoples view the world. But then, certainly other folks clearly do look at things differently than I. That said, yes, I look at the world mostly through the eyes of an American, one whose family has been in this land for 272 years, for more than 300 on the distaff side.

For instance, recently I read an "AP" story which referred to "The Economist" as a Right-wing publication, at least in comparison with say, "The Manchester Guardian." Until about four months I subscribed to "The Economist" for the very reason you suggest, to get a non-American perspective on the world's events. But because I found, in contrast to the "AP" writer's opinion, "The Economist" far too Left-wing for my tastes, I've dropped my subscription to it.

Of course, numerous foreign newspapers are available with online editions. Some of those, "The Times," "The Times of India," "The Scotsman," etc help take up some of the slack of getting other folks' opinions in lieu of my dropped "The Economist" subscription, at least for as much for which I feel the need.

Charles Edward Heisler - 11/30/2004

This assumes that the mentality of the American mentality has not changed in 40 years--hell of an assumption there.
Especially in this day of laser sharp precise weaponry--something you did not have in Vietnam and more especially if you assume that the military learned nothing from their experience in Southeast Asia and the hall of Congress.

Joseph Nagarya - 11/29/2004

The person Kerry killed was not a kid (racist image alert) "in a loin cloth." It was a man, about 27, and of large size, in "black pajamas". That testimony is from the people who were there, and saw the battles from beginning to end.

It is interesting how the only manageable criticisms of Kerry have to be made up out of thin air by extremist liars. Including a number who always support war so long as they are nowhere near it.

Kerry did not nominate himself for his medals. Nor did he award them to himself. That is where the attacks on him in that regard are shown for the horseshit they are.

Joseph Nagarya - 11/29/2004

What a mild hypothetical rebuke to our country's actions in Iraq. One wonders what to call "history" when it obscures and leaves out the known facts.

Bush lied the US into an illegal invasion -- violating international law -- and occupation of a country which had nothing to do with 9/11, and which was not a threat.

We have the memo signed by Bush authorizing torture -- probably the basest abuse of humans by humans possible. Torture is a war crime in international law, and under US Federal law.

The US has no moral or legal ground on which to stand as concerns anything it does in Iraq -- including the "collective punishment" war crime imposed upon Falluja.

It is not history when it leaves out that short list of condemnations of our country for its inexcusable actions in Iraq. It is whitewash, a "press release" propping up an administration which, contrary to its mouth, has shown contempt for every norm of international law, every humanitarian norm, all based upon what? Transparent lies that such barbarity -- for that is what it is -- is necessary to protect us from "evil" -- whose? -- and defeat the ever-increasing numbers of terrorists.

Sober up: no people will tolerate their country being occupied by a foreign power. No occupying power can win. We learned that in Viet Nam because we refused to learn it from history. We rejected that lesson as "Vietnam War Syndrome" and are refighting that war in Iraq in effort to prove we could have won in Viet Nam if the "bureacrats" (as required by Congress) hadn't "tied our hands behind our backs". Now we are using the tactics we denied (with some disingenuity) using then. We still will not win, no matter how high we escalate the barbarity we call, with visious disregard for truth, "democracy and freedom". We already lost the war, at latest, with Abu Ghraib. With that we demonstrated, prov3ed, to the clear-eyed and sane that we cannot be trusted to keep our word, any more than one can square Bush's word and "God bless America" with his actual actions.

Of course, there are those who lack the maturity necessary to admit imperfection and error; who will insist the US can do no wrong, and spin endless rationalizations for why our actions are the fault of someone else. But those depraved are hopefully the minority, as they usually have been in the past, and can again be silenced by fact and reason. The biggest problem, though, is removing from power the Bush War Crimes Family and Fantasy Factory.

Ralph Osbon - 11/28/2004

This precise wording of the battle for Fallujah reads more like a well orchestrated plan of genocide for a city of 300,000 people.

You don't attack a fair-sized city with tanks, artillery, planes, and infantry and then exclaim that you saw no civilians. This admission alone confirms that everyone who was encountered in the city was considered an enemy combattant and likely killed or taken prisoner.

I did my service experience in Vietnam and know how the American military functions in war ... Obviously now that the election is over, President Bush gave them orders to take this city at any cost. And no doubt the fighting was brutal.

Bill Heuisler - 11/28/2004

Mr. Shcherban,
Your cynicism is unbecoming. I've received many similar letters from relatives and friends serving in Afganistan and in Iraq. I could share, but go on a Marine Corps web site (google one so you won't feel subverted). There are hundreds of letters to parents and family from Privates to Colonels posted. These hundreds collectively say what the referenced letter you suspect said. Read "Generation Kill" by Evan Wright - all the good and the grim right from the guys who took An Nasiriyih. Read "The March Up" by West and Smith. This war is the most fully (and quickly) documented conflict in history. The miracle is there haven't been more mistakes and questionable calls.

Face it, these American sons and fathers are the best the world has ever seen. Scrape away the dross and even their motives are relatively pure. Semper Fidelis.
Bill Heuisler

Arnold Shcherban - 11/28/2004


By reading the marine's letter posted by Bill, I somehow developed a feeling that it doesn't sound at all as a letter written by son to his father, but more like reporting by a military correspondent to his newspaper
or - by a military officer to his superiors in the command chain or an ideologically and politically pre-requested reporting, meant exactly for what you have done with it: public circulation.
Surely, I'm personally in no position to throw any well SUBSTANTIATED shadow of doubt onto the letter; that is just my gut feeling.

Charles Edward Heisler - 11/28/2004

I read it and forwarded it along the day before Thanksgiving to a huge group of folks. Thanks for the letter Bill, it is now circulating liberally throughout cyberspace.
Great letter that needs to be read and understood since it is obviously unlikely that the media is going to get the message out accurately.

Michael Barnes Thomin - 11/27/2004

"In adsdition, wasn't it but a few weeks ago that Kerry was being lauded for having earned (sic) his Silver Star for no mughter deed than having gunned down a wounded teen-ager in Viet-Nam?"

Now who is relying "upon rumors of atrocities & accepts them as if they are proven fact"?

You might want to pull that foot out of your mouth...

Bill Heuisler - 11/27/2004

Mr. Martin,
Thanks. I hope at least everyone on HNN reads it. And Peralta was a native-born Mexican recently become a US citizen. Where do such men come from? Strangers, our sons, brothers and fathers - literally fighting for freedom...and each other.
Bill Heuisler

Michael Di Tore - 11/27/2004

Well, now I know your stance on propaganda, the manner in which the American people receive information about national and world events, the swagger and the "real deal". But your perspective seems to lack a certain flexibility that is needed to understand the complexity of the world outside United States boundaries. All realities have many points of view and I’m not saying mine is the only one, or correct, but judging by your words you imply yours is. Seeing that we live in separate worlds I am cheerfully and respectfully ending this dialogue. We can pity each others point of view and leave it at that.

Charles Edward Heisler - 11/27/2004

Easy to understand Michael, propaganda is merely spreading of information to help one's cause and most certainly, propaganda must be used to support the war on terrorism which most Americans feel is a necessary conflict post 9/11. Of course, the successful prosecution of the War must be won politically. The Democrats in 2002 and 2004 have lost the propaganda and thus the political battle on this issue. The claim that the American people are uninformed on this matter is simply not supported in any of the Left's arguments--the American people are informed and thus the vote this November.
As far as the "arrogant swagger" charge goes, it is more likely that Bush is merely reflecting, not creating, this characteristic. Americans have always had a degree of "arrogant swagger" about themselves and with good reason--over the long haul, no super power has aquited themselves nearly as well in world affairs.
So, I don't see "arrogant swagger" as being out of character for this country--quite the contrary, that behavior has brought success to the American people and much good to the rest of the world.
I have no doubt that many European and Asian countries resent that swagger, after all, they have all had their opportunity to strut their stuff and have failed to maintain the ruse.
America is the real deal and it is the real deal because it has not used "soft power". Clinton tried the soft power route for eight years and it was badly misinterpreted by our enemies and some Americans that thought the relative peace of eight years was permanent--it obviously wasn't. I was a mistake for the terrorist factions to believe that Americans would respond with "soft power" and it was merely the fantasy of the Left to believe that "soft power" is realistic in the affairs of man.

Michael Di Tore - 11/26/2004

Yes of course - the use of politics is obvious but you’re missing my point. But you say "the use of wars as propaganda is somehow something to be set aside". I’m not sure I understand. That it’s acceptable to use propaganda (politics) on the American people and to do and say anything to accomplish what those in power believe in is for the good of all? Citizens of this country are theoretically supposed support political policies so when propaganda is used persuade or convince then they will support the policies? Okay, I guess that’s exactly what they have doing in this country. Yet not too much has changed since the Clinton administration left except for the 9/11 attack and the limited war on Iraq. Clinton, if you look closely, was just as hawkish in his way. The substance is the same but the style now is more an arrogant swagger, and coming back to what I originally said, America has more potential and can be more creative in going about what they do and achieve the same goals and even retrieve the some of the soft power it has lost in the last four years.

Charles Edward Heisler - 11/26/2004

Of course terrorism and the war on same is used politically! In a democracy, every policy is based on political consideration and they should be! I fail to understand the disconnect that some have with the concept that wars, the prosecution of wars, the use of wars as propaganda is somehow something to be set aside--it simply cannot be. Every policy has to be made on a political basis because without the political support for the policy, it will not come to fruition.
Every time I here the statement that " being used for political purpose!", I cringe and say, "DUH!"

Brian Martin - 11/25/2004

Do you think this story will get as much airtime as the story about the wounded Iraqi?

Jonathan Pine - 11/25/2004

Mr. Livingston, who hasn't read the responses carefully here, has offered questions and no cognizant answers and makes a lot of assumptions about Mr. Allen, a person whom I bet he has no familiarity with yet treats with a lack of respect. But he is knowledgable about the after-life, that a dead men don't care about what people do to their bodies.

Bill Heuisler - 11/25/2004

Email from Dave - Nov 19, 04
Dear Dad -
Just came out of the city and I honestly do not know where to start. I am afraid that whatever I send you will not do sufficient honor to the men who fought and took Fallujah.

Shortly before the attack, Task Force Fallujah was built. It consisted of Regimental Combat Team 1 built around 1st Marine Regiment and Regimental Combat Team 7 built around 7th Marine Regiment. Each Regiment consisted of two Marine Rifle Battalions reinforced and one Army mechanized infantry battalion.

Regimental Combat Team 1 (RCT-1) consisted of 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (3rd LAR), 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines (3/5); 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines (3/1)and 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry (2/7). RCT-7 was slightly less weighted but still a formidable force. Cutting a swath around the city was an Army Brigade known as Blackjack. The Marine RCT's were to assault the city while Blackjack kept the enemy off of the backs of the assault force.

The night prior to the actual invasion, we all moved out into the desert just north of the city. It was something to see. You could just feel the intensity in the Marines and Soldiers. It was all business. As the day cleared, the Task Force began striking targets and moving into final attack positions. As the invasion force commenced its movement into attack positions, 3rd LAR led off RCT-1's offensive with an attack up a peninsula formed by the Euphrates River on the west side of the city. Their mission was to secure the Fallujah Hospital and the two bridges leading out of the city. They executed there tasks like clockwork and smashed the enemy resistance holding the bridges. Simultaneous to all of this, Blackjack sealed the escape routes to the south of the city. As invasion day dawned, the net was around the city and the Marines and Soldiers knew that the enemy that failed to escape was now sealed.

3/5 began the actual attack on the city by taking an apartment complex on the northwest corner of the city. It was key terrain as the elevated positions allowed the command to look down into the attack lanes. The Marines took the apartments quickly and moved to the rooftops and began engaging enemy that were trying to move into their fighting positions. The scene on the rooftop was surreal. Machine gun teams were running boxes of ammo up 8 flights of stairs in full body armor and carrying up machine guns while snipers engaged enemy shooters. The whole time the enemy was firing mortars and rockets at the apartments. Honest to God, I don't think I saw a single Marine even distracted by the enemy fire. Their squad leaders, and platoon commanders had them prepared and they were executing their assigned tasks.

As mentioned, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry joined the Regiment just prior to the fight. In fact, they started showing up for planning a couple of weeks in advance. There is always a professional rivalry between the Army and the Marine Corps but it was obvious from the outset that these guys were the real deal. They had fought in Najaf and were eager to fight with the Regiment in Fallujah. They are exceptionally well led and supremely confident.

2/7 became our wedge. In short, they worked with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. We were limited in the amount of prep fires that we were allowed to fire on the city prior to the invasion. This was a point of some consternation to the forces actually taking the city. Our compensation was to turn to 2/7 and ask them to slash into the city and create as much turbulence as possible for 3/1 to follow. Because of the political reality, the Marine Corps was also under pressure to "get it done quickly." For this reason, 2/7 and 3/1 became the penetration force into the city.

Immediately following 3/5's attack on the apartment buildings, 3/1 took the train station on the north end of the city. While the engineers blew a breach through the train trestle, the Cavalry soldiers poured through with their tanks and Bradley's and chewed an opening in the enemy defense. 3/1 followed them through until they reached a phase line deep into the northern half of the city. The Marine infantry along with a few tanks then turned to the right and attacked the heart of the enemy defense. The fighting was tough as the enemy had the area dialed in with mortars. 3/5 then attacked into the northwest corner of the city. This fight continued as both Marine rifle battalions clawed their way into the city on different axis.

There is an image burned into my brain that I hope I never forget. We came up behind 3/5 one day as the lead squads were working down the Byzantine streets of the Jolan area. An assault team of two Marines ran out from behind cover and put a rocket into a wall of an enemy strongpoint. Before the smoke cleared the squad behind them was up and moving through the hole and clearing the house. Just down the block another squad was doing the same thing. The house was cleared quickly and the Marines were running down the street to the next contact. Even in the midst of that mayhem, it was an awesome site.

The fighting has been incredibly close inside the city. The enemy is willing to die and is literally waiting until they see the whites of the eyes of the Marines before they open up. Just two days ago, as a firefight raged in close quarters, one of the interpreters yelled for the enemy in the house to surrender. The enemy yelled back that it was better to die and go to heaven than to surrender to infidels. This exchange is a graphic window into the world that the Marines and Soldiers have been fighting in these last 10 days.

I could go on and on about how the city was taken but one of the most amazing aspects to the fighting was that we saw virtually no civilians during the battle. Only after the fighting had passed did a few come out of their homes. They were provided food and water and most were evacuated out of the city. At least 90-95% of the people were gone from the city when we attacked.

I will end with a couple of stories of individual heroism that you may not have heard yet. I was told about both of these incidents shortly after they occurred. No doubt some of the facts will change slightly but I am confident that the meat is correct.

The first is a Marine from 3/5. His name is Corporal Yeager (Chuck Yeager's grandson). As the Marines cleared and apartment building, they got to the top floor and the point man kicked in the door. As he did so, an enemy grenade and a burst of gunfire came out. The explosion and enemy fire took off the point man's leg. He was then immediately shot in the arm as he lay in the doorway. Corporal Yeager tossed a grenade in the room and ran into the doorway and into the enemy fire in order to pull his buddy back to cover. As he was dragging the wounded Marine to cover, his own grenade came back through the doorway. Without pausing, he reached down and threw the grenade back through the door while he heaved his buddy to safety. The grenade went off inside the room and Cpl Yeager threw another in. He immediately entered the room following the second explosion. He gunned down three enemy all within three feet of where he stood and then let fly a third grenade as he backed out of the room to complete the evacuation of the wounded Marine. You have to understand that a grenade goes off within 5 seconds of having the pin pulled. Marines usually let them "cook off" for a second or two before tossing them in. Therefore, this entire episode took place in less than 30 seconds.

The second example comes from 3/1. Cpl Mitchell is a squad leader. He was wounded as his squad was clearing a house when some enemy threw pineapple grenades down on top of them. As he was getting triaged, the doctor told him that he had been shot through the arm. Cpl Mitchell told the doctor that he had actually been shot "a couple of days ago" and had given himself self aide on the wound. When the doctor got on him about not coming off the line, he firmly told the doctor that he was a squad leader and did not have time to get treated as his men were still fighting. There are a number of Marines who have been wounded multiple times but refuse to leave their fellow Marines.

It is incredibly humbling to walk among such men. They fought as hard as any Marines in history and deserve to be remembered as such. The enemy they fought burrowed into houses and fired through mouse holes cut in walls, lured them into houses rigged with explosives and detonated the houses on pursuing Marines, and actually hid behind surrender flags only to engage the Marines with small arms fire once they perceived that the Marines had let their guard down. I know of several instances where near dead enemy rolled grenades out on Marines who were preparing to render them aid. It was a fight to the finish in every sense and the Marines delivered.

I have called the enemy cowards many times in the past because they have never really held their ground and fought but these guys in the city did. We can call them many things but they were not cowards.

My whole life I have read about the greatest generation and sat in wonder at their accomplishments. For the first time, as I watch these Marines and Soldiers, I am eager for the future as this is just the beginning for them. Perhaps the most amazing characteristic of all is that the morale of the men is sky high. They hurt for the wounded and the dead but they are eager to continue to attack. Further, not one of them would be comfortable with being called a hero even though they clearly are.

By now the Marines and Soldiers have killed well over a thousand enemy. These were not peasants or rabble. They were reasonably well trained and entirely fanatical. Most of the enemy we have seen have chest rigs full of ammunition and are well armed are willing to fight to the death. The Marines and Soldiers are eager to close with them and the fighting at the end is inevitably close.

I will write you more the next time I come in about what we have found inside the city. All I can say is that even with everything that I knew and expected from the last nine months, the brutality and fanaticism of the enemy surprised me. The beheadings were even more common place than we thought but so were torture and summary executions. Even though it is an exaggeration, it seems as though every block in the northern part of the city has a torture chamber or execution site. There are hundreds of tons of munitions and tens of thousands of weapons that our Regiment alone has recovered. The Marines and Soldiers of the Regiment have also found over 400 IEDs already wired and ready to detonate. No doubt these numbers will grow in the days ahead.

In closing, I want to share with you a vignette about when the Marines secured the Old Bridge (the one where the Americans were mutilated and hung on March 31) this week. After the Marines had done all the work and secured the bridge, we walked across to meet up with 3rd LAR on the other side. On the Fallujah side of the bridge where the Americans were hung there is some Arabic writing on the bridge. An interpreter translated it for me as we walked through. It read: "Long Live the Mujahadeen. Fallujah is the Graveyard for Americans and the end of the Marine Corps."

As I came back across the bridge there was a squad sitting in their Amtrac smoking and watching the show. The Marines had written their own message below the enemy's. It is not something that Mom would appreciate but it fit the moment to a T. Not far from the vehicle were two dead enemy laying where they died. The Marines were sick of watching the "Dog and Pony show" and wanted to get back to work.
Copyright © 2004, The Green Side

I thought this put some things in better perspective. There are hundreds more like this one.
Bill Heuisler

Michael Di Tore - 11/25/2004

I agree with some of your comments but it’s still partly about oil because as I said oil undeniably "fulfills some of that need" our society and other societies have at the moment. Oil is about Power. Regime-change, which is part of the equation, has many benefits, like oil and re-election, and profits for big oil companies. Sometimes the obvious is what is true at the moment. When I say fostering fear, I’m speaking in very broad terms, about the way it was also used in the US elections, when there were so many other issues just as important to America’s future well-being that would have direct impact on beginning to solve the misunderstanding our government, I believe, has had about the import of Democracy to the rest of the world. Muslims don’t hate our freedom , they hate our policies. The US government, as well as European governments do not understand that they do not hold a monopoly on what is considered rational. Christianity is innate in their rational. The countries we demonize today were around long before the USA existed. As for terrorism, yes it is a very real threat but it has been used to win elections and push through agendas that cause a lot of collateral damage to our country as well as other countries. Haven’t heard much talk lately on Washington’s war on terror, against al-Qaeda. Bush has conflated the Iraq and the war on terrorism into one thing. They are very different things. And there is no "freedom" anywhere on this planet.

Charles Edward Heisler - 11/25/2004

Of course they are Michael--the winner writes the history!
However, there will obviously be some misinterpretation, witness your argument that the U.S. is "fostering fear".
Most Americans believe terrorism is a serious threat, especially following 9/11 and choose not to let academic sort out the reasons and propose unworkable solutions to make the terrorists love us. Being practical types, they go after the source, where ever it exists when practible.
As to the pitch and whine about "its all about oil", that is old and not nearly complete enough.
Most rational folks believe a democracy in the heart of the Middle East would have a good effect on the flow of that precious commodity with the added advantage of price stabilizaion. Of course there are some that would rather have a world wide depression and all the misery that would bring, especially to the poor and downtrodden, just to show all those snotty SUV drivers that payback is hell.

Michael Di Tore - 11/22/2004

Our conduct, as well as other nations, has always had a dark side. We did not treat ourselves prettily in the Civil War either. Yes, Americans like to believe they have moral fabric. A fabrication in itself. I’m sure when the time comes the present administration will invent the appropriate spin to extricate themselves from Iraq.

The U.S. has been fostering fear: a monstrous protection racket of sorts in order to bring democracy to the world. Whether this is deliberate sometimes I doubt because fanatics are sincere people. Our "free world" has become economically dependent on a fantastic system of stimulation of greed which cannot be fulfilled and we believe securing oil resources will fulfill some of that need. These conditions have really turned our society into a vicious distortion of our true potential.