I don’t pretend to understand war. At it’s best, it’s governed by rules; a civilized fight, so to speak. At it’s worse, it’s a chaotic mess of horrors and atrocities. Someplace in between is reality. A lot of people would point to World War 2 as an example of the former. Others would point to Viet Name as the latter. Again, I have no idea. I’ve never been in a war, I’ve never had to fight for my life, been under the fire of an enemy intent on killing me, and I’ve never had to decide to kill someone or not.
So, when I hear about the Mosque shooting in Iraq, I’m conflicted. I see a unarmed, wounded man being shot by an American soldier without provocation. The anger pours into me and I want to scream in outrage. I want the man put on trial and convicted of murder. I want his conviction to be an example to the rest of the world that we Americans hold ourselves to a higher standard, above the terrorists who would hide in a religious refuge and fight the soldiers trying to free their country.
And then I read the accounts of what happened there and I remember that at it’s worse, was is as much about atrocity as it is about any rules we agree to. Soldiers on both sides are in an environment so foreign and hostile that I can’t even imagine what they must be thinking. I can’t conceive of what was running through the soldiers mind when he walked over to the wounded soldier and shot him. I can’t fault a soldier, on the losing side of a war, deciding to fight from a Mosque just because some group of people a century ago said it was against the rules. It is war, and the best never happens.
The Rape of Nanking, the fire bombing of Dresden, the My Lai Massacre, these were horrible activities perpetrated by people in horrible situations. Decisions were made and people died. Some were punished, most were not, but in the end they happened. Their justification probably seemed reasonable at the time, and it was only in hind site that they were labeled as “War Crimes”. What the soldier did in Iraq was a crime, but it may have been allowable. He was in an extreme environment, living in constant fear. Who am I, who sits safely in my cube, to sit in judgment of the man.
I can’t let myself be fooled by movies into believing that War is somehow a civilized discourse in which honorable men perform honorable actions. In a war, people lie, cheat, steal, kill. Men rape and kill, women whore themselves out. It is the environment they created and the environment they must live in. As a bystander, the only thing I can do is keep the nastiness, the hatred, confined to the war. I can’t allow it out and I must help those who want out of that the storm of war that threatens to consume them.
But one thing I will not tolerate, one thing I will not allow, are peoples attempts justify the actions committed by this man, to say it was somehow justified and permissible. It wasn’t and to suggest it was is was is an affront to the soldier and the dead man. Nor will I accept attempts to vilify the soldier and his actions. It is war and unless you are in it, you have no say in the matter.
One link I want to post is that of the reported who video taped the event. He tells you what he saw that day. It offers insite into the event.