Sunday, June 18, 2006

War and Innocents

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Kevin Ferris, the Commentary Page Editor at the Inqy, looks at what our troops do on a daily basis and the allegations of abuse that overshadow the good deeds:

For Knox Nunnally - a Marine captain who served three tours in Iraq and cofounded Vets for Freedom ( - the rules of engagement are clear and constantly reinforced, but subject to real-world variables. One example:

Near Fallujah, in early 2004, it was policy to wave civilian vehicles around military convoys so as not to hold up the locals. But that courtesy proved deadly. One vehicle contained a car bomb, which was detonated when alongside a convoy. Several Marines were killed.

Nunnally says a more detailed policy resulted: Marines are to wave off any vehicle within 500 feet of a convoy. If it keeps coming, you first fire a flare to the side of the vehicle. Next, a warning shot in front of the vehicle. Then a shot into the engine to disable the vehicle. Within 25 feet, aim for the windshield to take out the driver.

If it all happens too fast? Nunnally says: "I always tell my guys, 'If you think you or your fellow Marines are in danger... engage through the windshield.' "

So the Marines discuss hypothetical scenarios, run through the possibilities. Say it's a type of vehicle not often used by insurgents and it's full of people. Do you react the same way you would with a Datsun sedan driven by a single guy who looks nervous?

Even warning shots are automatically reported up the chain of command and investigated, Nunnally says. The Marines involved are debriefed. How far away was the vehicle when you waved? Did you skip this step? Why?

Too bad that this piece was buried on Page C-5 while the gloom and doomer Trudy Rubin is featured on C-1.

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