When is it wrong to kill in war? According to a military court, when your adversary is wounded and helpless:
WIESBADEN, Germany (March 31) – A military court on Thursday found a U.S. Army tank company commander guilty of charges related to the shooting death of a wounded Iraqi last year
Prosecutors said Maynulet violated military rules of engagement by shooting a man who was wounded and unarmed. Maynulet, 30, maintained that the man was gravely wounded and that he shot him to end his suffering.
Maynulet’s 1st Armored Division tank company had been on patrol near Kufa on May 21, 2004, when it was alerted to a car thought to be carrying a driver for radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and another militiaman loyal to the Shiite cleric.
The U.S. troops chased the vehicle and fired at it, wounding both the passenger, who fled and was later apprehended, and the driver. The killing was filmed by a U.S. drone surveillance aircraft
The judgment sounds reasonable to me. Capt. Rogelio ‘’Roger’’ Maynulet said that his company’s medic said there was nothing to be done for him at which point he said that he wanted to end the man’s suffering. This could have been done without shooting him because of the morphine syrette’s carried by medics. According to one medic who served in Viet Nam, he routinely gave overdoses of morphine to gravely wounded soldiers to ease their pain and put them out of their misery:
I was trained for this at camp and on the battlefield I was begged by my fellow soldiers to relieve their pain or send them on into the next world. In the field there was so much noise from artillery fire, whizzing bullets, choking smoke and confusion that we medics were forced to play God over life and death. Mercy killing you might call it or as I was trained, euthanasia. I’ll admit that I purposely gave too much morphine to about 2% the soldiers I treated, but this was only because they were too far gone for any medical care. When you’re under explosive fire and you see arteries shooting blood out, as a medic you have to make a medical decision about your fellow soldier. Is there any chance he’ll make it or is there no chance? When a boy or a man gives you that look in the eyes, that final look, I knew I was there to give them their final relief. Only death can bring final relief.
And then the crux of the matter emerges; of what value is the life of an enemy?
He further testified that, as company commander, he had more important priorities on the mission than saving the Iraqi, including searching for two escaped passengers and maintaining the safety of his men.
He testified that he was reluctant to expend limited first aid resources on a man he had been told would die anyway.
I’m sure that this kind of incident was repeated perhaps dozens of times in Iraq and any other conflicts for that matter. The question that nags at me is why the military felt it necessary to try this man? Was it to make an example of him so the world will see that we try to play by the rules of the Geneva Convention in war? Could Abu Gharaib have had anything to do with this prosecution? Or was this soldier’s transgression more egregious than what could be termed “normal?”
The fact that the incident was captured on tape by a US Spy Drone probably had something to do with it. Plus, I think that the Army was correct in its judgment that this incident was especially un-called for:
Questions from the six-member panel – the equivalent of a civilian jury – focused on whether Maynulet tried to hide his actions by failing to report the shooting at the end of the day. Maynulet said he discussed the shooting in a debriefing that immediately followed the mission and denied trying to hide the killing.
Maynulet’s excuse; that he was too busy tracking down the other wounded Iraqi and that his medical supplies were limited doesn’t stand up to scrutiny if he deliberately withheld reporting the incident in his after action report.
Maynulet has a spotless record and was praised during his trial by an Iraqi Defense Ministry official:
Iraq’s interim deputy defense minister, Ziad Cattan, testified later Wednesday that he worked with Maynulet when the soldier was stationed in Baghdad and had contact with Iraqi officials.
Cattan, a district council chairman at the time, described him as ‘’a good soldier and a good officer.’’ Asked about Maynulet’s attitude toward Iraqis, Cattan said: ‘’He is very compassionate.’‘
Given the facts, I would hope for leniency of some kind. He’s a good soldier who made a horrible mistake. He isn’t the first and he won’t be the last. Such is the nature of war.