The gentleman in question

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 1, 2004

The embedded reporter in Iraq who has caused a stink is more a witless opportunist than an Ernie Pyle. An understanding of war would have caused him to edit his tape and keep his mouth shut. Instead, he risked an inter-national incident with his camera.

And his bosses should have known better and had the tape reviewed by the Defense Department rather than grab for a scoop. The kid who pulled the trigger is innocent of any crime.

Recently a less than honest politician, not a rare item, by his own admission was guilty of far worse and he ran unsuccessfully for president. I know a little bit about combat and back there at age twenty in a similar situation I’d have done the same. You walk into a room where there are enemy bodies, the first thing you do is make sure they, and you better be right, are dead or helpless. And the people we fought in Europe were not subhuman terrorists willing to blow themselves and you to bits. Does anyone think the wounded terrorist in question would have acted differently had the situation been reversed? The kid did the right thing; the reporter did not.

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Supposing I had carried a machinegun instead of a rifle…bullets come out the barrel of a 30 caliber faster than you can count. If I had the enemy in my sights was I to fire only one bullet? That would have killed him, or severely wounded him. And if I only wounded him I could call for a medic to save his life, the one I was trying to take. We were trained to kill and try to protect our selves. Period. Nobody thought about medics until they needed one for themselves.

A navy ship or an artillery unit fires a shell ten miles and hope it kills the enemy. They do not; I repeat, do not follow up to see if anyone is merely wounded and call for a medical team. Maybe if they had fired a smaller shell some of the enemy might have had a chance.

In combat you don’t get a lot of time to think when a live target pops up. If you are trained, your reaction is automatic. And if we were only bent on wounding, why the bayonet on the end of the barrel? If this nation were to try every case of alleged error we’d still be working on the Civil War

In combat, whether it be a duel with artillery or close up in your face exchanges, emotions run very high, a combination of hope, fear, anger, and the eagerness to defeat your opponents who are feeling just like you. Chemicals in your brain take command of you actions and reactions. Your thinking apparatus is just about shut down. After the dust settles, your brain switches back on, and only then. Yet years later you will recall snippets of the experience in great detail. That American soldier in Iraq may or may not have made a mistake but it should be left to him to decide. Or at least be judged by persons with combat experience.

It is absurd to investigate this incident. The investigation itself will cause every American in combat situations to rethink his methods, his training, his duty to himself and his buddies. The slightest hesitation when faced with death could cause his own. Haste makes waste if you know what I mean.

It would have been easy to destroy the tape, or withhold it. It would have been a simple thing for TV executives to ponder it long enough to consider the damage it might do to our forces. If a TV reporter even accidentally takes a picture of a female breast, they blur it as unfit for television. I have never on TV seen childbirth from the position of the delivery team. Yet TV executives think it necessary for truth in reporting to show a beheading, or a heroic young soldier protecting his buddies.

Perhaps there should be a way for our young man in question to sue those responsible for perhaps ruining his life, certainly his career.

Robert Pocklington lives in Suffolk and is a regular News-Herald columnist. He can be reached at