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Murder or legitimate acts of war ?

by name Thu Jan 12th, 2006 at 09:36:49 AM EST

John Young of cryptome.org posted a link to a video showing how a sniper shoots american soldiers in Baghdad. One of his readers sent him the comment which I quote below:

A writes 12 January 2006:

I just want to express my deep anger and sadness that you posted [a link to] that sniper video. It is filthy and disgusting to post a video showing the murder of US soldiers. It's Islamist porn... nothing more. It adds to nobody's knowledge of Iraq, its people or its problems. I would ask you consider more thoughtfully before posting links to such things.

Yours sincerely and respectfully,

First, the video. It goes on for about 15 minutes and shows from the snipers view how he shoots many american soldiers idling around. You see civilians running away when the realize what happened, you see other soldiers reacting in ways ranging from running for cover to trying to make out the sniper for retribution to not even realizing that another soldier is lying dead before their tank right next to them.

The quality of the video is bad and the music is awful, but there are two other aspects which are important to me: first, ALL the people shot are soldiers, not civilians. this contrasts with the widely reported mass killings of civilians since the invasion and during the 12 years of indiscriminate bombings by US/UK airforces which took place before the invasion. second, there is some technical prowess involved in this because the video camera is obviously mounted on the rifle of the sniper, in one scene the video seems to have been taken thru the rifle scope itself. The video itself is here. It is a 24MB .WMV file.

Second in my consideration is the comment quoted above. I doubt that killing soldiers from an invading army in an illegal war constitutes murder as "A" states above. As an american he is of course partisan to his own people "right or wrong", and he is wrong as I see things. I see the actions of the sniper not different from what, say, the french resistance did to the invading nazi troops, namely harassing them as possible and shooting as many of them as as they could.

I think that this conduct is even legal under international law and qualifying these shootings as "murder" has no standing under any legal tradition. Given the reported atrocities commited by the americans these shootings seem to be even necessary in order to prevent more hardships to the iraqi civilians and to make the americans desist and leave Iraq ASAP. But I realize that other people see this different.

I submit to your consideration two relevant documents:
http://tinyurl.com/bp294 - A paper written for the US Marine Corps which essentially decries that soldiers are subject to laws and guerillas not

http://tinyurl.com/8mkp8 - FM 27-10, the "Law of Land Warfare" under which all US forces purport to operate.

How do you see it ? How would you see things if the americans invaded your country like they did to Iraq ? What would a Parisian think if his city was subject to the chaos brought upon Baghdad by the invading forces ?

Update [2006-1-13 3:5:33 by name]: 13 Jan 2006 - Another reader comments over at Cryptome:

A2 writes 12 January 2006: In reply to A, the "Baghdad Sniper" certainly did add to my knowledge of Iraq and the human costs of our unprovoked invasion of that country. The video shows in graphic detail the horror of war. Watch closely! Any supporter of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq should be able to watch this video from beginning to end and then explain for what noble cause these men died.

For the benefit of those who don't read Arabic, at the end of the video the "Baghdad Sniper" claims between Ramadan 1425 and Ramadan 1426 (October 2004 - October 2005) to have:

Killed 143 American soldiers
Wounded 54 American soldiers
Killed 5 American officers
Killed 6 American snipers

What are these shootings of american soldiers ?
. Legitimate acts of war 100%
. Murder 0%
. Other (please comment) 0%

Votes: 5
Results | Other Polls
Seems nobody wants to debate this. Well, here's my $0,02: it was murder. The reason is that US forces are in Iraq by invitation from a sovereign national government elected under a UNSC resolution.

Killing US troops during the invasion and its immediate aftermath was another matter.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 11:45:00 AM EST
Apparently a substantial fraction of the Iraqi population think the current regime, recognized though it may be by the UN, has been installed by an occupying power and is thus illegitimate.

The US troops are combatants in a civil war. If they were there as peacekeepers it would be a different thing, but they are not.

Just my 2 cents.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 11:50:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed, but the way this question is framed - murder v. legitimate act of war - makes it a legal question. And from that point of view, I think the answer is 'murder.'

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 12:00:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Granted, the internationally recognized government is free to declare its opponents in a civil war "criminals" (and part of the sunni insurgency are terrorists) and call their actions murder. Alternatively, they can be tried for "treason". At some point they will admit they are at war (the US has already implicitly admitted as much by reportedly negotiating with certain insurgent factions behind the scenes) and they would have to deal with them differently.

I am not a lawyer so I don't know if you could argue this in a court, but: the sniper is a combatant in a civil war, and its targets are foreign occupiers allied with one of the other factions in the civil war. Then again, neither the US army nor the Iraqi government are interested in arresting the sniper and trying him for murder... they're more likely to mount a military operation on his position.

Then you get into the vagaries of "illegal combatants" and all that fun stuff, which is exactly where the Bush administration and its doublespeaking lawyers want it to be.

So, without getting legalistic: Iraq is in a situation of guerrilla civil war; war is murder; the US troops are occupying the country; the Iraqi government has limited sovereignty (see the role of the US military, and of the US ambassador).

There is also sectarian violence against civilians and unqualified acts of terrorism, but the one at hand is not one of them.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 12:58:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Strange question, really. In war, there is only one law, that of the victors.
by Francois in Paris on Sun Jan 15th, 2006 at 09:11:33 AM EST

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