I interviewed your Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Willy Buhl, before the battle for Falluja began. He said something very powerful at the time-something that now seems prophetic. It was this:
"We're the good guys. We are Americans. We are fighting a gentleman's war here--because we don't behead people, we don't come down to the same level of the people we're combating. That's a very difficult thing for a young 18-year-old Marine who's been trained to locate, close with and destroy the enemy with fire and close combat. That's a very difficult thing for a 42-year-old lieutenant colonel with 23 years experience in the service who was trained to do the same thing once upon a time, and who now has a thousand-plus men to lead, guide, coach, mentor--and ensure we remain the good guys and keep the moral high ground."
I listened carefully when he said those words. I believed them.
So here, ultimately, is how it all plays out: when the Iraqi man in the mosque posed a threat, he was your enemy; when he was subdued he was your responsibility; when he was killed in front of my eyes and my camera--the story of his death became my responsibility.
The burdens of war, as you so well know, are unforgiving for all of us.
I pray for your soon and safe return.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
What the cameraman saw
Here is war correspondent Kevin Sites' open letter to the "Devil Dog" Marines about what he saw and recorded in a mosque in Falluja.