The one thing that irritates me more than anything, is how some people can demonize our troops. They see in the news that a soldier shot an unarmed civilian, and assume that this soldier (and all soldiers) are murderers without taking the time to consider why something like that may happen. Picture this: You're a 19 year old private first class, barely a year out of high school. This is your first deployment and you have a girlfriend back home who you plan to marry when you get back. You've been in country for two months, and have been attacked several times. Two weeks ago, your good friend was killed by a suicide bomber, so you are understandably jumpy. Today you are manning a .50 cal. machine gun at a security check point. Hundreds of cars pass through your checkpoint, and nothing has happened. Then, you notice a car coming toward your position at an unusually high rate of speed. There are signs in English and Arabic warning drivers to stop and wait until they are called forward, but the driver ignored them. You signal him to stop, but he keeps coming. You point your gun directly at the driver as a show of force. Still no response. Your mind is racing at a million miles an hour now. Your thinking maybe he cant read, and he just didn't see me. Keep in mind that this is all happening within 5-7 seconds, so you have no time to lose. Either you fire, or gamble with your life and the lives of every one at the checkpoint, and hope this guy is a good guy. You decide to fire, the driver is killed, and the car rolls to a stop. Later that day, your command determines that....there was no threat. Oops. As far as the media, and human rights groups are concerned, you're toast. You fired without warning and killed an innocent man. Never mind that you followed the rules of engagement, and the driver made no attempt to stop.
Now consider another scenario: Your the same person. 19 years old, girlfriend back home ect... This time you're looking for a weapons cache in a Baghdad neighborhood. You are conducting a house to house search and on the third house, your team leader is shot, but not severely hurt, although it was enough to shake you and every one else up a bit. Four houses later, your rush into a room and are immediately confronted with an angry man, who rushes you. With less than one second to deem this guy as friend or foe, (remember you are shaken up from that fourth house down) you determine that this man intends to harm you in some way, and you fire your weapon, killing him. Once the house is declared secure, you can tell that this man was not armed. Once again, you were forced to make a split second decision, and you were wrong.
Can you honestly say that you would have held your fire in both situations? Do you still say this soldier was wrong,and deserves to be punished? You say that it was clearly over the top to open fire? Would YOU bet your life on it? That's basicly what some of you expect our soldiers to do. I can tell you that it is better to shoot and be wrong, then to hesitate and be wrong, because when that happens, some one is going to die. I think I could live with shooting and being wrong, but I would never forgive myself if I hesitated and one of my friends died because of it. Better them, than us I say. That is how you must think if you want you survive in combat. Better them, than us.