BAGHDAD, Iraq – The NBC correspondent who filmed the fatal shooting by a Marine of an apparently injured and unarmed Iraqi by a U.S. Marine inside a Fallujah (search) mosque has written on his Web site that the wounded man made no sudden movements before the Marine opened fire on him.
Before the opening of the Nov. 8 assault on the rebel-held city, Marine commanders told infantrymen that the rules of engagement allowed for use of deadly force against men of military age deemed holding hostile intent, even if the enemy didn't fire on the Marines first.
In a posting on his Web blog dated Sunday, Kevin Sites (search), a freelancer on assignment for NBC, wrote that he didn't see the wounded Iraqi make any movement before the Marine shot him — but that only the Marine can explain his mental state before the shooting.
"Through my viewfinder I can see him (Marine) raise the muzzle of his rifle in the direction of the wounded Iraqi. There are no sudden movements, no reaching or lunging," Sites writes.
"However, the Marine could legitimately believe the man poses some kind of danger. Maybe he's going to cover him while another Marine searches for weapons. Instead, he pulls the trigger. There is a small splatter against the back wall and the man's leg slumps down," Sites writes.
"'Well he's dead now,"' says another Marine in the background.
"I was not watching from a hundred feet away. I was in the same room," Sites writes. "Aside from breathing, I did not observe any movement at all."
"I can't know what was in the mind of that Marine," the posting reads. "He is the only one who does."
The U.S. military is investigating the Nov. 13 incident by a member of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Division, footage of which has been broadcast worldwide, inflaming anti-American passions in the Arab world and among Iraq's Sunni minority.
Military investigators also are looking into whether more than one wounded insurgent was shot in the mosque. Two other men visible on the NBC video appear to be suffering from what the network described in a broadcast as fresh and fatal gunshot wounds.
The shooting occurred when a Marine unit entered the mosque and found five men wounded in fighting at the site the day before, when another Marine unit clashed with gunmen apparently using the mosque to fire from, according to Sites' broadcast.
In the video, as the cameraman moved into the mosque, a Marine can be heard shouting obscenities in the background, yelling that one of the men was only pretending to be dead. The Marine then raises his rifle toward an Iraqi lying on the floor of the mosque and shoots the man.
Two other men are seen slumped by a wall. Sites' account said the men, who were hurt in the previous day's attack, had been shot again by the Marines.
Earlier in the footage, as the Marine unit that Sites was accompanying approached the mosque, gunfire can be heard from inside.
Sites writes in his Web diary that the Marine, angry moments before firing, quickly became apologetic when he realized the incident had been caught on camera.
"The Marine who fired the shot became aware that I was in the room. He came up to me and said, 'I didn't know sir — I didn't know.' The anger that seemed present just moments before turned to fear and dread."
Sites — a well-built, goateed man who jogged around U.S. military bases near Fallujah that frequently come under mortar and rocket attack — wrote that perceptions of him as an agitator for peace are incorrect.
"This week I've even been shocked to see myself painted as some kind of anti-war activist. Anyone who has seen my reporting on television or has read the dispatches on this Web site is fully aware of the lengths I've gone to play it straight down the middle — not to become a tool of propaganda for the left or the right."
Sites wrote that he considered destroying tape of the incident, rather than sharing it with the pool that shared footage among networks covering the fight in Fallujah.
"I considered not feeding the tape to the pool — or even, for a moment, destroying it. But that thought created the same pit in my stomach that witnessing the shooting had ... I would be faced with the fact that I had betrayed truth as well as a life supposedly spent in pursuit of it."