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Marines Know When and When Not to Kill

As a San Diego-based journalist for 25 years, the last 17 with Newsweek, I've looked in the eyes of countless Marines at Camp Pendleton who have seen innocents injured and even killed during fire fights and other incidents. And it haunts them. Especially when it involves women and children. It's a huge part of why there is so much post-traumatic stress in this war: so many Marines are coming home come home with deep emotional trauma that needs immediate attention, and a lot of that comes from the bloody fights in which innocents are mistakenly killed.

Sometimes the emphasis our Marines and other troops place on not harming civilians actually costs American lives because they are trained to be very careful before opening fire.

They say it's all about hearts and minds. But each time a civilian is killed, it's not only tragic for the family and friends of those who were killed, but also for the war effort. We've got to do even better to keep civilians safe and unharmed. It's the American way, it's what separates us from the people we are fighting.

Marines don't drive into crowded streets with women and children and set off bombs in cars. Marines don't fly into skyscrapers and kill innocents. Marines don't kill women and children. Killing is drilled into Marines during training, yes, but so is the tenet that we are the good guys and we only kill the bad guys. And hopefully we are imparting that philosophy as we train the Afghan police and soldiers like the ones pictured above, who eventually will have to learn to defend themselves and make sound and quick decisions.

To be a truly great warrior, as any Marine knows and will readily tell you, you have to know how and when to take lives, but you also have to know how and when to spare them.

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