On a combat sweep through rural hamlets of South Vietnam, U.S.Marines accidentally wounded a 4-year-old child, torn by shrapnel from ahand grenade.
Daylight fading into deadly shadow. Webb, holding two radio mikes,struggling to get his men safe for the night. Knowing he cannot divert amedical evacuation chopper that's ferrying desperately wounded Marines.A civilian, even a child, is a lower priority.
"I said, 'Doc, I just can't do that.' And he said, 'OK, fine, thenyou watch him die.' And he put that child down on an ammo box in frontof me.... While I was working, I was watching this little kid die.
"And in half an hour he was dead."
In the bloody terror and chaos of combat, when American soldiers areclawing for their survival, does the concept of "moral behavior" haveany meaning?
Or is war so fundamentally brutal and immoral that civilians oughtnot examine it too closely?
But the growing clamor over the Korea and Persian Gulf incidentssuggests that more than ever, once-obscure battlefield actions seemsubject to national second-guessing.
And the issues are becoming more acute as the nature of war changes.Many of today's conflicts are fought by mobs instead of national armiesin uniform. Civilians are deliberately targeted. Things happen fast, inconfusion, under intense media scrutiny.
Is it even possible to fairly judge, not having been there?
"It's easy to second-guess somebody when you're sitting at home,"said Ralph Peters, an author and strategist who retired as an Armycolonel last year.
"This is not a matter of condoning 'war crimes,'" Peters said. "It'sa matter of understanding the fundamental speed, confusion, terror, anderuptive violence of warfare. An army should be as moral as practical,but to me, war is by its very nature a fundamentally immoral act. Sothis is a matter of degrees, not absolutes."