Jason Buttrill, a former Marine and a foreign affairs correspondent for the Glenn Beck-owned Blaze ... fired six times at ISIS fighters with a rifle while on the Mosul front.
"Exclusive: TheBlaze’s Jason Buttrill shoots at ISIS members and shares footage from the Mosul front," reads the headline. The story is still live on the site despite The Blaze's recalling Buttrill from Mosul and suspending him from the publication.The reprimand by The Blaze comes after Jason Stern of the Committee to Protect Journalists warned Buttrill that his actions could be deadly for other journalists in or near war zones.“Jason, journalists are detained and killed all over the world over false accusations of being combatants,” Stern tweeted on Friday. “This doesn't help.”
I don't care much for the argument Stern is making. America's enemies haven't respected non-combatant roles like that of the journalist for at least half a century, so the idea that some journalist's misconduct will lead to more problems is a bit blind, I think.*
No, my question is about the ethics and legality of it. Mr. Buttrill was there as a journalist; should he be taking part in combat? I don't know the details, but for the sake of argument, let's assume that this was not self-defense. If someone isn't officially part of one of the combatant groups, and it is not self-defense, should that person engage in the fighting?
There is part of me that wonders what right-minded person would not shoot at members of ISIS, given the opportunity. But another part of me is bothered by this. Doesn't it violate the principle of distinction between civilians and combatants? If that's right, then Buttrill might have been an unlawful combatant.
Or, maybe I don't really understand this. I am not any kind of lawyer, so this is quite likely. Or, maybe in a war like this where the enemy doesn't make even a pretense of following the law it just doesn't matter. And, of course, whether it's lawful or not doesn't necessarily answer the ethical question.
*I have the same problem with arguments against torture that go "if we do it, they'll do it." I am not supporting torture, but that particular argument against it doesn't make sense since pretty much every enemy we've faced for the last century has used torture against captured American soldiers. Maybe the Nazi's were an exception, but the Japanese certainly did, and every enemy since.