'Six Days In Fallujah' isn't about the Fallujah massacre

Do people realize this?

I hate to beat a dead horse and I don’t want to spend much more time on the Six Days In Fallujah controversy until the game, or some fresh nonsense about it, actually drops.

But I do want to point out one important thing that people might not be aware of: It isn’t about the Fallujah massacre.

That massacre left 17 civilians dead and 70 more wounded after American troops fired into a crowd of protestors at a school in Fallujah. It was a terrible tragedy. The soldiers said they were returning fire, but no evidence of incoming fire was later found. I think we can all agree that this was a terrible incident, whatever the soldiers’ motivations for firing into the crowd—whether panic or malice or miscommunication.

All this took place on April 28th, 2003—over a year before the Second Battle Of Fallujah upon which this video game is actually based. It is not a game made about the Fallujah massacre. No similar massacre occurred during the battle, though this game will deal with civilians who remained in the city (the vast majority evacuated after coalition forces dropped over a million pamphlets warning of the coming invasion). American, British and Iraqi troops teamed up to combat insurgent extremists, many of whom were from other countries, including Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups who had taken over the city.

Say what you will about the war—I believe it was a huge, costly, bloody mistake—but a game that takes place in a battle between troops and extremists known for chopping off heads and other horrific acts is not the same as a game about a bloody massacre of civilians.

It didn’t even occur to me that some people might be so morally outraged by this game because they believed it was about the massacre rather than the battle, but I think in at least some instances this might be the case.

I’ve seen people comparing the game to the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and others question why I don’t discuss the massacre in my articles.

The My Lai massacre was far worse than what transpired in Fallujah. For one thing, it was clearly intentional. Lieutenant William Calley ordered his men to kill villagers, including women and children. This is a fact. Witnesses describe him dragging children into a ditch where he executed them. Over 500 innocent people were killed by American troops in one of our nation’s most ghastly, shameful moments.

That was a war crime. The Fallujah massacre was a war crime (though not on the same scale). The torture of prisoners by American troops was a war crime. The actual battle against extremist insurgents? Even though I do believe the war itself was wrong, once you’re in a war you have to fight battles. War is hell, but that doesn’t make every battle a war crime.

Still, even if this was a game about one of these massacres, I would still defend its right to exist.

Tim O’Brien’s novel In The Lake Of The Woods is (at least partially) about the My Lai massacre and it’s horrifying, but also a powerful, troubling book that everyone should read. Why can’t games also deal with this kind of subject matter?

Of course, the answer is simple: They can—and they should.

In any case, I’m not sure how many people out there are conflating the one with the other, but Six Days In Fallujah is about a battle that took place well over a year after the massacre. The more you know.