Monday, April 5, 2010

US Military's "collateral murder"

The news source has released a video this morning that everyone who has ever expressed any doubt about the military's forthrightness in discussing its actions needs to see. It is a long and very specific video of an engagement in 2007 that left a dozen people dead and two children injured in what the army categorized as "combat operations against a hostile force." The video shows clearly that the "hostile force" was nothing but a bunch of guys milling about on a street, minding their own business, and one guy in a van whose only crime was stopping on his way to take his kids to a tutoring appointment so that he could help a severely wounded man who, as it happens, was not an enemy combatant but a photo journalist. It also makes it clear that the "combat operations" were, in reality, simply an outright slaughter.

Dan Froomkin's article in the Huffington Post included the entire video, which was leaked by unnamed sources and stands as a strong and clear indictment of the coverup of an action that paints the US military as a bunch of trigger-happy goons acting as if they are in their parents' basements playing video games. For your convenience, I am embedding it here:

Please be aware that this is a very disturbing video.

Froomkin quotes Julian Assange, the editor of the, as saying that

the killings either violated the the army's rules of engagement, or those rules of engagement "are very, deeply wrong."

Placed side by side with the Pat Tillman affair and Abu Graib and other celebrated actions by America's military that might never have seen the light of day but for the good fortune of photographic evidence and investigative journalism, this video once more casts us in the role we do not like to perceive ourselves: not only the aggressor, but in fact the evildoer. It's an uncomfortable concept: we are Americans. We are supposed to be on the side of the angels, aren't we? But as I watch this video, the bile slowly rising in my throat, the anger rising in my soul, it's very difficult to see anything "angelic" about any of this.

Among the dead were two Reuters journalists, a 22-year-old photographer named Namir Noor-Eldeen and his driver, 40-year-old Saeed Chmagh, who were in the area on assignment. They can be seen clearly in the video, along with their equipment. The fact that they were killed was a significant part of the reason that this engagement did not simply fade into the mire of the war: Reuters demanded the full story.

Noor-Eldeen is seen speaking on his cellphone to another photographer in the video before the shooting begins. That photographer arrived on the scene an hour later:

"When we reach the spot where Namir was killed, the people told us that two journalists had been killed in an air attack an hour earlier," said Ahmad Sahib, the Agence France-Presse photographer who had been traveling in a car several blocks behind Mr. Noor-Eldeen but was delayed by the chaos in the area. He said he was in touch with Mr. Noor-Eldeen by cellphone until his colleague was killed.

"They had arrived, got out of the car, and started taking pictures, and people gathered," Mr. Sahib said. "It looked like the American helicopters were firing against any gathering in the area, because when I got out of my car and started taking pictures, people gathered and an American helicopter fired a few rounds, but they hit the houses nearby and we ran for cover."

The injured children, who were evacuated not to an American base but, on orders from somewhere, to local authorities (and therefore to lesser facilities), are clearly visible in their father's car on one video, belying an army general's claim that

I know that two children were hurt, and we did everything we could to help them. I don't know how the children were hurt.

When the more local evac is ordered, one soldier is heard to sneer, "Serves them right for bringing their children into a battle."

Who in hell are we? I mean this is not Vietnam, where soldiers are shooting desperately because they don't know who the enemy is or where he is coming from. These are men safely ensconced in a helicopter firing 30mm cannons into a crowd on a street below them. They are tracking their victims with sophisticated equipment, following them as they crawl half-dead from the carnage, begging them to reach for a weapon just to provide an excuse to fire again. And I ask again: who are we?

They say that war is hell, and I don't even pretend to know what it is to fight over there or anywhere else, nor do I want to. And I am absolutely certain that every one of these men believed in his heart he was doing his duty. But what have we become when this is what we perceive our duty to be?

Froomkin writes:

Unveiling the video at the National Press Club on Monday morning, Assange said the helicopter crew approached its job as if it were a video game, not something involving human lives. Their desire was simply to kill," he said. "Their desire was to get high scores on that computer game."

Have we become so desensitized to everything now that this is what war has become? A video game? And these "enemies" that the men on the video refer to by various unpleasant names? They aren't even human anymore? Just scores?

One crewman, watching the good samaritan trying to load the injured journalist into his van, begs his command: "Come on, let us shoot!"

Who are we? And how are we supposed to convince the world that we are still the good guys?

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it's your hair that i notice first
streaked with morning
it frames your face
you lying there eyes closed
soft breath not quite there
i follow its path as it bends the sheet
and i can touch you there
touch what i feel is you
in the spark of daylight
you'll rise
pull on the wrinkled shirt from last night
say something you think is beautiful
drink some coffee
from behind my paper
and drive away,
leaving a kiss on my lips
and a hole in my heart
where a fire ought to be

Favorite Films

  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Amelie
  • The Princess Bride
  • Casablanca
  • Annie Hall
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • All That Jazz
  • Citizen Kane
  • Love Actually
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Big Fish
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Almost Famous
  • Bull Durham
  • Notting Hill
  • Apocalypse Now (Redux)
  • Magnolia

All-Time Favorite TV Shows

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Gilmore Girls
  • M*A*S*H
  • The West Wing
  • The X-Files
  • The Daily Show
  • Ally McBeal
  • Picket Fences
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  • Northern Exposure
  • Get Smart
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • Twin Peaks
  • The Larry Sanders Show
  • Monk
  • Felicity
  • St. Elsewhere

Current TV Shows I Enjoy (in no particular order)

  • Perception
  • Major Crimes
  • American Horror Story
  • Louie
  • Suits
  • The Newsroom
  • Falling Skies
  • Franklin and Bash
  • Veep
  • Scandal
  • Fairly Legal
  • Girls
  • Don't Trust the B---
  • Justified
  • Portlandia
  • Psych
  • The Middle
  • Person of Interest
  • Happy Endings
  • Hart of Dixie
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Nikita
  • Raising Hope
  • Castle
  • Drop Dead Diva
  • Covert Affairs
  • Elementary
  • Rizzoli and Isles
  • Revolution
  • The Last Resort
  • Alphas
  • SNL
  • Revenge
  • Community
  • Suburgatory
  • New Girl
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Grimm
  • Nashville
  • Downton Abbey
  • Smash
  • Homeland
  • Fringe
  • Glee
  • Haven
  • Community
  • Warehouse 13
  • Modern Family
  • Vampire Diaries
  • The Daily Show
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Colbert Report
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Leverage
  • Rachel Maddow Show

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