2.12.10

WATCH. All of It.


http://www.collateralmurder.com/

They didn't want to hesitate, they didn't want to look closer.  Can you still blame it on the chain of command when the soldiers in the Apache were ASKING eagerly for permission to fire?  I'm struggling to find where the root of the blame lies, how far has the training of soldiers gone to rid them of any moral compass towards killing?  If this is a reflection of what the military is striving for, they have attained the ideal of young men capable of disassociation from human life - "Look at those dead bastards".  This is the US and THEM duality taken to it's natural conclusion, that is that there is no value to those who are not "US".  Stripped of their status as human beings they can be blamed for the death of their own children. Shame and guilt that should naturally be present can be supressed or not even come to mind if you already believe they are all equally "THEM" and thus must be responsible for their own suffering.  As though they were video game villans they can be shot through a crosshair from land or air and any collateral damage you incur will be justified by your fellow soldiers, your commander and the political/military complex.

If the culture you are a part of does not question you, there is nothing but your own conscience to torture you.   Accidentally wounding children in your own street while firing on an intruder would still potentially leave a lifetime of guilt and remorse for their suffering. Soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq have performed their duties in the field and return to home soil consumed self-loathing and post-traumatic stress.  Firing on the children of those for whom no one will call you to answer for - that's an easy cause for conceptualizing what has occurred as an unfortunate case of "collateral" damage by superiors and even the men themselves.  It is the mindset they need to hold on to to act in as they are instructed, yet conflicts of interest in Afghanistan and Iraq have are harming our troops in ways we won't understand for years to come.

If you watch and read everything in this video it is also apparent the very association these children had with the enemy made their need for immediate medical attention, (recommended by the U.S military medical officer in the video) irrelevant to following the prescribed process.  They were made to wait for the Iraqi Police (IP) to collect them to be taken to a local hospital.  With glass in her hair and eyes, and a wound to her belly, this girl waited, as I counted the minutes ticking past, I felt sick.  How many soldiers did we not see in this piece of film that felt the same?

So by this chain of events we can conclude that even the most innocent do not warrant full consideration under the rules of engagement.  If even when it is obvious that there is an opportunity to make even the slightest amends to a horrifying error, a moment when a medical officer instinctively states where he wants these children to be treated - the grinding gears of protocol and cool detachment still turn away from making that choice.   I have seen this in innocuous forms throughout my time as part of government bureaucracy, in it's more day to day use the idea behind mindlessly following rules is the old adage that if an 'exception' is made under a special circumstance, then there would be accusations of favoritism and a slippery slope to a demand for the same treatment for all.  Such a adherence to rules is meant to handle the former issues but also more precisely to emphasize and ingrain in those within the bottom rungs of the system that the rules will be enforced , there will be no deviation even in the most exceptional circumstances.  As a member of this system you should learn to expect that, and you should know better than to question whether or not these rules are useful, moral, ethical, or even logical because you are not the one with the power to change them.  Others you have been taught to perceive as more educated and wiser than you have made them - and considering where you are in the hierarchy you should realize they are for your own good, because obviously if you were as clever as them, you would be making the rules.

This deferrence may be or not be acceptable when we are dealing with business as usual in the functioning of a basic policy unit, or an approval for a new state initiative, but it is beyond reason that this should be applied to children suffering from agony that they had no choice in.  On the collateral murder website, you can also view the video of Ethan McCord, the soldier who pulled the children from the van, talks about what he was told by his superiors to do about his conflicted feelings about this incident.   He was belittled, feminized, and told to "suck it up".  It is certain that there is little room to discuss ethics in the warzone, but when returning home these soldiers continue to be shamed into silence.

Whether you want to argue the blame lies with those who brought the children to that scene, or those who fired on the van - the outcome in it's entirety is what is at issue, and yet everyone present - gave no further protest, even after the fact. This incident was one of many.  Their faculties of compassion and reason layed down in the face of the greater power.  I say the greater power, because it is always important to distinguish this statement from the invocation of "the greater good", which underlies the perceived necessity of "collateral damage".

While it is true they couldn't have seen the children in the van from the helicopter, it seemed abundantly clear to me the van was an extremely minimal threat, and at the very least an armoured ground force (which was obviously capable of reaching the scene ) could have approached the van with cover from above - discovered the what was going on - and prevented the children/rescuers from being fired on.  Watching made me cry for alternatives, moment by moment knowing what was about to happen, and asking over and over what could have been realistically gained by continuing this course of action.  I tried to be critical and remind myself that I have no true knowledge of the reality of those soldiers, that they are subject to suicide attacks, roadside bombs and the uncertainty of trusting any situation that could seem harmless.  I wanted to work as hard as I could to see both sides of this snapshot I was being given of the larger conflict.  But as I saw, the reality is that the war is being fought anonymously and with great might from above and the ground forces are the second line of defense to literally roll over the bodies after the perceived threats have been neutralized.

These cannot be accepted as the rules of engagement.  If they were to justify this incident by saying that the lives of ground troops would be at risk by investigating similar situations, the conclusions that can be drawn from this video demonstrate how such a good principle to preserve the lives of soldiers can become a twisted justification turned on it's head to allow Iraq to become an indiscrimate killing field.  

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