“We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force.”, said Gen. Stanley McChrystal on the subject of escalation of force, in little-noticed comments made this week in his regular virtual town hall from Afghanistan.
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I just came across the Wikileaks video about the shooting in Iraq. It happened a few years ago, but only now was leaked. Apparently, the military originally lied about the incident (SURPRISE! SURPRISE!).
This first video directly below is supposedly the entire unedited version. The video is graphic.
In all my years on earth, I’ve seen plenty of actual footage of war and of killings in general. But, dear Lord!, this video impacted me like no other. It’s impossible for me to describe how disgusted and horrified this video makes me feel. Our society has a deep, deep soul sickness. Yes, war is violence, but this incident goes beyond the everyday violence of war.
The soldiers were in a chopper far away looking through scopes (utterly detached from the reality of these human beings as if it all were just a video game). The soldiers were looking for an excuse to shoot and the whole process was so calculated. The soldiers weren’t being attacked, weren’t in danger, weren’t simply reacting. They were just looking for an excuse. Any object those people were carrying, it didn’t matter what it actually was, might as well be guns to these soldiers. The people killed were standing around a residential area minding their own business.
Let me add some info for context. Even if one of these guys was holding a gun, it’s legal in Iraq to own and carry a gun. As I understand it, nearly every home has a gun. Iraq is a dangerous place and so people living there often carry guns. The people shot weren’t acting suspicious. They were just people standing outside some homes. The reason they were gathered together was because a Reuters journalist was also there (one of the assumed guns apparently was just the journalist’s camera).
“RICK ROWLEY: But yeah. I mean, the thing that was most chilling to me about this, as an independent journalist who works unembedded often, is that when the reports came out—the military investigations came out a few days later, you can read them all on the internet now—and they basically—I mean, essentially they blamed the reporters for causing this. They say they did three things wrong . First, they failed to identify themselves to a helicopter gunship flying, I don’t know, hundreds of feet above their heads. Second, their proximity to armed insurgents was reason for them to be killed . And third, their furtive attempt to take a photograph of American troops .
I mean, so, first of all, there is no reason at all to believe or to conclude that any of the people in that picture are armed insurgents. I mean, you can see two men with Kalashnikovs, but this is 2007 in Baghdad. This is the height of the civil war , when dozens of bodies a day were being picked up from the street, when sectarian militias filled the Iraqi security forces, the police and the army. Every neighborhood in Baghdad organized its own protection force. And it was legal at the time for every household to own a Kalashnikov in Iraq, and every household I ever went to did. So the presence of two men, dangling at their sides Kalashnikovs, in a crowd of civilians who have no weapons at all, I mean, is absolutely no—I mean, it’s—the whole thing is ridiculous. ”
There are other things to keep in mind.
First, incidents like this happen all the time. As with this video, the military tries to suppress the incident and will make statements that are blatant lies. Most of the time, the military is successful in their propaganda to the American public. So, while watching this video, realize this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the horrors of war.
What should be shocking and disturbing about this footage is not that these soldiers are breaking the rules. It’s that they are following the rules, that they are executing calmly and coldly the rules of engagement. And that this is the reality of the wars and occupation in Iraq and Afghansistan. If you support the war, then you support this kind of killing of civilians. They go hand in hand.
At Democracy Now!, Glenn Greenwald (of Salon.com) said in an interview:
“My concern with the discussions that have been triggered, though, is that there seems to be the suggestion, in many circles—not, of course, by Julian—that this is some sort of extreme event, or this is some sort of aberration, and that’s the reason why we’re all talking about it and are horrified about it. In fact, it’s anything but rare. The only thing that’s rare about this is that we happen to know about it and are seeing it take place on video. This is something that takes place on a virtually daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places where we invade and bomb and occupy. …And you see that this is standard operating procedure. The military was not at all concerned about what took place. They didn’t even think there were remedial steps needed to prevent a future reoccurrence. They concluded definitively that the members of the military involved did exactly the right thing.
This is what war is. This is what the United States does in these countries. And that, I think, is the crucial point to note, along with the fact that the military fought tooth and nail to prevent this video from surfacing, precisely because they knew that it would shed light on what their actual behavior is during war, and instead of the propaganda to which we’re typically subjected.”
Most important of all, this was an illegal and immoral war right from the beginning. All the hundreds of thousands of deaths of US soldiers and innocents were entirely unnecessary. These soldiers were just young kids who made bad decisions with the lives of others. Whether or not they should face trial is another issue (the military, of course, states it doesn’t plan on investigating or punishing these soldiers). More importantly, George W. Bush is a war criminal which is further proven by other recent evidence (see my previous post: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & Gitmo Innocents).
Here is a nice summary of info about this incident:
Essential links on WikiLeaks video of Iraq shooting
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Whistleblower site WikiLeaks has released a leaked video taken from a US military helicopter in July 2007, showing US forces indiscriminately firing on Iraqi civilians, killing 12 people and wounding two children. The dead included two employees of the Reuters news agency. There are several edited versions of the video, which can be found in its entirety here. Cryptome offers a series of selected stills from the leaked WikiLeaks video, with some visual analysis of the footage. It is worth keeping in mind that the leaked video is of substantially lower quality than what the US helicopter pilots saw, because it was converted through several stages before it was released by WikiLeaks. The website’s co-founder, Julian Assange, and Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald speak extensively on Democracy Now! about the leaked video, as well as about allegations that US government officials spied on Assange and other WikiLeaks workers and volunteers in Iceland and Norway. Greenwald is one of a handful of journalists taking a serious interest in the WikiLeaksThe Guardian’s Joseph Huff-Hannon. Meanwhile the US Pentagon says it can revelation, as is not make a complete verification of the incident “until the original tapes have been located”.
The first few videos below offer useful analysis. The last video is Fox News, of course, trying to rationalize it all away.
Last year, I wrote about the wars Bush started. I think it’s even more relevant now than when I wrote it. So, I’ve re-posted it in its entirety below. But first let me emphasize one specific comment that is a bit prophetic:
Despite the majority being critical of the war, it often seems like there is very little outrage (or very little heard in the media) about the tragic results. It’s largely because the government has been very controlling of the information it releases and very controlling of the media. The media has allowed itself to be controlled (such as embedded journalists), has allowed itself to be used for purposes of propaganda (partly by self-censoring). We don’t see the visceral images of death and destruction which were seen during the Vietnam war and which changed public opinion at that time. Without pictures, it doesn’t entirely feel real. Abstract data doesn’t incite the moral indignation of the public.
The Iraq War is officially no longer an abstraction. American public, welcome to the reality that your taxes paid for.
I was thinking about righteousness as it relates to righteous causes. Righteousness often plays out in politics in terms of patriotrism, and patriotistm often plays out in terms of war. As an example, the peace protests that were against the invasion of Iraq were the largest and fastest growing of any anti-war movement in American history, and the most widespread and most well organized in world history. It had become well organized before the war even started which is very unusual. It took years for the Vietnam war protests to even begin to gather popular support.
The anti-war movement gained much support even internationally. Many political and religious leaders (including heads of states and even the Vatican) around the world have officially opposed the war and occupation of Iraq. Around 90% of non-Americans in the world are against unilateral action by the US without UN sanction. Around 3 million people were caculated to be in Rome protesting the war which Guinness Book of Records claims is the largest ever anti-war rally. In a 3 month period in 2003, it was calculated that 36 million people worldwide participated in 3,000 protests.
In America, since 2005, opponents of the war have outnumbered supporters. But even before the war started the vast majority (around 70%) of Americans opposed going to war without allowing the UN inspections to finish. Also, at least 64 US city councils have passed anti-war resolutions (which includes major cities of middle America such as Chicago and Detroit) and some major US religious organizations have passed anti-war resolutions (such as the National Council of Churches and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops).
What did the government do in response? Initially, the government’s righteous rhetoric just became more loud. The Bush administration ignored the opposition and went to war anyways. Bush saw that his base supported it, and ignored the fact that for instance most blacks and hispanics didn’t. Bush also ignored the UN and ignored popular opinion in the world at large. Bush hoped the dissent would disappear if he just ignored it long enough, but it only kept growing. And the Democrats in Washington were afraid to represent many of of those in their own base who were in opposition to Bush’s patriotic call to arms. So, no one in power supported this large and ever growing larger anti-war movement. Furthermore, many US news sources (Fox News in particular) tried their best to ignore and downplay the anti-war protests (even though they’ve given plenty of attention to much smaller protest movements that support the Republican party).
The Iraq war was justified for two reasons (a claim of connections to 9/11 terrorists and a claim of weapons of mass destruction) both of which turned out to be either lies or unforgivable ignorance. We’ve torn a country a part out of a sense of vengeance at having a couple of buildings knocked down. Millions of innocent Iraqi civilians have been killed, injured, and orphaned so as to free them from Saddam who was supposed to be somehow connected the 9/11 attacks that killed less than 3,000. But it doesn’t matter because Iraqis are elsewhere. Iraqis hold no great power in the world, and if it weren’t for oil no one would care about them.
Anyways, it was the American government who in the first place helped Saddam and Bin Laden gain power. Where is America’s righteousness when morality only applies when the situation is convenient? It’s not just Iraqis who have suffered because of the US invasion and occupation. From this site, here are the recent statistcs for deaths in Iraq:
Iraqi troops killed  30,000 Iraqi troops seriously injured  90,000 Iraqi civilians killed  697,523 Iraqi civilians seriously injured  1,255,541 U.S. troops killed  4,343 U.S. troops seriously injured  31,156 Other coalition troops killed  318 Other coalition troops seriously injured  10,821 Contractors killed  933 Contractors seriously injured  10,569 Journalists killed  163 Journalists seriously injured  unknown Total killed in Iraq: 733,280 Total injured in Iraq: 1,398,087
Although, a Reuters article argues that the contractor deaths are being undercounted and that this is important as the military is increasingly relying on contractors.
In a Wahington Post article, it was pointed out that certain improvements in the military have had unforeseen consequences. Better armor and better medical care have saved many lives, but this means that there has been a massive increase of soldiers surviving horrific injuries. This has led to many more veterans coming home with severe physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A related issue is that 52% of injured soldiers have traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Beyond the more publicized injuries, there is an even greater subtle menace. The US troops have used massive amounts of depleted uranium in the Iraq war. This depleted uranium is in many populated areas which leads to deaths and birth defects for Iraqis, but it also means many US veterans will end up dying from cancer later on.
Furthermore, there are some more results that I find even more depressing. There are extremely high numbers of soldiers and veterans committing suicide, and many veterans end up unemployed or even homeless. Among the homeless, one out of every 3 is a veteran even though veterans are only around 10% of the US population. Most of these veterans are from Vietnam, but homeless younger veterans are increasing in numbers and no one knows how many there are. All of this relates to high rates of crime (with the highest rates being violence and sexual assault), alcoholism, and drug addiction. Interestingly, I was reading about how the military has made a practice of giving prescription drugs to soldiers in the field to help them deal with the stress and trauma. Vietnam veterans used to self-medicate, but now the military keeps our soldiers drugged up so that they’ll be more properly (or at least temporarily) numbed to the horrors of war.
The Iraq war has been a very damaging war. Despite the majority being critical of the war, it often seems like there is very little outrage (or very little heard in the media) about the tragic results. It’s largely because the government has been very controlling of the information it releases and very controlling of the media. The media has allowed itself to be controlled (such as embedded journalists), has allowed itself to be used for purposes of propaganda (partly by self-censoring). We don’t see the visceral images of death and destruction which were seen during the Vietnam war and which changed public opinion at that time. Without pictures, it doesn’t entirely feel real. Abstract data doesn’t incite the moral indignation of the public.
The War on Terror continues, the anti-war movement has lost its momentum, and the American public have become resigned. The Iraq War is just about to overtake the American Revolutionary War as the third longest war and the War in Afghanistan is getting closer to being the longest war in US history. Right now Obama is trying to decide what to do next with a war he inherited, a war that is impossible to win.
So, this is where political faux righteousness leads. My point for bringing all of that up is to show how the anti-war movement is an example of how a genuinely righteous populist movement can be suppressed. And it’s just one of endless examples.