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I suspect this one will make the rounds today.

Warning: The video's graphic. Like [livejournal.com profile] jodfoster, the transcript is here: Transcript.




"Cry 'Havoc', and let slip the dogs of war, that this foul deed shall smell above the earth with carrion men, groaning for burial."

Julius Caesar ~ Shakespeare

"My answer is bring 'em on."

President George W. Bush ~ July 2, 2003


I've been listening to this report on the BBC for most of the morning. It's hard to listen to, for a variety of reasons.

I have never been in the military, I have never killed anyone, but having grown up with a parent in the military, I guess I could say that I understand the military mindset. The fact that my dad could have been a person in Iraq, actually was in Iraq for six months a couple years ago, brings it home.

This is not a war of fighting Nazis, marching in rank, driving in obvious German Panzer tanks across the fields of France: the insurgents of Iraq dress like civilians. They hide among the civilian populations. That's the point of being an insurgent: blend in, hide in the open.

America did this in our own war against Britain, to a lesser extent.

But to do that means the line between 'civilian' and 'soldier' is blurred. Blurred to the point where a snap-decision can kill a bomb-maker or kill two children in the front seat of a dark van.

Listening to BBC, they did a good job of getting both sides, but they had no bridge. The military commentator simply kept stating variations of: "It's war;" while the civilian who broke the story kept stating variations of: "The US military is desensitized and bloodthirsty."

Both are too simplistic.

For the military point of view, 2007 was a different time - it was at the height of the Surge and the war had been seeing high casualties from road-side bombs and from (civilian-dressed) insurgents. When there was a chance to actually shoot back at the enemy? They took it.

The Apache, the attack helicoptor the scene is viewed from, spots a large group of people in a courtyard (outside a mosque, it looks like). People will see what they want to see.

The order of "Stay firm" comes from what I assume is the equivalent of ground control, someone back in the Green Zone, likely, watching the video feed in real time. He was likely a person trained to spot weapons, but also a person looking for weapons.

He didn't have the benefit of an arrow and text stating "Camera." He had a blurry image of a dark object slung over a shoulder.

He had a person that was carrying an assault rifle. One of the group had an RPG. It was in a 'hot zone,' an area where there was active combat in the area.

He put 2 and 2 together. Unfortunately, 2 and 2 didn't equal 4, this time.

People will see what they want to see, what they think they should see. In this case, he saw a long black tube-like object on the back of two of the people. He saw at least one person with an AK (3:45-3:50 in the video - not obvious in stills, but watching the video, yeah: pretty obvious).

Whoever that person was did not have an endless amount of time to analyze video. They saw a person with an AK-47 (around 3:45-3:50, the guy in the middle of the three guys). They saw dark objects on slings.

They saw RPGs.

They saw the people that were killing Americans and Iraqis, both. They saw the people that were keeping the war going.

In that moment, those people became "the enemy." This is war. This is what war is: you kill as many of "them" as you can until they stop fighting, either because they no longer have the will to fight, or because there are none left to fight.

It's why Sherman, who burned all of Atlanta to the ground, stated: "War is Hell."

So the military commentator was correct: there were no war crimes here - only war. And war is horrible. Those reporters knew it was going to be dangerous - they knew they could be killed.

It is a tribute to them, as well, that they were willing to risk their lives to tell their stories. It is a tragedy they died. They were in that neighborhood because they had heard about the fighting and were going to report on it.

As I write this, those same insurgents that those Apache pilots thought they were shooting at blew up seven apartment buildings of civilians. At least forty-nine civilians were killed by their own countrymen simply to stir up religious tensions. Countless were injured.

And that, unlike the Apache attack, was not a mistake in target.

Does this justify the war? Does this justify the mistake of killing reporters in a war-zone?

No. No, there is no excuse for war: it is the last tool of diplomacy. The point where two people (or nations of people) cannot solve their problems rationally, and one must be destroyed.

I hope we one day live in a world where war isn't necessary. I'm sure those who fight in them would agree more than anyone.

[edit: I'm leaving this post open to the public. I'll likely lock it down later, but for now, it's open. Keep it civil, please - we're friends here.]

Date: 2010-04-06 07:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aliminx.livejournal.com
You know what I could do without? All of the, “Right through the window! HAHA!” and “That's what they get for bringing their kids. THAT'S RIGHT!”

It's one thing to do your job and it's another to be completely insensitive to the fact that you just shot little children.

Date: 2010-04-06 07:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] playmoby.livejournal.com
I totally agree with this. Totally insensitive. That is why I commented (below) that it sounds like they are playing a fucking video game.

Date: 2010-04-06 07:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aliminx.livejournal.com
And, as much as I'm disgusted by it, it doesn't surprise me at all. I was in JROTC in high school, and nearly every last one of my friends went into one of the armed services. Hell, my boyfriend of 8 years was Army Airborne/Special Forces. That's just the mentality of it all. I'd imagine that's why so many of the soldiers are so royally fucked up when they get home, since that kind of mentality and behavior isn't acceptable in a non-combat situation. I meet ex-military people sometimes, and they're just...off. Not right, somehow.

Ugh, I thank god for the massive joint I smoked mere hours before I was due to be drug tested for the Army. Thank you GOD.

Date: 2010-04-06 09:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] entropic-system.livejournal.com
Remember that it is a war. It's kind of what I'm getting at. Soldiers undergo LOADS of training to desensitize them. To get them to the point where they can kill other human beings and not question orders.

To not stop and think when someone with a gun shows up - you do that in combat and it gets you killed. It gets your friends killed.

That's drilled into every day of training.

It's not a natural state for a human. We don't handle death well (see: religion) and the majority of us don't like to kill one another.

It's why so many vets, of all wars, come home with a little loose. These kids thought they were killing people who were killing their friends - they treated it like a video game because that's the mindset they have to be in to kill 'the enemy.'

It's not pretty. It's not fun. It's not a game. It's war.

That's kind of what I'm getting at - people like Bush, who think throwing all the power of the US military around, and then sit back and eat popcorn and watch it? Need to never, ever have the power to do those things.

This is why voting matters.

Date: 2010-04-06 09:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhianon76.livejournal.com
My sister is an RN; she's worried about her husband's final tour. She knows it will be his final tour, because there's no way he won't be labeled 100% disabled upon his return, thanks to the accumulation of PTSD. He has anger management issues. He blacks out, does things, and has no awareness of them.

Military training does more than focus on desensitization. It encourages the soldier to shut down all levels of higher function, and operate in a baser mode: survival. Soldiers are, at their peak, a glimpse of what our ancestors' behavioral patterns were -- back when fighting and killing was synonymous with survival.

The observation that these individuals are "not quite right" upon reinserting into civilian populations is accurate. They're not. Soldiers are never "retrained" to function in a fashion that would permit seamless reintegration. This is the reason why so many veterans of combat zones end up homeless, jobless, commit suicide, end up in residential psychiatric facilities, or go on killing sprees. The "Rambo" movies are a good example of this syndrome, though not entirely accurate.

I get that it's disturbing and that you don't understand their rationalizations or logic.
But please, don't judge them. Not until you've slipped into a set of combat fatigues, a pair of combat boots, and humped your ass, your rifle and fifty pounds of gear through hostile territory while trying to watch your brother's back.

Date: 2010-04-06 07:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jodfoster.livejournal.com
Yes, that bothered me a lot. As did the urging of the wounded guy to just show a weapon of any kind. I swear, I bet if he'd put his hand into the shape of a gun it would have been enough justification with the way they were responding to the situation.

I do commend the soldier actually trying to help the wounded children, only to be (no pun intended) shot down when asking to take them to a good army hospital. How do you avoid taking your kids into a "war zone" when your whole effing country is one, exactly?

I'm mad about their justifications in the report when the video clearly shows otherwise (tank driving over bodies, saying they're tying to help the kids as much as they can yet turning them over to the IP). I'm sure they assumed the footage would never get out.

Shouldn't be there in the first gdamned place. Gah...but hey, at least Halliburton and KBR are making some bucks. Good for them. Dollar bills sure don't soak up blood that well, unfortunately.

Date: 2010-04-06 09:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] entropic-system.livejournal.com
In context...

It goes to what I'm saying: in order to kill another person, you have to depersonalize and dehumanize them. If they are 'the enemy,' then they need to be killed. That's the mindset.

In this case, it got a fair number of innocent people killed.

I'd like to say that I'm not justifying the killings or even the war, just trying to explain what was going through their heads.

They are not mindless killing machines. They're humans, too, trained to do a very specific, very brutal job.

Date: 2010-04-06 09:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] entropic-system.livejournal.com
I didn't hear the part about the kids, but did hear the bit about the window. I actually couldn't see the kids in the video at all, but it is tragic they were there.

I think incidents like this are why there are so many PTSD soldiers coming home. You have to justify war in your head. How you deal with that later, once you are no longer getting shot at, once your friends are no longer in danger, when the reality hits you...

Different story.

Date: 2010-04-06 07:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] playmoby.livejournal.com
My fucking God, they talk like they are playing a fucking video game.

On the same token, yes.. I can see why they shot at those people. I mean, there are people over there that are trying to kill the military. They dont care or have any regard who they kill, as long as they make as much destruction as they possibly can.

and it's sad. I mean, my ultimate hope is that everyone in the world will just get along. I mean, I know it is a never gonna happen hope, but I still have it. I have to have it.

Have you seen the Hurt Locker? It's very good. and very eye opening. And very sad.

Date: 2010-04-06 07:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jodfoster.livejournal.com
Like Mike said, you see what you want to see. Shoot first, ask questions never. As a photographer and sometimes filmmaker, I saw the equipment they had. But yeah...whatever. rah rah kill em all

I've seen The Hurt Locker. Very tense, very good movie. So glad it won so many awards. Deserved them all.

Date: 2010-04-06 09:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] entropic-system.livejournal.com
Since I answered above, I'll just say: I haven't seen Hurt Locker, but I really want to. I've heard amazing things about it.

Date: 2010-04-06 07:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] scearley.livejournal.com
I find it odd that this story is getting traction when gang violence erupts in America. Don't talk about wildings in America, that might be racist. Instead, talk about the military shooting kids.

Date: 2010-04-06 07:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jodfoster.livejournal.com
Yes, our news is fucked up. But this is still news. One of the clearest examples of how effed up our priorities are this comparison screen shot of CNN vs Al Jazeera from yesterday (you might have seen it on my twitter, Sean).

http://i.imgur.com/NVih0.jpg

Date: 2010-04-06 08:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] scearley.livejournal.com
It's not even the news. Where are the Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons? All news reports (local, obviously) are saying that Easter shootings are expected. But where are the people, where is leadership to do something about it? How about saying something before it happens before it starts?

Because, simply, anyone who says something will be called racist.

ETA: DAMMIT FIREFOX

In the end the news looks at the military. Maybe it's because the military, maybe it's because they're overseas, because news that happens further away is easier to report on. This is news. But so is what happened in NYC. It's not being talked about. That's the biggest news story.

Edited Date: 2010-04-06 08:06 pm (UTC)

Date: 2010-04-06 09:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] entropic-system.livejournal.com
Agreed. And the fact that we've tossed 715 billion dollars down the drain for Iraq is a little sickening. Imagine what that money could have been used for.

Date: 2010-04-06 08:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhianon76.livejournal.com
I share your perspective on the military mindset, especially that inability to relate to soldiers in an active combat zone.
I personally don't have that experience, but I do have close relatives who have. Including my brother in law, who has served as a front-line medic in Iraq and is scheduled for another tour later this year, likely in Afghanistan.

Yes, each of those soldiers choose to serve. And they pay the price for it. Yes, they are desensitized, and rationalize it with methods that we as civilians find callous. But they're doing what they're trained and ordered to do, and while they will make mistakes and I make no excuses for them, the situation in Iraq is in many ways parallel to that of Viet Nam an era ago, guerrilla warfare in urban setting instead of a jungle.

I have my own political opinions about the why's for our presence there. The blame for that lies on the decisions of the former presidency. Not the soldiers. They didn't wake up one morning and decide as an Armed Forces that they wanted to go kill a bunch of children and civilians, and thus facilitated the infiltration of a third world country.
They treat it like a "video game" because that is their method of coping. Of shutting down and emotionally disengaging from the trauma of the episode. They've no other choice, in the heat of the moment. It's not like they can justify sobbing and crying over what they just did. All that would do is demoralize themselves and their brothers in arms.

I saw the AK-47 in the clip. And though I have no solid military training, it sure looked to me like that was an RPG that the one individual was preparing to point around the corner of the building at the helicopter.
It seems an entirely plausible conclusion to draw that the helicopter crew was witnessing the set-up of an ambush on the ground forces patrolling in the area.

Especially when the enemy and the civilians are indistinguishable from one another. Can you justify erring on the side of caution, not taking action, and then looking through your camera scope to watch your fellow soldiers being blown up and killed?

I know there are those who will disagree with me on this. *shrugs*

[ETA: Thank you for sharing this clip. I acknowledge that it's disturbing, but I hadn't yet seen it.]
Edited Date: 2010-04-06 08:32 pm (UTC)

Date: 2010-04-06 09:17 pm (UTC)

Date: 2010-04-08 07:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dakotaluna.livejournal.com
I just thought I'd tell you this sparked an hour+ long discussion at 3AM this morning, tinged with Vicodin. We went all the way back to WWI, the bomb, Vietnam, etc. It was interesting.

Anyway, Robert does not want see The Hurt Locker. It's in my Netflix queue. I could bring it over when I get it, if you'd like. An excuse to hang out and see the kids.

Date: 2010-04-14 05:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhianon76.livejournal.com
Found this blog link via the "Wounded Warrior Project" on Facebook. Thought you might find it interesting, given the side discussion regarding PTSD that arose:

http://ptsdcombat.blogspot.com/2010/04/basic-training-for-mind-ft-jacksons-new.html

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