Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The WikiLeaks Massacre

The guys marked for momentary death documented in the now famous "WikiLeaks" video don't appear to be engaged in any kind of military activity so much as milling about.

But we're going to give the "fog of war" crowd their due. We are going to stay away from (for the most part) whether the killings of a journalist, his driver, and the wounding of two children were justified.

highwayscribery is going to talk about what this miserable episode says about the United States as a country.

And what it says, first, and most obviously, is that we are at war. And that such events leave us vulnerable to revenge attacks like that in Russia last week and to the spiritual perversions protracted, factory-style killing produces.

Exactly what invading Iraq had to do with terrorism in the United States has always been a matter of debate. But the next time we're hit, the reason why will be much clearer and the WikiLeaks video will stand as solid evidence.

Again, the need for engagement is not our issue here. But the aftermath is the aftermath, like it or not. And the aftermath would suggest a bunch of innocent people hanging out in the street were unsuspectingly mowed down, including two guys who worked for Reuters news service.

the highway scribe as been a journalist for 27 years now, and incidents of reporters being hacked to bits in the Philippines, tortured to death in Mexico, and obliterated in Iraq really get his goat, because his goat's really close.

It makes complete sense to him that the wife, or brother, or lover to one of these anonymous men we care not a wit about, will make their presence felt in your random subway station.

You have to expect it.

Secondly, as you mail your tax return off to the Internal Revenue Service, the WikiLeaks video should assure you the money is going toward the purchase of very fine weaponry.

A picture can be worth a thousand words, but this video caused the scribe to cough up just two:

"Holy shit!"

The Apache helicopter's firepower is shocking for the devastation it leaves behind. The bullet spray kicks up a full-on dust storm and we can only be grateful not to see the butcher's mess underneath it.

Keep watching -- if you can -- and witness what happens to the van picking up the unfortunate Reuters photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, who is crawling around, drawing his final breaths. It literally gets bounced upside down...

...with two children on board.


Third, for better or worse, we've got some tough hombres riding in those multi-million dollar helicopters. If the soldiers in Allah's Armies of Death seem particularly heartless, don't worry. This particular bunch need not envy their clinical, reaper-like mien.

It's clear the pilots are very pleased with the pile of bodies their finger-pushing exertions have gathered. There's humor in them thar massacres, children or not.

"Well, it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle," says one, forgetting whose neighborhood it is in the first place.

And it is hard to understand why the van's occupants, clearly unarmed, backs dangerously exposed to an aircraft that has just scattered corpses near and far, had to be sacrificed.

Really hard.

Fourth, and thankfully, the unfortunate occurrence says hopeful things about our country, too. For example, in the wake of this slaughter, Reuters wanted a copy of the video the military possessed so they could see what happened to their guys.

The agency filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a law signed by a Democratic President, Jimmy Carter, which it is nice to have. However shopworn, abused, and ignored, the measure works on a lot of occasions.

And we need a Freedom of Information Act, because of stuff like the statement from Lieutenant-Colonel Scott Blechwehl, spokesman for U.S. forces in Baghdad, who said, and we quote:

"There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force."

As promised, we're not going to say the pilots were bloodthirsty animals with no regard for civilian life, but we will say there is certainly "a question" of whether the whole thing was necessary.

It's not clear whether Reuters got what they wanted with the FOIA filing, but WikiLeaks did, from somebody inside the military with a conscience. Good for WikiLeaks, the whisteblowers, and the United States of America.

In his "New York Times Sunday Book Review," assessment of Karl Marlantes' "Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War" author Sebastian Junger:

"For a reporter who has covered the military in its current incarnation, the events recounted in this book are so brutal and costly that they seem to belong not just to another time, but to another country. Soldiers openly contemplate killing their commanders. They die by the dozen on useless missions designed primarily to help the careers of those above them. The wounded are unhooked from IV bags and left to die because others, required for battle, are growing woozy from dehydration and have been ordered to drink the precious fluid. Almost every page contains some example of military callousness or incompetence that would be virtually inconceivable today, and I found myself wondering whether the book was intended as an indictment of war in general or a demonstration of just how far this nation has come in the last 40 years."

Well that's a relief, sort of.

Whatever the guys in the Apache copters thought and did, which was plenty no matter how you want to spin it, you have to be heartened by the soldiers on the ground grabbing the wounded children in their arms en route to getting them help.

The "Collateral Murder" crew which edited the raw video for your consumption assert that dumping the kids in an Iraqi hospital was less desirable than taking them to a superior, U.S. military facility.

And that may be true, but at least they didn't leave them bleeding to death in the street.

It's kind of remarkable, watching the video, how many rules and procedures there are to the business of combat. These guys are getting clearance and asking permission yet, for all that, still shoot up a bunch of people, two of whom we can be sure were innocent men doing their day job.

Which brings us to the rant part of this post:

The video is shocking. Mostly because we are protected from the real horrors our bellicose actions, however justified, generate.

The footage is authentic and few things are more unnerving than watching live, threatened humans fleeing for their lives and not making it. The movies are no match. The gap between staged death and the real deal underscores the tragedy of all human slaughter.

Already six years ago, highwayscribery marched in crowds much larger than anything the Tea Party ever cooked up. Unlike that self-centered bunch of hysterics, we were confronted by police sent out to bash heads, because of our opposition to exactly this kind of horror.

"Saddam Hussein was a bad man"

In that idiotic phrase was all the misery and murder on every side - still going on mind you - finally justified once there were no chemical weapons or mushroom clouds to buttress the rolling charnel house that is Iraq.

The WikiLeaks video recalls so many senseless deaths of innocent children, aid workers, United Nations workers, and others. And it stirs up memories of the arrogant smirk owned by the ignoramus who governed us for eight long years.

It conjures all the lies men still running about in our land influencing policy committed in order to launch this little shop of horrors.

It recalls that dark time when the Bush administration had the whole country cowed and, on the eve of the war, walked our listless mainstream press through a color-by-numbers press conference at which they raised their hands and answered pre-approved questions.

The footage brings to mind the last presidential election during which a bunch of white guys battling for the Republican nomination wagged their fat fingers and promised to be "tough," much more so, than the last guy who had just promised the same thing.

This video is what's tough. Tough to watch and tough to live with. It stands, on its own, as marvelous portraiture of what the flag-waving and finger-wagging jerks who don't have to wage war are ultimately responsible for.

They may sleep well, but others don't.

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