07 April 2010

A Reminder

Namir Noor-Eldeen.
Photograph ©
Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press.

There is now hubbub, reported in The New York Times for instance, about a newly released video showing American troops in 2007 killing Iraqi civilians from a helicopter hovering over Baghdad. The video is gruesome. The chatter from the Americans is worse. But neither should come as a surprise. Among the victims - and that is the proper word - was a talented young photojournalist Namir Noor-Eldeen. You can find a remembrance of Noor-Eldeen, along with some of his work, here at The Lede blog.

The post is touching. It also is a reminder. War is shitty. And the young men we send to fight are desensitized by the experience. War is kill or be killed. So we should be surprised not in the least about the crass attitude articulated by the American troops in the video sound track. In fact, this is precisely what you claim to be grateful for when you thank military men and women 'for their service.' If you find the attitude of these young men offensive - and you should - the proper response is to oppose useless military adventures like the BushCo invasion of Iraq. Obama said he'd end the war and instead authorized more troops.

More generally the video is a reminder of why government and the military seek so diligently to control access to information and visual depictions of their activities. On the one hand, they (sincerely, I think) don't want journalists to be in harm's way. On the other hand, our military leaders don't want we regular folks, sitting at home in our comfy chairs, to see the death and destruction and mayhem they are sowing in our name. This video is unique in that it has been released (despite official efforts). There are surely similar videos - well hidden under the military cloak of being 'classified' material - of similar killings. And there just as surely have been many, many other such episodes that were not caught on film. War is shitty. Always. Unavoidably. Unfortunately, it is sometimes unavoidable too. The tragedy here - or should I say crime? - is that our fiasco in Iraq was, and is, totally unnecessary.
P.S.: There are useful commentaries on all this here at Newsweek and here at The Guardian. Notice that the latter includes the video whereas the U.S. media do not. And note too that the U.S. media can't even bring themselves to spell out the profanities the American personnel use. Are they protecting our delicate sensibilities?
P.S.2: Glenn Greenwald has written a series of very good posts on the episode too [1] [2] [3] [4].

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Blogger Haas Pikel-Pecker III said...

I appreciated Dickey's commentary and found it surprisingly anti-war in sentiment for a Newsweek.com article.

Nevertheless, I was disappointed that, in the end, he absolves the soldiers of any blame for their actions because they were "just doing their jobs." Is there a popular sentiment more responsible for war-related atrocities than this? Surely the soldiers aren't only to blame, with plenty to go around for politicians, military commanders, corporate war profiteers and lobbyists, and the rest of us taxpayers and voters. But as human beings, shouldn't we accept personal responsibility for our individual actions, even when we're being told what to do, and demand so of others? I don't see a way of avoiding these kinds of atrocities until we do.

08 April, 2010 10:27  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This may come off as insensitive but this entire hubbub seems like such a non-story to me. The Apache's job is to protect the boots on the ground, so when they spotted a bunch of guys with real weapons, and what appeared to be weapons, they engaged them. The guys who pulled up with a van full of children to pick up dead bodies that were just lit up are a bunch of epic morons.

08 April, 2010 12:37  
Blogger Stan B. said...

Reuters spikes own story (on death of their employee Namir Noor-Eldeen), and check included link- it aint the first time!


08 April, 2010 14:10  
Blogger Stan B. said...

Dawei- They were attempting to pick up the wounded (not dead bodies) to bring to hospital. I'm sure Buddha, Christ, King, etc. were all called epic morons- and considerably worse.

08 April, 2010 18:15  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my opinion, those guys are very far from Jesus or Buddha, they're just plain ol' stupid with a side of dumb. They know their buddies just got their asses lit up and instead of calling the authorities they went to pick 'em up in a van full of kids. Great job, Mustafa!

Obviously what happened here is very ugly and tragic but as Jim pointed out: this shit happens in war. All this self-righteous moral outrage from media is manufactured and phony bullshit. No one really cares about these Iraqis and you know it. People are just using this incident politically.

08 April, 2010 23:25  
Blogger Stan B. said...

Call the authorities??? Call the authorities!!! Authority just shot them up with a 30mm cannon. Authority just ran over them in a Bradley. Perhaps Afghans should also call the authorities when their women and children get shot up in night time raids and droned in daylight.

And I'd be interested to know what major media in this country has been displaying all this self righteous, moral outrage- particularly in the last seven years.

At least we do agree that no one really cares about Iraqis, and calling them Mustafa (as in collectively referring to African-Americans as Leroy, Hispanic Americans as Jose...) is certainly not a step in the right direction.

09 April, 2010 10:12  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, call the authorities. Presumably those guys are not terrorists or insurgents and nor were the folks who were shot, right? So what's wrong with letting someone know that a terrible mistake has happened, to call off the shooting, and send immediate medical help? Are you that convinced that American soldiers are in Iraq to intentionally murder kids for fun?

The irony, Stan, is that this incident, in light of the barbaric brutalities the Iraqis have been doing to one another throughout the course of their sectarian conflict, pales in comparison. The countless suicide bombings, the executions of gay Iraqis by those lovely Sadr militia fellows, and the kidnapping and torture by the Sunni gangs are neither uncommon or accidental but no one gets indignant about them here or there. If that's not subliminal racism I don't know what is.

09 April, 2010 11:25  
Blogger Stan B. said...

Dawei- They're in the midst of a civil war under an occupation where even the occupiers aren't in control (as you yourself alluded to)! Who they gonna call- Ghostbusters?

Or as an Afghani once put it (in reference to the Afgahan police), "At least the Taliban doesn't rape our boys!"

09 April, 2010 16:07  
Blogger Stan B. said...

BTW- It was reported that American authorities directed the severely wounded children be taken to an Iraqi hospital that was further away with inferior facilities.

09 April, 2010 16:21  

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