One Day in Baghdad

This video is unpleasant to watch; unless you have reason to, we suggest that you don’t.

What it shows is a group of civilians being massacred from an Apache helicopter in Baghdad on July 12, 2007. Among those killed was a Reuters photographer and his driver; two children were injured during additional fire, after a van pulled up to help the wounded.

The video, background materials, and additional research was posted Monday by WikiLeaks:

Unveiling the video at the National Press Club on Monday morning, [editor Julian] Assange said the helicopter crew approached its job as if it were a video game, not something involving human lives. “Their desire was simply to kill,” he said. “Their desire was to get high scores on that computer game.”

Honestly, we’re not so sure. And really, we don’t think that’s the issue. Consider instead the New York Times report from the next day:

The American military said in a statement late Thursday that 11 people had been killed: nine insurgents and two civilians. According to the statement, American troops were conducting a raid when they were hit by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. The American troops called in reinforcements and attack helicopters. In the ensuing fight, the statement said, the two Reuters employees and nine insurgents were killed.

“There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force,” said Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a spokesman for the multinational forces in Baghdad.

That is verifiably not true. Whatever the Apache crew thought they saw — and reported over the radio — they didn’t see insurgents. The attitude of at least one crew member is far from commendable, but we weren’t there, we’ve never faced combat, and we’re not going to sit in judgment. (We will sit in judgment over being in Iraq in the first place, but that’s another matter.)

Instead, we ask: Why did it take almost three years for the truth to emerge? Why did the Pentagon stonewall FOIA requests? Shit happens during war. We understand. But covering up fatal mistakes only compounds the injustice. Whether or not what happened that day was criminal, what followed leaves no doubt.

WikiLeaks VIDEO Exposes 2007 ‘Collateral Murder’ In Iraq [Froomkin]

The Pentagon’s “murder-coverup” in Iraq [The Majlis]

Whistleblower Report: Leaked Video Shows U.S. ‘Coverup’ [Wired]

A guide to watching WikiLeaks’ video of shooting in Iraq [Salon]

WikiLeaks releases video of slaughter in Iraq [Greenwald]

Update: Anthony Martinez, who estimates he has spent “around 4500 hours” viewing aerial footage of Iraq, weighs in with an informed judgment:

Between 3:13 and 3:30 it is quite clear to me, as both a former infantry sergeant and a photographer, that the two men central to the gun-camera’s frame are carrying photographic equipment. This much is noted by WikiLeaks, and misidentified by the crew of Crazyhorse 18. At 3:39, the men central to the frame are armed, the one on the far left with some AK variant, and the one in the center with an RPG. The RPG is crystal clear even in the downsized, very low-resolution, video between 3:40 and 3:45 when the man carrying it turns counter-clockwise and then back to the direction of the Apache. This all goes by without any mention whatsoever from WikiLeaks, and that is unacceptable.

The entire post is worth reading for its critique of the action that day, as well as criticism of this week’s news.

WikiLeaks – “Collateral Murder” [, via JNOV]

What RPG? I replayed that section a couple of times just to see if I missed anything thanks to my untrained and bad eyes. I still didn’t see it (and I do know what it looks like.)

Speaking from personal experience, adrenaline does fucked up things to your perception.

Note to the usual chuckleheads (doubt they ever show up here) who scream about boobies and peen. I’d rather see boobies and peen than see real people get shredded by real 30mm HE shells. Sex is a soul reaffirming thing. This is not.

@ManchuCandidate: I plan to watch this in just a few when I get out of the orifice. And if necessary, a liberal 2:1 dosing of boobies and peen as brain/soul bleach. Then follow it up with some Zooey Deschanel (She & Him).

@ManchuCandidate: Dude crouched down on the corner, around 4:12 mark. Long lens, AK or RPG? Shit if I know.

There’s some editing of this video that just makes me wonder what is left out, but from what we see, yeah, hot fire, cowboy shooters and death. But do we know what the Apaches were out there looking for to begin with? Were they looking for anybody armed because of prior or current engagement? I saw a couple of rifles, and maybe if I didn’t know there were two cameramen there I too would have been predisposed to think that they too were armed. The snickers and chuckles of the shooters is disturbing, but what do we expect from the “best trained army” in the world? What we don’t here is any of the commentary the guys must have exchanged once they learned that there were civilian casualties; sure, the comment about “what do they expect bring children to war?” is sickening, but maybe that came after a few minutes of “AWFUCKWHATTHEHELLWHATDIDIDOIASKEDIFISHOULDSHOOTIDIDNTMEANTOKILLFUCKINGCHILDREN”? That’s where the editing bothers me. Note the credits: visual editors, script, production, etc.

The problem with wikianything is you don’t know how fully real it is. After all, I’ve seen the Zombie Bible, and that is pretty convincing, isn’t it?

As Nojo said, above and beyond all else it is the cover up that is criminal.

@ManchuCandidate: As I mentioned, I didn’t see an RPG, either, and the way they talk about the RPG, I get the sense that claiming to have seen one is what gives them carte blanche. I strongly got the sense that claiming to see an RPG is the equivalent of cops claiming a “dropsy” to justify a warrant. Its the convenient lie that they know will get them permission to shoot.

Still don’t see what all the kneejerk moral horror is all about, though.

@NaBEEsko: The comment before “they shouldn’t bring their children to a war” was a pretty sincere “oh shit,” the guy who made the comment was obviously trying to comfort the guy who said “oh shit, probably the gunner, knowing he felt bad, I think. I really don’t see all this horrible inhumanity everyone is seeing. These are trained killers, whose job is to kill, and they are killing. They don’t know they are killing the wrong people until after.

@NaBEEsko: That being said, now I’m gonna fix me a stiff double Beefeaters and lime, and watch as many episodes of Mary Louise Parker selling weed and flirting with *me*, the viewer, as possible before I crawl into bed. I’ve got a roll of digital film with real life victims of artillery and weapons that I had to interview, on my hard drive, and I don’t need them coming at me in my dreams.

@Prommie: agreed. I ran over a bunny mowing the lawn two seasons back and I felt really really shitty. And then I said something stupid to rationalize it. It’s what we do.

You make a valid point.

It seemed more they wanted to nail them, but that’s just my perspective without knowing the circumstances that led to this horrible situation.

I take an ambivalent view here. When I studied to be an infantry officer, I read several books on psychology to understand what I and others might have had to go through (issues about morality and killing the wrong people, etc.) The truth is, the easy part is pulling the trigger, the hard part is living with yourself after.

Everyone deals with horrible things their own way. I understand why people get all upset. I’d be more worried if most people didn’t to be honest with you.

@NaBEEsko: Gallows humor. Likewise, when one voice notes, and not happily, that the Bradley ran over a body, the other voice again appears to be trying to calm, comfort the first, by noting that “he’s already dead,” as if to say “there is no further harm that can be done, don’t let it upset you.” Yet this portion of the dialogue has been referred to as the most sickening, as if they were cheeringm laughing, and happy about it, which I did not sense at all.

I am trying to communicate the idea that WAR is itself, always, deeply immoral, shocking, murderous, nasty, evil, and beyond the pale, beyond the line of civilized conduct. Always. It always dehumanizes the soldiers in it, always. Always. There is no such thing as a gentlemanly, according to Hoyle war. Ask the US Marines who used to cut off the heads of Japanese soldiers, boil them for hours until all the flesh came off, and then mailed the skulls home to their girlfreinds, in WWII. This fact, that war is inherently and inevitably evil, is why our government lets loose such enormous streams of propaganda to create this idea that we actually are capable of killing only bad guys and sparing the innocent with our smart bombs and what with the reading of license plates from space. Bullshit. Its a war, its evil. These are not especially or particularly evil acts, in this video, hell, its evil when they shoot at the enemy, too, its all fucking evil.

@ManchuCandidate: Cop mentality, cops lie all the time to justify warrants, to make sure they get convictions, but almost never do they do so out of malice, in order to convict an innocent person, they do so because they truly believe the person is guilty, they just don’t trust the system to convict, so they fudge the facts to help things along.

These guys thought they were shooting bad guys, at the time they were shooting, no question, and it seemed to me that they even exxagerated the situation, when they were asking permission to shoot, to make sure they would get permission. But not because they wanted to get their jollies killing innocent people, just to make sure they got that permisssion to engage with people they honestly beleived were bad guys.

Not to be a shill here, but HBO mini series “The Pacific” shows a lot of that.

Eugene Sledge and Robert Leicke wrote some powerful stuff. About the brutality and soul destroying inhumanity.

Personally, I think that it is better than Band of Brothers, but I’m biased because I don’t like Stephen Ambrose’s half baked histories (his son is a producer of the Pacific, but not writer or consultant so I don’t care) and I have a personal interest in the Pacific War as it led to events that directly affected my life decades before I was conceived.

Some wonder why anyone would want to shoot the wounded. Or take teeth. Or make a necklace of ears. Or use a grenade to blow up people trying to save your life. Or brutalize the dead. Or why fight literally to the last man. But that all happened.

“”It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it”

@ManchuCandidate: I have been searching for a copy of Sledge’s “With the Old Breed at Pelelieu and Okinawa” ever since I read Paul Fussel’s “Wartime,” where I first saw the Life Magazine photo of the girlfriend back home and her shiny new Japanese skull. Now I must go to Amazon again.

@ManchuCandidate: My father was on Attu, highest casualty rate for the US forces in the Pacific.

For those who wondered what was going on during the cuts, the uncut version:

No, it doesn’t make the soldiers look better or more humane. Or like sympathetic lads stuck in a horrible situation.

@Prommie: ‘furtive motion’ is the key phrase.

These guys just wanted to shoot up some random people for kicks.

One winks, points at a camera lens and says, ‘lookit that RPG’

Everyone laughs and starts gunning down little kids

Another day at the beach for our heroes

You can practically hear these guys winking at each other and see them rolling their eyes.

At 4:17 they’re raving about being stalked and you can see the reflex mirror on the fucking camera.

And the Bush body count continues to climb.

@JNOV: Thanks. And you posted this earlier on the other thread, I should have noticed that and watched it first. But now I can’t. because then I will never sleep.

@NaBEESKnees: I know, and you dealng with victims IRL, much like the ground troops you see hauling some serious ass trying to get those kids some help. I dunno – I still thnk there’s something to be said about a soldier’s proximity to violence that allows them to retain a shred of humanity and empathy. JMO

@JNOV: My friend’s ex-wife the paramedic in Albuquerque (an adrenaline/stress junkie who dumped my friend for her rock climbing partner and left teaching to scoop people offa the streets) says all paramedics have PTSD. I remember interviewing a paramedic who responded to a crash with three NM sorority girls who flipped a Jeep at high speed. He said they were awaiting positive ID on one so I asked what condition she was in. “Her face was scraped off,” he said.

If that statement haunts me 22 years later, imagine how he feels. My friend Snarky Indian Lawyer Girl’s mom won a Navy Cross as a nurse in Vietnam and she’s never spoken to her daughter about it.

@RML: Yeah. I saw some shitty stuff, and I think I’m going to blog about it soon. I don’t know if I’m going to go into much detail about the shit I’ve seen, certainly nothing that would ID patients, but I think I’m going to write about “How to Make a Soldier.”

@Prommie: But isn’t this the problem with having invaded and occupied Iraq? “We” are there theoretically to “free” the Iraqis from the horrible Saddam, but “our” military views all Iraqis as the enemy.

This incident didn’t happen back in 2003, it happened in July 2007, a point at which the invasion was over and our purpose was allegedly peacekeeping.

This group of people were clearly not “insurgents.” It would have been remarkable if no one in the group were armed — it is a fucking theater of war, after all — but it’s pretty clear that most of the group were not armed and it’s pretty obvious that the people with the van were trying to assist the wounded man.

There were Bradley vehicles in the area. There was no imminent danger to anyone that those Bradleys that came in the aftermath couldn’t have been sent over to investigate.

The whole thing is disgusting and offensive, especially because the Pentagon lied and stonewalled. If unedited video would have in any way vindicated what happened that day, it would have been released.

The rightwing is hysterical over the possibility that “their” tax dollars are used to pay for a needed or chosen abortion. Well, I’m pretty fucking hysterical over the fact that my tax dollars are used to murder people in foreign countries on a daily basis for no reason other than increasing some asshole’s score.

The American soldiers responsible for murdering the family in Afghanistan and then digging the bullets out of the bodies and the walls will never be punished. “There’s no evidence!”

At least in this case there is video. It is highly unlikely that any of them will suffer professional consequences. Too bad, because unless people who do this kind of thing are made an example of their colleagues will feel no compunction to rein in their behavior. The possibility that they will suffer nightmares as a result of their gross inhumanity is small, cold comfort.

I watched this, and I keep coming back here to comment, because I feel the need to say something, but I’m not sure what it is. The footage makes me sick, but I’m kind of in love with the hypnotic, almost cinematic quality of the forever moving camera. The interspersed screen copy drives the point home in a way that I appreciate and that moved me, but I feel that in its overly dramatic way of stressing those points, it brings up in me a kind of contrariness. I find the distancing language of war to be a possible factor in the soldiers’ cavalier attitude, but it is what it is and I don’t know enough about its level of necessity to have an opinion. I think the military should be made to answer for these events depicted, but not by anyone of us or anyone else outside the military, because I don’t think that we’re in any position to judge, but I don’t trust them to effect any change. Like @NaBEEsko said, we don’t know what their reaction was when told whom they’d shot. Like @Prommie said, gallows humor.

It’s not a black and white issue. It never is. But it is tragic, for everyone involved.

Ok, I started on this, because it seems like one of those cultural touchstone things, but the titling at the start makes it clear that this was put together and edited by someone with an agenda. I don’t need to watch evil happening, plus be hammered at by someone’s ideology. I get the idea.

Based simply on others’ comments, I have to say that war is an awful, awful thing. That’s not an excuse, but it does seem to be the truth. I am deeply ashamed of this country I live in, where it was deemed not only acceptable, but was enthusiastically cheered to enter into a war with countries which had not attacked us, and posed no direct threat. As much as I hated (and still hate) it, I have no direct control over it (my reps in government are already as anti-war as I am, so I can’t even help vote in a better choice there).

However, for all that, the fact is that we do have an army of brainwashed killing machines hanging out in these foreign countries, doing what they’ve been trained to do. I gave up being shocked by that years ago. My shock is reserved for the leaders in government who continue this crap with the same triumphant “I’m winning this videogame” mentality that people complain of appearing in this video. You don’t have war without funding, and you don’t have funding without Congress giving a ridiculous budget expenditure the big ol’ thumbs-up.

For all that, our soldiers are better than most soldiers from times past. We’re not wholesale pillaging and raping, which has been the soldierly norm for a long, long time. I’m glad that as a civilization, we’ve discovered restraint, even if it has the occasional lapse.

@ManchuCandidate: adrenaline does fucked up things to your perception.

The best observation I’ve seen is from the Majlis link:

Confirmation bias is the tendency of the human mind to unconsciously prefer information reinforcing existing beliefs. In this case, the fact the pilots were looking for armed insurgents made them predisposed to believe that any item carried by the persons were weapons.

It’s clear to us, from the annotated video and the comfort of our computers, that there was no danger. But you listen to the radio chatter, and they think they’re seeing what’s not there.

Psychological comparison: I’ve felt one or two very minor aftershocks that don’t show up at USGS. I either imagined them, or misperceived what in normal conditions is a slightly wiggly utility table.

A few Some points:

1. Civilians have every right and duty to criticize what their soldiers do in the name of God and Country.

2. These “brainwashed killing machines” are supposed to be trained well enough to know when they shouldn’t engage.

3. Rape and pillage do occur wholesale. People brought home war trophies from the 1st Gulf War — I doubt much has changed since I was in. I was raped by a shipmate and sexually harassed by enlisted and officer alike. Nothing was done. Ever. If my shipmates had carte blanche to assault and batter ME, one of their own, you think they’re going to feel more connected to the enemy? I’ve treated soldiers who were gang raped by each other with broken bottles, brooms, other unidentified objects and penises and civilians who were raped by soldiers State Side. Again, if it happened here, who’s to say it isn’t happening there? Remember Jamie Leigh Jones? Those KBR folks are exmilitary.

4. Again, the unedited version of the tape is worth watching before giving these dudes any benefit of the doubt. The subtitles of radio communication remain, but there’s no “propaganda.” Most importantly, there’s no “Oh, shit — we just shot up some kids!” There’s nothing like that. What you heard in the shorter version (that’s what you get for bringing your kids to a slaughter) is what you hear in the uncut version plus a minor freakout the ground troops had when they were trying to evacuate the kids.

5. I understand the idea of not wanting to judge these guys because they’re soldiers and we’re not where they are, but quite honestly, someone with morals needs to. Judge the fuck away. This is happening everyday in some way shape or form. Trust.

@NaBEEsko: There’s some editing of this video that just makes me wonder what is left out

I think there’s a full unedited version out there — I posted the annotated version for after-the-fact context.

Were they looking for anybody armed because of prior or current engagement?

My understanding — I didn’t confirm it as well as I should have — is Yes. The Apaches were called in because of an existing altercation. They weren’t on regular patrol.

the comment about “what do they expect bring children to war?” is sickening

Yes it is. In the context, their presumption is that the van driver was a deliberate accomplice, not a helpful bystander. I’m certainly not going to defend their attitude, but condemning it strikes me as too easy.

Which leads to the Hospital Switch: that call was made by the commanding officer over the radio, based on what he was told by the crew. I don’t know what the protocol is in the situation, and I don’t know whether he was following it. For that matter, I don’t know whether we would agree with it. But I’m very uncomfortable judging the events without context.

Night Raids in Afghanistan Reined In

Afghan Commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal has issued a new “Tactical Directive” aimed at reining in U.S. and NATO night raids on Afghan homes, two days after the command acknowledged the accidental killing of five innocent civilians on February 12 during a bungled special operations night raid.

McChrystal’s rising frustration with the killing of innocent civilians in Afghanistan by U.S. and NATO troops was evident in a virtual town hall meeting with troops last month where, referring to checkpoint shootings, he said: “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.”


Also, has its own take on the video with excerpts from the Central Command incident report.

@nojo: Yes, in the uncut version, you hear radio chatter about whether or not these are the same guys. The Apaches were called in because of reports of small-arms fire from a rooftop. The Apache folks assumed the people in the courtyard were the same folks. There’s a back and forth (after the shooting and bombing) between the people who originally called for back up and the Apaches, something like:

Did you get the rooftops targets?

The targets were in the courtyard. Repeat in the courtyard.



So, basically, there’s no guarantee that the folks they shot were even the ones who were reportedly shooting from the roof. When the Apaches showed up, they didn’t request any type of confirmation that these were the same people. They just went with what that saw or thought they saw (yes, to confirmation bias), and let loose. It wasn’t until after the shooting was over and three hellfires were shot into a building that there was any discussion of the where the enemy fire that precipitated this whole thing originated.

@JNOV: Judge the fuck away. This is happening everyday in some way shape or form.

Because of criminal decisions made by our government.

It may well be that the soldiers violated their training. I just don’t know enough about that to condemn them personally. And I think that zooms the focus too tight: They shouldn’t have been there to begin with. They’re agents of the state, and we collectively granted the state authority to conduct the war of which this incident is an example.

I decided not to go long with the post (there’s plenty of primary discussion elsewhere), but another point in the back of my mind: This is what happens when media coverage is constrained. For the past generation, we’ve been denied awareness of the consequences of our collective actions. War is fucking ugly. We need to see that, in real time, not three years later. We need to know that if we invade a country, this shit will happen.

That’s the real “video game” the WikiLeaks dude decries. Not chopper gunsight footage, not drone video — but the policies that obscure the consequences of our decisions from us. The economists have a term for it:

Moral hazard.

When I wrote that line, I was speaking from personal experience.

The closest I ever got to a “friendly” fire incident was my first ever time I played paintball.

I was so amped up on adrenaline that I ended up shooting two of my own teammates in the same game. My brain saw red (the opposing team color) instead of green (the color of my team) and I pulled the trigger.

Shocking we lost (didn’t help that I took out 1/3 of my team.) We could laugh about it because it wasn’t real. But this bothered the hell out of me (being a wannabe infantryman at the time.) Never did that again, but it left a lasting impression on how much adrenaline can fuck up one’s cognitive abilities.

@ManchuCandidate: You’ve explained perfectly why I never ever want to carry a deadly weapon in any capacity outside a target range. All that calm and collected crap I tell myself goes right out the window.

@nojo: Or it may well be that the soldiers weren’t trained properly and consistently. There’s plenty of blame to go around from the gov’t on down; I’m just not willing to let these dudes off the hook like they’re some sort of brainless puppets.

@redmanlaw: I’m not a fan of later Tom Wolfe, but the opening chapter of The Right Stuff contains a detailed description of what a body “burned beyond recognition” amounts to after a jet crash.

Must have read that, oh, thirty years ago now. Still haven’t forgotten it.

@JNOV: Perhaps what I should have said is that we now have theoretically enforceable policies against rape and pillage. In the past, it was accepted behavior. It may still be (obviously I have no experience myself), but it seems like we’re on the right path.

What also bothered me was when I was in the game that I didn’t think I was amped up, but I was as the post adrenaline shakes gave it away.

One can be calm and collected, but you have to go through this several times before that happens. What sane rational human being really wants to do that?

It seems to me that we are all complicit in this because we are Americans and that is our army. I know others don’t agree. We invaded, this is the consequence. We are a very aggressive and warlike society.

By the same token, what we do and make here in the States goes around the world and we are at least as much admired and envied as we are hated.

Too many Americans, it seems to me, have no conception of what it means to live in a city under daily attack. I was struck while in Vienna that WW2 was a constant frame of reference. While showing me around, an acquaintance, to balance the whipped cream factor, told me how she remembered the corpses of Russian soldiers turning blue in the streets, that the historic district was bombed flat – its current baroque splendor all a post-war reconstruction. While walking past the Hofburg a young man pointed out the Heldenplatz, “Yes,” he said “that Heldeplatz.” The war and its consequences are very much alive in everyone’s daily life. We’ve outsourced our wars and have never had to deal with the consequences. Only the soldiers maimed make any kind of accounting and so we hide them away. This tape should be seen but won’t. But I have to say that I doubt, had it been Britain, that it would ever have seen the light of day. I don’t know if that’s any kind of consolation. Certainly not to those who died.

@nojo: Given that we have killed something like 400,000 Iraqis, all in similar fashion, you have to multiply what you saw in the video, with 8 dead, by only 50,000 times, to get the full picture.

Its evil, but its no more or less evil than it would have been if they were killing “enemies.” Or nameless, unknown innocent civilians, instead of Rueters photographers. There was nothing above and beyond the mundane evil that is killing people, in that there video. Its killing people, whether its the right people or the wrong people, whether you cry while you do it, or laugh. Its killing people, whether you go home and have a party, or go home and kill yourself in shame, it just doesn’t really much matter once you get to the “killing people” part. Kinda like running over a dead body, it produces an emotional reaction, but hey, he is already dead. They go out and fly around and kill people, the people are dead whether they are the right people or the wrong people, whether the shooters laughed or cried, the people are still dead.

@JNOV: Your judgment is much more informed than mine, of course. I’m very wary of straying outside my moral comfort zone, knowing what I don’t know.

If the Apache crew is condemnable for the actions, condemn away. But I want to be careful not to make them scapegoats for decisions made much higher up. I haven’t seen “bad apples” in the public conversation yet, but you know it’s coming.

@IanJ: Oh, all that stuff was in place when I served, too. There are a shitton of rules that bring non-judicial punishment and courts martial when people feel like actually listening to you and pursuing your complaint. The problem is that a lot of pretty abhorrent stuff slips by with a wink and a nod and a “boys will be boys” attitude very similar to the “soldiers will be soldiers” attitude we’re debating here.

@JNOV: You better get yourself to the airport so you can spit on the babykillers when they come home, because what you feel about these dudes applies to every soldier who pulls a trigger over there. Don’t go and scapegoat them and make them the symbol for the sins of all the rest.

@Benedick: “After watching that video, I thought of something the late retired general Wayne Downing once told me. We were standing talking on the tarmac at Baghdad International Airport in early April, days after American troops had seized Baghdad. He asked me what I thought of the whole troop’s performance and the invasion. I told him it was impressive, but that I saw a lot of civilians get killed. ‘The military is a blunt instrument,’ he told me, ‘the American people need to know that when they decide to use it.'”
– from the story

@Benedick: My Aunt Ilse still can’t see a fireworks display without thinking about WWII and suffering panic attacks. She was 14 when her family finally sent her to Austria. Their schools were routinely bombed during the night. They’d wake up and pretend that nothing had happened the night before and walk to school only to find it destroyed. That story sticks out to me more than any she has told me.

@Benedick: Bingo.

With one digression.

In London, thirty years ago, we visited Westminster Abbey. Part of the tour included views of the medieval stone burial statues. Some of them had been melted away. During the Blitz.

Americans really have no idea about that shit. It’s totally outside our awareness.

@Prommie: Oh, fuck you, Promnight. Wanna know how many dead soldiers I had to x-ray because they committed suicide and we had to rule out foul play? Fuck you. You know nothing.

@nojo: The gubmint doesn’t think they are bad apples, the army investigated and found everything was perfectly above board and everyone acted properly.

Come on, Petraeus said, was it 3 weeks ago, “we kill a ton of innocent people” at checkpoints? Ha ha, yup, we have policies and procedures that result in killing a ton of innocent people, gotta do something about that someday.

@JNOV: I know these ones aren’t different from any others, and these ones are as likely to commit suicide when they get home as any others, too, so fuck you.

@Prommie: Careful about invoking Vietnam. Yes, we abused returning soldiers. But we also nailed Calley to the wall. JNOV is suggesting that this incident trends more to the latter. And she has the background to make the case.

[insert SFL’s regular rant about the need to reinstate the draft]

/too sad by all the death, the squandered lives on all sides

ADD: Bob Herbert

The wars have become like white noise in our culture. They hit the front pages from time to time, and there are evenings when some aspect of the wars are featured on the national news telecasts. But we have no real sense of the extraordinary sacrifices that have been made by the young men and women who are fighting these wars in our name.

@JNOV: You think those suicides weren’t laughing when they pulled the trigger, and I am not talking about when they killed themselves, I am talking about when they did the things that drove them to kill themselves?

@nojo: She isn’t making it. She is emoting.

Going broad again, bear in mind that we have an economy and “volunteer” army that conveniently selects poor kids for the meatgrinder.

@Prommie: Given that we have killed something like 400,000 Iraqis

Another very important broader point that often gets lost. War is never “surgical”. Especially the ones we fight.

@Prommie: The soldiers I know aren’t laughing when their finger is on the trigger – they’re trying not to pee their pants, stay alive and get out of the situation, and go on to have nightmares that haunt them.

@SanFranLefty: insert SFL’s regular rant about the need to reinstate the draft

I can’t go there — I’m in that three-year gap of kids who were too young for the Draft, and too old for Registration. Although I did check my Lottery number growing up.

Put it another way, the only dudes qualified to argue for a Draft are those originally subject to it. Ladies are free to follow their conscience.

@nojo: I think young women should be subject to the draft, too. My dad and my uncle were both drafted during Vietnam, and they argue for it not so much because they want kids to go through what they went through, but it’s a good damper on our government deciding to run off on various military excursions.

So long as it’s an all-volunteer army, there is an inherent problem with the soldiers being overwhelmingly from lower socioeconomic classes and minority groups. We’re like nothing so much as the paid mercenaries of ancient Rome. This country would be out of Afghanistan and Iraq in two weeks if the children of the upper classes were being sent there instead of going off to college.

One of the featured comments on Herbert’s column really hit it home and sums it up better than I can on both the volunteer army part of it and also on this video:

I have real qualms about calling all our veterans “heroes.” I saw the video cited in today’s article, “Video Shows American Killing of Photographer.” It was obvious that none of the Iraqis milling about in the street were carrying weapons, yet they were massacred by gunfire from a helicopter, and our soldiers laughed about it, laughed at the Bradley tank rolling over one of the bodies. Yesterday’s paper had an article about our troops killing three Afghan women and trying to cover up by digging the bullets out of their bodies. Atrocities happen all the time — that’s what war has always been about.

What can I say to a young man who signs up to kill or be killed because he is tired of being poor, and because this seems like the only way he can get an education? What do I say to that young man AFTER he has been turned into the kind of monster who has committed such atrocities? What can I say to a society that is willing to pour trillions into slaughtering people overseas but won’t spend money on decent schools?

We owe our kids much, much more than the medical care they aren’t getting when they come home mentally or physically disabled. We owe them a decent school system and the opportunity for decent employment at home, so they don’t have to strike a devil’s bargain in the hopes of having a better future.

@nojo: I got drafted. I left the country. Which seemed to me the only option. I was lucky because I had a British passport at the time (I have since burned it) so I had that escape open to me.

@SanFranLefty: Unfortunately, children of the upper classes are never drafted. Very good comment, I must say.

Now instead of having an official draft we have an economic draft.

@Prommie: Once again, long on self-righteousness, hyperbole, and conjecture and short on fact. I hate to see you in such a state, so I’ll tell you how it is.

None of the corpses I x-rayed had self- (or otherwise) inflicted gun shot wounds; they were hanged. You see, you can’t allow state-side teenagers to keep firearms in the barracks because they tend to get drunk and do dumb things to themselves and to each other, like stabbing a guy in the chest with a screwdriver so deeply that only the handle was exposed. He was pretty drunk himself, so he didn’t mind so much.

The only time I’d get called to the morgue to x-ray a suicide was if he had knuckle abrasions. If he had knuckle abrasions, we had to determine whether he had a “stupid fracture.” A stupid fracture has a distinct pattern and is what you get when you punch something that doesn’t give, like the cinder block barracks wall. I used to see them all the time in living patients. The problem with knuckle abrasions in a dead patient is you don’t know if he hit the wall and then hanged himself or if he got in a fight with someone who decided to string him up. So, disabuse yourself of the celluloid fantasy of the soldier that lays out his dress uniform, gloves and medals with much thought and care, dresses, pulls out the service pistol and eats a bullet. The young ones are hanged.

It is also good to know that flyboys, sailors and grunts experience war very differently. Just like our distance from Iraq affords us a different perspective than a soldier or an Iraqi, flyboys, sailors and grunts experience the war differently, too.

If anyone is likely to kill themselves over the recorded incident, it’s probably going to be the grunts that tried to evacuate the wounded children rather than the flyboys. I’m not saying that flyboys are immune to the horrors of war, but they have a distance the grunt doesn’t, and sometimes that distance acts like an emotional shield.

So, when my husband wrote me on the first day of the 1st Gulf War, he wasn’t afraid for his life — he was floating on a carrier loading bombs on planes when he wasn’t working on the planes themselves. They wrote love notes on the bombs, sweet messages to those who were about to die. They weren’t saluted.

As far as emoting is concerned, I’m giving you facts with my concomitant emotions. If my emotions make you think less of the facts, then that’s your own damned problem and not mine. Lemme know the next time you’re flying into PHL, and I’ll greet you in the manner you suggested.

Anyone care to analyze?

Case Closed: Weapons Clearly Seen on Video of Reuters Reporters Killed in Iraq

Someone’s carrying a long tube that folks there declare is the RPG, or something similar.

@nojo: I’ve seen someone speculate it’s a folded up tripod, but I couldn’t tell you.

An excerpt from David Finkel’s book The Good Soldier. Finkel was embedded with the 2-16 and arrived after the shooting.

@nojo: Hey, if we believe in open carry laws in the states, shouldn’t the guy with the thing that looks like a tube be hailed as a second amendment patriot? Are the Jawa people advocating that anyone carrying a gun needs to be vaporized with cannon fire?

@nojo: Anthony Martinez, who says he’s viewed at least 4,500 hours of aerial footage of Iraq says it’s an RPG. and also says he wouldn’t have approved the attack on the van.

Wounded kids found and interviewed – no translation but pictures of their injuries and scars (scroll down):

@JNOV: Thanks for your posts on this topic. And for the links.

@JNOV: My heart aches. Thank you for sharing that, and I echo Benedick in thanking you for digging up all the links. I look forward to reading what you have to say, if and when you are ready to write more about your time in the Navy.

@JNOV: Well, there’s the expert judgment I was looking for: Someone who knows a lot more about this shit than I do.

And, alas, because Wikileaks chose to focus on the event itself, undermining their specific claims will close public discussion.

Still unclear: Why did the Pentagon sit on the Reuters FOIA request? (Apparently Reuters editors were able to view the footage privately, but not release it.) All the broader issues surrounding the event and video remain.

@Benedick: Don’t be simplistic.

And yes.

Has Peggy Noonan checked in yet? This is probably one of those things she’d prefer we not know about, lest it upset our delicate sensibilities.

@FlyingChainSaw: This was the argument a friend of mine and I had with RomeBoy, who is a big 2nd A advocate. We won the argument, because RB started out by saying that everyone should be able to have the right to carry; but then we started specifying, and he shut up right quick.

To everyone else: I’m loving all – ALL – of your comments. It shows just how complicated this is.

I remember meeting a soldier from this war on leave in Paris. He was with his mom, who flew in to see him. He was a baby. A BABY. And at that moment, I realized they were not to blame. It is their superiors – and probably not even their immediate superiors, but the ones back at the desks – who should see what they’re doing to these kids, on both sides.

@nojo: Well, since I’m sharing sea stories, North Island NAS had a terrible accident when I was stationed at Balboa. A fighter jet took off, started to roll, and the crew ejected into the tarmac. I was in x-ray school at the time, and they needed someone to go down to the morgue. I was like, “Um. No. Please. No.” I must’ve turned green or something, so they didn’t make me go.

@All: Thanks for allowing me to share. I’ve never talked about most of this stuff. I’ve certainly thought about it, but I’ve never really thought about it.

Summer Sandeen over at Pam’s House Blend is ex-Navy, and she’s the first one I’ve ever talked to about some of this stuff, usually within the context of DADT and the horrific things I’ve seen done to service members because they were suspected of being GBLT. Just suspected. I just can’t write about it. And these poor kids would make up all these unbelievable stories about how they were injured, because they were supposed to be tough. Tough guys don’t get raped.

And my GOD the fucking hazing that goes on — all with a sick humiliating twist. If any of you knows someone who was in the Navy, ask them if they’re a Shellback. See if they’ll tell you about it.

ADD: Jr and I are headed out to The World Cafe to go play some old skool Duck Hunt and Punch Out. I get beers, so Yay! See you on the flip side.

@JNOV: I have mentioned my college work study job where we used to photograph people before they went in for autopsies. Saw a lot of dead people there (MVAs, GSW, ADW, etc.) but I quit going when I saw my first crispy critter. We saw lots of victims of violence as reporters also. Again, more motor vehicle accidents and gunshot wounds.

One of my most memorable ledes was “She died with a beer can in her hand.” It was a long (several newspaper pages long with a lot of photos) story of the last week of a 16 year old girl’s life when she left home to hang with friends, hooked up with an older guy and went drinking for a few days. She died on US 666 north of Gallup, NM, the Devil’s Highway (for reals) on the Navajo Reservation. The photographer and I got there after ambulance left with the survivors but before the cops showed up to take control of the scene. She was in the back seat, covered by a sheet. Her slender brown arm stuck out from under the cover, holding a crushed tall boy, as I recall.

Add a Comment
Please log in to post a comment