War, Collateral Murder and WikiLeaks

If you haven’t seen this footage, I strongly recommend you do. It is shocking however, so please bear that in mind.

There is a huge amount to say about this and I will try to be careful with my words.

Firstly, I want to say that I am not nor have I ever been in any of the armed forces, and I do accept that soldiers have a very hard job in terribly dangerous conditions.

Secondly, I believe that WikiLeaks.com, a website that I found to be very reliable has given this video a bias by not fully explaining any contributing factors such as what had happened before or by explaining proper procedure throughout the video. Perhaps they haven’t been given the entire story, but they spend a fair amount of time setting up the footage, even an apology highlighting the limits of their understanding would have been beneficial.

To properly review the film, it is probably wise to mention this blog by a military man, who dissects it much better than I ever could.


This next link is to Yahoo, one of the few places you will find this story reported in the UK. It is a report on the direct response to the film.


Ok, so that’s as much background as I’m going to give you.

I want to say that war is terrible, and it makes animals out of men. There are always reports of soldiers getting over-zealous during intense combat situations. When there is a possibility of you or the man next to you dying, it is bound to make you a little crazy. It is probably part of a normal human defense mechanism to react badly, zealously or aggressively at these times. A professional soldier has to overcome some of these emotions and utilise other parts. They need to be brave in the face of intense danger, and always remember what they are doing. Procedures are there for their safety in the long run, and they need to stick to their training if they want to survive a situation which is scarier than anything I will ever face in my life.

That aside, it is clear that at certain times during this footage, the soldiers either followed a procedure which involved shooting a stationary car, which showed no signs of weaponry or any form of retaliation, or they simply got it wrong. The footage, or WikiLeaks’ take on the footage, is that they got it badly wrong. Having only seen the footage and read some commentaries on it, I am inclined to agree.

I have no idea why they chose to shoot the van. I cannot understand what would have made them shoot the van. Why not just follow the van. Back up troops were not far behind and could easily have dealt with the situation. Shooting the van seemed beyond reason. The only thing I can possibly imagine is that they got a little gun-crazy. Even if that is the case, then why were they authorised? The great concern is, that it appears all along the chain of command, fully trained soldiers made life or death decisions, and they all got it wrong.

The soldiers in the helicopter appeared to be young and perhaps naive. To be honest they appeared to be as if they were playing a video game, begging for permission to finish the group off, praying for the injured man to reach for a gun, and finally laughing as they mercilessly shoot the van and just miss the children inside. A few bloggers have mentioned the idea of the children being used as a shield. Maybe this is so, certainly leaving your kids at home seems like a good idea before entering a hot zone like this one, but I am also inclined to think if I were using children as protection, I wouldn’t put them in a place where no-one can see them. These are some of the people who we ask to protect our peace. It is scary, because on the basis of this video, I would feel uncomfortable about them looking after children in a playground. They were exhibiting the same kind of immature bullying and childish naivety that you see in every school in the country. You can almost hear local children down your street crying:

“Come on, let us shoot!”

They are soldiers and should act like professional soldiers regardless of their age or maturity.

Now I am being generous here, because I didn’t see anyone firing at the helicopter before it fired upon them. In fact even after the firing it seemed like the group of men were too stunned to react quickly. They didn’t appear worried about the chopper before the attack, like I imagine armed insurgents would be. I am being generous because as I have said, WikiLeaks has not provided us with enough background on the situation, and I do not know the tactical intricacies involved.

The video aside however and I feel its important to ask a different set of questions. Why would this or any of this kind of footage (taken 3 years ago) be kept from the general population? Why did it have to be leaked? and what would happen if it were released by the army?

I simply don’t understand. For a start, any footage that shows us more clearly about what war really means, has to be a good thing. Our enemies don’t hide their actions. If anything, when a car bomb goes off destroying buildings and killing countless innocent lives, they broadcast it from the highest rooftops. They show off, not just because they are proud, but also to show others of the difference they have made in fighting the infidel, us. In fact even the US Army release some more flattering films, showing them blowing up enemy barracks and tanks from time to time. I believe it is much wiser to face the truth, instead of pretending we have the kind of army where no-one gets hurt and all the bad guys die.

I don’t understand why they think we can’t take it. For my part, understanding what is involved in the terribly hard decision to go to war, and also what our enemies have done to us to provoke such action is extremely important. The war isn’t real if we don’t feel it, which means we need to see it in all its sadistic intricate detail. And it’s all very well saying we have never shown this kind of exposure previously, but we have much larger populations today, and there are less casualties, injured and returning soldiers than in previous wars. Less of us know someone who has been “out there”, and so there is a detachment from the war, which can turn swiftly into apathy and acquiescence.

As far as I can make out, there is no benefit for the Army to keep this or any other footage of old conflict under wraps. Obviously if there is an issue that releasing the footage will put soldiers lives in danger, then I would understand, but I cannot see how anyone wishing to fight against us will benefit from seeing this, except perhaps in not showing his gun off to his mates. Which has to be a good thing too. If I were a member of the insurgency, watching this video would make me think all the american soldiers are crazy, and perhaps there are easier battles to fight. It might also remind me of my own mortality and perhaps my cause isn’t so passionate after all. Having said that, I also accept that just as I dont know what a soldier has to go through, I also cannot comprehend what would drive someone to strap on a bomb and walk into a building or a plane, knowing I would kill hundreds of people.

The only way the insurgence gets a benefit is by not showing these films. That way, when they are leaked like this, our enemies can claim the support for the war is weakening and the americans are politically fighting amongst themselves.

I am not a big fan of the “free” press, since it appears to me that it’s not particularly free in any way, but I am a fan of the kind of freedom the internet has shown us.

It has not surprised me that not a single newspaper or news channel has picked up on this story in the UK. We have just had a general election announced, and so I hoped it would appear in the middle pages of The Times, or as second or third story on the BBC, but it failed to reach a headline anywhere in the UK. I am pleased that it has been reported on the internet, and that it continues to rumble along in the blogosphere.

I hope, if you read this, you too will keep the rumble of this footage going, and air your views on the matter. In just one day on YouTube, the footage was seen by 1.5m people. Lets keep that going.

Finally, on a different subject. I feel a lot of sympathy for the BA workers currently discussing the possibility of more strike action against what appears to be a suicidal management team. I am afraid though that to complain about your work conditions and pay at a time when soldiers are coming home dead and injured, shows a complete lack of empathy and judgement. I do not blame you, I totally blame the leaders of your Union, Unite, which appears to be making a mess of your union, your firm, and the upcoming election.

~ by eggplantinspace on April 8, 2010.

2 Responses to “War, Collateral Murder and WikiLeaks”

  1. I just wanted to be on your most recent post to ask you something that I’ve been forgetting to ask for a long time: What’s flash fiction? That’s a genre that’s new to me.

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