B ravo Company 2-16, the company I was deployed with to New Baghdad felt isolated from the fanfare that other soldiers experienced in Iraq. While major celebrities visited the safer bases, FOB Rustimiyah was lucky to get the third-string of the Buffalo Bills' cheerleading squad.
Several years later, and 2-16 has more fanfare than we ever wanted. An online whistleblower site released a video yesterday of a mission that 2-16 was a part of, titled COLLATERAL MURDER. Yes, I am a conscientious objector and yes, I had pissed some of my leaders off a few days earlier and was not trusted on missions for a few weeks so was left back at the base while this event took place, butI do a have a few words to say about it. http://wikileaks.org/
This video is aimed at sensationalizing a scene that, militarily speaking, is somewhat understandable; and with the gain of righteous indignation that many have seemed to embrace after watching this video, we lose a much more complex, honest conversation.
To attempt to put this fragile conversation into an analogy, my best description is that this video implies that what happened here was like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre-sick, unwarranted killing. This video is a horror, but I would argue that it is closer to the Saw movies"
The high number of soldiers that I deployed with, including my friends whose voices and images are in this chilling video wanted to improve the lives of their friends, families, and their own futures. The rep. from Wikileaks in the interview above says that it's just about killing as many people as possible. Sadly, there are too many soldiers I knew who took pride in the number of lives they had taken or disrespected the bodies of the enemy died in battle, but I don't believe any of us started this way"
In the SAW movies, characters suddenly find themselves in horrible situations, feeling they have no option but to perpetrate awful acts. The photo from one of the movies above is a character who wakes up to find this machine he's trapped in, and, if I remember correctly, the key to unlock the machine is stuck in the stomach of a person lying next to him and he most rip open that person's stomach to retrieve the keys and make it out alive.
I urge you to be slow to judge those who are trapped in these machines and ask yourself if you did or didn't do anything to create this trap.We faced threats every single day and naturally, a defensiveness that at times can cross into paranoia will emerge.
In the video, I can certainly understand why the helicopter gunner thought he was seeing weapons and, in the full 40-min video, it even has on record soldiers finding a live rpg round. If you call this a heartless murder, I think that you're being overly self-righteous. If you question the very nature of the machines that we trap ourselves in and our goals for doing so, then we can learn something from this video.
Honestly, I was surprised when I saw this video and how sensationalized it was; of all the memories that have led to me change my mind about war, having my friends tell me what they saw on this July day isn't even on the list.
I will grant that the shooting of the van is far less militarily justifiable than the initial killings. But again going back to the Saw example, in the frantic scramble for survival (though this scramble definitely can be overplayed), fear and vengeance cloud our vision.
As the military officer points to in the interview, in the heat of such moments, we don't think of the effects these actions will have on those children or the local community; we just want to make it out alive. Just as I hope we can all avoid blindly judging the soldiers in this video, I would hope that we can take the same understanding to "the other side." Both sides surely have more than enough reasons to compel them to do what they do. I had multiple conversations with soldiers in Iraq telling me that they would become insurgents if they were in the Iraqi's shoes.
Like the machine in Saw, we strap deadly machines on idealistic men and women who fight in war. Judging their actions is easy, but to truly find solutions, we need to understand what happens when we're strapped in these machines. That is where Collateral Murder fails; we need to see the humanity in all, no matter how tight the machines might be holding a person.
And speaking of machines, I think this video also proves that with such dominating technology that is shown here, if war were only a question of superior firepower, then the seven plus years that this has been going on, much of that theory remains unanswered.