Collateral Murder

This could be controversial . . .

It’s no secret that I’m a pacifist. I don’t have all the answers to it yet but it is something I put a significant amount of time and thought towards and hope to one day be able to comprehensively explain. I’m just not willing to believe that war is ever our only option or that love and grace cannot conquer in every circumstance.

This does not mean that I am indifferent towards our troops – they need our prayers and the appropriate support in the tremendously difficult job they do. I appreciate that the majority of them are involved in combat out of a desire to do good and see justice prevail. It also doesn’t mean I agree with immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq or Afghanistan – we went in and destabilised everything, it’s our job to ensure these countries can function independently again.

On April 3rd, WikiLeaks, an organisation which works to “expose significant injustices around the world” by publishing (often classified) documents etc, released a US military video of an attack in 2007 by an Apache Helicopter in a Baghdad suburb in which two Reuters journalists were killed. It clearly depicts the shooting of one of the journalists whilst wounded and of those trying to rescue him which resulted in the injury of two young children.

I’m not going to post it here but you can watch it on the WikiLeaks website.

I only became aware of it because of a Twitter post by the World Socialist Web Site (not that I follow them, it was a top tweet on the homepage) about their article concerning the video.

They have interviewed the soldier who can be seen in the video rescuing the two children from the wreckage of a van. He and another man involved in the incident have written an open letter of apology to the Iraqi people. His account of his post traumatic stress and the way it was dealt with within the army is particularly interesting.

I can’t pretend to be at all knowledgeable about military operations. Who am I to say if the group of men in the courtyard were a serious threat and if the helicopter was right to open fire or not? I’m not going to judge on that front.

But what I will say is that the thing which most shocked me about the video was the apparent ease with which one human being can kill another: “Oh, yeah, look at those dead bastards down there”, “Nice . . . Good Shoot’n”. It’s like some kind of video game.

I appreciate that many troops do not have this attitude but I this does show that this is what war does: it dehumanises people. When the “enemy” doesn’t have a face or or a name or a story or a family he/she is infinitely easier to kill. You might say that though this isn’t always right it is necessary to enable soldiers to do their jobs. And I just can’t agree.

Even if you can’t bring yourself to watch the video, I would really recommend reading the interview.


5 thoughts on “Collateral Murder

  1. You know my opinion on this topic. And I stand by it even with your description of the video and interview. I feel that if necessary it is the soldier’s job to kill and if could not to that it they would not be able to do their job. They do this to protect us in our nice cosy homes and our nice bank accounts which allows us all the food and shelter and clothing we want. They put their lives on the line to protect our rights and hopefully give others rights. I believe that sometimes war is our only option, you have to fight fire with fire sometimes. As long as there are people in the world who want to kill you, you have to be prepared to kill them first. As long as there is evil in the world we will have war and we will have armies and we will have nuclear weapons.

    • I do indeed know where you stand and my aim with this post was not to start a debate over the whole subject because I know I don’t have a fully thought out argument yet. I only wanted to draw people’s attention to something which shocked me, share with them my thoughts on it and allow them to form their own.
      I think the main thing I wanted to show was that war isn’t as straight forward as protecting us “in our nice cosy homes and our nice bank accounts which allows us all the food and shelter and clothing we want”; it is very very messy and innocent civilians get caught up in it all too often. It also showed me that in some situations human life is cheapened to a point where it is negligible – that’s not the God of love’s way.

      I think saying that because they fight I have to is the easy way out and is still not one I’m willing to take. I hope to be able to write about exactly where I stand and why over the summer – there’s some reading about it I want to do first – so watch this space and keep small hours of the morning free for lengthy discussion 🙂

  2. Soldiers are a necessary evil while there is real evil anywhere, and sometimes they get things wrong.. the stress and pressures they live under make them react in ways such that no rational explanation can ever be given.

    However in this instance its not the first shooting (which is wrong in hindsight) but the second attack which is totally unreasonable. Clearly unarmed persons picking up wouunded. If it did need action then there were clearly ground troops nearby who should have been called in.

    But then when you train boys on computer games in nice safe US training camps why should we be surprised when it goes wrong.

    I wonder though what that young soldier feels now looking back..

    • thanks daddy. i agree with you one hundred percent about the second shooting – it’s horrible to watch, actually brought me to tears.
      I appreciate, and tried to show this in the post, the huge pressure soldiers are under and the often life and death decisions they must make immediately.
      It certainly would be interesting to find out the thoughts of the soldier (I assume you mean the one in the helicopter?) but I think his comrade’s points in the interview give us a certain glimpse of the toll events like these can have. It seems to me that soldiers need a lot more mental/spiritual support than they receive, but really what do I know?
      And I’m afraid I can’t agree that these evils are necessary . . . there is another way, there has to be.

  3. Just to add a little more,I think I have to agree with His Holiness the Dalai Lama
    “The practice of non-violence suits us all, it only calls for determination. If it succeeds, it can open the way to a far more peaceful world” 🙂

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