Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Greenwald, Willis and Our Troops

Oliver Willis on Greenwald and Wikileaks:

I didn’t and don’t support the Iraq War, but the vast majority of our men and women in the U.S. military are good people who do the right thing. I understand the nature of news, and it will never change, but “Soldier Does Right Thing, Follows Orders And Respects Lives Of Others” will never be a headline. When things like this and Abu Ghraib pop up the reason they are news is because they are deviations from the norm, not as Greenwald and others claim like Fox News caricatures of liberals, the standard posture of the military.

The entire reason there is an outcry when a member of the U.S. military engages in some form of atrocity or deviant behavior is because it is such an aberration from the norm. If, as Greenwald contends, our soldiers were just a bunch of animals killing civilians for sport, there would be no desire for coverups, because it would just be what we do. But that isn’t what we do. Whether the conflict is the wrong or right one the conduct of our soldiers on the ground, on the air, and in the sea is one of responsibility and duty, not mindless savagery. A small percentage of “liberals” like Greenwald don’t get this because like their close-minded counterparts on the right, if a deviation fits their narrative it becomes the dominant story despite the reality.

I’m not the kind of person who believes in “my country right or wrong” by a longshot. When we do wrong, we need to investigate, correct, and punish if necessary. But if you add it up, the right way outweighs the wrong. By a lot.

Right. I read the Greenwald piece with contention. It seemed to be just one blazoned assumption after the other, this line sums it up:

But there's a serious danger when incidents like this Iraq slaughter are exposed in a piecemeal and unusual fashion: namely, the tendency to talk about it as though it is an aberration. It isn't. It's the opposite: it's par for the course, standard operating procedure, what we do in wars, invasions, and occupation.

No links to why or how it is "par for the course", no proof that every single incident in Iraq or Afghanistan is a joy killing as Greenwald pontificates. Greenwald's statements make our soldiers and our entire military sound as if they are some villainous entity. It is both reckless and irresponsible. It is one thing to disagree with the wars. It is another to paint with such a broad brush that the brave willfully defending our nation are seen as predatory murders without conscience or character.

I am still shocked by the video, but as Oliver says it is shocking because it is an aberration not the contrary. We should not cover this up, those who acted against protocol (if that is the case) should be held responsible. This is a moment to look deeper into our procedures, the truths and realities of war. Perhaps even a moment to ask the question again, why are we still at war? It is certainly not a moment to shriek in condemnation of our soldiers and our entire military.

I am Frank Chow and I approved this message


Steve said...

The big problem with that video is that it gives you information in the beginning that the soldiers in that helicopter did not have. You are shown who's a photographer and you are shown what's a camera. However, the soldiers in the helicopter were identifying the camera as an RPG. They also identified guys who were actually carrying AK-47's.

So watching this video, we need to consider the context that the soldiers actually existed in when they pulled the trigger. They were trying to provide air support for guys on the ground in what is apparently a hostile area. They identify people on the ground with weapons. They misidentify a photographer's camera as a weapon. They requested permission to fire and did so.

The incident with the van confuses me a bit, but I'm not sure exactly what the ROE was in this case. The van had no markings indicative of red cross, red cresent, etc. I'd need to know more about the situation to judge it.

In the end, this is a war zone, and accidents happen in war zones. There's no evidence here that anybody acted irresponsibly or with a willful disregard for civilians. They saw people who were in an active conflict area that were armed, and so they took action after having received proper authorization to do so.

This is why you always treat war as a last resort option. Once you go to war, things like this happen. No matter how professional and capable your soldiers are, bad things will happen. This is definitely not a war crime, but it's certainly a tragedy that would have been avoided had we not invaded in the first place.

Asian-American Pundit said...

Exactly. I spoke with a friend of mine who said that usually wounded were picked up by fellow Iraqis. Not clear what the case is here.

I think you nail it on the head, the video's lead in is bias. The video itself has audio of the soldiers asking for permission. So what is the context? What lead up to the arrival? What warnings might have been given to the engaging troops?

War once you are in it is war. That for many is tough to grasp and sadly in Iraq it was one that was avoidable.