Then he posts on it again:
In that second post, he links to an Andrew Sullivan post (quoting an active duty U.S. soldier):
It's that post that I found enlightening, yet profoundly disturbing. Just the assumptions that go into some of these quotes -- they reflect a completely warped sense of reality where conditions under which we would find living nearly impossible somehow seem normal to this person:
I'm currently deployed to a region in southeast Baghdad, near where this incident took place, and the Rules of Engagement that dictate the use of lethal force state 51% certainty that the individual represent a threat to you or another US Soldier. (To my knowledge, it always has been.)
So it's standard operating procedure to run a 50/50 chance that the people you are about to slaughter represent no threat to you or any other U.S. soldier. Is this policy publicly known among the people we're supposedly protecting?
these journalists were operating completely independent of any ability of the US to track them, or even know they were present somewhere. This is incredibly dangerous, even now in 2010. Back in 2007, that sort of thing would have been damn near suicidal.
In other words: It's dangerous (or suicidal) to operate as a journalist in a foreign country without notifying the U.S. (4-7 years after the U.S. first invaded that country) because the U.S. military might accidentally kill you.
If you look at graphics representing the positioning of these journalists from a Bradley convoy only a few blocks away, I think that it is entirely reasonable that the pilots would consider them a threat - particularly after mistaking a massive zoom lens peaking out from behind cover on the very street that an American patrol was taking place for an RPG. Complex ambushes with 8-12 men with AK-47s and RPGs were very common back in early 2007. I can't speak as to why the two Reuters journalists were walking around with men carrying AK-47s trying to sneak pictures of an unaware American combat patrol, and I certainly do not assume that the reason was nefarious.
I don't really get the point of having these patrols in the first place, if the military is also going to have helicopters circling the area eliminating anyone who might (as in, is at least 51% likely to) represent any threat to the patrol. While this person doesn't assume nefarious intentions, the people in the helicopters went ahead and made that assumption... to the point where they felt justified in wiping the whole group out.
Keep in mind also that an Apache cockpit has two Soldiers - a pilot and a gunner, and while you are seeing the gunner's IR footage, it is not necessarily conveying what the pilot saw on his monitors or with his own eyes.
This whole post seems meant to justify the actions of the individual soldiers by placing them in the (supposedly understandable) context in which they operate. But in doing so, the author simply illustrates how absurdly fucked up the whole thing is. If the guy making the decision to shoot is getting a worse impression of the situation than the guy doing the shooting, then why is he the one making decisions???
As far as the language of the pilots, the emotional status of the guys pulling the trigger... more than anything else, the outrage surrounding that is what I find the most absurd. Who are you to tell men at war how to react to being in a position that demands they take human life?
Here's where he starts really going off the rails. Who am I to judge? A human being who happens to have a view on what it means to take a life, that's who!
Just hearing the pilot towards the end try and justify (to himself, more than anyone) why the children he had no idea were present were present is more heartbreaking than all the "Oh God, no's" in the world to me.
Yes, it's heartbreaking, but more because it's tragic how the soldier's sense of right and wrong has become totally fucked up. It's like the soldier's heart can't be broken in that situation, so we have to break our own on his behalf. Sure, it's necessary for someone to ignore the magnitude of death if they need to kill someone as soon as they're ordered to, but how in God's name does that make it right?
There is no script for how one is supposed to react to systematically killing another person. Many laugh, many make macabre jokes during and after the fact and, in general, line troops revel in the death an destruction of their enemy. It's how they deal with the enormity of what they're doing. And if you or any of your readers assume for even a moment that things like that mean that they or the other hundreds of thousands of Soldiers who embrace dark humor and excess to cope with what they're doing are somehow depraved, then you need to be re-introduced to the reality.
Honestly, if that is not depraved, then what is? It's like he's only working with a very limited definition of "depraved" in which it means someone who is crazier than all of his peers. If everyone in the military revels in the death and destruction of their enemy -- especially in a war where the "enemy" often (maybe 50% of the time?) ends up being the people we're supposed to protect -- then everyone in the military is fucking depraved.
Better yet, you can just look at the rising suicide statistics of Soldiers over the past few years. The number of PTSD cases.
Um, dude? Aren't you trying to argue that these people aren't crazy? Or maybe you're just trying to say they're not sadists. Either way, I think you're missing the point.
Instead of being outraged about the words or tone of the pilot willing the man to pick up a weapon, to give him an excuse, why not think about the discipline necessary to remember his Rules of Engagement? To recognize, as much hate as he may feel towards the enemy, he was not allowed to fire on the enemy unless he picked up a weapon?
Let's try this again, shall we?
Instead of being outraged about the words or tone of the pilot willing the man to pick up a weapon, to give him an excuse, why not think about how horrible it is that a bunch of civilians got slaughtered by the very people supposed to be protecting them? While you're thinking about that, you can ponder how the pilot's incredible discipline wasn't worth shit when it came to not killing innocent people.
It's amazing how tiny one's perspective has to shrink in order for one not to be appalled by what happens in war. So what if he killed that guy and taunted him while he lay injured on the ground? Think about how disciplined he was in that moment to not shoot him again immediately after he shot him the first time!
This entire incident is an unbelievably sickening tragedy, and I don't mean for my tone to imply that the loss of Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh was anything but. But it was also a tragedy when it happened to Pat Tillman. When it happened to any of the dozens, if not hundreds of Soldiers killed by fratricide in this war so far.
Um, yes. And also when it happened to the thousands of Iraqi civilians who have been killed in a war that was supposed to be for their own fucking good.
War is a disgusting, horrible thing. As cliche as that excuse has become, for people to look at the natural heartbreaking nature of it and say that they're somehow anomalous just shows how far people who have not experienced war have to go to understanding it. That doesn't justify failing to take every reasonable precaution necessary to avoid incidents like these. However, a little humility, or a little desire to have a broader contextual understanding of why these pilots did what they did before condemning them as war criminals would be appreciated.
I guess I see what's motivating this guy, but it's still just so patently absurd. Has he convinced me that the soldiers involved here are not sadistic monsters? Yes, but I never thought that in the first place. What I was horrified by was that these otherwise ordinary people have been put into a situation where they're allowed to (or forced to?) make mistakes like this that have horrible consequences. It'd almost be better if these soldiers were unusually monstrous, because then we could maintain the illusion that this truly is a unique phenomenon. I'm sure that's why Greenwald linked approvingly to this post, because despite his defensive tone, this guy really is supporting Greenwald's damning argument -- that stuff like this happens much more frequently than we're allowed to know.