Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Collateral Murder

I’m mildly embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t seen it earlier, but in my contemporary media class we watched the Wikileaks video of U.S. helicopters in Baghdad shooting down about 15 unarmed civilians, including wounding two children. We watched it in class to discuss whether information of that nature should be available to the public on the internet, but that was not the part that bothered me. Nor am I troubled that members of the American military are rampaging around Iraq killing civilians. Actually, watching the video, it is not hard to see how the camera equipment the civilians were carrying could have looked like weapons. There is no doubt in my mind that the incident, while tragic, was an honest mistake. However, what deeply does trouble was the language and attitudes of the men talking about the “targets” they were killing. Reasonably, I have absolutely no right to say anything about this. I have never been in war, hell, I’ve never been in anything anywhere close to war. I do not know what it takes to stand in front of a another human being and kill them because someone above me somewhere deems them a treat. On a logistically level, I understand the necessity to dehumanize the enemy, but I recently listened to a ex-army speaker who said that he felt the enemy had been too dehumanized and thinks that American in general needs to recognize the common bonds of humanity a lot more. And after that, I can't help to think that we are not dehumanizing the enemy, we are just dehumanizing humans. I fully understand being relieved after an attack, I can even understand feeling some excitement for the conflict, it is an adrenaline rush, but I don't think I will ever be able to understand laughing when a tank intentionally runs over the shot-down body of a civilian journalist on the streets of Baghdad. There has to be a lone drawn somewhere for who is a person and who is an enemy. To be fair, that particular civilian journalist was legitimate thought to be an insurgent with a weapon. But I think we need to decide that the second someone dies they become a human again, regardless of what they were before. When someone is no longer a threat, they deserve just as much respect as anyone else, enemy or not. And as long as we keep dehumanizing the enemy, we can keep casually walking into war. War should never be casual. Death should never be casual. Two wounded children should never be casual. Fifteen bodies littering a Baghdad street should never be casual, certainly not casual enough to run over with a tank, and laugh. 

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