Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Death from the sky; death demanding a "why"

The personnel of the US Military hold within their highly trained and motivated hands the technologically advanced tools of death. Their ability to take a life has repeatedly been illustrated over the past decade with our many battles in the Middle-east. This power, when supported by solid and accurate information and in the hands of responsible humans is still frightening in its severity.

Never has this been driven home for me more than the recent video of military operating from a flight platform delivering death to innocent civilians and media far below on the ground. While this story has been told and an investigation has been urged by Reuters officials, only now do we have actual video from the perspective of the helicopter and the soldiers who delivered death from the skies. (Fox News, MSNBC, WikiLeaks ) The video that has been released is obviously from an internal military source who feels strongly that this is wrong and took the risk to leak the video.

This video and the associated dialog of the soldiers is sickening. They are disassociated from the scene, and it is obvious - especially from our hindsight perspective - that they have misunderstood the situation. Where they saw AK-47's and rocket launchers we now know were really cameras and tripods. Where they saw a gathering of "insurgents" we now know was simply a gathering of civilians totally oblivious to the fact that death was hovering just over their heads with weapons of mass destruction targeted on them.

The very best that we can say is that we "F'd" up - we very badly screwed up in that situation. Unfortunately, I'm sure that what will be said by terrorist group recruiters is that this is further evidence of the terrible wickedness of the United States and decadent Western nations. They will see in that video the absolute depravity of our soldiers and their lust for murder and destruction. Too harsh of a description? I might have thought so before watching the video; now I feel that their accusation might have merit. The soldiers are desperate to kill; repeatedly they beseech their handlers for permission to rain down a hail of death and destruction. To the man who has a hammer everything appears to be a nail. To the man in an armored attack helicopter with a powerful machine gun everything appears to be a target and an insurgent.

The US - Obama and his administration - must not bury this. We must not ignore it. We must not deny our mistake. We must address this direct and fully. We must admit our mistake. We must admit our overzealous rush to determine that this was a situation that required a deadly response. We must bring those involved into a court marshall - we must decide if this was justified, if it was a mistake, or if it represents a failure of our entire policy and approach in that region.

If we do not approach this correctly I fear that the next generation of reaction out of that region toward we Americans will be more vicious and much more terrifying. Far from providing security for Americans the US Government has just guaranteed far more of a threat than we previously had. This episode will recruit strong and zealous young men and women into a war that will have no end; a war that will continue to spray the blood of the innocent across the pages of history; a war that will have no meaning or purpose except to make more wealthy those manufacturing the weapons of destruction and to make more frightening an existence on this lonely planet in a cold galaxy.

Properly addressed, however, and this situation could spell a turning point for America with the people of Arab states. Will we have the courage and the character to do the right thing? Will Obama? Will the Republicans? Will anyone?

Update 4/11: Gates on the Sunday circuit - "killing was justified". Me: "Bullsh*t". And, not only will this in fact effect our image abroad, it damages our image here. As a life-long Republican, fiscal conservative, and one who voted for Regan, and every Bush to come along - it damages my image of the U.S. policy. It just stinks, Mr. Gates. Bullsh*t.

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