Here’s that WikiLeaks video, aptly titled “Collateral Murder,” that’s making the rounds. I saw it on Scott Horton’s blog last night, and this morning NPR did a piece on it. What’s striking about it, aside from the fact that it depicts several real people being mowed down by machine gun fire, is the casual, detached attitude of the soldiers doing the killing, the way they cheer each other on while they’re doing it and the way they talk about the actual human beings on the ground as if they were mere graphic images in a video game.
Of course, NPR, while acknowledging that the video is “troubling, riveting and sad,” did its best to downplay the sheer cold-bloodedness of it by portraying it as the regrettable kind of thing that happens in the “fog of war.” The piece was also quick to point out, in the opening paragraph, that some weapons were found on the bodies, even though what the soldiers in the helicopter initially thought were guns turned out to be cameras (it’s hard to see when it’s so foggy, you know).
But the most despicable display of excuse-making comes from the soldiers themselves. After the initial round of shooting, a van drives up to pick up one of the wounded men, and, after some back-and-forth on the radio to get permission to “engage” this deadly threat, the machine gun opens fire. When ground soldiers arrive on the scene and discover two wounded children in the bullet-riddled van, one of the soldiers on the audio says, “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.” To which another responds: “That’s right.”
So there you have it. Bottomless self-justification. What exactly constitutes a battle, you ask? Why, it’s anytime we happen to start shooting, anywhere, for whatever reason.