OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Iraq, from the air

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  • John Holley,

    Hi Ben, it's from Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977, article 41.

    The Geneva Conventions relate to, in general,

    the treatment and protection of civilians, combatants who are “hors de combat” (sick, wounded, shipwrecked and prisoners of war) and those otherwise exempt from treatment as combatants.

    The Hague conventions are the main source for dealing with the conduct of hostilities.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Prince,

    I watched this video after hearing the news this evening. I thought that 17 minutes would be too long and I would switch off but it was fascinating (not in a good way) viewing. I can...sort of...see the point you're trying to make, possibly the whole "split-second decisions made in the heat of battle" argument? but I don't think it holds. The crowd appears to be 'unthreatening' (trying not to sound too naive) but the van could in no way be considered a threat.

    However, I think some of the WikiLeaks photos are disingenuous, not all RPGs are 4 foot long and indistinguishable from a camera as the website claims.

    Your argument about how we judge the footage is interesting though. Wikileaks has put its own spin on the footage. Do we view it differently knowing that there are journalists among the dead? The Collateral Murder angle suggests that we should feel more outraged because the person crawling away is a journalist. Surely we should feel the same regardless?

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2008 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Dempsey,

    I watched the video this afternoon, shortly after NO RIGHT TURN posted it on his website.

    I was disturbed by it. To me the men were casual in their behaviour, almost to the point of ignoring a Black Apache heliocopter that was so obviously circling.

    Which points to the clues that the men in fact were causual, ordinary, everyday men. The military were too blinded by war, by combat, to notice the subtle but telling clues.

    It's clear that the USA Military lied. Why wouldn't they. It's also clear they've primed some journalists. I note that some big wig journalist in charge of some union of journalists has said war is ugly and this is ugly close up.

    I posted this to my FB page. Do you think anyone bothered watching it? No.

    Very disturbing.

    Parnell / Tamaki-Auckland… • Since Sep 2008 • 642 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    I wonder how many people have seen David Simon's Generation Kill? I thought it delved into these issues quite well - what does a soldier who is trained to sport enemies see when he scans a civilian population? how can the rules of engagement be bent? how are these crimes recorded and policed?

    I also recommend the book. The TV series and the book complement each other very well.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    big, big call keith.

    surely you're aware of the tales that have emerged from falluja?

    Yes, and that was an attrocity. But that was some serious off-the-reservation shit. My point - the point of this post - is that there are distinctions between a) a deliberate strategy of terrorising the occupied population, b) a general lack of discipline or competence, c) individual sociopaths going mental, and d) geniune mistakes; and also, that attrocities committed by individuals don't automatically equal systematic war crimes, nor the reverse.

    Like I said in the post, the attack on the van trying to load up the wounded was inexcusable. But I'm less certain about the identification in the first place.

    They said there were men armed with AKs. This was true (from what I can see). Even though they were wrong about Namir and Saeed, the two guys trailing behind were carrying assault rifles.

    They sought permission to engage, and they received it. Did they give bad information to their commander? Was it the commander's fault? The crews'? The RoE? Did they balls it up because of poor training? Because of poor intelligence? Because they don't give a shit about Iraqis?

    None of it makes it right, but they are real distinctions, and it should make a difference to how we feel about the situation and the people involved.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 535 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Who flouted the rules of being engaged.

    The last think I expected on this thread was a rofflenui. Suspect it will be the only one.

    I recall Dick Cheney, John Yoo and other repugnant scumbags exempting US forces from the Geneva Conventions, so I suspect they have all developed a culture of not believing that reasonable standards of conduct apply to them. Salon.com is down for maintenance right now so I can't retrieve the link, but Glenn Greenwald reminded his readers of Bush's obnoxious phrase: "they hate us for our freedom".

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16794 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    so I suspect they have all developed a culture of not believing that reasonable standards of conduct apply to them

    Look, this didn't start yesterday. And it is not confined to brown people. The US army has immunity from its own prosecutions. Is anybody familiar with what Wikipedia charmingly calls the Cavalese cable car disaster (rather than, say, massacre), in which two top guns who liked to race down valleys cut through the cable of an aerial gondola, killing twenty? They were done for "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman" for tampering with the evidence. Or what about the time that a pilot ejected himself over the skies of Bologna, allowing his plane to crash into a school, killing 12 children? Acquitted too. It's a pretty long list.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7386 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    It's not just that they have 'developed a culture'. It saturates every single aspect of army life and training. It didn't grow in a petri dish someone left in an army barracks while their backs were turned - 'warrior culture' is the aim. It is actively fostered and encouraged.

    When was the last time the US army fought a hot war against an enemy that was clearly identifiable and easily distingushed from the civilian population? Sixty years ago? Closer to seventy now?

    And yet every aspect of their training is focussed on on hardcore combat. That you will be able to easily identify your enemy, and kill him with overwhelming firepower.

    A couple of quotes from this article on the US Marines in Afghanistan:

    The men finding themselves in this tricky position were often no more than 19 or 20 years old. Mostly from Florida, and North or South Carolina, (their base is Camp Lejeune, North Carolina) many had never before left their home states. They had been trained to kill (and openly fantasised about "dropping" people), but were now being told to hold back and instead build relationships with the local community.

    "I wish the bad guys had uniforms."

    Seriously, how many fucking decades does it take for even the most reactionary, conservative, monolithic organisation to realise that the focus needs to change?

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    Because they don't give a shit about Iraqis?

    that gets my vote.

    it's not that the US of A is intrinsically bad, or worse that other nations engaged in warfare. the british have a long and bloody history of massacre, rapine, and plunder.

    it's that the US likes to pretend it's saving you and i from "the bad guys" while they do it, and constantly claim the moral high ground. they're also in a situation where they're able to murder civilians because of a long and protracted lie about "liberating" iraq.

    what this and other videos have given us is a small glimpse into what must be a widespread pattern of indiscriminate killing by US forces. worse, the global media gives little more than a shit about it because some fcking golfer playing a full 18 hole round.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • Blake Monkley,

    After watching the video, I am starting to feel uneasy that some in the military may think they are playing a video game.

    Auckland • Since Jul 2008 • 215 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Wikileaks has been struggling financially recently - it's left them 'off the air' a lot in the past few months - now's a good time to remember what a great service they provide - probably the first real 'data haven' of sorts - please contribute.

    And of course remember they also have a NZ section ....

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2179 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    man... vid loading slowly.

    and worse, dudes with AKs are not a clear and present threat in iraq. they're bodyguards.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Nothing new about Amerikan moral exceptionalism and empire, for sure. Cheney, Rove and their PNAC buddies were just a little more blatant about it.

    may think they are playing a video game

    Isn't that one way they recruit them these days?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16794 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    My point - the point of this post - is that there are distinctions between a) a deliberate strategy of terrorising the occupied population, b) a general lack of discipline or competence, c) individual sociopaths going mental, and d) geniune mistakes; and also, that attrocities committed by individuals don't automatically equal systematic war crimes, nor the reverse.

    Investigation into the cover-up at Haditha:

    A military investigation has found that senior Marine Corps commanders in Iraq showed a routine disregard for the lives of Iraqi civilians that contributed to a ''willful'' failure to investigate the killing of 24 unarmed Iraqis by marines in 2005, lawyers involved in the case said.

    ''All levels of command tended to view civilian casualties, even in significant numbers, as routine and as the natural and intended result of insurgent tactics,'' General Bargewell wrote in his report, according to two people who have read it. ''Statements made by the chain of command during interviews for this investigation, taken as a whole, suggest that Iraqi civilian lives are not as important as U.S. lives, their deaths are just the cost of doing business, and that the Marines need to get the job done no matter what it takes.''

    Three years back the US held over 40,000 Iraqis in cells, almost all eventually released without charge. They were often arrested because they were males of military age. That often seemed to be their only crime. Doors were kicked in, villages ransacked, shoot first policies enacted.

    Thomas Ricks, in both his pretty definitive works on US military policy in Iraq and underlines and documents over and over again an official culture that accepted and indeed encouraged terror and indiscriminate attacks against a huge range of Iraqi targets.

    Only the arrival of Petraeus at the top and the dumping of Rumsfeld put a brake on it.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3208 posts Report Reply

  • stephen walker,

    it's not that the US of A is intrinsically bad

    big, big call Che.

    nagano • Since Nov 2006 • 634 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    Jim Henson

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Glenn Greenwald reminded his readers of Bush's obnoxious phrase: "they hate us for our freedom".

    I believe The West Wing basically beat him to that one...

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    atrocities committed by individuals don't automatically equal systematic war crimes, nor the reverse.

    Actually, I'm reasonably confident the reverse *is true*: if there are systemic war crimes, there will be atrocities committed by individuals.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3009 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    War is Murder.

    Occupation by a combative military force is War.

    This one's all about the oil.

    Though maybe, like the old, dying empires of old, they're just fighting wars to give their ever more costly armies something to do, to validate the crippling budgets for a few more years.


    And you can't keep up a war footing, with the accompanying budget, if you stop shooting people, now can you. These guys would just be part of the quota, what with the "big push" on and everything.

    Since Nov 2006 • 480 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Or what about the time that a pilot ejected himself over the skies of Bologna, allowing his plane to crash into a school, killing 12 children?

    But were they American children?

    Because that seems to be all they care about. Everyone else is a wog to them.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1661 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    So will New Zealand stop supporting US military campaigns?

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    Everyone else is a wog to them.

    no such thing as a wog in the US.

    "sand nigger" is the phrase you're looking for.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Everyone else is a wog to them.

    no such thing as a wog in the US.

    "sand nigger" is the phrase you're looking for.

    The ejection incident Giovanni referred to took place in Italy.

    I'm not going to post the appropriate slur, but I don't think that one above is technically correct.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Whoops,

    @blake

    After watching the video, I am starting to feel uneasy that some in the military may think they are playing a video game.

    There's a post here (with LOTS of comments) you might like to read;

    http://kotaku.com/5510188/us-army-accused-of-video-game+like-behavior-in-disturbing-leaked-iraq-war-video

    here • Since Apr 2007 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    I stole this from bFm breakfast.

    US fight Taliban with heavy metal and rock music. Thin Lizzy and Metallica.

    "Some locals complain but it's a way to push them to choose. It's motivating Marines as well," he added after one deafening round of several hours including tracks from The Offspring, Metallica and Thin Lizzy.

    The officer said they also broadcast messages from the Afghan government, as well as threats to the Taliban -- there are no obscenities, "but we tell them they're gonna die", he smiled.

    Reminded me of this;

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

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