Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Marc Thiessen Tries To Excuse The Machine-Gunning Of Innocent Civilians

Torture fetishist Marc Thiessen weighs in today on "Collateral Murder", the video released recently by Wikileaks.

Thiessen: Left-wing blogs have jumped on the video as proof of the callous brutality of American troops. 
Glenn Greenwald made a point of saying this:

The WikiLeaks video is not an indictment of the individual soldiers involved -- at least not primarily. Of course those who aren't accustomed to such sentiments are shocked by the callous and sadistic satisfaction those soldiers seem to take in slaughtering those whom they perceive as The Enemy (even when unarmed and crawling on the ground with mortal wounds), but this is what they're taught and trained and told to do. If you take even well-intentioned, young soldiers and stick them in the middle of a dangerous war zone for years and train them to think and act this way, this will inevitably be the result. The video is an indictment of the U.S. government and the war policies it pursues.
I agree with Greenwald, as long as he is not completely absolving the troops from blame. The real blame for tragedies like these lies with those who pushed for, supported, and enabled this tragic, unjust and unnecessary war. People like Marc Thiessen.

Thiessen: The Huffington Post ran a story describing how “crew members can be heard celebrating their kills. ‘Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,’ says one crewman after multiple rounds of 30mm cannon fire left nearly a dozen bodies littering the street. A crewman begs for permission to open fire on the van and its occupants, even though it has done nothing but stop to help the wounded: ‘Come on, let us shoot!’ Two crewmen share a laugh when a Bradley fighting vehicle runs over one of the corpses. And after soldiers on the ground find two small children shot and bleeding in the van, one crewman can be heard saying: ‘Well, it’s their fault bringing their kids to a battle.’”
This, of course, is all true.

Thiessen: These words sounds horrific with the 20/20 hindsight of knowing that the targets were not insurgents, but civilians and journalists.
No, this sounds horrific no matter what. At one point a crew member is heard begging one of the wounded to pick up a gun so he can legally shoot him again. He wants the man to pick up a weapon, which would make him dangerous, just so he can shoot him! These aren't brave warriors; they're bullies.

Thiessen: But watching the video, it is clear the troops did not know they were firing on civilians.
That is not clear at all. What is clear is that they a) had no idea who these people were, 2) had a vague suspicion that they were armed and c) couldn't wait to mow them down with machine gun fire.

Thiessen: They thought they were attacking terrorists and insurgents who kill innocent civilians on a daily basis. 
Everyone looks like that when you have an itchy trigger finger.

Thiessen: As even the Times points out, the “attacks took place amid clashes in the neighborhood and … one of the men was carrying a rocket-propelled grenade.” 
Does this mean that anytime you see someone with what you think is an RPG, you are entitled to shoot everyone in sight, whether they are armed or not? And that you can then murder the Good Samaritans who show up to help?

Thiessen: As the video unfolds, the troops mistake a telephoto lens for a weapon and repeatedly say things such as: “That’s a weapon,” “Have individuals with weapons,” “Yup, he’s got a weapon too,” “Have five to six individuals with AK-47s. Request permission to engage,” “He’s got an RPG,” “We’ve got a guy with an RPG,” “Have eyes on an individual with an RPG getting ready to fire,” and “we had a guy shooting and now he’s behind the building.” As the video unfolds, it’s clear the troops believe they have come across heavily armed enemy fighters.
No, that just means that they know that they are on radio, and that if they want to shoot someone, they are going to have to say those sorts of things to justify it. It doesn't mean that it's true, and it doesn't mean that they believe it.

Thiessen: In other words, what unfolds is not “collateral murder” but a tragedy of mistaken identity.
I guess if I convince myself that Marc Thiessen is packing heat and threatening me, I am justified in murdering him in cold blood. As long as I believe it, right? (I do not believe this, just to be clear.)

Thiessen: The Huffington Post reports that “unveiling the video at the National Press Club on Monday morning, [WikiLeaks editor Julian] Assange said the helicopter crew approached its job as if it were a video game, not something involving human lives. ‘Their desire was simply to kill,’ he said. ‘Their desire was to get high scores on that computer game.’” That is unfair. Their desire was not to kill innocent people; their desire was protect the American and Iraqi people from a murderous enemy. 
They killed innocent people. They did it in a very enthusiastic way. There is absolutely nothing in that video that would lead you to believe that they cared one bit if those people were innocent or not. They showed an absolute lack of any concern whatsoever. For Thiessen to give these troops the benefit of the doubt is a huge leap of faith, one which a honest person would not be prepared to make.

Thiessen: The video is heart-wrenching to watch, but I suspect that those most horrified after they learned the truth were the troops aboard that Apache helicopter who discovered they had accidentally killed innocent civilians. 
You could tell how horrified they were by the way they casually said "Well, it’s their fault bringing their kids to a battle."

Thiessen: The incident deserves investigation, and it appears that the military was not fully forthcoming about what took place. 
Not fully forthcoming? The military lied about this from the beginning, and refused to release the videos. They were forced into this admission by Wikileaks, an organization which is dedicated to revealing the truth about the war, and which is being targeted by the US Government for its efforts.

Thiessen: If so, disciplinary action may be warranted. But using this tragedy to question the humanity of American troops, or to suggest they have a callous disregard for human life—as WikiLeaks and the HuffingtonPost do—is simply wrong.
Who is questioning their humanity? They are all too human, it appears. And when our troops mow down innocent civilians and children in cold blood as though they are characters in a video game, they deserve to be questioned. And people like Marc Thiessen, who have enabled these horrific wars in the first place, deserve far worse.

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