Greetings! You are reading an article from The Mudville Gazette. To reach the front page, with all the latest news and views, click the logo above or "main" below. Thanks for stopping by!
April 8, 2010
War Porn (part three - for the children)By Greyhawk
"The girl was wounded in the stomach and the boy in the lower chest. Both were said to be in stable condition." That's a quote from David Finkel's first report (in July, 2007) on the incident that resulted in the deaths of two Reuters reporters and several other non-media members no one gives a damn about. Lets face it, had there not been two reporters (more importantly to the media two reporters apparently employed to some degree by a Western news organization) splattered with them that day this particular bit of snuff porn would have been just one of many you can find on Youtube. For snuff porn fans the appearance of children near the end of the video of the event released this week is a bonus, but for the human beings among us concern for those kids was the first thing that came to mind.
Thanks to the wikileaks folks, al Jazeera was able to track them down for a highly-charged news segment this week:
They failed to mention a few key points - but we'll get to those...
Finkel was there that day, and "I remain in touch with many of the soldiers from that battalion," he wrote this week, "including one who picked up and held one of the wounded children, and he has been having a difficult time ever since he made the discovery. I won't go into details without his permission, but I can assure you that in his case he is haunted."
Iraq can be a haunting place - that comment reminded me of reporter Pamela Hess' account of a 2005 visit there: "I was never in immediate danger," she wrote by way of introducing a list of the few times she came close - a list that included seeing "a car bomb burn at a police check point in Tall 'Afar, the explosion killing no one but the people inside the car -- a man, a woman and two young children." Hard to forget a thing like that.
Speaking of vehicles, here's an interesting photo from the web page hosting the video
That's the caption from the site. But curiously, if you've seen the video you know that's not what the van looked like after the attack. This, however, is:
Or things like plot or context in their videos.
From his book The Good Soldiers, David Finkel's account of the dawn of the morning of July 12, as soldiers prepared to roll out...
"But most did nothing," Finkel writes. "Because the bullet had been fired, it was only a matter of time, and if they knew anything by now, it was that whatever happened in the next few seconds was the province of God, or luck, or whatever they believed in, rather than of them."
"What's helpful to understand," Finkel says now of the video, "is that, contrary to some interpretations that this was an attack on some people walking down the street on a nice day, the day was anything but that. It happened in the midst of a large operation to clear an area where US soldiers had been getting shot at, injured, and killed with increasing frequency. What the Reuters guys walked into was the very worst part, where the morning had been a series of RPG attacks and running gun battles."
I was there because I was writing a book about the experiences of an Army infantry battalion in the surge. That battalion happened to be the one involved in the 2-16 incident. They were in Baghdad for 14 months; I was with them for eight months. They had a tough area and a tough time -- June, for instance, was four KIAs, one who lost a hand, one who lost an arm, one who lost an eye, one who was shot in the head, one who was shot in the throat, eight who were injured by shrapnel. Many, if not most, of those injuries occurred in the area that on July 12 they were attempting to bring under control.
By 2007 many American soldiers in Iraq were multiple tour veterans - so they knew they weren't going out to distribute candy. Such practices were largely abandoned, or at least approached with caution following events a few years prior:
A sane person might hope that no one else would prove capable of committing such a horrific attack, but four months later:
Given the pace of tour rotations, most likely the veterans preparing to roll out of Rustamiyah had last been in Iraq when those events occurred.
Anthony Martinez is a multi-tour Iraq veteran, too. "For those unaware of my background," he writes, "I have spent quite a lot of time (a conservative estimate would be around 4500 hours) viewing aerial footage of Iraq (note: this time was not in viewing TADS video, but footage from Raven, Shadow, and Predator feeds). I am certain my voice can be heard on several transmissions with several different Crazyhorse aircraft, as I have called them to assist troops on the ground more times in my 24-months in Iraq than I could even attempt to guess."
I need no reassurances to determine the presence of an RPG7 or an AK-variant rifle, especially not from a craft flying as low as Apache (even after the video has been reduced in dimensions to a point at which it is nearly useless).
And (like anyone else paying attention to what they're seeing in the video) see them he does. As Finkel recalls, "If you were to see the full video, you would see a person carrying an RPG launcher as he walked down the street as part of the group..."
Another was armed as well, as I recall. Also, if you had the unfortunate luck to be on site afterwards, you would have seen that one of the dead in the group was lying on top of a launcher. Because of that and some other things, EOD -- the Hurt Locker guys, I guess -- had to come in and secure the site. And again, I'm not trying to excuse what happened. But there was more to it for you to consider than what was in the released video.
But while the presence of multiple weapons in the group initially targeted by the Apaches that day is well documented (everywhere other than the Wikileaks "collateral murder" site and video) the real unresolved questions of the day surround the attack on the van that arrives immediately thereafter, and the horrific discovery of children inside.
Firing on the van is a morally repugnant act that has legal (and some moral) justification - in that regards it offers an informal definition of war. It's an action that many of us would like to believe we ourselves wouldn't take were we in similar circumstances. There are any number of such things we like to imagine ourselves capable or incapable of - from rescuing victims from a burning building or a horrific car crash to exhibiting calm courage under fire (sure - I could do all that!); to enraged battlefield bloodlust (never - I don't even curse when I bump my head!) to fleeing the scene of a car crash we witnessed (not even when late for work!). But reality and our imaginations are two different places, and in reality there is no zoomed-in slow-motion instant replay - and here I will leave it at that. For what it's worth, it's a considered conclusion with which I suspect most of my fellow Iraq vets would agree.
But it is worth noting that while the official investigation validated the actions, the conclusion (redacted) included suggestions for avoiding a future repeat. (Click image for larger version.)
But what shouldn't stand without comment is a demonstrably false accusation (made in the "collateral murder" version of the video) that the children - unseen until that moment - were denied treatment in an American medical facility.
(Video screen cap)
While some might consider Finkel's first report too vague:
An officer who saw a medical report about the children said they were injured by shrapnel from the Apache strafing. The girl was wounded in the stomach and the boy in the lower chest. Both were said to be in stable condition.
...or deem the actual report of the investigation into the incident unpersuasive (click images for larger):
...two final pieces of evidence can be found on the "collateral murder" web page - the actual records of treatment for both children from the 28th Combat Support Hospital (CSH). (Click images for larger versions.)
Those few (certainly relative to the number of people who've seen the obvious falsehood contained in their video - a statement they know to be misleading as evidenced by these documents hosted on the same site) who actually discovered these documents (identified there only as "medical records") and viewed the full versions would know that both children were diagnosed (to include CT scans) and treated at the 28th CSH - where (tragically) the doctors, nurses, and staff are well practiced at treating children. "Each month the CSH treats half a dozen boys aged 10 to 15 who have been maimed while planting IEDs for the terrorists," the Times (London) reported in September of that year.
And ironically, the (decidedly non-combatant) head nurse of the hospital's intermediate care wards had been murdered in an "insurgent" mortar attack on the mostly-civilian populated (including many Iraqi civilians) International Zone just two days before.
A death that went mostly unremarked, and generated no international outrage.
2007 was a rough year for many of us in Baghdad. But (per the link above) "September, October, and November brought some relief to the 28th CSH as the surge began to work and the number of dead and wounded noticeably declined."
Indeed it did - though not without some effort and sacrifice. This graph depicts "insurgent" attacks on coalition forces with time...
...and this one could be called "insurgent" attacks on Iraqis.
I've placed a vertical red line on July, 2007 in each. There and to the left you can see the world we lived in.
To the right the world we made.
Posted by Greyhawk / April 8, 2010 4:35 PM | Permalink
Mother Jones:The other interesting data are notes from what the military calls KLEs--key leader engagements. Military officers, as well as officials from State, USAID, and other agencies regularly meet with important players in a war zone to get their ... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com