Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Van People

The Good Samaritans
By now you've likely seen the "Collateral Murder" video. I did not have any problems with it up until the van pulled up to help the wounded man. The Apache gunship crews were doing their job in a war zone. Innocent people die in war. Bullets don't discriminate between friend, bystander, or foe. So, I could understand what they did that day. Logically, I can even understand why they took out the wounded man and the van people trying to save him, but it seemed a bit ruthless - something an ancient soldier would do on the battlefield after an engagement, not a modern warrior from a more peaceful, civilized society. In spirit, it would be like shooting a medic or stretcher bearer on the battlefield. An act the Japanese in WW II or the Vietnamese might do, but that clean cut American soldiers aren't supposed to do. At least one Iraqi War veteran with experience in video feed interpretation and field ops believes that shooting the van and its good samaritans was wrong. I'll defer to his training, judgment, and experience.

I would not have liked to have been that aircrew after the mission debriefing or the officer debriefing them. Was it murder? That would be for a war crimes court to decide. Such a court will never likely be convened though. I would at least hope that the Army counsels the men involved in that mission and fixes its rules of engagement so that civilians trying to help the wounded aren't slaughtered once any threat has been nullified. Had they retrieved weapons, they'd have been fair game. But, the van people were just doing the right thing as human beings. They paid with their lives and two children were injured. Their sacrifice should not be in vain. We should do the right thing and take care of those kids and their families.

When I suggest that the Apache crews get counseled, I would hope that the Army takes care of them to ensure that they don't kill themselves from guilt or remorse. Every time they see a child, they'll likely remember what they did to those kids that day. More soldiers are dying from suicide these days than from enemy action so there is something horribly broken in our military establishment when people are so stressed that they take their own lives by eating a gun. This video only damns the Army even more because it would seem to be covering up the killing of wounded and the people trying to help them. Both the aircrews and the people they targeted are victims in this drama with the video release. One would hope that the nameless van people and the video of their deaths will become an inspiring iconic symbol of true humanity like The Tankman. They were the true and only heroes in that video.

I don't want my country to act like the PRC. We were supposed to be better than that.

Addendum (04/20/10):
Here's an interview with one of the Bravo Company soldiers who showed up after the helicopters attacked. The shooting of the kids disturbed him greatly. I hope he heals okay. The Army isn't known for taking care of their own enlisted men well, otherwise the suicide rate wouldn't be so high. But compared to the Russians or Chinese, our Army likely babies its soldiers. They only do this because democracies are tough on armies and their leaders. Generals get cut a lot of slack in repressive states because they have power.


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