Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wikileaks and Collateral Murder

The whistle blowing organisation Wikileaks recently released the following shocking video of US forces engaging suspected insurgents in Iraq. Have a look and tell me what you think. Prepare yourselves !

Let me first say that I did not need to see this video to realise that incidents like this happened and probably continue to happen on a fairly regular basis in Iraq. Anybody, whether they are for or against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are naive if the above video shocks them to the extent that they radically change their views on the conflicts. War is never smooth. Its not like the movies. You don't get shot, say a little speech and die. You get blown to bits. Wounds are not always clean. They can break, shatter, rip and burn human flesh. Civilians always die. The above clip illustrates this graphically.

I deliberately waited a couple of weeks to post on this because I wanted to finish a book I was reading about the Irish Civil War (stay with me I'm going somewhere with this). In the spring of 1923 the Irish Civil war had ended in most parts of the country. However it was still raging down in the south west in County Kerry. The Free State government and army feared that a never ending guerrilla war that could destabilise the new state was a real danger. After a series of attacks against Free State soldiers the army under the leadership of Brigadier General Paddy O'Daly (hero of the 1916 Rising and the 1919-1921 Anglo Irish war) of the Dublin Guards decided to take drastic action to pacify the county. O'Daly organised an assassination policy against his former IRA comrades that included atrocities on prisoners. O'Daly was undoubtedly a war criminal. However within one month the Civil War came to an end and Independent Ireland became a solid functioning democratic state which would survive throughout the undemocratic 30's and 40's up to the present day. So my question is, do the ends justify the means.

The above footage was taken in 2007 when violence in Iraq was at it's bloody height. Today, after the surge and the Sunni awakening violence has decreased hugely, elections have taken place and it looks that Iraq might actually become a viable democratic state. So I ask again, do the ends justify the means ? I am not trying to lessen the horror of the footage by asking this question. I believe the men who fired, particularly the second time on the van are guilty of murder. I watched several pundits on Fox defend the actions of the military because it appears two of the men were armed and US forces had received fire from the area not long before. Fair enough, I suppose they are in the clear. But I found the machine gunning of the van that was in the process of picking up the wounded to be an inexcusable act. No amount of spin will clean it up for me.

The question remains. Was it justified ? If Iraq continues on its democratic path and particularly if that path spreads throughout the Arab world then it will be very hard to argue with the drastic action taken by the US military back in 2007. The violence in Iraq was of such extreme levels from 2004 to 2007 that very tough action was required to pacify the country. I accept this. Although I must point out that the pundits who justified the above actions kept referring to how the military had not breached the rules of engagement in this incident. If this is so, I think the rules of engagement need to be reevaluated.


thesystemworks said...

Have you seen the other side of the story, as given by the Weekly Standard and others?

Ted Leddy said...


Thanks for the comment. Its good to have you on my blog. I have followed many of your controversial debates on Bock the Robber.

Regarding this post I'm afraid I am not convinced by the arguments made in the weekly standard. The same points were made by the political pundits I referred to. The attack on the van was an act of murder in my opinion.

I want to say that I don't think a persons interpretation of the events in the video should change depending on their political views. You may be a big fan of the US military (as I am) but no reasonable person thinks they are all a bunch of saints who can do no wrong. The men machine gunned a van that was picking up the wounded. Its pretty clear. Defending it looks quite silly.