Sunday, April 11, 2010

The WikiLeaks Video and M. O. B. A.

My perspective of the recently released WikiLeaks video.

As someone who was trained to be a soldier by the U. S. military, I can tell you that the recently released WikiLeaks video raised mixed thoughts and emotions within me.

In the first place, the Apache attack helicopter pilot no doubt feels vulnerable to attack: one well-placed round from an RPG (i.e., a Rocket Propelled Grenade) is able to bring him down. Early in the video, it is evident that one man on the ground had what appears to be an RPG, while another man has what appears to be an AK-47.

After the helicopter's first fly-by, a man can be seen crouching next to the building and taking what appears (both to me and to the pilot) to be a firing position from which to launch an RPG at the helicopter. The helicopter pilot radios-in to ask if there are any friendlies in the area and he's told there are not; therefore anyone in this particular area is considered to be an enemy combatant.

Having spotted armed men, and one man in particular who appears to be taking a firing position, the helicopter gunner fires on them the moment he gets a clear shot; killing or mortally wounding all of the men in the area.

It's clear that the men who are gathered on the street do not appear to be concerned that the helicopter is flying overhead (as I would be) and it's also clear that no one has yet fired upon the helicopter. Nevertheless, the helicopter opens fire, killing or mortally wounding everyone in sight.

From the pilot's perspective, he's already risked, like a good cop, being fired upon before shooting: if that one guy actually was taking a position from which to fire an RPG, and if he had actually fired-on and hit the helicopter, the Apache would have gone down—fast.

So from my perspective, the pilot actually took a pretty big chance by not firing on them right away. He waited until it appeared that the men were armed; he saw what appeared to be an armed man taking a firing position against them; he clarified that there were no friendly forces in the area; and he requested permission to fire before doing so.

Engaging in combat in a city like Baghdad is what the U. S. military used to call, when I was in it: M. O. B. A., which means: engaging in Military Operations in Built-up Areas. And I can assure you, combat within a city is far different from combat out in an open area. For one thing, considering the fact that many civilians are living in the built-up area (or city), one has to be extra careful not to fire upon innocents— because the city is virtually crawling with them.

For men who, as soldiers, are trained to kill everything in front of their lines of their defense, it's problematic (to say the least) to ask them to refrain from firing in order to be certain that the people they're firing at are not innocents. And this is the real problem in a place like Baghdad: the soldiers, who are trained to kill everything in front of them, are being told to do something that is really not their job, which is to act like police officers by discriminating good guy from bad guy whenever you're shooting at someone whom you are threatened by.

What the WikiLeaks video shows us is what happens when you send soldiers into a complex and complicated situation like engaging in combat with an enemy, who looks like an ordinary civilian, living in a large, inhabited city: innocent people will often be killed. The journalist and his driver (both of whom worked for Reuters) were taking a great risk, which is what war-correspondents do, by being in the area; and they were killed as a result.

All this having been said, I would like to point out that, after all of the men in the area were either dead or mortally wounded, when the van pulls up and two men get out and begin helping the wounded journalist, it looks an awful lot like cold blooded murder to watch the helicopter gunner mow them down with his 30mm cannons.

But again, I'm sure the soldiers in the Apache helicopter felt the van to be a threat. For one thing, the men who got out of it were helping the enemy; and for another thing, who knew what sort of fire they might take from the van if it were not engaged?

This is the sad truth about what's been going on in Iraq for the past seven years. When the U. S. sends in the military, the military has only one job for which they've been trained: to kill the enemy. And let's remember: the U. S. invaded Iraq and, to the Iraqis, we're the bad guys.

Americans should already know—without the WikiLeaks video footage—that innocent people are being killed in Iraq, especially in the city of Baghdad, because this sort of thing is to be expected whenever you send-in the military. If we didn't want innocents being killed, then we shouldn't have sent the military over there to begin with.

I realize that it wasn't the American people's decision to do so; it was a decision reached by former president Bush with the approval of the people's representatives in Congress. But the fact that our troops are presently killing innocent people both in Iraq and in Afghanistan is the responsibility of the American people. We—the American people—have allowed this killing to continue, and only we—the American people—can end it. If the WikiLeaks video has opened your eyes to what's been going on in Iraq and opened your eyes as to your responsibility regarding it, then it's time we do something about it.

Our politicians in Washington can only do what we allow them to get away with. If we have had enough of this war and if we want to end it we have got to send a clear message to the Washington politician. And the only message they will listen to is the voice of the people, standing together in the streets of Washington—blocking traffic and shutting Washington down—until we get what we want: an end to this stupid, evil, murderous war.

We're guilty of many offenses against both the Iraqi and the Afghani peoples, and it's high time that the U. S. begin engaging in a much different sort of M. O. B. A. operation: "Many Offenses; Begin Apologizing".

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