War Is Not A Game

War Is Not A Game

Warning: This video contains graphic violence and obscene language. Viewer discretion is advised.

Eric Essagof ’12
Sports Editor

The average trip to Youtube rarely includes a video of innocent men being slaughtered by armed forces a mile up in the sky without any warning.

The Rules of Engagement for the War on Terror clearly state that US soldiers may only fire their weapons if they are absolutely certain that civilians are not being put in danger.

That is why the video of an Apache helicopter gunning down civilians and reporters in Iraq in 2007, released by Wikileaks, is so shocking.

If you have not yet seen the footage and are too squeamish to watch, here is a short summary:

The American soldiers in their helicopter spot a small gathering of people in a square in Baghdad, some of them carrying what were later confirmed as cameras over their shoulders. Two of these men have now been identified as Nameer Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh, journalists working for Reuters.

The soldiers mistakenly identify them as insurgents and impulsively gun them down, only going on the belief that they might be enemy combatants who are holding something that could possibly be a weapon.

The soldiers continue to fire on good Samaritans who appear in a van to help the men, hurting children in the process, and laughing all throughout the ordeal.

These actions are absolutely deplorable. When lives are at stake you do not make a decision based on a hunch. Americans are always wondering why the Middle East hates us. Maybe it is because we do things like this.

Murdering civilians does not further our cause. It just does Al-Qaeda’s recruiting job for them: an increase in innocent deaths results in an increase in reasons to hate America.

As a young journalist specializing in photojournalism, this horrifies me. The thought of being killed by the US army because of poor judgement on a soldiers part makes me wary of picking up the camera.

Soldiers are like doctors. They are expected to either do a perfect job or face punishment, the latter through malpractice lawsuits, the former through trials.

Almost as disturbing as the killings was the attempted government cover-up of the incident. When Reuters asked for the reporter’s cameras, video from the cockpit of the helicopter, and other evidence through the Freedom of Information Act, the Pentagon refused. When they finally did investigate, they stated that 9-12 insurgents were killed and that the reporters and children were just caught in the crossfire. We know now that all of this is completely false.

When Wikileaks announced that they would be releasing this footage, the Pentagon turned into a force reminiscent of the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s 1984, authoring memos on how to counter Wikileaks, including such tactics as hacking the website and uncovering their sources. They even detained a member of the organization for 22 hours in Iceland for interrogation. The Icelandic government denies that this ever occurred.

The government’s attempt to conceal the truth from the public and the victims’ family is unacceptable. This situation is a mirror of the My Lai cover-up during the Vietnam War, where soldiers murdered a village of Viatnamese civilians.

One aspect of the video that commentators have pointed out is the demeanor of the pilots and gunners on the helicopter. They speak as if they are in a video game, saying things like, “All right, hahaha I hit ’em,” and Come on, let us shoot!” They are desensitized towards the situation, not viewing their victims as human, as they only view the people through a screen.

It’s easy to pull the trigger when only pixels are in the crosshairs.

Some say that the reason they are so disconnected from their actions is because they are soldiers and that is a part of war. However, I believe the problem is much greater.

Our generation is a generation of apathy.

We see so much injustice and so many tragedies that they no longer affect us. Generations before us took to the streets against the Vietnam War and segregation. They put flowers in rifles and spoke out against the travesties taking place in countries we invaded.

When our generation sees atrocities like this, we don’t even blink.

I showed a friend the video of the attacks, and when the soldiers were talking about their kills my friend began to laugh. I was shocked. He had the same reaction he would have if he were playing Call of Duty (which, by the way, has a level that has the player use and Apache helicopter gun very similar to the one in the video).

We should show outrage, not just shrug it off and say “Gee, those soldiers do the darndest things!”

The older members of our generation don’t even care if their actions hurt children. When the soldiers find out that kids were in the van they decimated, their response is, “Well it’s their fault for bringing their kids into battle”.

If this is what happens to soldiers and civilians when we go to war, maybe we should think twice before we send off our young men to fight a guerrilla army, and instead ask ourselves, “Is it really worth it?”