by Felicity Arbuthnot
The current imperial offensive not only physically destroys human beings on an industrial scale, it debases the souls of the aggressors. The voices of U.S. helicopter pilots as they fire cannons into innocent Iraqis on a neighborhood street corner, testify to an anti-human, “video game morality” among “America’s finest.”
by Felicity Arbuthnot
"All murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets." – Voltaire.
'"’God Bless America’ does not mean: ‘God Damn Everyone Else.’" – Bumper sticker.
The litany of war crimes in the name of "liberation," "ridding the country of tyrants," spreading "democracy," has become the language of blackest satire. Even death has been "rebranded." The shredded, dismembered, decapitated, incinerated, old and young, are not "lost," "mourned," "passed on," "in a better place," ''with their God.” They are: "mistake(s)," "collateral damage," "regrettable incident(s)."
The litany of industrial scale "incidents," is often compounded by further "regrettable" wholesale annihilation of the funeral gathering. The "mistakes" seldom have names. They are not little Aisha, Ali, Ziad, Naira, or indeed Umm Naira or Umm Ali (Mother of) or Abu Ziad or Abu Aisha (father of). Uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents too are simply the unaccounted. Those obliterated at baby naming ceremonies or weddings remain just that. Humanity deferred, by democracy delivered: with guns, grenades, hellfire missiles, and village- and town-erasing bunker busting obscenities.
Sometimes, as with bombed sheep, goats, donkeys, bereaved relatives (if any left) are offered compensation. A McDonald's diner, scalded by black coffee, was awarded a million dollars. An Afghan or Iraqi life ranks along with the price of goats.
“An Afghan or Iraqi life ranks along with the price of goats.”
An American life, however, is a "godly, righteous and sober" one, a precious thing, of shining worth, "wearing the white flower of a blameless" existence. Compare two incidents:
"It is the U.S. Army’s most urgent alert and it is now ringing across the Arghandab Valley (Afghanistan) from the 82nd Airborne’s Battalion Command to the smallest combat outpost: 'Soldier missing in action.'
“The alert was after a patrol was allegedly ambushed by the Taliban. Lt Jordan Ritenour tried to "persuade" Afghan Army recruits to join him on the search mission.
“’We wanted you to come because an American died today,' he tells them, his voice choking with frustration and emotion....
"’A death for us is sacred,' (adds) Sgt. Mason. 'No effort will be spared to return that body to its family.'” (Washington Times, 5th April 2010.)
It has to be wondered what the Afghans thought, after nine years of seeing their countrymen, women and children, casually splattered towards infinity, by these invading adherents to the sanctity of life and death.
The Afghans troops exhorted to accompany their American colleagues were living with them in the base, in line with instructions given by General Stanley McChrystal, in yet another hearts and minds initiative. They would thus have no doubt seen his television address shortly before, when he stated: "We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat." Further: " ... to my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I've been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone, has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it."
But indeed, "stuff happens" and he continued: "That doesn't mean I'm criticizing the people who are executing (sic)..." it was a matter of taking it all "in perspective." So much for "sacred."
McCrystal's chilling admission as to how inconsequential Afghan lives are to the occupying forces was compounded by the Nobel-winning President's confirmation of "... innocent victims we have killed so tragically in such amazing numbers." He added, in mitigation of America's litany of mass graves in the name of "humanitarian” intervention, "America's sincere and shamed apology."
On the day Sgt. Mason was explaining high-minded US military ethics to the Afghan troops, Wikileaks released the video of another mass execution in central Baghdad, in July 2007. The transcript showed that the perpetrators possessed only the most limited grasp of their crime against humanity: sentencing a group of people to death for walking casually down a quiet street, on a shimmering summer's day. The conversation between the Apache helicopters pilots is a glimpse into the mindset of video game assassins.
“The perpetrators possessed only the most limited grasp of their crime against humanity.”
As people wander below them, one pilot says: "I just estimate there's probably about twenty of them."
A few words, then: "That's a weapon."
"Have individuals with weapons."
"Yup, he's got a weapon too." The unaware jaywalkers then become obscured by a building:
"Just fuckin' once you get 'em, just open 'em up."
"Let me know when you've got them."
"Light 'em all up."
"Come on, fire!"
"Keep shoot, keep shoot..."
"Alright we engaged all eight individuals."
"All right, hahaha, I hit (shot) 'em ..."
"Got a bunch of bodies layin' there."
"All right, we got about, uh, eight individuals."
"Yeah, we got one guy crawling around down there, but, uh, you know, we got, definitely got something."
"We're shooting some more."
"You shoot, I'll talk."
"... Currently engaging approximately eight individuals, uh, KIA (killed in action) uh, RPGs, and AK 47s."
"Oh, yeah, look at those dead bastards."
"There's one guy moving down there but he's uh, he's wounded."
"... we also have one individual, uh, appears to be wounded trying to crawl away."
"He's getting up."
"I see you guys got that guy crawling right now on that curb."
"Yeah, I got him. I put two rounds (30 mm cannon shells near him) and you guys were shooting over there too, so uh, we'll see."
"... we have a van that's approaching and picking up the bodies."
"Right there by the bodies."
"... request permission to engage."
"Picking up the wounded?"
"Come on, let us shoot."
"... go ahead."
"I think the van's disabled."
"Go ahead and shoot it."
"A vehicle appears to be disabled."
"There were approximately four to five individuals in the vehicle, moving bodies."
Bradley fighting vehicles approach the scene. Comment from air:
"You should have a van in the middle of the road with about twelve to fifteen bodies."
"Oh yeah, look at that, right through the windshield."
"There were uh approximately four to five individuals in that truck, so I'm counting twelve to fifteen."
"I think we whacked (killed) them all."
That's right, good."
"... looks like we've got some slight movement from ah, the ah, van that was engaged."
"Looks like a kid. Over."
To more personnel on the ground:
"Got that big pile of bodies to the right, on the corner?"
"It worked out pretty good."
"I didn't want those fuckers to run away and scatter."
"... One small child wounded."
"... We need (to evacuate) this child ... she's got a wound to the belly."
" ... Ah, damn, oh well."
"Well it's their fault for bringing their kids in to battle."
Of their colleagues:
"I think they just drove over a body."
"Well, they're dead, so."
Before leaving a building is destroyed with Hellfire missiles. One Apache is short on fuel:
"We're not even going to watch this fucking shit."
"There it goes! Look at that bitch go!"
"Does it look good?"
"... building destroyed. Engaged with three hellfire missiles." (1)
“The conversation between the Apache helicopters pilots is a glimpse into the mindset of video game assassins.”
"The rocket propelled grenade" was, of course, the camera, belonging to Reuters photographer Namir-Noor Eldeen, who was killed, with colleague, Reuters driver, Saeed Chmagh. The camera was taken away by US soldiers. Another pitiless act on a merciless day.
Further, as Patrick Cockburn pointed out, in the (London) Independent (14th July 2007) Reuters had bitterly complained to the US military about their treatment of its staff. In one letter, from Editor-in-Chief, David Schlesinger, to Senator John Warner, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (26th September 2005) he cited: " ... a long parade of disturbing incidents whereby professional journalists have been killed, wrongfully detained, and/or illegally abused by US forces in Iraq".
The letter says: "On January 2-5, 2004, three Reuters personnel were beaten, taunted, and degraded by US forces while being arbitrarily detained at (Forward Operating Base) Volturno and St. Mere, near Fallujah.
"Soldiers laughed, taunted, abused, photographed and degraded them by forcing them to insert their fingers up their anuses and then lick them."
Calculated Killings, not "Isolated Incidents."
A month before the July killings, "Operation Arrowhead Ripper" took place in Baquba, captol of Iraq's Diyala governorate. At the time, I wrote:
"'We are enveloping the enemy into a kill sack," said Command Sergeant Major Jeff Huggins from the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade, according to Reuters (23rd June.) A ‘kill sack?’ Good luck America, when these sickos return home. Shutter the windows, bar the doors - and above all, lock up your daughters. Remember little Abeer al-Janabi, multiple-raped in nearby in Mahmoudiya, her family shot and she and all burned to cover the evidence? Remember Abu Ghraib? And where else? Think rape, rape, rape, sodomy, sodomy, sodomy - think the furthest other reaches of the most bestial inhumanity to man, women and yes, children. Think of America's finest selling the pictures of the dead, dying, defiled on the internet, in exchange for porn.(2.) Think also of chains of command. Where does the cover up start and how high does it go?"
"’We are not carpet bombing these things. People know if we get resistance from a house, we'll take out that house and the people in it, but not the entire street.'(3) ‘Things,’ by the way, were Iraqis. Another military spokesman: there were deaths: ‘But they were only Iraqis.’"
The Horror of Fallujah
It will take years to account for the sheer scale of the casual killing in Iraq – if there is ever to be an accounting. But that which is already known equals history's darkest, most shameful atrocities.
Not to be forgotten is (UK) Channel Four's footage of a mirror image of the Baghdad massacre, near Fallujah in April 2004. A commentator gave an overview of American tactics: "Once they decided to bomb cities, they decided to accept the routine killing of civilians as the price for hitting their target."
The Fallujah attack, on people fleeing the terrifying carnage being wrought on this "City of Mosques," confirms again, that far from "making every effort" to avoid civilian casualties, killing is routine, nonchalant, and apparently, fun:
"The pilot tells ground control he can see numerous individuals on the road. He asks if he should take them out? Instantly he's told to take them out.
"The pilot locks the bomb guidance system onto the crown running along the street. The pilot's reaction: ‘Aw dude.’
"Overnight, Channel 4 News received the following e-mail: 'This video is indeed gun film footage from a US Air Force F-16 fighter. The mission was not ‘recent,’ it was in April 2004. This was a close air support mission, flown by an F-16 Fighting Falcon in the Fallujah vicinity, and under the control of a Joint Terminal Attack Controller serving with ground forces in the area. The JTAC designated the target and confirmed the hit.' " (4)
Dahr Jamail, reviewing a book of testimonies from Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) (5) describes actions on the ground of calculated sadism and depravity, or the most casual of killings. One involves a woman "...carrying a huge bag...heading towards us, so we lit her up with the Mark 19" (automatic grenade launcher.) Then: " ... we realized that the bag was full of groceries. She had been trying to bring us food and we blew her to pieces.
"'One time they said to fire on all taxicabs.' It was queried: 'Excuse me? Did I hear that right? Fire on all taxi cabs?' The Lt. Colonel responded: 'You heard me, Trooper, fire on all taxi cabs.' After that the town lit up, with all the units firing on all cars..."
Corpses were run over with Humvees, with personnel stopping to take "trophy" pictures. "Pot shots were taken at cars that drove by ... not isolated incidents." And " ... marines (defecated) in to MRE bags or urinated in bottles and throw them at children at the side of the road." One veteran related that candy was given to Iraqi children because: "If the kids were round our vehicle" Iraqis would not attack.
The children were unwitting human shields.
“The clock of political wickedness, which was not of their making, cannot be turned back.”
If an Iraqi was accidentally shot, weapons or shovels were routinely (tossed) "on the body to make him look like an insurgent."
Yet it is through soldiers speaking out, that truth of what was set in train by the lies and duplicity of the George W. Bush Administration and the Blair government is coming to light. The Wikileaks video, seemingly, also came from another courageous military whistle blower. The clock of political wickedness, which was not of their making, cannot be turned back, but their voices and actions are powerful ammunition toward holding those to account up the chain of command - both in the armed forces and politics.
Recently a video showed an address to a Conference, by another IVAW.
He was in the marines, during the November 2004 attack on Fallujah, described as one of the greatest crimes since the worst excesses of the Second World War. He described how they brought down buildings and those cowering in them, detonated, killed, decimated. He was a leader and ordered his men to breach a building with explosives, then "clear" it. As they surged through it, he went in to a ground floor room. There he found two children of six and a young teen, struck dumb with terror, their young father, lying near death, on the floor, from his injuries and the mother, injured, and beside herself. In that moment, he said the enormity of the wrongs literally felled him.
He leaned against the wall and tears streamed down his face. The young woman approached him, put her hand against his cheek and just said: "Insh'allah, Insh'allah…." What God wills. He broke down again as he related the story, then said: "Now, my duty is to speak out."
Since this latest Baghdad outrage has been exposed, the silence of "We're gonna git him dead or alive" former President George W.Bush; President Barack Hussein "Nobel" Obama; unelected Prime Minister Gordon Brown (who wrote the checks as Chancellor of the Exchequer for this illegality); Church leaders - even of the self styled "Vicar of Baghdad," the former Peace Envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Coventry, Canon Andrew White - has been deafening.
Orwellian Middle East "Peace Envoy," co-architect of the colonial foray in Mesapotamia, Charles Anthony Lynton Blair QC, is mute - and on Safari in Africa. The British Government's "Human Rights Advisor," Ann Clwyd, another cheer leader for the Iraq's plight, is also missing in (in)action.
Incidentally, the most vociferous, seemingly blood hungry, of the pilots call-names was: "Crazyhorse."
"Crazyhorse", was a legendary 19th century Lakota Indian, who fought against the US government to "preserve the lands and traditions of the Lakota way of life."
In December 2007, the Lakota Nation declared independence from the US, declaring: "Our young want to live, not just survive, or crawl, or be mascots." What towering ironies.
Felicity Arbuthnot can be contacted at [email protected].
1. Abbreviated. Full transcript: http://www.collateralmurder.com/file/transcript-en.txt