I was just on Democracy Now along with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange discussing the Iraq video they released yesterday, and there’s one vital point I want to emphasize. Shining light on what our government and military do is so critical precisely because it forces people to see what is really being done and prevents myth and propaganda from distorting those realities. That’s why the administration fights so hard to keep torture photos suppressed, why the military fought so hard here to keep this video concealed (and why they did the same with regard to the Afghan massacre), and why whistle-blowers, real journalists, and sites like WikiLeaks are the declared enemy of the government. The discussions many people are having today — about the brutal reality of what the U.S. does when it engages in war, invasions and occupation — is exactly the discussion which they most want to avoid.
But there’s a serious danger when incidents like this Iraq slaughter are exposed in a piecemeal and unusual fashion: namely, the tendency to talk about it as though it is an aberration. It isn’t. It’s the opposite: it’s par for the course, standard operating procedure, what we do in wars, invasions, and occupation. The only thing that’s rare about the Apache helicopter killings is that we know about it and are seeing what happened on video. And we’re seeing it on video not because it’s rare, but because it just so happened (a) to result in the deaths of two Reuters employees, and thus received more attention than the thousands of other similar incidents where nameless Iraqi civilians are killed, and (b) to end up in the hands of WikiLeaks, which then published it. But what is shown is completely common. That includes….
A major reason there are hundreds of thousands of dead innocent civilians in Iraq, and thousands more in Afghanistan, is because this is what we do. This is why so many of those civilians are dead. What one sees on that video is how we conduct our wars. That’s why it’s repulsive to watch people — including some “liberals” — attack WikiLeaks for slandering The Troops, or complain that objections to these actions unfairly disparage the military because “our guys are the good guys” and they act differently “99.99999999% of the time.” That is blatantly false. Just as was true of the deceitful attempt to depict the Abu Ghraib abusers as rogue “bad apples” once their conduct was exposed with photographs (when the reality was they were acting in complete consistency with authorized government policy), the claim that what was shown on that video is some sort of outrageous departure from U.S. policy is demonstrably false. In a perverse way, the typical morally depraved neocons who are justifying these killings are actually being more honest than those trying to pretend this is some sort of rare and unusual event: those who support having the U.S. invade and wage war on other countries are endorsing precisely this behavior.
As the video demonstrates, the soldiers in the Apache did not take a single step — including killing those unarmed men who tried to rescue the wounded — without first receiving formal permission from their superiors. Beyond that, the Pentagon yesterday — once the video was released — suddenly embraced the wisdom of transparency by posting online the reports of the so-called “investigations” it undertook into this incident (as a result of pressure from Reuters). Those formal investigations not only found that every action taken by those soldiers was completely justified — including the firing on the unarmed civilian rescuers — but also found that there’s no need for any remedial steps to be taken to prevent future re-occurence.