Death from the sky

One of the technologically fascinating but morally disturbing aspects of modern warfare is that the means of attack have taken on the character of a videogame.

Here’s a clip of an aerial attack on a group of hostile insurgents in a house during the Iraq War:

You see the precision of the attack and the calm manner in which it’s carried out. Air support is literally putting missiles in the windows it wants to put them in. Troop on the ground ask for help from the sky, and it’s there in a matter of minutes. From the air perspective, things blow up soundlessly. If the missile doesn’t go off? Fire another. Any motion detected among the insurgents? Then stick another missile in the front window.

But what is actually happening on the ground? Here’s a BBC clip showing what happens when there’s a case of mistaken identity. Ten years ago, the BBC crew was with a group of Kurdish allies in northern Iraq accompanied by Americans prepared to battle Saddam Hussein‘s army. Air support misidentified the allies as insurgents. (Warning: This is very graphic, so keep that in mind before you view the clip.)

Today, instead of troops on the ground and pilots in the air, an attack against enemies can be carried out with a drone aircraft guided by a soldier hundreds of miles away. War is done with pinpoint accuracy and is more efficient and more deadly. But it oddly has become more sterile when seen through the prism of a video screen.

And then a mistake is made. When that happens, we hear terms like “friendly fire” and “collateral damage.

Those words turn into Orwellian profanity, when you fully realize what has happened: People have been blown up, like in the “friendly fire” the BBC crew witnessed. And it isn’t a videogame, where you get a new life after you’re killed.

The worst thing you can do in war is to undermine the horror of what is really happening.

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The war in Iraq: We were warned.

The Iraq War began 10 years ago amid overwhelming support among the chattering classes and a major portion of the American population. But let’s remember that some people were pointing out that the idea of even considering an attack on Iraq was a mistake:

TMW9-11-02color-copyThat’s from Tom Tomorrow on Sept. 11 2002, one year after the terrorist attacks on America (which didn’t involve anyone from Iraq) and six months before the war started (in Iraq).

The Iraq War began 10 years ago today

Ten years ago today, this happened:

U.S. President George W. Bush has announced that war against Iraq has begun.

In his address at 0315 GMT Thursday, Bush said:

– That every effort would be made to spare the lives of innocent civilians,- But the campaign will be “broad and concerted” and will use “decisive force.”- No outcome but victory will be accepted,- America’s freedom will be defended, and freedom will be brought to others.

The following is a full transcript of his address:

“My fellow citizens, at this hour American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.

On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage war. These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign.

More than 35 countries are giving crucial support, from the use of naval and air bases, to help with intelligence and logistics, to the deployment of combat units. Every nation in this coalition has chosen to bear the duty and share the honor of serving in our common defense.

To all of the men and women of the United States armed forces now in the Middle East, the peace of a troubled world and the hopes of an oppressed people now depend on you.

That trust is well placed.

The enemies you confront will come to know your skill and bravery. The people you liberate will witness the honorable and decent spirit of the American military.

In this conflict, America faces an enemy who has no regard for conventions of war or rules of morality. Saddam Hussein has placed Iraqi troops and equipment in civilian areas, attempting to use innocent men, women and children as shields for his own military; a final atrocity against his people.

I want Americans and all the world to know that coalition forces will make every effort to spare innocent civilians from harm. A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment.

We come to Iraq with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization and for the religious faiths they practice. We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people.

I know that the families of our military are praying that all those who serve will return safely and soon.”

And we all know how well that went.

Tea baggers bagged

The results from yesterday’s election show the House of Representatives is still controlled by the GOP, but one of its more odious members is gone and another is close to heading to the exit sign.

In Illinois, Tammy Duckworth, the Iraq War veteran who lost her legs in combat, beat Joe Walsh, the child-support dodging tea bagger who complained that all Tammy Duckworth ever talked about was losing her legs in combat in Iraq.

Meanwhile, in Florida, Allen West, who claims there are 57 card-carrying members of the Communist Party among the House Democrats (OK, he really said 81, but it made me think of “The Manchurian Candidate”), is trailing Democrat Patrick Murphy by less than 3,000 votes, with absentee ballots from mostly Democratic precincts still to be counted.

The Iraq War is over. Did you notice?

The Iraq War ended today.

The American war in Iraq came to an unspectacular end Thursday at a simple ceremony held on the edge of Baghdad’s international airport, not far from the highway along which U.S. troops first fought their way into the capital more than eight years ago.

There were speeches paying tribute to the fallen, promises that the United States would not abandon Iraq, vague declarations of “success” and warnings of challenges ahead. A brass band played, and the flag that had flown over the headquarters of the U.S. mission here was lowered for the last time and folded away.

And that was it. No pronouncements of victory, no cheers or jubilation — only a profound sense that the war’s real reckoning is yet to come, even as the American part in it draws to a close.

No senior Iraqi government officials showed up for the event, though the name tags attached to two chairs in the front row indicated American hopes that they might. One was labeled for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the other for President Jalal Talabani.

No ceremonial unconditional surrender by a vanquished enemy. No parades in the streets with elated sailors kissing nurses in Times Square. No special news bulletins. Less pomp than when President Bush (the Dumber), declared it over from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier with the “Mission Accomplished” banner years ago.

U.S. Senator Grumpy McLoser (R-Ariz.: aka John McCain) says “we risk losing everything that we gained,” by leaving a war that nobody wants to talk about and everybody wants to ignore. And what’s the bottom line?

Saddam Hussein and his sons are dead. So are a lot of other people. We lost 4,500 American troops. And we’re $800 billion in debt for a war that we now know was fought under false pretenses.

Are we safer now than we were nine years ago? That’s something you have to ask yourself.