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.

Advertisements

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.

Sept. 11, 2012: a word from Dick Cheney

As the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. comes to a close, here’s something to think about:

Dick Cheney went on the offensive against President Obama in a statement to a conservative news site as both political campaigns paused to remember the victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The former vice president released a statement to The Daily Caller late Monday that criticized the president over GOP allegations that he has skipped daily intelligence briefings and took undue credit for Osama bin Laden’s death.

“If President Obama were participating in his intelligence briefings on a regular basis then perhaps he would understand why people are so offended at his efforts to take sole credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden,” Cheney told the site in an email through a spokeswoman.

Yes, that’s the guy who got us into an unnecessary war in Iraq that allowed a trapped Osama bin Laden to escape from Afghanistan. That’s the guy who served in the administration that gave up on tracking down the mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attack that killed almost 3,000 Americans.

What exactly did the Bush/Cheney administration do to protect the U.S. from terrorism early in its term?

By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.

In response, the C.I.A. prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real….

Yet, the White House failed to take significant action. Officials at the Counterterrorism Center of the C.I.A. grew apoplectic. On July 9, at a meeting of the counterterrorism group, one official suggested that the staff put in for a transfer so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place, two people who were there told me in interviews. The suggestion was batted down, they said, because there would be no time to train anyone else.

Just remember. Today was the first Sept. 11 since the attacks that Osama bin Laden was dead. It wasn’t done by Bush. It wasn’t done by Cheney. They would have erected statues to themselves if they had done it. Bin Laden is dead and at the bottom of the ocean because the Obama administration found him and took him out.

There are two appropriate responses to Dick Cheney’s recent comments.

The first is from Joe Biden at this year’s Democratic National Convention.

“Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive.”

The second is from Dick Cheney in a comment to Sen. Pat Leahy in 2004:

“Go f**k yourself.”