Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Rough Men Who Do Violence On Our Behalf #AmericanSniper

We sleep safely at night, George Orwell reminded us, only because of the rough men who stand ready to do violence on our behalf. These people are real, and we must honor their sacrifice and their bravery.

Are these men perfect? Of course not. Sometimes they seem cruel and savage - the kind of people you wouldn't want to be around. They're rough men. That's the whole point. You wouldn't want George Clooney doing violence on your behalf. He might muck up the whole job, and later he'd be standing on a stage giving a speech about orphans or crap like that afterwards, and the guy he did the violence to - who totally survived that violence - would be hiding in the wings so he could suddenly jump out and clock him one. Because that's how you do some violence, goddammit.

My point is these men are good at doing the violence, and violence by its nature is ugly and chaotic. We thank them for their service. It seems unpleasant, sure. It has to be done. You can't rise and sleep under the blanket of the very freedom they provide and then question the way they provide it, okay?

We're not rough men. We shouldn't judge. Not even when the violence actually seems profoundly wicked and pointless:

"When the fighting is over in Fallujah, I will sell everything I have, even my home," said a resistance fighter who gave his name as Abu Taif Mashhadani. He wept as he recalled his 8-year-old daughter, who he said was killed by a U.S. sniper in Fallujah a week ago. "I will send my brothers north to kill the Kurds, and I will go to America and target the civilians. Only the civilians. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. And the one who started it will be the one to be blamed."

That's from a Washington Post article a few years back, and I admit, it does kind of make the violence seem like something that might actually come back on us. Like maybe we won't be sleeping safely because of it. But the guy might have been a terrorist, right? You can't trust him.

"But the worst form of attack was the US snipers hiding on rooftops who kill hundreds of civilians as they tried to move about the city."

That was from an Australian aid worker quoted here. And there are others from this source:

The incident occurred as a US convoy hit an Improvised Explosive Device, then opened fire on what the witness statements describe as a man in black fleeing the roadway near the site of the Improvised Explosive Device. A child in white was shot and killed. The age of the child is redacted throughout the report.

...his home was mistakenly targeted by an Air Weapons Team. Claimants children were killed, his wife paralyzed and he suffered a gunshot wound to his left leg... 

...condolence payment for 3 killed in ambush on terrorists. Lots of redactions. 1 male Iraqi, 3 females Iraqis , 7 Iraqi children... 

Coalition dropped MK-82's (bombs) on area after making joint air strike request, and determined that civilians may be present in target area. 2 Afghan men, 1 Afghan woman, and 1 Afghan infant killed; young girl with severe head injury and young boy also injured... 

Claimant states that her sister and daughter were killed when Coalition Forces shot randomly in street around a post office that they were exiting. The claimant and his family were driving in their car when the car was attacked by a US Forces Army helicopter. The helicopter shot at the car causing shrapnel to hit the claimant's wife who was apparently pregnant and caused the unborn baby to be killed. 

Claimant alleged that Coalition Forces shot and killed his 5-year-old son during a battle with Anti-Iraqi Forces. The boy was allegedly standing outside a home and was struck and killed by a stray bullet. Claimant supplied witness statements and death certificate. Army concludes that claim is noncompensable because it is related to combat. One witness indicated that there was a wedding party in the vicinity and shots were fired in celebration, and were misinterpreted by CF as enemy fire. CF fired back randomly, killing the child. 

 An US Forces tank was parked on the side of the highway and as the victims' car got close to it, a soldier jumped on the tank’s roof top and fired at them “for no reason”. Claimant’s husband was injured and died on the way to the Ramadi hospital. Claimant explained that “everyone is scared of US troops and her husband was careful not to do anything to provoke fire.” The JAG opined that US Forces were “clearly negligent by firing upon someone who was not a threat.” A payment of $5,000 was granted under Foreign Claims Act. The number of children of the victim is redacted all through the document. 

Claimant’s unarmed child (age redacted) was walking on the rooftop of his home looking down at the street when he was fatally shot. The family attempted to get medical attention but US Forces stopped them at a checkpoint and prevented the parents from taking their son to the hospital since it was curfew time. They also beat up the mother at the checkpoint while she was carrying her injured son, leaving her with bruises.

Okay. So, yeah, violence happens. Sure. Some of it might amount to war crimes, in fact. But this is all part of the uncertainty and terror of combat. It's the necessary price those men pay for our slumber, under that blanket we talked about.

But again, it's not for us to judge. The rough men are doing that violence to protect us. It's not like they invaded a random country that never did us any harm under a ridiculous pretext and then launched a near decade-long nation-building project led by incompetent civilians and generals who sucked up to the administration, along with a shadowy global campaign of permanent war whose nature is almost completely unknown to us, and about which our leaders have a proven track record of deceit. It's not as if we accepted all this, and then supported a feel-good action film about a guy just because he was the best at blowing people's heads off in the middle of this kind of brutal and unnecessary nonsense.

We'd have to be a real pack of assholes to put up with that, wouldn't we?

(Update: That line at the beginning was never written by George Orwell. He did, however, write this"There is no crime, absolutely none, that cannot be condoned when ‘our’ side commits it. Even if one does not deny that the crime has happened, even if one knows that it is exactly the same crime as one has condemned in some other case, even if one admits in an intellectual sense that it is unjustified — still one cannot feel that it is wrong. Loyalty is involved, and so pity ceases to function." Sorry for the mix-up!)

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  1. Yeah, this was a good, if hollow, laugh for a morning.

    No, I won't be seeing this movie.

  2. When I used to get into this discussion with the old gang over at Phil Carter's blog Intel Dump I used to put it this way;

    Imagine that one morning you got into the car to drive to work and at the corner by the 7-Eleven you were forced off the road by a convoy of Arab soldiers driving down the middle of the street. You managed to get back onto the road only to get held up at a checkpoint down near the entrance to the freeway where a pack of those Arab troops held you up for half an hour, made you empty your bag and banged around on your car, all the while holding a 0.50cal on you and making what were plainly assholish comments about you in Arabic. Before they let you drive on you saw three guys hunched in the back of one of their trucks, flex-cuffed with bags over their heads. You were pretty sure that one was the guy who works at the ARCO station over by Interstate.

    You damn-near got into a collision again on the way home, this time with an Arab tank that suddenly drove right out in front of you. When you did get home your wife and daughter spent twenty minutes complaining about the Arab soldiers that hassled them at the Safeway; they were pretty sure that the damn ragheads were making comments about their bodies and sex, making kissy-noises and giving them looks...

    Now imagine that every day, for months and months. Having people you know killed by these bastards at the checkpoints, or kidnapped from their homes at night.

    And then imagine that one night someone you don't know, who won't show his face, comes to you and offers you a way to revenge yourself on these sonsofbitches.

    What do you think you'd do?

    And we're surprised that "they hates us for our freedoms"..?


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