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April 05, 2010

Michael Jackson Is Pop King of Sick Fucking Country

If you haven't seen it already, please watch this video, which was provided by an unknown person to Wikileaks. It's footage taken by a US helicopter on July 12, 2007 as it massacred about a dozen adult Iraqis, including two Reuters employees. Two children were wounded but apparently not killed, although no one seems to know what happened to them afterward. All the background details are available at a site Wikileaks set up, Collateral Murder:

What's particularly bizarre and deranged about this is that the handle of one of the helicopters involved is "Crazyhorse one-eight." Crazyhorse, of course, was murdered by the U.S. in 1877 after surrendering. Four hundred years of people asking us to come over and help them. (It goes without saying that the attack helicopters were Apaches.)

TIME AFTER TIME: At 15:30, one of the helicopter personnel — after watching the two children they just shot get carried away — says "Well, it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle."

This is very similar to Richard Nixon's reaction in the Oval Office after seeing the famous photo of a Vietnamese girl running naked after being burned by napalm: "I wonder if that was a fix." In both cases, the people directly responsible for hideous violence toward children find that their consciences are momentarily troubled. And in both cases, they quickly find a way to "explain" to themselves that it's not their fault, and immediately move on.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at April 5, 2010 04:51 PM

What I'm looking forward to is this video leading to a noble international effort to make sure that the two kids are OK and that the helicopter crew gets a good spanking. Problem solved after that, right?

Posted by: ethan at April 5, 2010 07:03 PM

Still hoping there'll be a "Four Kings" (aka "Three Kings II").

If the video isn't stomach-churning enough, trawl through comments at the "progressive" Daily Kos and look at all the people defending the shootings as unavoidable in the fog of war (don't those bozos realize the Errol Morris/John MacNamara thing pretty much wrung that metaphor dry?)

Posted by: darrelplant at April 5, 2010 07:19 PM

Sick that Kosnikauts defend this. Sick that Hannitoids defend this.

Sick that mothers have buried these sons.

Sick that other mothers may live with the knowledge that their sons are monsters.

Posted by: Jack Crow at April 5, 2010 07:54 PM

What strikes me is how god-damned ordinary it is. Society (at least, ours) has gotten used to "war" as meaning people killed at unawares by more or less impervious machines standing at a distance.

Time was, that was the modus operandi Martians, not humans.

Posted by: Cloud at April 5, 2010 08:07 PM

In both cases, the people directly responsible for hideous violence toward children find that their consciences are momentarily troubled. And in both cases, they quickly find a way to "explain" to themselves that it's not their fault, and immediately move on.

It shows that they are well adjusted people, i.e. they're behavior is perfectly normal.

Posted by: cemmcs at April 5, 2010 08:17 PM

I was about to post that this incident was well covered at the time, and then discovered upon checking that the massacre I had in mind happened in 2004 (about an hour after a battle in Haifa Street, a helicopter returns to destroy an abandoned Bradley "to prevent looting", never mind all the civilians now in the vicinity, including two journos). So, yeah, kinda ordinary.

Posted by: weaver at April 5, 2010 09:17 PM

Yes, it happened all the time in Iraq and it has happened all the time in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They don't know who they are shooting, they just shoot.

And then cover it up.

And Karzai is threatening to join the Taliban.

Posted by: Susan - NC at April 5, 2010 09:32 PM

Yea weaver and Kos himself defended that massacre, saying it was necessary to protect the signal intel on the Bradley. Fuck him.

Posted by: ran at April 5, 2010 10:15 PM

The AP story is careful to claim that the camera and other equipment "looked like" AK-47's and RPG's.


Just in case any readers might not reflexively start making excuses for what happened all on their own.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 5, 2010 10:19 PM

Okay, at this point, I have officially decided to embrace a new strategy: hate everyone.

Posted by: mds at April 5, 2010 11:05 PM

Sicker still that we are sitting still. That "urge for normal" sucks powerfully, continually. And more, the nation twisted its ethos (not to say it was ever straight, so, bent that mythic and deceptive talisman of "democracy's guardian" forged in the previous world wars irreparably) after Vietnam: that generation came to several turning points, but couldn't transcend the spreading corruption that rationalized and then glorified the cataclysm and abject slaughter of the South East Asia excursions to empire. Our leadership has been reflected in the increasing liquification. And the heat goes on.

Posted by: Rwood at April 5, 2010 11:11 PM

Haven't watched; will not watch.

Not suprised; not at anything that happens in a war, not at any amount of self-righteousness from all the American's on the internet who happen to pay for that war and continue to.

Posted by: tim at April 5, 2010 11:21 PM

Sickening. And yes, the human capacity for rationalization and self-deception is nearly limitless.

I'm a big fan of Crazy Horse, and though he was a hell of a soldier, I don't think the military named anything after him as a tribute. I think they like the "Crazy" in his name, and even more they like thinking of themselves as carrying on the now-glamorous Injun-fighting tradition. The nostalgia is odd, because at the time the soldiers mostly hated the whole experience, what with the long periods of isolation and terrible climate and chance of being mutilated. Plus, the weaponry was much more even then, so the cavalry couldn't sit around watching people from afar with video equipment and then kill the Indians without even working up a sweat.

Posted by: N E at April 6, 2010 12:40 AM

'Support the troops'? Fuck the troops.

Posted by: NomadUK at April 6, 2010 04:45 AM

This is like the torture photos from a few years ago - disturbing to some of us, enraging to many around the world, easily ignored or dismissed by the U.S. public at large and the MICFiC.

The world's still the same, you'll never change it

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at April 6, 2010 08:02 AM

N E,

Soldiers stationed in Iraq call it "Injun Country."

(I read Kaplan's awful book. What a waste.)

Posted by: Jack Crow at April 6, 2010 08:18 AM

No Comment.....
Video speaks for its self.
Julian Assange, Editor of WIKILEAKS.ORG being interviewed by Al-Jazeera....

Posted by: Rupa Shah at April 6, 2010 10:56 AM

Jack Crow

It sounds like Kaplan should read Charles Mann's 1491 (a very eye-opening book) to get a little better understanding of what some parts of "Injun Country" were really like back before Cotton Mather and friends showed up. Mann makes a compelling case that many of the Injun civilizations were quite democratic and egalitarian by European standards, which Mann argues had a formative effect on French and American ideals back in the 17th century. That explains Rousseau's contemporaneous observation that no Indian ever wanted to live in Europe among the civilized, but Europeans were constantly running off to live among the 'savages' and couldn't be dragged back to 'civilization'.

Kaplan could also read Alan Gallay's "The Indian Slave Trade" or Jill Lepore's "The name of War: King Philip's War and the Origin of American Identity" to get a feel for the caliber of the "civilization" that was delivered unto those redskin savages by the early Brit colonists. Savage is as savage does.

So maybe in a way the "grunts" in Iraq aren't so wrong to call it "Injun Country," even if Mesopotamia, like the Iroquois Confderation and the Incas and the Mayas, was civilized when Europeans were doing the prequel of a bad Monte Python skit. If I may date myself with a Talking Heads refrain . . . same as it ever was. . . same as it ever was.

Posted by: N E at April 6, 2010 11:18 AM

ran: weaver and Kos himself defended that massacre, saying it was necessary to protect the signal intel on the Bradley.

I didn't see any main-page posts except mcjoan's, whose response is the appropriate revulsion and a pointer to scimitar's recommended diary. Were kos' and weaver's defenses in the comments there (of which there are now almost 1500)? Or are you referring to their response at the time of the original, lie-filled "reporting" of the murder of the journalists and other civilians?

Posted by: Nell at April 6, 2010 11:26 AM

"In both cases, the people directly responsible for hideous violence toward children find that their consciences are momentarily troubled. And in both cases, they quickly find a way to "explain" to themselves that it's not their fault, and immediately move on."

Strike the last two words and replace with "kill more children."

Posted by: john at April 6, 2010 12:25 PM

Actually in the original post, KOS called the incident an atrocity! However, the comments of those justifying these military actions doesn't surprise me. Victims of abuse and those that witness abuse will frequently justify the actions of the abuser out of fear of the abuser.

Posted by: IronButterfly at April 6, 2010 12:40 PM

Thanks Nell for the reference to scimitar's diary at KOS. I thought Barrettbrown's diary (or post or whatever) linked and praised by scimitar was even more informative. Being me, I was especially interested in barrettbrown's link to the Army Counterintelligence Center's Special Report entitled "—An Online Reference to Foreign Intelligence Services, Insurgents, or Terrorist Groups?"

That tells you who the Pentagon really thinks are the bad guys in all this. I would bet that much more has been and will be done to Wikileaks than to those trigger-happy jarheads flying that Apache, who basically struck me as hunting.

Posted by: N E at April 6, 2010 12:53 PM

those trigger-happy jarheads flying that Apache...basically struck me as hunting

Homo homini lupus
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A latin phrase meaning "man is a wolf to [his fellow] man." First attested in Plautus' Asinaria (495, "lupus est homo homini"), the sentence was drawn on by Thomas Hobbes in the dedication of his work De cive (1651): "To speak impartially, both sayings are very true; That Man to Man is a kind of God; and that Man to Man is an arrant Wolfe. The first is true, if we compare Citizens amongst themselves; and the second, if we compare Cities." Hobbes's observation in turn echoes a line from Plautus claiming that men are inherently selfish.

The phrase is sometimes translated as "man is man's wolf", which can be interpreted to mean that men prey upon other men. It is widely referenced when discussing the horrors of which humans are capable.

As an opposition, Seneca wrote that "man is something sacred for man".

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at April 6, 2010 01:12 PM

mistah charley phd

Those old Romans had reason to know! The whole empire was built on predation and savagery that made wolves look like lambs. (Then again, they could really build great aqueducts and ampitheaters!) For abounding evidence of Roman atrocity, essentially as a way of life, see Perry Anderson, Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism. Even more cynical conclusions can be reached by those who can tolerate bad writing and no editing packed into a thousand pages of astonishing erudition that culminate in sheer intellgectual genius (but you can't be upset by heretical scholarship on early Christianity either) in Robert Eisenman's masterpiece, James the Brother of Jesus, which gets to the dark intellectual heart of Rome pretty well too.

Those old Romans weren't much exposed to the best of homo homini. When they happened upon it, they slaughtered it. Whereas wolves just need to eat.

Seneca's "opposition" to what became the Hobbesian view might have been impeached on cross-examination by what he witnessed during the reign of Caligula, as well as his suicide, which was ordered by Nero. But I admire his good cheer!

Posted by: N E at April 6, 2010 01:48 PM

One thing that I hadn't seen anyone comment in regard the insanity-rationalization-self deception of this video, or maybe because it is so self-evident that there is nothing to comment on, is that all the pilots talk about the men carrying AK-47s and RPGs, when they are clearly empty handed except for the two photographers. To me it sounded like they were following a script-protocol to establish the right to shoot the men as combatants. This is strange for many reasons; they all could see it was bullshit, as would anyone else who reviewed the video, so why the need to adhere to the protocol at all? I suppose if any superiors needed to review it, they could report to a higher up that the men all reported seeing weapons without disclosing what the video said, and they could in turn inform their superiors that as far as they knew it was a combat situation according to the written report.

Posted by: justin at April 6, 2010 02:37 PM


They sounded to me like they thought they saw guns guns. The thing is, they very much wanted to see guns.

Why do people see what they want to see? I suppose it's about the same reason that people believe what they want to believe--that desire spills over into the senses.

Posted by: N E at April 6, 2010 02:43 PM

@IronButterfly, ran, N E, anyone:

The only main page post I've seen is by mcjoan. Could someone link for me a post, if there is one, by Kos? If not, can you point me (specifically, please) to his comments in anyone else's main post or diary?

Posted by: Nell at April 6, 2010 04:16 PM

Nell: I didn't slog through all those comments, but I didn't see a post by Kos either.

Posted by: N E at April 6, 2010 04:56 PM

I almost never read Kos, so can't speak about that. But for anyone looking for a mainstream liberal behaving like a jackass, Oliver Willis is your man

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 6, 2010 06:46 PM


ran omits some commas. They mean to say "Yea, weaver, and Kos himself defended that massacre... ". ran was responding to my comment in this thread. Whether Kos had defended the 2004 incident I referred to, where an abandoned Bradley was destroyed with missiles, killing a number of bystanders including two journos, I couldn't say, as I don't read dKos. (Well, I do read 'em when they're hilariously demonstrating their peculiar humourlessness, as in the insane furore over the New Yorker cover, or when they declared war on Harry Hutton. But I digress...)

And it was the 2004 incident ran was referring to, not the one in the video above (I think you realised that but I'm not sure other commenters have - if everyone did, consider this a bonus clarification.)

Posted by: weaver at April 6, 2010 09:10 PM

Donald Johnson:

That drivel from Oliver Willis does remind me that we sure have come along way since Cassius Clay stated his preference for the Viet Cong to the racists of his day. Personally, I suspect the career of Colin Powell, with his nicely pressed uniforms and tailored suits, helped with the transition.

Posted by: N E at April 6, 2010 09:18 PM

@weaver: Thanks very much; I needed all the clarification. 90 degrees out today, reading online only during quick breaks from garden work. Brain fried.

SFC indeed.

Posted by: Nell at April 6, 2010 10:08 PM

After noting the video at other sources thought I'd jump back to ATR and check out the outrage.

Not much changes over the years.

Posted by: angryman@24:20 at April 7, 2010 07:48 AM

N E,
It is a small thing, but I don't think they saw weapons. I think it was a cynical crossing of t's and dotting of i's to adhere to the rules of engagement. Similar to how there have been reports of U.S. soldiers throwing shovels at dead bodies to justify their killing. (Because combatants use shovels to bury IEDs.)

There is a passage in Jonathan Schell' book on Vietnam where he travels with a helicopter pilot that reminds me a lot of this episode.

Posted by: justin at April 7, 2010 11:01 AM


I agree it's a small thing, almost semantics, and Jonathan Schell's war reporting on Vietnam was great (I assume you're referring to the articles he wrote that were later turned into The Village of Ben Suc, which I found memorable too).

As I said, those guys seemed to me to be hunting, and they were definitely trigger-happy. Trigger-happy hunters actually can think the damnest things look like a deer, and I imagine a lot of things can look like guns to someone eager to shoot a terrorist. The conduct of those soldiers in the Apache would have been appalling even if a couple of those Iraqis had been armed. That wasn't "a battle" that they engaged in.

Posted by: N E at April 7, 2010 12:58 PM