A leaked military video — which, as PZ Myers notes, you cannot unwatch — shows soliders in an attack helicopter firing on people who were walking down the street, about a mile away. A man arrives in a van with two small children, and tries to help the wounded. They kill him, too. "It’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle," one soldier says.
It doesn't sound quite right when you describe it that way, does it? In "reality," the people in the helicopter were Americans, and the people on the ground were Iraqis, which allows us to put things in perspective. Maybe it looked as though the Iraqis had a grenade launcher. Maybe the soldiers were scared. Maybe they were inexperienced. Maybe they were angry or stressed out. Maybe they couldn't see the kids in the van, at first. Maybe the whole thing was an unfortunate aberration from our generally principled approach to...whatever it is we're doing over there.
Then again, maybe it's not an aberration, but war in its purest form. Maybe it's the comforting thoughts of heroism and necessity and "protecting our way of life" that are aberrant, in the real world. Maybe the bloodlust that motivated these killings is the same one that made this war feel "necessary" to so many people. Maybe the rationalizations for this crime are based on the same thinking that made it inevitable.
This isn't some aberration. What these soldiers did to these people is what we did to Iraq. We attacked it because it was there, and we could, and we thought it would make us feel better. We did it because we're stupid, because we're brutal, because we're bored, because we don't like foreigners, because we're scared of our own shadow. We did it because the seriousness of war made us feel like serious people. We did it because we're angry and unhappy, and we'd rather take our anger and unhappiness out on others than accept any measure of the "personal responsibility" we claim to hold dear.
I'm joking, of course. It's their fault. It must be. The people we kill are bad, as evidenced by the fact that we killed them. Which is a second murder, and a second bereavement for survivors. But it's their fault for trying to live in a battle zone.
It must be.
What we can't hide we can always treat, yet again, as some sort of an exception, some sort of a perversion of our finer feelings.
As if there were ever anything more to this war than what you can see in this video, if you can stand not just to look, but to understand.