jewin' the fat


Fog of Battle or Full of BS?
April 14, 2010, 12:47 PM
Filed under: Comment, media | Tags: , , , , ,

“And even if the wars didn’t keep coming like glaciers, there would still be plain old death.”
– Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five, Chapter 1

On April 5, Wikileaks.org, a website which promises to promote freedom of information and complete anonymity for its sources, posted a 38-minute video, taken by a US Apache helicopter gun-camera in Baghdad in 2007. The site, which obtained the footage via a Freedom of Information application posted two versions – one, replete with edits, subtitles, indicators and highlighting, and another fuller version. The footage appears to show – well, let’s just let it speak for itself.

 Please Note: THIS FOOTAGE MAY BE OFFENSIVE OR DISTRESSING TO SOME VIEWERS.

As posted on the front page of the Wikileaks site:

FULL VERSION:

Check out this specially constructed site

Political and defence commentators have had a field day with this one, picking apart its content, its context and Wikileaks cutting techniques, while talk back and television audiences have been ferocious in their attacks on the US and Australian military for training their soldiers to dehumanise their targets before engaging (read: killing them). Veterans and individuals currently serving are forced to defend their actions in combat against civilians who have never held a gun before, and suddenly the morality of modern warfare is all anyone can think about – that is, 65 years after the firebombing of Dresden.

“A person who hasn’t been there will never get it”                                               – Ron Leshem, Beaufort

Now regardless of whether you think the title and/or editing of the videos and site is justified or simply a ploy to pique the interest  and direct the focus of viewers, there still remains the question of credibility. 

Screen grab of Colbert's interview with Assange (HT @ The Colbert Report)

Gawker‘s empowered piece on the debacle fleshes out the issue with a smartly conceived interview between with King of Satire and doublespeak Stephen Colbert and Wikileak’s Julian Assange – nothing we read or see in public media is completely objective – so can we trust such ‘leaked’ information? Even this blog post was edited (at current count, 8 times) for maximum impact on readers. Considering the clearly political motivations of Wikileaks, as admitted by its founder Julian Assange, how do we reconcile the facts:

1. Two Reuters journalists were killed.

2. Two Reuters journalists were not identified as such, and as they should have been, and as they had been trained to be.

2. The US internal inquest into the incident and the actions of the Helicopter gunners found no conclusive evidence of intentional murder or war crimes.

3. Julian Assange titled the video “Collateral Murder”, and made assumptions on the viewers behalf, to present a vision of the events that  subscribed to his political narrative.

4. We can not rely on a gun-camera to appreciate the real-time vision of the men who fired on the group.

It’s a fogging mess. While there is no doubt this footage is on par with the photos from Abu Ghraib as a paradigm shifting tool, and a gamechanger for war reporting, the facts remain. There is no comfort in knowing, and no bliss in ignorance.