This Glenn Greenwald piece about the helicopter attack in Iraq contains something that always sort of drives me insane about Americans and our concept of ourselves in the world:
The WikiLeaks video is not an indictment of the individual soldiers involved — at least not primarily. Of course those who aren’t accustomed to such sentiments are shocked by the callous and sadistic satisfaction those soldiers seem to take in slaughtering those whom they perceive as The Enemy (even when unarmed and crawling on the ground with mortal wounds), but this is what they’re taught and trained and told to do. If you take even well-intentioned, young soldiers and stick them in the middle of a dangerous war zone for years and train them to think and act this way, this will inevitably be the result. The video is an indictment of the U.S. government and the war policies it pursues.
All of this is usually kept from us. Unlike those in the Muslim world, who are shown these realities quite frequently by their free press, we don’t usually see what is done by us. We stay blissfully insulated from it, so that in those rare instances when we’re graphically exposed to it, we can tell ourselves that it’s all very unusual and rare. That’s how we collectively dismissed the Abu Ghraib photos, and it’s why the Obama administration took such extraordinary steps to suppress all the rest of the torture photos: because further disclosure would have revealed that behavior to be standard and common, not at all unusual or extraordinary.
We’re like the little kid playing hide and seek who stands behind a thin tree and thinks that just because he can’t see us because the tree is blocking his vision, we can’t see him. Remember when the wingnuts were going after Michael Isikoff for an off-hand remark about the desecration of a Koran at Gitmo- because as we know, everyone in the Middle East gets all their information from Newsweek- otherwise they would NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS hear about it! Or the lunatic attacks on Scott Beauchamp, because if the New Republic hadn’t published it, no one in the middle east would ever think that American troops would run over a dog!
They don’t learn about this stuff because of the American press. They learn about it because an American helicopter just lit up their next door neighbor and his girls with a 30mm chain gun because he stopped to pick up a bleeding photographer and help him. They learn it because it was their son or their nephew who was whisked away to Abu Ghraib and sexually humiliated and threatened by dogs.
It’s crazy, really, how myopic we are. But I guess it is easier than facing the truth. What’s on tv tonight, btw?