Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Here's another Iraq war video. This one appears to be a strike on a group of people walking down a street in Fallujah. Does anyone else have more information on this video? Has it been aired on any TV network?

If they are civilians, it's quite disturbing. The "aw dude" in the audio doesn't seem like a very appropriate reaction.

The embedded Windows Media Player window didn't work for me in Firefox on OS X, but worked fine in Internet Explorer. You can also use this link to view it directly in Windows Media Player.

Via Paul


I recall seeing this a few weeks ago, on CNN if IIRC. It was described as a strike on insurgents.

This looks like an illustration for this article I read yesterday.

Why We Cannot Win - by Al Lorentz

That is sickening. I got the impression that the pilot acted as if the event was not real... sorta like a computer game.

How can we, seeing the clip as it is presented here, possibly know whether or not these are insurgents or not?

Andrew wrote @5:
How can we, seeing the clip as it is presented here, possibly know whether or not these are insurgents or not?

Interesting logic. What gives the US the right to kill/execute, without due process of law, people who might just be political opponents in a country the US have no legitimate right to be present in ?

There's absolutely no way to tell from this video if those people were insurgents - if they were carrying weapons - if they were heading to reinforce insurgents fighting against US or Iraqi forces - or just a group of people headed to dinner.

But, of course, everyone immediately jumps to the conclusion that they're civilians and suddenly in front of us if the "smoking gun" evidence or a war crime.


To turn the logic around. The question I would ask is whether the military had more information than is visible in this video and how the military knew they were insurgents. I guess we don't have enough information...

Good point, Joi - I think this would be an excellent situation for an application of 'innocent-until-proven-guilty'...

Ahem, has it ever occurred to any of us how absurd this sounds? Due process of law??? The North Vietnamese understood it clearly: the denizens of today's high income liberal democracies are totally cut off from the realities of war. I mean, who the hell are we to judge the people on the ground or the pilot? We don't have any real information here and even if we did, we still can have no idea how *we* would react in such a situation. Thank god every day that we are innocent enough to feel so free to render judgement. I mean, this really angers me. Who are we to judge? We're spolied, that's for sure.

I have seen the video on arte in Zurich, if I remember right.


Who are we to judge? We are the people. It is our duty to pass judgement on our leaders and our military in what it does in our name and in our country. For people of conscience not to stand up and ask hard questions and to demand the truth, means we don't deserve a democracy. And until I'm forced at gunpoint to shut up or die, I will continue to question authority and to demand accountability of anyone who makes decisions that effect me, my country, my safety, my freedom, and most importantly my conscience.

If indeed these are war crimes being committed, then we should stand up, take notice and demand that something is done about it.

a. There is no sign of a war crime per se on that video. None. You can be as outraged as you want. That video proves nothing.
b. You don't live in the idealized world you think you do. It would better if you figured that out sooner rather than later. All the rest is just noise. We may well reach a point oneday when the ideals you speak of are a meaningful part of an everyday reality of worl affairs. But we aren't there yet. This is the problem with the "was it legal?" approach to everyhting. We live in a world with a small, priviledged group of people in wealthy nations enjoying the illusion of legal order, and a much larger group of people living in poorer nations in a setting that has changed very little in terms of the currency of politics. Oh, and don't tell me how we'll never elevate them to our status by force. Force played an incredibly important role in getting us to where we are now.
c. Question authority? Grow up-we aren't questioning authority in any meaningful sense. We are just ranting on a blog. You are not holding George Bush to account here. You're only revealing yourself as a sheltered, world-class Monday morning quarterback.

The blog world is a place where everyone has something to say about everything (hey, myself included). But in terms of actually judging the tactical actions of the guys (and they are our guys, you ingrate) on the front, we should just shut up unless we ourselves have actually been there. This is a separate place, and we should honor that. You have to actually earn this one.

To oppose the war is one thing-fine. But to second guess the guys in battle from our safe, sheltered and secure standpoint is simply nauseating. I think we have here a prime example of Milton's cloistered values.

Joi, I am not sure about the website hosting those videos. They are clearly biased and adding their own spins to the significance of the videos.

"But in terms of actually judging the tactical actions of the guys (and they are our guys, you ingrate) on the front, we should just shut up unless we ourselves have actually been there. This is a separate place, and we should honor that. You have to actually earn this one."

We should "just shut up"?

When we close our eyes to things that outrage us, there is no democracy.
When we stop questioning what's done in our name, there will be no freedom.

This person just ended a dozen lives. Imposed a death sentence on a dozen people without being able to see their faces. Think about that.

Perhaps they *were* insurgents. This may have been a completely justifiable execution. The pilot may have just saved American lives with this one click of his trigger. But how can we tell? How could the pilot know? How can you say we don't have a right to know?

We do have a right to know. Not just a right, but a responsibility to find out if these are war crimes. To make our leaders accountable. We must never close our eyes and our mouths, or we are guilty of something too.

That's right, we should just shut up: we are not there and thus have no meaningful frame of reference to have any sense of moral outrage. We have nothing useful to add becuase we have no idea what it means to operate in the circumstances that those guys found themselves in.

Once, and only once, in my life have I been in a situation that was very suddenly awful, where the stakes were life and death. And in that moment I realized something that has stuck with me ever since: the sort of moralizing occurring above is cheap. It is meaningless until you find yourself in such a situation. Then we'll really find out how far your morality goes. In my limited experience, it is the preachers that abandon their gospel first when the devil arrives at their doorstep.

By the way, Jim, I'd also like to point out an implicit assumption buried in your comment: that the viability of our democracy in the face of an external threat (and, whether you supported the war or not, we find ourselves in a situation where defeat could carry very scary long term implications) hinges more upon your priceless sense of outrage than the actions of young men like these, willing to face the terrible arithmetic Lincoln spoke of.

And don't try to go after me with cheap sentiments along the lines of "ended a dozen lives...Think about that." I don't need your guidance.

Don't bother keeping up. I assure you that I'm not going to be back. I've had enough of this.

I'm trying to make out what was initially said by the soldier who asked to "take them out" - I've rerun it a few times but I couldn't pick up on it much. Right at the end the other soldier said "oh dude", in a way like "wow what a shot". Now *that's* disturbing!

Funny how people keep saying: "You weren't there. There's not enough information from this video to know if a crime was committed."

And I like this one, too: "But to second guess the guys in battle from our safe, sheltered and secure standpoint is simply nauseating" Interesting how often the "well, I wasn't there so I shouldn't second guess it" fallacy gets repeated time and time again by americans who are in denial that we, Americans, are killing innocents in an invalid war.

Ah, this is good, too: "that the viability of our democracy in the face of an external threat (and, whether you supported the war or not, we find ourselves in a situation where defeat could carry very scary long term implications" External threat? What external threat? Saddam? Terrorists? Exactly who is the enemy here? Oh, yeah, its those "Evil Doers" again. Not to mention the defeat part... defeated by who? I don't see any Iraqi attack ships in the Gulf of Mexico. Do you?

Do you *really* want to support our troops? Bring them the fuck home.

Iraq is just a distraction brought about by a frat boy with a daddy complex. Here's a threat for you--four words: North Ko Re A.

Saddam may have *wanted* nukes, but he wasn't as bad as these cats who will be *selling* them to every twisted-islamic godhead with a sweaty trigger finger.

Keep in mind people, we aren't *not supporting* our troops by questioning their actions in questionable situations. Instead, we're *not supporting* the imperialist actions of our regime in a questionable war.

This is what it has come to. (Graphic CNN battle footage.)

Doesn't all this Iraq stuff get annoying after a while?

1. No one is in denial about anything, and you are not the light in the tunnel. There is no question in my mind innocent people are dying. And you know what? That still doesn't place you in a position to morally judge the decisions of the people there.
2. The reason I was opposed to the war to begin with is that, if things grew ugly, we would not really have the option of withdrawing. If we leave and Iraq falls into a Somalia like situation (and that is clearly the next most likely alternative) it will become a platform for regional military competition that I promise will end up sucking far more of US troops back in when we inevitably have to secure oil sources in MANY more countries. Or hasn't that occurred to you? This isn't going to be like Somalia, where the costs in the wake of w/drawal were terrible but localized. Iraq's neighbors are far more capable, and possess far greater incentive to intervene. But the conflicts this generates will never stay localized to Iraq. And yes, it will be about oil. Even under the strictest fuel economy regimes we are still critically vulnerable to any serious disruption of our oil supplies. You can think Bush as dumb as you want and oppose the war all you want (I did). But we are where we are. And in that context you are pushing a fantasy as dangerous as any on offer from the Bush administration.
3. Just leave North Korea alone, will you? We both know that if the US ever enters a conflict with a country like North Korea, however justified, there will be no shortage of people like you (and probably you yourself) singing this same tired song in that case as well.

As for the other video, we still no nothing about the context, and we still are not in a position to judge the emotions of those actually charged with "taking that hill." This is one of th4ose things where you really have to have been there. Let's pose a hypothetical: suppose it was Zarqawi lying there. This is an extreme case, but the whole point here is about testing boundaries. What would your reaction be in their shoes, honestly? I bet that at least half of those now thinking they would say "Get him to an ER and retain Ronald Kuby as his lawyer" would in the context object to shooting him again not so much b/c it will kill him as becuase it will curtail his suffering.


If you think Americans are not in denial, then you need to visit my neighborhood. They may not be in denial on this feedback forum, but they sure are at your local neighborhood toddler play date.

I think you missed my point: I didn't say we should judge the pilot, rather the regime behind the pilot. Sure, we don't know what *really* happened, but we *must* inquire for the truth. By not asking, you are in denial. Sure, don't judge until you have all the facts (although, its *very* difficult to make an argument that the second individual shot in the other video is anything other than a teenager. Ah, but he could be a Zarqawi *disguised* as a teenager. Oh, and he'd probably grow up to be a terrorist anyway after seeing his grandfather shredded by 30mm rounds. I digress).

Your point is well taken: Don't mention NKorea because it's an old argument and they don't pose a threat to our oil. OH, and yeah, this will be a complete mess that we will not be able to get out of. I say we claim victory now, and let the country go to the religious radical sects as soon as possible. It's going to happen anyway--because we need the excuse.

Peter - I think that what's disturbing about the second video is the cheering and laughing. Adrenaline is one thing, but most people would not cheer after shooting an injured man, no matter what danger he might have posed in life.

Mike B.-It is disturbing, in the context of the sensibilities of everyday civilian life. But that is not the standard by which their actions should be judged. Further, we can debate this ad nauseam but I really doubt that most people wouldn't cheer in that context. That is a fairly natural response. It is in fact necessary to dehumanize the enemy to be able to function in combat. That is as true of "good wars" as "bad wars" (the distinction between the two is far more meaningful at a distance).

Transimian-With any luck your idiotic foreign policy instincts will never be put in play. The vein of thinking they represent can just be relegated to some obscure footnote in some future history grad student's textbook. We have failed to face the arithmetic before (no matter how many blunders may have generated those circumstances) and passed the enormous costs on to future generations. If you advocate running simply b/c you don't like present circumstances then, well, I think that you are the most immoral of all. There is no easy out here. A real citizen of a democracy would face that fact.

I'm amazed you could draw the conclusion about video #2. It's quality simply isn't that good. But that's OK. Facts are such stupid things, right?

I just had an experience of some relevance to this discussion, and I wanted to mention it right now, before there is more time for it to settle in. After my last post I went out for a quick errand at a local store. I never made it. What I quickly encountered was the *immediate* aftermath of a bad motorcycle accident. I got out of my car and ran up to the scene. There were no police, fire, etc. at this point, just a bunch of motorists exiting their cars to help. The scene was...bad. A man and a woman had been on the now destroyed bike. He was writhing in pain, screaming and obviously really hurt. I think his shoulder was destroyed (among other things). Much more worriesome, however, was the woman. She was obviously very badly hurt as well, but totally unresponsive. I think she had suffered a bad head injury. As the rescue personnel arrived, I backed off and noticed a real distinction. My fellow motorists and I were really shaken up (one woman was literally shaking she was so overwhlemed by what she had just seen). I think we all expect that that woman on the bike might die. The rescue personnel were a different story. They immediately went to work and were very professional, but also very, very detached. There weren't about to emotionally commit here. As two of them walked past me it was obvious that they were joking about some earlier call.

My point is this: here was a collision between the sensibilities of civilians and those who have to live on the front lines. I suspect that if you don't develop psychological defense mechanism that seem cold to us (think of the rescue workers joking) you would never be able to function in these circumstances on an ongoing basis. We civilians, however, were a wreck.

But the rescue personnel, like the troops, don't have the luxury of being a wreck. They have to develop whatever psychological responses are necessary to function and survive.

That said, it was a very upsetting scene and I suspect I witnessed the end of at least one life today. No grainy video this time.

It also motivates me to say this: this was another reminder that life is too short for anger. I am bothered by the rush to judge those under unbearable circumstances, but should not have been so harsh in my response. I apologize for that.

Peter, I am glad you decided to calm down your anger.

In every cyberspace corner of discussion, there is one dogma-filled person who the more someone presents an opposing viewpoint.. they more they rant on.

A close parallel is someone who is brainwashed by a cult. It is documented that the more people (even family members) speak badly about the cult, the MORE they believe in the cult. It is a terrifying, vicious circle.

Discussion is always good and no one should ever shut up. I am glad you are not like that, and can see both sides of the coin.

Peter: What are my foreign policy instincts?

Btw, sorry to hear about the accident. Same thing happened to me except that it was my neighbor laying dead on the street in front of my apartment from losing control of his Ducati. He smashed head first into the bumper of the car parked outside his door. I walked up and he was bleeding out the face, just dead. Then, I guess someone had called the paramedics as they arrived a few minutes later. It didn't matter. All I could do was sit on the curb and wait.

Peter - I definitely understand the point that you're making. We all eat hamburgers, but we don't like to see what goes on in the slaughterhouse. Still, let's think about what defines our status as civilians. Is it simply the fact that we aren't in the military? Or, is it our civilized ideas and attitudes? I think that we are civilians because we are members of a civilization.

Soldiers must pay the steep personal price of dehumanization, but we don't have to. In fact, we must not. If we resign ourselves to dehumanization, do we cease to be civilized? And if we are not civilized, then what are we? Merely an advanced, but warlike culture perhaps? I know what you're saying... "get real". I tend to agree, but aren't we supposed to be shocked by violence? Suspect that you'll agree with me on this, but I submit that we civilians would be willing to tolerate a good deal more violence against the enemy if we believed in the purpose of the War.

Sorry apologists, here's an expert:

Retired Special Forces soldier Stan Goff comments: "The “tell” is in the audio. When the pilot asks permission to fire, he reports a large number of people… not armed people. People. And permission is granted instantly. This is an indication that the mission guidance is to shoot anyone who is in the street. This is a clear war crime, and one that begins with the commander’s stated intent in the operations order. The pilot’s exclamation of satisfaction, “Aw dude!” at the end just underlines how this casual sadism comes to dominate the psyches of those who are part of a military occupation force, and how the ground reality become “race war.”"

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War from Jens-Christian Fischer's Blog
September 25, 2004 10:43 PM

Joi links to a video from a massacre on people in Falluja. This is not only disturbing. It's sickening and makes me want to puke. This is NOT the way to create peace. It's an atrocity in an illegal war.... Read More

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September 26, 2004 12:59 AM

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