Patriot Games

I love a man in uniform.
Well, not me personally.

Gang of Four might, if you were to take a literal interpretation of one of their most popular songs.
Judging from the media outcry whenever a British soldier is killed overseas, a lot of people share this sentiment.
I’m not one of them though.

It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why this is.

I guess the idea of giving up my free will to follow a chain of command has always been anathema to me.
Especially when this choice will inevitably lead to my being asked to, you know, shoot and kill other people.

For reasons I’ll either not agree with or, more likely, won’t be fully aware of.
I’m not really sold on this particular brand of valour.

Hmmm, guess that wasn’t so hard after all.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve never got on board with the public’s veneration and glorification of the armed forces either.

Parades ‘n all that.

Seems a little obscene to me.

Given what they do.

Perhaps being a soldier used to be heroic, back in the days when we’d fight “just” wars.

Whenever that was.
But now?

Today’s modern soldiers are far more likely to have a predilection for bloodlust, violence and power as opposed to anything “just”.

So I’m naturally inclined to mistrust individuals, or “patriots” to give them their preferred monikers, who gravitate towards the armed forces.

I have a slightly different take on patriotism.

It doesn’t involve wearing a uniform, waving a flag or shooting a gun.

To me, a patriot is someone who’s brave enough to speak the truth about the corruption they encounter in our society.

Kind of like the people who run WikiLeaks.

Launched a tad over three years ago, WikiLeaks raison dêtre is to anonymously publish sensitive material submitted to them.

The majority of these documents come from within our governments and other powerful organisations that would much rather the public didn’t know the secrets they’ve been covering up.

Like the US military.

Earlier this week, WikiLeaks director Julian Assange flew to Washington to reveal a covert video from 2007 of US Apache helicopters engaged in a firefight with twelve Iraqi “insurgents” in Baghdad.

At least this is what the american air crew claimed.

A claim subsequently and repeatedly backed up by their superior officers.

Strangely, the footage taken with their camera – from their very own cockpit no less – contradicts every military account of events.

Rather than give you my interpretation of this footage, I’d encourage you to check it out for yourself.

The people these pilots engaged – or murdered, to give their actions a more apt description – didn’t appear to be “insurgents”.

Or even armed.

Unless camera’s count as weapons these days.

Which may very well be true.

If what you capture happens to be a war crime.

You see, two of these “insurgents” turned out to be employees of Reuters.
One of whom – Namir Noor-Eldeen – was a photographer.

Whose lens was apparently mistaken for a Rocket Propelled Grenade.

Which could be excusable in the heat of a battle.

Only this wasn’t.

Even then, it seems like something you might want to confirm before firing on a group of people who may or may not be “insurgents”.

But there were definitely no cameras – or guns – in the minivan that approached to help the dead and wounded.

There were a couple of children on board though, who were both injured when the same air crew “engaged” them.

Perhaps kids look like RPG’s from an Apache too?

The US military refused to divulge any information about how these twelve men died and claimed to not know how the children were wounded.

Eventually, following demands from Reuters to know what actually happened to their employees, the US military investigated this incident and concluded that the actions of the soldiers were in accordance with the law of armed conflict and its own “Rules of Engagement”.

Having watched the footage in its entirety, this is without doubt the most terrifying aspect.

If what happened was legal in accordance to their “Rules of Engagement”, the american military’s corruption and self preservation must be absolute.

Reuters had requested the release of the Apache’s video under the US’s very own Freedom of Information Act.

Unsurprisingly, the Pentagon rejected all of these requests.

I guess some freedoms are more restricted than others.

Fortunately – for us – some unknown patriots still exist within these american institutions who manage to pass material like this on to WikiLeaks.

Who do what they do best; publishing clandestine information and bringing it to the world’s attention.

Still, once the ensuing media furore dies down what will actually change?

Even after this shocking evidence, I doubt the air crew who took pleasure in murdering twelve Iraqi civilians will be held accountable for their actions.

I don’t use words like that lightly, but the radio dialogue that accompanies this leaked footage illuminates the grotesque bloodlust of these american soldiers.

And if a couple of Reuters’ employees hadn’t got caught up in the massacre, would we even be aware of what happened?

Who knows how thoroughly this would have been investigated if the group of men slaughtered had simply consisted of “ordinary” civilians?

And just how many unrecorded firefights have been fought by those brave american patriots over in Iraq?

Most importantly, is there anything we can do to make sure things like this don’t happen in future?

While any past transgressions are likely to go unpunished, the inception of websites such as WikiLeaks at least helps to keep deceitful elements of the powerful in check.

Just knowing there are people who will speak out against corruption means those in authority will be less likely to abuse their positions.

Predictably, even minor obstacles to their moral bankruptcy appears too much for some to stomach.

The Pentagon has already branded WikiLeaks a threat to national security and is seeking to prevent any more of their “classified” material appearing on the site.

If there’s a greater validation of what WikiLeaks stands for, I can’t think of it.

But even patriots need help.

To maintain its impartiality and credibility, WikiLeaks operates as a “not-for-profit” site; relying solely on public donations to exist.

And as recently as last January, the site temporarily closed down while management raised funds to cover their operating costs for the year.

You can affect change and support patriotism by making a donation to WikiLeaks.

Or you can carry on waving a flag.

Words by Jonathan Campbell, illustration by Billy Mather

One Response to “Patriot Games”
  1. avatar Xuan Sierras says:

    Interesting justification.

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Dates ‘n stuff

December 2010