Friday, April 9, 2010

Making "All the News That's Fit to Print" fit.

When The New York Times says, “fit,” it means all the news that’s fit to print if its reporters want to continue to have “access,” that door that opens and ushers a reporter into the multiple seats of power, both public and private, that control America. And the door stays open as long as the reporter behaves himself and doesn’t embarrass his handlers with tough questions or voice opinions that do not have official approval.

So it was, in the wake of the video showing the gunning down of Iraqi citizens by U.S. Apache helicopters, that the Times ran a soothing “There, there” story in effect explaining that “boys will be boys.”

“Experts Cite Conditioning and Heat of Combat to Explain Iraq Airstrike Video,” read the headline. You see, the article explains, in order to kill somebody, you’ve got to make a game out of it, you have to dehumanize your victim because that makes it so much easier to kill him. As one officer explains, “Military training is fundamentally an exercise in overcoming a fear of killing another human being.”

This is another way of saying that war is a perversion in that it forces people to perform acts that in any other context they would find morally repulsive, unless they were confirmed sociopaths. This is why a country shouldn’t go to war unless it absolutely has to because in the process it emotionally cripples the young men and women who serve.

There may be times when a war is a necessary perversion, but neither Iraq nor Afghanistan is a necessity. Both are wars instituted by policy wonks who really think it’s all a game and have no concept of the crippled mindset necessary to kill another human being. Both wars muddle along like slithering blobs driven by their own momentum and continued simply because they are already in motion and to withdraw might injure our credibility, which is being shredded anyway because of our inability to bring either war to a satisfactory conclusion.

However, the above is part of a larger debate that is studiously avoided by our mainstream media. Corporate media never questions policy because said policy is set into motion by the Beltway’s corporate masters.

Getting back to the article in question, what is noticeable is the question the reporter failed to ask. Granted, in this day in age it is considered impolite for a reporter to ask tough questions and doing so might end up getting him stripped of his “access.” This would mean he’d have to revert to the old-fashioned journalistic techniques of digging and wearing out shoe leather.

Let us allow that the pilots were on edge and easily spooked. This brings us to the single, most important question the Times reporter failed to ask the experts: Why was the Fire Discipline so lax? One of the components of Fire Discipline is that a soldier fires when commanded to and ceases when commanded to. The assumption is that the individual in command has enough presence of mind to cease firing when a threat no longer exists.

Now, bending over backwards until the back is ready to break, one might say the initial encounter with the group of civilians milling in the street was a tragic action brought on by confirmation bias, which security analyst Christopher Albon defines as “the tendency of the human mind to unconsciously prefer information reinforcing existing beliefs. In this case, the fact the pilots were looking for armed insurgents made them predisposed to believe that any item carried by the persons were weapons.”

Firing on the van that came to assist the wounded was a gratuitous act of violence. If you listen to the dialog between pilots and the individual on the ground responsible for Fire Discipline, it is obvious that the pilots’ blood is up. They’ve killed and they want to kill some more, an unfortunate side effect of combat. This is why Fire Discipline is so important. It is the responsibility of the commander to recognize this and to order his men to cease fire when a threat is no longer present.

When the van showed up, it is obvious it only wanted to collect the wounded. Yet, the pilots begged their controller for permission to fire. They begged and pressured and in the end they controlled their controller and he folded and gave permission to fire on a van that represented no threat whatsoever. Fire Discipline broke down completely. And, of course, the Times never questioned this because it would have been impolite to do so.

After all, boys will be boys, so why sweat it? Once again, the Times made the news fit to print.


SilentOtto said...

de-humanizing the enemy is as old as war itself--i know you can picture it--some long lost Og the caveman convincing his fellow knuckle-draggers that those in the cave across the way were baby eaters and tiger worshippers, anything that would appeal to a young cavedude's sensibilities and desire for adventure and mayhem, with predictable results.

"Well it ain't no different than the caveman times
Where the man in the suit made you walk the line
We got bills to pay and shoes to shine
It ain't no different than the caveman times."
--Danny Barnes

Case Wagenvoord said...

The big difference is that modern technology means that its no longer necessary to cleave the enemy from crown to crotch with a broadsword. Now we do it from as distance by pressing a button and we never get blood and viscera splattered on our clean uniforms.