Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

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Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Dream » Wed Jun 16, 2010 8:39 pm UTC

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/ju ... tan-garani

So, it's widely rumoured that Julian Assagne is being sought (desperately, some say) by the United States, to convince him not to release a video of a US airstrike on an Afghan village, Garani, that the Afghan government claims killed 140 civilians. The US has admitted "mistakes" were made, but maintains that the attack was targeting Taliban military positions.
The US said it was targeting Taliban positions when it used weapons that create casualties over a wide area, including one-tonne bombs and others that burst in the air. But two US military officials told a newspaper last year that no one checked to see whether there were women and children in the buildings.

I can imagine that if very heavy bombs were used on an ordinary village, this video could be incendiary far beyond Collateral Murder or even the Abu Ghraib photos. Depending on where and how the video was taken, the footage could be a rare insight into the real world effects of the airstrikes that are reported week in, week out in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and I doubt such an insight would be flattering to the US military.

Furthermore, Wikileaks claims it is in possession of yet more damaging material that the US has until now successfully suppressed. I have always thought that the realities of the horror of war have, since the Gulf War at least, been excised from the accepted narrative of the wars the West has embarked upon. This has made these wars acceptable to the general public in a way that they could never be if people were shown the damage done by the wars they tacitly and overtly support. These leaks, if there are enough of them to surmount the "rare mistakes" and "few bad apples" rationalisations could change that, which I think is an entirely good thing. While they may incite further violence against the West and its armies, that is not something that can be given as a reason to prevent such leaking, as the effects are already happening in the places these events occur, and yet we don't seem to stop doing it.
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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby meatyochre » Wed Jun 16, 2010 9:25 pm UTC

The truth would weaken support for the war? Wah wah, too fucking bad. Let it be heard. If my military is waging a war against civilians and children, citizens NEED to know so we can decide whether or not it's worth supporting.
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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Dream » Wed Jun 16, 2010 9:57 pm UTC

Well, people know, intellectually. But I don't think they feel, in that they don't connect with the actual suffering that goes with the news stories they read. That's the problem, that somehow it's gotten to the stage where people can hear that their military has killed a bunch of civilians somewhere, and just not care at all.
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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby cerbie » Thu Jun 17, 2010 4:24 am UTC

If they have it, they should be releasing it. End of story. And doing so to many many many news outlets, at the same time, including in countires that the US has no say in, so that they can get their site shut down, yet still have it out there.
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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Eyat » Thu Jun 17, 2010 12:03 pm UTC

Dream wrote:Well, people know, intellectually. But I don't think they feel, in that they don't connect with the actual suffering that goes with the news stories they read. That's the problem, that somehow it's gotten to the stage where people can hear that their military has killed a bunch of civilians somewhere, and just not care at all.


If they are teasing it like a summer blockbuster it is probably not really that good of a video. People also should know intellectually what a one ton bomb would do to small buildings. It is probably the standard "building, explosion, no building... commence to bickering about whether the people inside the building where a higher percentage of devious terrorist masterminds or innocent babies and what percentage is acceptable and what that acceptable percentage says about us as a people" video.

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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Dream » Thu Jun 17, 2010 12:13 pm UTC

Eyat wrote:*handwaves*


What if it is a video taken from ground level that clearly shows civilians and their broken bodies after the fact? What if it is vetted as authentic by the US military and contains radio chatter that confirms the spotters knew the majority of those present were civilians, or that there was a low probability of whoever the target was actually being present?

A response of "it's probably nothing" is exactly why these things need to be leaked.
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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Indon » Thu Jun 17, 2010 12:34 pm UTC

IMO, videos like this being leaked force the US military to take more responsible, ethical - and ultimately more effective - approaches to this sort of warfare.

We can't beat terrorism by killing civilians - killing civilians makes more terrorists. We could theoretically beat terrorists by bombing a populace to extinction, but that would be a fairly horrific thing.

We need to engage with and empower local populations, be nice instead of being murderous bastards, etc. The approach has shown success basically everywhere it's been used in Iraq/Afghanistan, and it's the only way we can bring about a situation that we can eventually safely leave without doing morally horrible things.
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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Felstaff » Thu Jun 17, 2010 12:57 pm UTC

Eyat wrote:it is probably not really that good of a video

If this were the case, then the military would not be trying to hush Wikileaks. Assange does appear to be a little magniloquent when he says "we're sitting on history here" and there is an air of 'just show the damn thing, if it's so important!' However, the Baghdad airstrike video took months to assemble; not only did they have to decrypt the military-grade protection, they had to ensure that everything included in the video was legit and decipherable - from the code the soldiers used, to the context surrounding the event, right up to contacting the victims' families personally to warn them of the incoming media frenzy. I would bet on this video going through the same procedures. It's not like uploading your sneezing kitten onto youtube.
meatyochre wrote:The truth would weaken support for the war?

It would do more than that; it would engender hatred towards the US and its allies (more so), just like the prison abuse photos, the Baghdad airstrike footage, and even minor incidents like the two-soldiers-one-puppy phone-cam incident did. If there is evidence of civilian murder and, effectively, warcrimes, then it is the right of the people to be made aware of such injustices. It is not the right of the military to withhold information that could possibly be damaging to them, when it is in the public interest to know the truth.
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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Eyat » Thu Jun 17, 2010 1:03 pm UTC

Dream wrote:
Eyat wrote:*handwaves*


What if it is a video taken from ground level that clearly shows civilians and their broken bodies after the fact? What if it is vetted as authentic by the US military and contains radio chatter that confirms the spotters knew the majority of those present were civilians, or that there was a low probability of whoever the target was actually being present?

A response of "it's probably nothing" is exactly why these things need to be leaked.


That was the bickering over what percentage of terrorist/civilian part of my comment. Who is to say what that broken body was when it was in one piece. some will say civilian and others will say terrorist, unless it is very clear it will solve nothing was the only point I was making.

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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Dream » Thu Jun 17, 2010 1:09 pm UTC

And that is a demeaning and diminishing attitude to take. How would you feel if a relative of yours were murdered in cold blood as they pottered about their home, and all your attempts to get anyone interested in investigating were met with a completely groundless "your relative could have been a murderer themselves. We just don't know. So we're not going to do anything." You'd be livid, and rightly so. So you shouldn't be a part of that deliberate apathy when it comes to others.
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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby New User » Thu Jun 17, 2010 1:39 pm UTC

Felstaff wrote:
Eyat wrote:it is probably not really that good of a video

If this were the case, then the military would not be trying to hush Wikileaks.

I don't think anyone should assume that the military would only try to keep information classified if it's incriminating, or even if it's a "good" video. They have policies for controlling such information, and they must follow policy. Information concerning classified areas or operations is classified information, no matter what the information actually is. For example, if I were to go into a classified military area (a building that displays secret information, for example) and take a photograph of a blank white wall, then my camera would be confiscated by the authorities. Even though my photograph is just of the wall with white paint on it, not of maps or documents or anything like that, the fact that I took a photograph in such an area is a violation of the policy and they must follow through with the proscribed orders.

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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Eyat » Thu Jun 17, 2010 2:58 pm UTC

Dream wrote:And that is a demeaning and diminishing attitude to take. How would you feel if a relative of yours were murdered in cold blood as they pottered about their home, and all your attempts to get anyone interested in investigating were met with a completely groundless "your relative could have been a murderer themselves. We just don't know. So we're not going to do anything." You'd be livid, and rightly so. So you shouldn't be a part of that deliberate apathy when it comes to others.


Because it would be inconceivable to me that a relative would be a criminal? Or that a relative was housing a criminal? I understand that we have both made an assumption on what happened and they are incredibly different. My point was that you can't know. Which was the point I was making. WikiLeaks says they are sitting on history. It sounds like more of the same.

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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Oregonaut » Thu Jun 17, 2010 3:05 pm UTC

Dream wrote:And that is a demeaning and diminishing attitude to take. How would you feel if a relative of yours were murdered in cold blood as they pottered about their home, and all your attempts to get anyone interested in investigating were met with a completely groundless "your relative could have been a murderer themselves. We just don't know. So we're not going to do anything." You'd be livid, and rightly so. So you shouldn't be a part of that deliberate apathy when it comes to others.


As long as it is done in a balanced manner, I totally agree. I'm not talking Faux News balanced, I'm talking an actual analysis by people who don't have either a "TEH MEELEHTARY IZ MURDERIN MAH BEHBEHS"-bent or a "FORK THE RAGHEADS"-bent. I'd like to see something in the middle where we can say either "Yep, the spotters need to be punished for failing to follow the LOAC and ROE." or "Hey, they have two children in the house, and while one is one too many, if the terrorists are hiding behind human shields we either take them out or let them run wild with human shields."

Indon wrote:IMO, videos like this being leaked force the US military to take more responsible, ethical - and ultimately more effective - approaches to this sort of warfare.

We can't beat terrorism by killing civilians - killing civilians makes more terrorists. We could theoretically beat terrorists by bombing a populace to extinction, but that would be a fairly horrific thing.

We need to engage with and empower local populations, be nice instead of being murderous bastards, etc. The approach has shown success basically everywhere it's been used in Iraq/Afghanistan, and it's the only way we can bring about a situation that we can eventually safely leave without doing morally horrible things.


I just want to be clear before I dismiss you entirely, you aren't saying that everyone in the military is a murderous bastard, right?
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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Dream » Thu Jun 17, 2010 3:22 pm UTC

Eyat wrote:My point was that you can't know.
Eyat wrote:It sounds like more of the same.


You don't know anything at all about this video. Not even the slimmest, merest smidgeon of anything. And yet you dismiss it as "more of the same". Does it take a lot of effort to be so willfully ignorant, or does it just become second nature after a while?

Oregonaut wrote:"Yep, the spotters need to be punished for failing to follow the LOAC and ROE." or "Hey, they have two children in the house, and while one is one too many, if the terrorists are hiding behind human shields we either take them out or let them run wild with human shields."

So, the options are "it was a mistake by an individual" and "they were terrorists so it was worth it". That doesn't sound too balanced to me. Where is the option for "the civilian lives are more important than the military goals" or "in this case a mistake is equal to a war crime"?
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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Eyat » Thu Jun 17, 2010 3:31 pm UTC

Dream wrote:
Eyat wrote:My point was that you can't know.
Eyat wrote:It sounds like more of the same.


You don't know anything at all about this video. Not even the slimmest, merest smidgeon of anything. And yet you dismiss it as "more of the same". Does it take a lot of effort to be so willfully ignorant, or does it just become second nature after a while?


No more so second nature then clutching your chest while shouting "won't someone please think of the children!" like Rev. Lovejoys wife in the Simpsons at everything that sounds remotely incriminating. You know as little as I do and you are just going the other way with it. There we have insulted each other and solved nothing as I predicted.

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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Manial » Thu Jun 17, 2010 3:35 pm UTC

Eyat wrote:WikiLeaks says they are sitting on history. It sounds like more of the same.
Does that really matter though? Even if it is 'more of the same', shouldn't we see it anyway to make sure it's not something worse?

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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Telchar » Thu Jun 17, 2010 3:37 pm UTC

Felstaff wrote:magniloquent

Win
when he says "we're sitting on history here" and there is an air of 'just show the damn thing, if it's so important!' However, the Baghdad airstrike video took months to assemble; not only did they have to decrypt the military-grade protection, they had to ensure that everything included in the video was legit and decipherable - from the code the soldiers used, to the context surrounding the event, right up to contacting the victims' families personally to warn them of the incoming media frenzy. I would bet on this video going through the same procedures. It's not like uploading your sneezing kitten onto youtube.


They also did some pretty heavy editing of the footage, which is unfortunate. Also, calling it "Collateral Murder" bespeaks an agenda. I wish they would cut the editorial crap out of it as it gives loons an excuse to disregard them, but I hold out hope they learned from that and won't do it again.
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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Eyat » Thu Jun 17, 2010 3:54 pm UTC

Manial wrote:
Eyat wrote:WikiLeaks says they are sitting on history. It sounds like more of the same.
Does that really matter though? Even if it is 'more of the same', shouldn't we see it anyway to make sure it's not something worse?


I am not saying don't show the video as it would be pointless to argue that. If wikileaks has it, they will release it eventually. But getting all worked up now is pointless. If I had a video and an agenda I would make a big deal about having it before releasing it if the video didn't back up the agenda as much an I wished it did. That way even if the video underwhelms, you still get buzz about it.

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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Dream » Thu Jun 17, 2010 4:16 pm UTC

Telchar wrote:They also did some pretty heavy editing of the footage, which is unfortunate. Also, calling it "Collateral Murder" bespeaks an agenda. I wish they would cut the editorial crap out of it as it gives loons an excuse to disregard them, but I hold out hope they learned from that and won't do it again.

I'd actually really like to know how much of the cutting in that video was done by Wikileaks, and how much was in the original files they were given. Do you know of a place I could find out?

I think the title is simply calling a spade a spade. Terms like "collateral damage" are deliberately designed to make it difficult for the public to relate to the victims in a natural and empathetic way. Wikileaks obviously decided not to participate in that, and instead to call it like they saw it. Since murder is a very good description of what was on there, I don't see tying that to the propaganda term as being unacceptable. It's an opinion, certainly, but it is far from an "agenda" in the usual, negative sense of the word.
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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Oregonaut » Thu Jun 17, 2010 4:34 pm UTC

Dream wrote:
Eyat wrote:My point was that you can't know.
Eyat wrote:It sounds like more of the same.


You don't know anything at all about this video. Not even the slimmest, merest smidgeon of anything. And yet you dismiss it as "more of the same". Does it take a lot of effort to be so willfully ignorant, or does it just become second nature after a while?

Oregonaut wrote:"Yep, the spotters need to be punished for failing to follow the LOAC and ROE." or "Hey, they have two children in the house, and while one is one too many, if the terrorists are hiding behind human shields we either take them out or let them run wild with human shields."

So, the options are "it was a mistake by an individual" and "they were terrorists so it was worth it". That doesn't sound too balanced to me. Where is the option for "the civilian lives are more important than the military goals" or "in this case a mistake is equal to a war crime"?


Ok, here is how this typically works:

Intel values a target, they state that the target needs eliminating.

Target is assessed, trends are measured, travel is monitored, opportunities are assessed.

Target parks himself somewhere we can terminate. This is usually done by a spotter. Collateral damage is assessed (yes, I know that is a bloodless way of saying "how many babies should we allow to be killed). I don't know the exact rubric, but it is typically more complicated than an Escher drawing, and involves checking the Law of Armed Conflict, Rules of Engagement, gain by termination, loss of intel by termination, assets in the area, value of elimination against expenditure of assets, and potential for preventing future harm vice harm in action.

Command structure calculates rubric, area commander gives strike boss the green light.

Strike boss sends in package, pilot of flying death machine du jour terminates target. (Anywhere from cruise missile to helo to airplane to man with a javelin.)

If the spotter doesn't see the babies, who do you blame? The spotter. The spotter SHOULD SEE THE BABIES. If he is not 100% on all personnel inside the structure, and doesn't have a good headcount, and DOES NOT MAKE THAT INFO AVAILABLE it is his fault.

If the pilot pulls up a hair on the run and misses his mark, it is the pilots fault.

If the strike boss sends in a bigger package than is necessary to complete the mission it is his fault.

If Area Command GLs a mission in an area where they should not have it is his fault.

You don't blame everyone from the spotter to the AC if only one link in the chain did their job wrong. At some point you have to assign blame to the system, but if the system did everything right according to the information they had, you have to blame the point in the system that got the initial info wrong.
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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Telchar » Thu Jun 17, 2010 4:52 pm UTC

I think the unedited version was also available on their website was it not?

Also can we stop using "babies killed" and start being realistic and less snide?
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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Oregonaut » Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:07 pm UTC

Telchar wrote:Also can we stop using "babies killed" and start being realistic and less snide?


I apologize if I have offended anyone by using that term.

Also, I don't intend my comments to be snide, if they come across that way, I apologize doubly.
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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Dark Avorian » Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:08 pm UTC

I don't know about that. "Murder" has a very technical meaning which applies here, in a way. But one could make the case that Collateral Damage also has a technical meaning that describes the scene. the problem is that they both are very slanted. Murder carries connotations of evil and malevolence which I don't think we should be plastering the military with. Collateral damage, as stated is very impersonal and really doesn't quite capture the scope of the thing. Collateral damage can also carry a damaging connotation, when attached to a powerful video it can really show the military's goals and demonstrate how little they, in this case, seem to care about the innocent lives. I don't know what else to call it though...oh wait...maybe we could just call it "airstrike that killed civilians"

Looking at it on a basic level I have one concern I'd like to raise about releasing it. A simple cost-benefit analysis. What benefits does it really have? Yes, it gives peace of mind and recognition to the fallen. That is important, however i think it is dwarfed by the other category of costs and benefits. The other benefit is that it can raise awareness within the military. It can put pressure on them to change their policies, and that can save lives. Much as the other benefit is worth, I can't even compare it to teh lives that could be saved (yes i realize they are both benefits). On the flipside, the release of such a video can stir up hatred. I know, freedom of information and all that. But which is more important, tell me honestly: the release of this information as a basic issue of government transparency, or the radicalization that can result?

Why do you think that some american citizens "go rogue." do you think they just decide to? No, more likely they see the way we treat those abroad. I know I'm contradicting myself, I know the best way to solve this would be NOT TREATING THEM LIKE THAT! But if it's happened already...isn't there the risk that releasing could cause that critical radicalization that leaves 50 people dead, or 500. I know a free society is important. I get why we want this information to get out. But can you really live with 50 civilians dying for just his one piece of information? (and, the resulting polarization on both sides harms freedom)

Honestly I'd prefer it if activists managed to use this video as a bargaining chip to force the military to revise it's policies...but that'll never happen. So I sit here, unable to make up my mind, horrified at the actions of the military yet praying that the release of the information saves lives and doesn't take them away...
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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Oregonaut » Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:13 pm UTC

Dark Avorian wrote:Looking at it on a basic level I have one concern I'd like to raise about releasing it. A simple cost-benefit analysis. What benefits does it really have? Yes, it gives peace of mind and recognition to the fallen. That is important, however i think it is dwarfed by the other category of costs and benefits. The other benefit is that it can raise awareness within the military. It can put pressure on them to change their policies, and that can save lives.


http://usmilitary.about.com/cs/wars/a/loac.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_of_war

http://usmilitary.about.com/library/milinfo/dodreg/bldodreg5100-77.htm

I had to do training every single year covering this. Trust me, the policies are constantly being adapted and adjusted and looked at, and there is a very active discussion within the military over this very issue. I'm not even slightly overstating that. Please understand that the policies are there, and they work when applied correctly. However, assymetric conflicts like this just bring up all of the "what if" problems that there are no good answers for.
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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Dauric » Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:59 pm UTC

The Taliban knows that Europeans and those (culturally) of European descent don't care for civilian collateral damage, and they use that to their advantage. Their armed forces are intermingled with often unwilling civilians.

In WWII the entire town would have been labeled as a military significant target and carpet-bombed. The technology just wasn't there to do anything else. Lots of civilians of all ages died on both sides because they were working in or around munitions factories when the bombers arrived.

It would be nice to be able to drop a robo-bomb that could be deployed over long distances in a moment's notice, would find just the few guys that were actually Taliban, kill just them and only them, and then dissolve harmlessly so we wouldn't have to risk anyone's lives getting it back. However the technology's just not there to do that.

It's better than it used to be, but it's still war and civilians get caught up in war, especially when one side believes that those civilians should want to die for that side's cause, and will be rewarded in the afterlife for dying for that cause (the latter prevents pangs of remorse over getting others killed).

It would be nice if we could get around human shields and restrict war to just the people who are actively fighting in it, but it is still war and the technology's just not there yet.
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Re: Wikileaks, Garani and supposed US military abuses

Postby Telchar » Fri Jun 18, 2010 12:10 am UTC

Even if everyone beleived the way you do Dauric, the video should still be seen in it's unedited entirety by everyone. Governments learned their lesson about journalism in war from Vietnam but it wasn't a lesson in the best interest of John Q Public.
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