Tag: wikileaks


WikiLeaks response

April 15th, 2010 — 5:27pm

As Americans anguish about the graphic WikiLeaks video of civilian killings and the adrenalized cockpit chatter from the two pilots in the Apache helicopters as they open fire in that July 2007 attack, I am reminded of a different kind of helicopter pilot and a different cockpit conversation.

A little over 40 year ago, Hugh Thompson, at the time, a twenty-five year old reconnaissance pilot, was circling above a small hamlet in Vietnam called Tu Cung by the Vietnamese and My Lai by the Americans. The area was quiet during his early morning fly over, with no sign of enemy action. An hour later, when he flew back over, what he saw was a swath of devastation and a ditch piled high with bodies, all unarmed. Then he noticed a group of civilians held in a bunker at gunpoint by American GIs.  Thompson had had enough. He blurted to his crew, Lawrence Coburn and Glenn Andreotta: “Dammit, it ain’t gonna happen. They ain’t gonna die.” He landed his aircraft, instructing his crew to fire on the GIs—“open up on’em and kill them”—if they shot at him as he tried to rescue the hostages. Some 350 persons were massacred that day, but Thompson’s interventions may have stopped the massacre of thousands more living in the My Lai area at the time.
In Thompson’s case, the cockpit offered neither moral distance nor emotional insulation. For the good soldier, holding onto one’s full humanity, not only in the moment of rescue but in “the kill” is the critical mission.

—Nancy Sherman, April 15, 2010

The writer is the author of “The Untold War: Inside the Hearts, Minds, and Souls of our Soldiers.”

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Comment » | military ethics, moral weight of war

WikiLeaks

April 9th, 2010 — 4:04pm

The recent www.wikilinks.org publication of the gun-camera video of the tragic deaths of two Reuters camera men in July of 2007 has generated quite a bit of discussion on the New York Times blog pages.  This incident captures the troubling issue of pilots’ moral insulation and humor on the battlefield.  Anthony Martinez, an infantryman and an experienced  aerial footage analyst, provides an interesting perspective on the wikileaks video.

Benedict Carey takes up the issue in his recent New York Times article, “Psychologists Explain Iraq Airstrike Video.” His article has generated scores of comments.

How do you weigh-in on the issue?

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