A Phil-for-an-ill Blog

April 20, 2010

Killing Iraqi Civilians, Like a Video Game – 2007 Baghdad Civil Massacre Perpetrated by Trigger Happy US Troops (Wikileaks)

An Ah-64 Apache Attack Helicopter flying over Iraq

Short Version
Long Version

Related Reading:

In early April Wikileaks released into the public domain specific unreleased footage documenting a tragic event that could be considered as a severe incrimination of the US military forces operating in Iraq today:

5th April 2010 10:44 EST WikiLeaks has released a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad — including two Reuters news staff.

Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded. collateralmurder.org

Running Commentary

The video starts when the helicopter crew is alerted of possible pending danger, which is referred to as “target fifteen” in presumably proper military jargon.

The helicopter camera then homes in on a group of people gathered on some open court yard or square, and the crew is quick to single out a few individuals who supposedly carry weapons. The crew apparently is blind to the overtly casually acting and unsuspecting members of the group. There’s no sign of hostility at all, not towards the Apache chopper or towards possible US ground troops. When it would’ve been a band of genuine insurgents, one would expect a certain amount of apprehension and hostility towards enemy combatants, especially the ones who are controlling the skies. No such hostility is shown however. Yet the crew interprets otherwise.

By virtue of the crew concluding that some of the members are armed and dangerous, they have no qualms to assert that all members of the group as indeed equally threatening.

One crew member communicates to presumably army command the fantastical notion that the supposed inimical group harbors “5 to 6 individuals with AK47s.” The perception of inimical hostility is further fired up when one member of the group is suspected to have an RPG ready to fire at the Apache.

Thinking they are under a pending serious attack, the crew is all too eager to ruthlessly deal with the perceived threat on the ground.

After finishing the administration of the first part of the massacre, the pilot gives the shooter a compliment for a job well-done.

Immediately following the initial carnage, one victim turns out to have survived and manages to crawl away. The crew suspects that he might be grabbing for a weapon but I just think he’s calling a friend for help on his cellphone. Again, the crew is still as trigger happy as ever and again demonstrate the willingness to fire at the victim if he so much as waves a semblance of a weapon at them.

Then a van arrives on the scene of carnage. The crew suspects that it’s there to pick up “bodies and weapons.” However, I think that the van responded to the call from the sole survivor and that the people in it are not at all interested in collecting dead bodies or alleged weapons.

But this notion did not occur to the shooter, who instead still has an itchy trigger finger and is dying to unload his guns on the new batch of cannon fodder brought in by the van. It is remarkable that the crew remains blind to the obvious notion that the van in fact can be understood to be a makeshift ambulance that’s only there to rescue the sole survivor and then take off to the nearest hospital.

Relatively speaking, the initial carnage is somewhat understandable on the basis that the crew mistook the group of civilians for threatening insurgents. However, the event with the van is more puzzling because all so deemed insurgents have now been killed and, apart from a single wounded individual, all that remains of the “threat” are dead bodies and a few presumed weapons.

Are dead bodies and weapons really enough cause to unload the guns again and claim more kills?

The motive of the shooter to again open fire becomes somewhat clear when he expresses his fear of possible insurgents grabbing the weapons supposedly laying around, scatter and start blasting away at the helicopter. But this anticipation contradicts the alleged insurgents focusing their efforts on carrying the wounded survivor into the van. However, paranoia restricts conscious awareness and the ability to reason rationally and logically (i.e. being in “the fog of war”) and so the crew remained oblivious to the real function of the van, to simply serve as a vehicle to salvage the last remaining survivor.

Battle? What battle? You mean the massacre of a group of innocent civilians who posed no threat whatsoever? Suffering from the fog of war is one thing, but to blatantly mistake casually acting civilians carrying film equipment for dangerous insurgents carrying AK47s and RPGs is quite another.

I think you were not the only one who was having a brain fart. Indeed, I think the entire crew suffered from a collective mental breakdown the whole "battle" long.


The Wikileaks footage shows that the attitude of the involved US soldiers was comprised of a volatile mix of (militarily indoctrinated) paranoia and downright lack of caring for potential human targets, in other words a sure recipe for de facto psychopathy. As such, under these conditions, the US soldier can adopt a mindset that enables him to kill instantly on a mere reflex basis yet at the same time sleep rather well at night, untroubled by a guilty conscience. In addition to the ability to kill reflexively, the video also demonstrates that the soldiers, presumably fueled by paranoia, are in fact eager to kill. It’s very unsettling to see just how easy the act of taking lives of fellow human beings can become.

Not only were the soldiers eager to administer their deadly fire, they even seemed to enjoy themselves as they padded each-other on the back while making jokes about the claimed casualties as they went.

To those who want to maintain that the event captured by this footage was but a freak occurrence, please read what two involved US soldiers wrote in a recent open apology letter to the Iraqi men and women who were victimized by the attack:

From our own experiences, and the experiences of other veterans we have talked to, we know that the acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war: this is the nature of how U.S.-led wars are carried out in this region.

We acknowledge our part in the deaths and injuries of your loved ones as we tell Americans what we were trained to do and what we carried out in the name of “god and country”. The soldier in the video said that your husband shouldn’t have brought your children to battle, but we are acknowledging our responsibility for bringing the battle to your neighborhood, and to your family. We did unto you what we would not want done to us. informationclearinghouse.info

At the end of this article you will find some video clips that show that using Iraqi civilians for virtual target practice is anything but a rarity.

How is it possible that seemingly normal young American men are capable of such gruesome acts?

In my opinion, the answer to that question is not hard to guess. Here is an article excerpt that helps shed light on the matter:

This is scary and maddening. Unable to get the necessary recruits for the military the old-fashioned way, the U.S. Army has sunk $16 million into a government-sponsored video game that blurs the line between fantasy and the reality of war.

The taxpayer-financed “America’s Army” is so clever a mind game that even the military folks behind it get a little confused when talking it up. Time magazine said Major Chris Chambers, deputy director of the video’s development team, had to stop and correct himself when he called the violence, combat and “death animation” in the game “real.” “It’s not real; it’s simulated. But we’re simulating reality,” he said.

Got that?

The computer-based video game was rolled out as a recruitment and training tool — primarily recruitment — on July 4, 2002. And players can click a button in the game menu and go directly to an Army recruiting Web site, Time reports. military.com

Another article writes:

In short, video games made better soldiers and sailors faster, safer and cheaper.

“The realism you get is the ability to keep somebody engaged and play a game for three or four hours as opposed to in a classroom, where after 15 minutes they’re bored,” says McCracken.

And, one thing young recruits in today’s military have in common is that they’ve all played video games. They all talk the jargon.

“They know all the words,” says gaming expert John Beck. “They can talk, ‘Oh, this is like that game, and when they talk about it everybody knows, this is like Halo 2.”

And talk about realistic.

One game teaches how to survive ambushes on what looks like a Baghdad street. cbsnews.com

On Facebook someone wrote me:

Call of duty Modern Warfare Two is the most popular video game in the world. Players face off on-line, and at any given time there may be as many as 500,000 people playing at once. This three minute clip says it all. I used to be a gamer…..I can tell you, there are teenagers who play this game 10-20 hours a day. In fact, I had “friends” on X-box who were serving in Iraq and Afganistan. They are allowed to play this game when they are off duty…..supplied with everything they need.

Further more, this is the kicker: The US Army sponsered the world debut of COD MW2!!! This is not a conspiracy theory, they had huge ad’s posted everywhere right when the game came out in November.

Also, as I recall, Game Stop had a big “release” party in Nov 09, and there were US military recruiting banners everywhere. I don’t know how many gamestops had this type of party, but at least 4 in North Carolina did, so I suspect that it was nationwide.

Indeed, the army doesn’t seem to really make much of a secret in using freely offered video games for recruitment and training purposes, as these short youtube videos demonstrate:

“America’s Army – or the Army Game Project – is a freeware tactical multiplayer first-person shooter game — owned by the United States Government.

It was created as a global public relations initiative to help with U.S. Army recruitment — and with 8 million registered users and 17 million downloads — it’s been very successful.

It’s the first game that made recruitment its explicit goal — and the first well-known use of computer gaming for political aims.

Gamers should also realize that America’s Army was originally designed to test military aptitude — and that your online gaming data IS being collected.

Big Brother and Uncle Sam are definitely watching…

…and so are some Islamic fundamentalists. They’ve taken the video game as propaganda idea – adapted it – and created their own game where the US is the enemy.”

“As its troops continue to face lengthy and mutiple tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States is looking at new ways to attract potential recruits.

The US military says the economic downturn and rising unemployment are sending more and more young people into their recruiting offices. And as Monica Villamizar found out, a lot of those conversations happen at the Army’s newest, multi-million dollar recruit venue in Philadelphia – the military’s version of a video arcade.”

So what effects do video games have on the people, mainly boys and adolescent men, who play them? Modern video games give approximate renditions of reality, where real life objects and real life people are represented by pixelated objects moving around and about on a computer screen. If a video game depicts a war scenario, the act of representing human beings by mere groups of moving pixels brings a certain risk with it. In simplistic us-or-them kind of game scenarios, the player can afford to not hesitate and neutralize any human target represented by pixelated objects since, after all, they’re just animated pixel groups. In a training environment, the repeating of the mental act of neutralizing simulated human beings over and over again leads to a transference from the conscious part of the mind, which is relatively slow as it’s the site of learning and training, onto the subconscious, which is fast as it’s all about reflexes. In other words, as the player becomes more experienced and skilled in playing combat games, the acts of simulated killing slowly become reflex-wise, ultimately requiring little or no mediation from the conscious part of the mind.

The blind reliance on reflexes during real-life acts of combat engagement together with the possibility of the soldier’s inability to distinguish fiction from reality poses a real danger to civil life. The footage demonstrated that this is not merely an academic- but indeed a very real possibility. Video games become dangerous when they serve as instruments for bringing about the desensitization of the aspiring soldier in regards to fellow human beings when games glorify and sensationalize death and destruction while objectifying human beings as being nothing more than animated pixelated targets.

The video clearly illustrates the actuality of the above psychological mechanism. Here we have a few US soldiers clearly desensitized to the human targets they chose to engage. Absent of any compassion whatsoever, they were quick to interpret ordinary Iraqi civilians as dangerous enemy combatants (“insurgents”) and reflexively decided to deal with them accordingly.

In addition to saturating the average soldier’s imaginative powers by simplistic black&white political themes and fostering an infantile blood-thirst quenching desire through playing countless hours of violent combat video games, it’s not a stretch to assume that the soldier’s mind is further spoiled and corrupted by ditto countless hours of watching porn. The effect of watching porn is to encourage the development of selfish instant gratification drives while also promoting further objectification of human beings. Therefore, playing video games and watching porn both serve to promote the dehumanization of potential victims.

Also the US soldiers acted from a considerable distance away from the human targets. Acting from a remote enough distance further minimizes any empathetic connection between killers and victims. There’s no looking into the eyes of the enemy before the kill. So there are no painful and “obstructive” reminders of the horrific act of killing. Taking the lives of fellow human beings all has become very impersonal and anonymously, and so is “comfortably” out of reach from any conscience interference.

The actuality of the risk of confusing fiction with reality is greatly captured by the following video which merges is the actual Wikileaks footage with corresponding video game scenarios:

Video games are not the only kind of brainwashing tools that operate under the cloak of entertainment. Movies help to accomplish the same thing and, in this particular context, especially war glorifying movies. However, movies overall imbue a less effective form of brainwashing since the interactive role-play element that games do carry is absent. The video game player is able to immerse himself or herself completely into a game play environment and as such be subjected to a much more profound level of programming than passively watching movies could ever hope to accomplish. I’d like to think that movies serve more broadly to subtly brainwashing entire populations, while video-games more profoundly condition a much smaller target group, namely potential new military grunts.

Overall, the existence of this footage testifies of a gloomy indictment of a militarily geared culture that is capable of churning out batches of de facto psychopaths needed to blindly pull triggers when ordered, while not only incurring a minimum of remorse but even snicker and giggle along the way.

Alex Jones’ initial response to the released footage:

Wikileak’d video shows eager-to-kill troops firing on Reuters reporters and children

The next day, on his radio show Jones had this to say:

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Part 2/4

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Here’s a small grasp of videos illustrating the brutality of US soldiers in Iraq:

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