Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Collateral Murder"

I encountered this Guardian article on the Wikileaks Iraq Video, after Eug had mentioned it to me. The story is of unarmed civilians, including two Reuters reporters, being gunned down by U.S. soldiers in Iraq. The story was subsequently covered up.

I can't bring myself to watch the video, but I was overwhelmed by the story: of a disregard for innocent life in a warzone. There's a system in place that creates a space for soldiers to commit heinous crimes, a system that seems directly opposed to enlivening human conscience. It's as though things are so upside down that morality is somehow subjective. But we're talking about murder! This definitely demands questions about any kind of violent engagement, but I'll leave that discussion alone for now.

There's a steep gradient before you arrive at a military culture of shooting anyone who *may* be armed. I'm not one for the slippery slope argument, but I could relate in some small way to the power of the collective: I think a lot of workplaces take a few steps down that path. For example, professionalism sometimes encourages people to separate who they are at work and who they are at home. It can be pretty hard to remember that who you are is who you are, institutional culture or no.

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