Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Remember

Today's post is simply a repost of what I wrote on the 5th anniversary of September 11. There is nothing I can say that would better reflect what I'm sure we're collectively feeling.

I’m a little reluctant to write about 9/11, but I’m going to anyway. My reluctance comes from the belief that nothing I write could adequately express the importance of that day or those events, and from the knowledge that everyone else will spend a lot of energy reading and writing about that life-altering day. I’m doing it anyway because I feel that I must honor and observe the significance of that day, inadequate as my attempt may be.

Some of the events are indelibly seared in to my mind; others have undoubtedly faded with time. I remember getting to work and settling in to my chair for the day’s work, when one of my co-workers asked if I had heard the news.

“We’re at war,” he said. “Someone just flew a plane into one of the twin towers.”

“Are you sure it was deliberate? Maybe it was an accident,” I answered hopefully. I somehow knew that he was right, but wasn’t quite ready to accept the fact. We had a TV in the general area and decided to power it on. The reception was poor, but after a few minutes, we got a static-filled reception. The signal cleared up just in time for me to see the second plane hit the other tower. “Oh God,” I said, dumbstruck.


“You’re right, we’re at war. Another plane just hit the other tower.” We stared at each other, speechless. It felt like someone had hit me in the stomach, and we both knew that everything had changed. After standing there dumbfounded for what seemed like an eternity, we agreed to move the TV so a location where everyone could watch. We knew that no work would be accomplished that day.

From that point on, I don’t recall very many specifics. I remember talking to certain people, and I know the conversation was about the day’s events, but I don’t know what was said. I remember sitting in a restricted-access room in my office building, listening to the radio, watching streaming internet media, and reading articles. I remember being so numb that I had no reaction when I heard about the third plane hitting the Pentagon and the fourth plane crashing in the field. I remember watching the lines form at the gas station across the street, and seeing the prices rise as the lines grew progressively longer. I remember deciding that I’d go ahead and pay the higher prices the next day rather than stay in that line.

I remember the subsequent outrage at the price gouging over gas and other emergency supplies. I remember all planes in the nation being immediately grounded and thinking that was a great idea. I remember finding out that some of my friends were stuck at a conference because of the planes being grounded, but my company got them home by chartering a bus.

I distinctly remember being numb, and noticing that everyone else appeared to feel the same way. I remember the worldwide outpouring of grief and sympathy, exemplified by candlelight vigils. I remember our collective sorrow, and the global outpouring of love.

I remember watching the firefighters raising the American flag above the rubble of the towers, and seeing the irony in the flag being flown upside-down (a sign of distress). I remember how well Giuliani handled the situation, and how united we were behind our Commander in Chief. I vividly remember President Bush’s “sage” advice, telling us to fight terrorism by supporting our economy and rolling my eyes thinking “This is the best he’s got? Fight terrorism by spending money?” For the most part though, I remember instantly knowing that everything had changed. I remember America being united like I have never experienced before and probably will never experience again.

What do you remember?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

I've been hearing a lot of shit about WikiLeaks, and I've got to say that I've carried very mixed feelings about it. Part of me thinks that people who do bad things deserve to be exposed. Another piece of me understands that we are able to maintain our way of life because some of us are willing to do things that others shouldn't (or don't want to) know about. Part of me believes that crooked politicians should be exposed for their corruptness. Another piece understands that our diplomats need to put their best foot forward and express their true feelings about our alleged allies only behind closed doors. It is this ambivalence that has up until now buried my curiosity and kept me away from WikiLeaks. My need to know more finally outweighed my mixed emotions today, and I visited the site. As I cruised the site, I settled on a page entitled "Collateral Murder."

The contents of the site angered me, but not in a way that many of you think. After spending an hour watching the videos, all I could say was "Wrong." That word, in my context for today's post, means all of its socially accepted meanings at various times... incorrect... offensive to the senses... morally reprehensible... absolute bullshit... Please continue reading, as I explain.

The web page contains a written editorial of the videos, written in such a way as to lead a reader to believe that they are going to witness a premeditated, callous war crime. It also contains three video links.. a short version of a battle in the streets of Iraq, a long version, and an eyewitness account. I watched the long version, and the eyewitness account, and have come to a conclusion that's significantly different than the written overview, and from what Julian Assange alleges on the web page. (Based on what I see, the web page is a wholly owned subsidiary of WikiLeaks, but has its own domain name.) The following is my interpretation of what happened...

I started by reading the text of the web site, which talks about the "indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people." I was angered that the US Military could engage in such behavior, and needed to see the war crime with my own eyes. What I saw was reasonable behavior taken by rational military personnel. Basically, there were military aviators flying around in a hot zone, and they identified potentially hostile individuals walking with weapons. Our rules of engagement allow us to destroy armed Iraqis, and they did so.

After the armed personnel were killed, a van came to carry off one of an enemy who was wounded, not killed. The vehicle and its occupants were fired upon as well. The video later shows foot soldiers arriving on the scene, discovering two wounded Iraqi children, and arranging for medical care for the kids. The closest thing to "criminal" activity in the video is what comes out of a soldier's mouth after the discovery that kids were injured... "That's what happens when you bring your kids to war." This is a paraphrase, but the statement is reasonable, when taken in context.

The second video is an eyewitness account, and contains information not covered in the initial video. It turns out that two of the KIA were reporters, and one of the "weapons" was a camera. The kids were in the van that showed up to pick up the wounded guy, who was one of the reporters. The role of the van and the driver were never discussed. The soldier told his story. He was the guy who found the two kids in the van... the one who carried them out of the van, and arranged the medical evacuation of the kids.

-I am going to take the video of the firefight at face value.
-I am going to take the eyewitness account at face value.
-I am going to take the allegation that two of the KIA were reporters at face value.

With the aforementioned assumptions in mind, I am going to give my interpretation of the events of that day...

-The personnel in the Apache, who fired on the armed Iraqis, made a reasonable assumption. The camera was not the only item identified as a weapon, which means that the reporters were walking with armed Iraqis, who intended to fire on American soldiers. It is unfortunate that the reporters were killed, but based on my interpretation of the events, the reporters were not murdered.

-It was reasonable for the soldiers to destroy the van. There was no clear indication that children were in the van until AFTER the events unfolded. Was it unfortunate? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean that the events were criminal.

-The soldier who rescued the children from the van was clearly traumatized by the event. He attempted to get counseling, but his chain of command was unhelpful.

-Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, had a heavy hand in the compilation and dissemination of this information. He claims to be simply putting out information, but that's not true. He did not simply report the events. He blatantly allowed his personal opinion to color the events. If this is the manner in which Assange handles all of WikiLeaks, he is not a reporter. He is a man with a personal agenda, and is simply using information to achieve his ends.


-The reporters who were killed were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But they knew the risks when they chose to go to Iraq.

-The pilots of the Apache helicopter were wrong by incorrectly identifying a camera as a weapon, and they were mistaken in their assumption that the van was another enemy trying to recover his wounded comrade.

-The superiors of the soldier who rescued the children made numerous, grave errors in judgment by blocking the soldier's attempts to get help for his trauma.

-But Assange is the worst of them all. He sensationalized his discovery, and tried to turn tactical errors into war crimes. What happened that day, assuming that I've interpreted things correctly, suck. No doubt about it. Two reporters died. Two children were gravely wounded. A soldier was traumatized by the events. His chain of command let him down and left him to flounder. But there is no war crime here. If this is typical of Assange's mode of operation, then the guy is pond scum and deserves every bad thing that's coming to him.