If you haven’t seen the video described in this post you probably only want to look if you have a strong stomach. And I mean a very strong stomach. I think we’re all (sadly) familiar with the kinds of videos where you see people get blown up, witnessing their last moments via some camera in a jet plane; but to actually hear helicopter pilots boast about their deeds… I literally had get up from my desk and go for a walk, because I had all faith in humanity sucked out of me - and I didn’t even make it up to the moment where they tried to evacuate the victims. (more, updated)
Some reactions: The Economist’s blog points out that, well, it’s “the fog of war”, and while that’s probably true to some extent, it doesn’t make it any better (especially not the shooting at people trying to help the wounded). Mark Benjamin (of salon.com) asks for caution. Glenn Greenwald (of salon.com) also weighs in, offering the kind of perspective that makes the other commenter end up looking a tad too apologetic. Also don’t miss this post by Dan Froomkin. The video is now also being discussed (at the time of this writing mostly described) in the mainstream press.
I have no illusions about a possible moment of accountability here. We haven’t had any, and let’s not be naive and expect any. But I do hope that the video and the discussions around it will not only create more awareness about the situation of photographers working to get us the images we need to see, but also about what war really is all about.
Update (6 April 2010): Juan Cole points to this discussion - very worth the read. If you don’t have the time for that long discussion, Juan sums it up in his post. Also more from The Economist (different writer) and another post by Glenn Greenwald. Also, a post by James Fallows.