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Issue 1/2004 - 16.03.2004:
They Were Not Asked
Text and montages from news video snapshots by
J. Hartikka, Finland. Feedback via Gunwriters Editor.
The incident above pictured by TV news channels like N24 was told to be a British tank hit by American anti-armory fire. U.S. fire was reported to have caused more British casualties than Iraqis did during the offensive. "Friendly fire" incidents were aroused a topic again a year later as the media revealed that U.S. pilots were ordered Dexedrine amphetamine pills for combat flights. About 60 % of all pilots and 97 % of front line combat pilots in Iraq were told to have used "speed pills" supplied by their superiors.
The use of amphetamine for combat air crews by the U.S. is actually not new. During Second World War, strategic bomber crews flying deep into German territory were given amphetamine to stay awake and attentive. One curiosity related to drugging flight crews was that when they reported a "bat-winged propellerless plane flying circles around them", the intelligence people merely nodded sympathetically to the hallucinations of amphetamine doped troops. Later, these were confirmed as first spots of the new German Me-163 rocket fighter. On the other side, also Germans experimented with their Pervitin 'attack pulver'.
So it was not really a surprise to learn that U.S. Army and Air Force have tried amphetamine to boost troops - it was a surprise that they are still using it, and that it is so common!
"Not in My Army!"
The reverse side of the drugged soldier custom is not only that it is against the official anti-drug line of the U.S. Army. Amphetamine is reported to help a soldier carry his orders out in an unquestioning or even in a ruthless fashion.
This makes one to consider the 'drugged puppet' effect of combatants as the U.S. substitute of opponent's fanatic suicide bombers. If a fighter makes an error under the influence of a drug in battle, is he himself responsible for his actions, or should his commanders who ordered him take the drug be blamed? Or maybe the Army leadership which the drug use and their distribution to units?
One could not imagine that such a wide use of amphetamine on troops could to be executed without the blessing of the very top of the military organization planning and commanding the Iraqi offensive. Understanding this, it is no wonder that the friendly fire incidents were hushed without any thorough and public investigations ever by the U.S. superior leadership.
Besides, the 'drug lead' could even take an investigation up to a very high political level, which of course was not desirable for the supreme political lead in charge of initiating the offensive.
In democracy, we can not always expect everybody to play it fair, but we can always demand everybody to play it fair.
Baghdad Hit by Surprise,
Day and Night
The war came to our living rooms in real time throught our TV screens. Seeing Baghdad bombed was kind of unreal experience: This is really happening, and it is happening now!
Romans had a principle for using weapons and military force: "SI VIS PACEM, PARA BELLUM" - " If you want peace, prepare for war". It has been noted in history, that even leading military powers are wary of attacking a country where people are well prepared and willing to defend themselves. It is much easier to make a decision of offensive if the military abilities of a target country are much inferior.
So the ancient Romans thought that arming for war is an advance defense. Of course, an overwhelming military superiority may tempt national leaders to use it for offensive purposes to secure some national and even some personal or group interests. This has been a repeated habit of our kind through the whole history, so why should we be surprised if it keeps happening again?
To Play With
Children find things to play with, even during war. The junior in picture above is about to burst into tears as his daddy confiscates a piece of ammunition from him. A cluster bomb is moved away from the street to avoid causing further temptations for youngsters.
The price of war is always criticized from the boths sides of the front, and still once from far back of the front lines. These pics may lead one wonder, who eventually will really pay for it?
War News by Manuscript
It was surprising to note how protective some war news channels were about unpleasant sides of the offensive. Usually, a happening like a family shot in a van on roadblock was reported with much less casualties by a U.S. news channel than by, say, a German TV channel. Afterwards, the coalition friendly news channels had to correct their casualty numbers to save a at least part of their credibility.
They Payed for
What They Did Not Ask
But there were news videos that even boldest western European satellite channels would not broadcast, or they sent only some very clipped pieces of them. It is not advisable to scare away watchers of a commercial TV channel.
The responsibility of a news reporter is usually to take the material to his employer, who decides to use it or not. If there is something the reporter knows that should be made known for people, can he be expected to try telling it with the risk of losing his job and, maybe, reputation?
Where goes the line of seeking truth, and publishing it? When should something unpleasant be shown or not shown to the audience? Even if we know that something unpleasant happens in war, we desire not to know about it or we may deny it from ourselves. However, a doubt may still remain in our minds: Could this really be true?
Sums and Summits of War
There are reasons to fight wars, and other reasons to start wars. Nations always go to war for noble purposes like liberation and democracy. There may also be underlying reasons that the great audience gets only small glimpses from.
The noble purposes of war are underlined and repeated in public speeches. Once a nation is in a war, it has to justify it. General suspicion would mean national disaster.
So an individual desires to believe in the elevated aims of the war, even if he has to use the Freudian means of refusing to recognize anything unpleasant. The farther one is from the battles and the more ignorant he can be kept, the more easy and supportive he will feel with the justification of a war.
Abraham Lincoln once said: "You can fool all for some time and some for all time, but you can not fool all for all time".
Bombs and Speed Kill in Afghanistan - by Bill Berkowitz
Pilots on Speed - by Justin Rowlatt
The U.S. Military Needs Its Speed - by Elliot Borin
Gunwriters on the Web They Were Not Asked: http://guns.connect.fi/gow/war.html