There is something extremely disturbing about this video, and it isn't just that it graphically shows more than a dozen people being killed by gunfire from a far-off Apache helicopter. Even more chilling than the massacre it memorializes is its inescapable implication that the mindset of the American forces involved in the killing - and whether it was of actual enemy insurgents or innocent civilians isn't germane to this discussion - has been so severely warped by the unholy trinity of fear, military training, and the exigencies of the "war on terror" that the shooters can somehow discern a threat in the person of an unarmed male whose camera, slung casually over his shoulder, is mistaken for an AK-47, but completely miss the sight of two children sitting in the front passenger seat of a van whose driver pulls up and gets out to aid the photographer they have just mortally wounded.
Once the initial spate of firing has ceased, a van drives towards the dead and dying while one of the men in the Apache excitedly describes it as "... looks like possibly, uh, picking up bodies and weapons." Looks like. Possibly. No proof or verification of the "picking up weapons" part of the description is offered at any time before we hear him begging his superior officer to let him "engage," the military euphemism for "kill." "Can we shoot?" he pleads. "Fuck!" Then, "Come on, let us shoot!" His breathless, pre-orgasmic insistence on being granted permission to fire upon the vehicle while two small figures are centered ominously in the Apache's crosshairs borders on the pornographic. After being informed by troops on the ground that a couple of the "targets" they've shot are children, one of the Apache crew says, "Well, it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle." "Right," the other soothes him. They're already absolving themselves of any culpability or remorse for having injured two children. This is not the exchange of warriors who believe what they did is glorious or justified, yet they are apparently so immune to the emotional ramifications of the horror they've just inflicted that they can view the scene with complete and utter detachment, as if it were a joke instead of a gruesome reality. While more than a dozen bullet-riddled cadavers lie strewn about in the rubble of the street they've just obliterated, the Apache crew laughs about the fact that a Bradley tank, summoned to the scene after the gunfire has ceased, has just run over one of the bodies. To them, an Iraqi corpse being crushed by a tank isn't so much an indecent defilement as it is comic relief straight out of a scene from The Naked Gun.
The men in the helicopter may as well have been playing a video game. We see the action through their technology-enhanced eyes, and everything appears on a screen with images supplied by optical systems and sensors, described by army-technology.com this way: The target acquisition designation sight, TADS (AN/ASQ-170), and the pilot night vision sensor, PNVS (AN/AAQ-11), were developed by Lockheed Martin. The turret-mounted TADS provides direct-view optics, television and three-fields-of-view forward-looking infrared (FLIR) to carry out search, detection and recognition, and Litton laser rangefinder / designator. PNVS consists of a FLIR in a rotating turret located on the nose above the TADS. The image from the PNVS is displayed in the monocular eyepiece of the Honeywell integrated helmet And display sighting system, IHADSS, worn by the pilot and copilot / gunner. And here's a description of some of the AH-64's weapons capabilities from guncopter.com: ...behind terrain, the Apache can pop up and engage targets, then retreat behind cover. In the close support role the Apache's rocket pods and 30mm cannon can bring devastating firepower to bear against a wide range of enemy units... The Apache can remain hidden behind terrain and still engage the target with its Hellfire laser-guided missiles. This is a hovering testicle with a rock-hard penis for a tail that two men, trained to feel the adrenaline and testosterone-fueled rush of combat but not the spiritual consequences of numbing themselves to their delivery of death and widespread damage, climb into and hide inside while they shoot with enough firepower to destroy an entire armory at moving human targets on the ground whom they can't distinguish from actual threats.
This is what we do now. War has become so impersonal, so removed from the realities of the toll it takes on the soul and spirit, its human costs rendered so inconsequential, that we send our fighting men and women into battle completely desensitized to any moral inferences they might draw from their own actions. Separated from their prey by steel and sky, hovering and hiding above while viewing everything below through the fractured prism of crosshairs shaped like a crucifix on a video screen, our defenders of democracy shoot to kill without knowing at whom or what they're aiming. And when they find out, it still doesn't matter.