25 May 2008

WaPo Mad That Helo Pilots Are Killing the Enemy in Iraq

Prior to the launch of Operation Salam by the Iraqi Army into the northen two-thirds of Sadr City this month, rogue Special Groups thugs (code word for Shi'ite militants not loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr) were launching mortar and rocket attacks from Sadr City willy-nilly. Most of them were targeting the International Zone (often referred to as the Green Zone, home to the Government of Iraq and the many embassies), but they often missed and killed/wounded scores of Iraqi civilians in the process. To stop this violent activity, American helicopters and UAVs targeted these murderers while they were launching or setting up these vicious attacks. Unfortunately, the rocketeers often conduct their operations amidst hospitals, schools, and amongst civilians. While Abu Muqawama raises concern that hellfire strikes may be contradictory to COIN, these brave helo pilots have done everything they possibly can to avoid civilian casualties. Unfortunately, war is hell, and some civilians have been caught in the cross-fire. Iran has used their propaganda apparatus to exploit every one of these events which result in civilian deaths (see Press TV coverage here, here, and here), but it is necessary to kill/capture all of these Special Group rocket networks to ensure stability in Baghdad.

Obviously, it is a bit of a conundrum, but I didn't expect to see such rampant, one-sided yellow journalism from a reputable American media outlet like the Washington Post when portraying this aspect of the Iraq war. The article quotes some Sadr City residents who have some hateful things to say about America:

Relatives said she was wounded by a missile on April 20 at approximately 8 p.m. in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City. The U.S. military said it fired a Hellfire missile in Zahara's neighborhood at that time, targeting men who were seen loading rockets into a sedan. Her face drained of color and her legs scarred by shrapnel, Zahara spoke haltingly when asked what she thought of U.S. troops. "They kill people," she said. Lying in bed, she gasped for air before continuing. "They should leave Iraq now."

Sure, fair enough, journalism is all about getting both sides of the story, and I'm not going to deny that some Iraqis hate Americans. But take a look at what they have to say from the U.S. perspective:

At a sprawling air base on the outskirts of Baghdad, Edens, Katzenberger and their colleagues live in small trailers surrounded by blast walls, play volleyball on sand courts and eat at an outdoor food court. Many of the pilots are in their 20s. The pilots sometimes scrawl messages on the five-foot-long missiles strapped to their "birds." During a recent visit to the base, a reporter saw a missile addressed to "Haji," an honorific for people who have made the pilgrimage to Mecca. Many U.S. soldiers use it to refer dismissively to Iraqis and Arabs in general. Someone wrote "rock this thang" on another. The small, white trailers adjacent to the airfield where the pilots do paperwork have Christmas lights strung from the ceiling. Two bumper stickers on windows say: "I [heart] Sadr City."

Washington Post's journalism takes it one step further than Iranian propaganda by characterizing the helo pilots as a bunch of callous yahoos! This narrative conjures up images of that crazed Russian pilot that mercilessly shoots up the Afghan villagers in Rambo III.

Not one bit in the article about these operations targeting the militia networks who are responsible for most of the pain and suffering for Baghdad's citizens. Of course, a cynic could say I'm the guy with the "biased" perspective. Sitting in the Green Zone like an asshole, knowing that any time day or night I could be killed by that rocket with my name on it. Certainly it affects my psychological perspective on this contentious issue. I guess you could say I'm pretty supportive of these "gung-ho" pilot types. They're the difference from me coming home in a box or not, after all. I might even by them a beer if I see one of them around!

Only Rambo Can Save the Villagers From the Evil American Helicopters

Update: Outlaw 13 over Guidons, Guidons, Guidons is a helo pilot who has flown missions over Sadr City, and he offers up his perspective. He wasn't too impressed with the armchair commenters over at WaPo making "war crime" accusations, and I'm not either.