The Young Turks covered a video released by Harper’s Magazine where Blackwater mercenaries–representing the United States of America–ride through a town in Iraq like it’s a Mad Max movie set.
It’s one of the more despicable videos I’ve seen in a while.
Remember that these are not American soldiers. They’re American mercenaries:
Blackwater is the mercenary firm founded as Blackwater USA in 1996 by former Navy SEAL and fundamentalist Christian Erik Prince. It received no-bid [as in not free market] contracts from the Bush administration in Iraq, Afghanistan, and post-Katrina New Orleans. In 2009, Prince resigned as CEO. Amid scandals over misbehavior by Blackwater employees in Iraq, the company renamed itself Blackwater Worldwide in 2007, Xe Services in 2009, and Academi in 2011.
Of course to those Iraqis, the distinction between our actual military and Blackwater–sorry, Academi–is meaningless. They are all part of the foreign military force fighting a war of dubious justifiability in their hometowns.
I understand that unspeakable things happen in times of war, but if some foreign army invaded America and then ran over someone I love while they were joyriding through town in a Hummer, we would instantly become blood enemies. I would be extremely committed to their destruction. If they withdrew, I’d be inclined to follow.
But we don’t see war from that perspective. We’ve been desensitized. Historically, when a country went to war the whole country went to war. Soldiers and civilians both had to sacrifice. Resources were rationed. Budgets were tightened both at home and in the government. There were drafts. Now the difference between war and peace is nominal. In terms of impact, if it weren’t for the periodic stories in the news, most of us would hardly notice.
Our perspective on war has become skewed. War has been sterilized for us: Don’t show carnage or collateral damage; don’t show dead soldiers coming home in flag-covered coffins; don’t make Congress actually vote to declare war; don’t raise taxes or cut services to pay for it; don’t question the motives or the nobility of the mission. All that business is unpleasant. Just get yourself a patriotic bumper-sticker and a flag for your car antenna and go on a shopping spree, take in a movie. We’ve got this.
Of course, bombs over Baghdad is nothing at all like bombs over Boston, focusing on a firefight while wondering if your family has been safely evacuated from the combat zone, or hiding in your cellar while vehicle-mounted rotary cannons pulverize every house in your neighborhood.
This desensitization has made war–a contest of murder and destruction between nations–just another political tool; it’s how we get our way in the world.
And it has made using private armies like Blackwater acceptable.