Irak — Gates: Internet Video Shows ‘Soda Straw’ View of War

LIMA, Peru, April 14, 2010 — Video of a 2007 heli­copter attack in Iraq that result­ed in civil­ian casu­al­ties shows just part of the sto­ry and lacks con­text, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said yes­ter­day.
Draw­ing broad con­clu­sions from the video that sur­faced on the Inter­net and oth­ers like it is akin to “look­ing at a sit­u­a­tion through a soda straw,” Gates told reporters trav­el­ing here with him.

“You have no con­text or per­spec­tive,” he explained.
Gates expressed frus­tra­tion that while the mil­i­tary faces the chal­lenge of get­ting all of the infor­ma­tion about such inci­dents, oth­ers can post mate­r­i­al on the Inter­net with impuni­ty that tells only part of the sto­ry.

“These peo­ple can put out any­thing they want, and they’re nev­er held account­able for it,” he said. “There’s no before, and there’s no after. It is only the present.” The video in ques­tion shows a heli­copter attack in Bagh­dad that killed 12 peo­ple, includ­ing two jour­nal­ists.

Gates con­trast­ed the con­cept of post­ing an iso­lat­ed por­tion of an oper­a­tion to that of war report­ing by jour­nal­ists embed­ded with mil­i­tary units.
“I have always believed embed­ding is a great idea, in part because it allows jour­nal­ists to see what men and women do every day, to see these sit­u­a­tions they face when they have to make these hard calls,” he said.

“But the real­i­ty is you end up look­ing at the war through a soda straw,” he con­tin­ued. “And if the pla­toon you are with had a good day, then the war is going well. And if they had a bad day, the war is going bad­ly. And that is the prob­lem with these videos.”

The impact of civil­ian casu­al­ties on mil­i­tary oper­a­tions is “very pro­found,” Gates said, and it ham­pers efforts in Afghanistan. He empha­sized that the Unit­ed States and NATO take extra­or­di­nary mea­sures to avoid civil­ian casu­al­ties. It’s the right thing to do from a moral stand­point, he said, and the suc­cess of the U.S. strat­e­gy in Afghanistan depends on it. The mil­i­tary inves­ti­gates every inci­dent of civil­ian casu­al­ties to deter­mine exact­ly what hap­pened and if some­one should be held account­able, Gates said. The inves­ti­ga­tions also help to deter­mine “if there are lessons to be learned in how to avoid it the next time around,” he added.

Despite these mea­sures, Gates said, civil­ian casu­al­ties are a sad real­i­ty of war­fare, espe­cial­ly giv­en the enemy’s tac­tics in Afghanistan.

“We are in a war. And our adver­saries, the Tal­iban, min­gle with civil­ians, they use civil­ians, they pur­pose­ly put civil­ians in Afghanistan in harm’s way,” he said. “And I think we had bet­ter not for­get that real­i­ty as well.”

Gates said he sees no con­flict in dis­cussing human rights, among oth­er top­ics, with his coun­ter­parts in Peru, Colom­bia and the Caribbean while head­lines about civil­ian casu­al­ty inci­dents play heav­i­ly in the media at home.

“In Afghanistan, I don’t recall a sin­gle [inci­dent involv­ing civil­ian casu­al­ties] where any­body has alleged that the Unit­ed States went in and did this on pur­pose,” he said. Rather, he added, they have been trag­ic inci­dents that hap­pened because the Tal­iban delib­er­ate­ly put peo­ple in harm’s way, or due to a mis­un­der­stand­ing.
“So I think it is a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion,” Gates said.

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →