(Make sure you check out the addendum above.)
U.S. troops are bloodthirsty murderers? Well, one or two, for sure. But all fighter pilots too? That’s what one former Pentagon official would have us believe.
My arch-nemesis Winslow Wheeler from the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Defense Information is circulating an email from former military analyst Chuck Spinney that all but accuses one Marine Corps F/A-18 pilot of homicide based on the officer’s expressed enthusiasm for flying close air support in western Iraq. Wheeler calls Spinney’s comments “much needed and unvarnished perspective.” I call them unfair.
But you can decide for yourself. First, the Marine’s letter, excerpted minus all the proper names, unit identifiers and profanity:
God, I do love killing these bastards. …
The other day, [names omitted] got three nice passes with the gun and rockets on some Muj in a little town called Karma, which is just northwest of Fallujah. I firmly believe they are implants from the “big city.” Looked as though they were in the process of trying to attack the Iraqi police headquarters. I wonder why the insurgents would be attacking the Iraqi police. CNN says the [police] are ineffective. Funny, the “ineffective” [police] stood their ground and called in three strikes. Only one confirmed kill.
This is the ranting of a depraved mind, Spinney says:
Here is a “warrior” who brags about killing for killing’s sake, but the people he kills are just spots on the ground that disappear in clouds of explosions. He describes the joy of war at a distance and sees nothing of its horrors. You won’t find any descriptions of blood, broken limbs, trauma or destruction in this email. You won’t even find reference to his own feelings of menace or fear — not to mention their noble counterweights courage and esprit — just braggadocio on the subject of killing. Of course, his targets are all insurgents: no sense of any human capacity for doubt on that point. … Hopefully, the man who wrote this ghastly thing is an aberration and not at all representative of the men and women in our military.
Look, last year I was embedded with Marine fighter pilots in western Iraq. And they were, to a [wo]man, professional, well-spoken and incredibly brave — and not at all the brutes that Spinney contends. They do not, as Spinney implies, drop bombs on innocents. All close air support missions involve rigorous checks to ensure that only combatants get bombed. Yes, “collateral damage” happens, but it’s rare and never intentional. Our Marine pilots do not kill indiscriminately. And if they take any pleasure in killing, it’s because in doing so they save the lives of Marines on the ground. And they believe, rightly, that the people they kill probably need to die, for our sakes and for the sake of a better world.
So back off, Spinney.