I love a man in uniform.
Well, not me personally.
Gang of Four might, if you were to take a literal interpretation of one of their more popular song titles.
And judging from the coverage of our armed forces in the media, as well as the public’s vocal support for military parades, it would seem a lot of people share this sentiment.
I’ve never really been one of them though.
It’s hard to put my finger on just why this is.
I guess the idea of giving up my free will to follow a chain of command has always been anathema to me.
Especially when this choice will inevitably lead to my being asked to, you know, shoot and kill other people.
For reasons I’ll either not agree with or, more likely, won’t be fully aware of.
I’m not really sold on this particular brand of patriotism.
Huh, wasn’t that hard after all.
I have a slightly different take on what it means to be a patriot.
It doesn’t involve wearing a uniform, waving a flag or shooting a gun.
To me, a patriot is someone who is brave enough to speak the truth about the corruption they encounter in our society.
Kind of like the people who run WikiLeaks.
Launched a tad over three years ago, WikiLeaks raison d’être is to anonymously publish sensitive material submitted to them.
The majority of these documents come from within our very own governments and other powerful organisations that would much rather the public didn’t know of the secrets they’ve been covering up. Like the US military.
Last week, WikiLeaks director Julian Assange flew to Washington to reveal a covert video from 2007 of US Apache helicopters engaged in a firefight with twelve Iraqi “insurgents” in Baghdad.
This is what the American air crew claimed, which was subsequently backed up by their superior officers.
Rather than give you my interpretation of this footage, I’d encourage you to check it out for yourself here.
The people these pilots engaged didn’t appear to be “insurgents”, 0r even armed. Unless cameras count as weapons these days?
You see, two of these “insurgents” turned out to be employees of Reuters.
One of whom – Namir Noor-Eldeen – was a photographer, whose lens was apparently mistaken for a Rocket Propelled Grenade.
Which seems like something you might want to confirm before firing on a group of people who may or may not be “insurgents”.
But there were definitely no cameras – or guns – in the minivan that approached to help the dead and wounded.
There were a couple of children on board though, who were both injured when the same air crew engaged them.
Perhaps kids look like RPG’s from an Apache too?
The US military refused to divulge any information about how these twelve men died and claimed to not know how the children were wounded.
Eventually, following demands from Reuters to know how their employees died, the US military investigated this incident and concluded that the actions of the soldiers were in accordance with the law of armed conflict and its own “Rules of Engagement”.
Having watched the footage in its entirety, this is probably the most terrifying aspect.
If what happened was legal by their “Rules of Engagement”, the only conclusion I can draw is that the american military’s corruption and self preservation must be absolute.
Reuters had been requesting the release of the Apache’s video under the US’s very own Freedom of Information Act.
To no avail.
Unsurprisingly, the Pentagon rejected all of these requests.
I guess some freedoms are more restricted than others.
Fortunately – for us – some unknown patriots still exist within these american institutions and managed to pass this material on to WikiLeaks.
Who did what they do best; publishing clandestine information and bringing it to the world’s attention.
Yet once the ensuing media furore dies down what will actually change?
Even after the revelation of this shocking footage, will the air crew who ‘engaged’ the dozen Iraqi civilians be held accountable for their actions?
Just how many similar “firefights” have been fought by allied soldiers in Iraq?
And if a couple of Reuters employees hadn’t been caught up in this massacre, would the incident have been investigated so thoroughly and received as much publicity in our media?
Whilst any past transgressions are likely to go unpunished, the inception of sites such as WikiLeaks will at least help to keep corrupt elements of the powerful in check.
The simple knowledge that a media outlet exists to publish covert materials whilst protecting their sources anonymity acts as a deterrent to those in authority from abusing their positions in future.
Predictably, the Pentagon has already branded WikiLeaks a threat to national security and is seeking to prevent any more of their “classified” material appearing on the site.
If there’s a greater validation of what WikiLeaks stands for and has achieved, I can’t think of it.
But even patriots need help.
To maintain its impartiality and credibility, WikiLeaks operates as a not-for-profit site.
Thus, they rely solely on public donations to exist.
And as recently as last January, the site temporarily closed down while management raised funds to cover their operating costs for the year.
You can support modern day patriots by making a donation to WikiLeaks here.
Or you can carry on waving a flag.