Glenn Greenwald has, rightly, explained how the events of the Collateral Murder video arise from what is standard operating procedure. Naturally, some take offense. For example:
I understand the nature of news, and it will never change, but “Soldier Does Right Thing, Follows Orders And Respects Lives Of Others” will never be a headline. When things like this and Abu Ghraib pop up the reason they are news is because they are deviations from the norm, not as Greenwald and others claim […] the standard posture of the military.
The entire reason there is an outcry when a member of the U.S. military engages in some form of atrocity or deviant behavior is because it is such an aberration from the norm. If, as Greenwald contends, our soldiers were just a bunch of animals killing civilians for sport, there would be no desire for coverups, because it would just be what we do. But that isn’t what we do.
James Joyner? One of the QandO guys? Nope, that was Oliver Willis, “liberal”.
This is an all too common logic problem when it comes to such stories. Someone points out that the “rules” as applied encourage such conduct, as a structural criticism, and it’s misinterpreted as a blanket denunciation of the people who submit to those rules, usually followed by “if we’re such scumbags then why do we hide it, huh?”.
Though the chatter in the video shows the particular people involved as sickly entertained by death, I don’t claim to know the motivation of everyone who joins the military. A percentage no doubt shares their sickness, but that element exists in EVERY field involving force, acknowledging them is just proof you don’t live in Candyland. Others may have just fallen for the selflessness-equals-government-service scam, or saw it as one of a shrinking amount of opportunities. This is beside the point though: as Glenn explained, the Pentagon — the entity that determines How We Fight — saw nothing wrong with what happened.
This is an institutional problem. As for why these things get covered up, there’s a little matter called “public relations”. See, the more that the general public sees the worst parts of war, the less likely they are to support it, regardless of initial argument for it (this is why even questioning staying in Afghanistan has gone relatively mainstream). If the political elite of the U.S. could have their wars out in the open, with no one so much as flinching at the violence in general or the obvious atrocities in particular — in other words, total abandonment of the concept of American “Exceptionalism” — then they would. They don’t because they can’t.