Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Friendly US Firer Still Not Sorry

U.S. pilot who dropped bomb on Canadian soldiers haunted by memories

Pumped up on "go pills" on an 11 hour flight mission in Afganistan on April 17, 2002, US pilot Maj. Harry Schmidt dropped the bomb that killed four Canadians and injured eight more. They were part of the Edmonton-based Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. He says it wasn't his fault. It was the fog. It was the fog that made him not recognize the Canadians who were doing a live fire exercise on the ground. He thought that they might be the Taliban instead. It was a foggy so he couldn't really see much, except he saw fire, so he dropped the bomb.

He still hasn't apologized. Bush did that officially for him. The message was sent along. The apology was official, professional, but impersonal and ingenuine. If someone had to tell me my son was dead because someone thought they looked vaguely like the al-Queda, I'd want some first-hand explanation. But afterall, according to him it is not his duty or responsibility to apologize. One might see him as a little stubborn. He conjures up a situation of himself as a helpless victim of autocracy. It would be different if he had his own liberty to exercise his conscience (yes, try to entertain the argument) or his will perhaps, but as he says, he was "just along for the ride."

Now, everyone makes mistakes. There's a whole list of them here. I guess that's how you justify dropping a bomb on a wedding, or your submarine kills a bunch of Japanese schoolchildren -I'm only human, cut me some slack. As one of my much-loved English professors, Gregor Campbell, once asked: "how do you apologize for bombing someone's village?"

Perhaps that is the question Maj. Harry Schmidt is struggling with, or at least one that is similar. He hasn't even had time to deal with greif because he's had to defend everyone including the military and his family for the actions that the military itself deemed "arrogant" and undisciplined. What a martyr he is for putting away his own sensitivity for the benefit of us all! He is such a rock!

It was stupid that no one informed him that Canadians would be practicing in the area, but if he had no go-ahead then why did he make up his own rules? When permission to drop the bomb was denied, he did it anyway. It is not as if his nerves just accidentally seized up and he pressed a wrong button unpremeditatively. He just did it anyway. Maybe he just felt like finishing up his shift early. I don't know.

I realize that I empathize with soldiers only as someone who knows nothing about the stress of always being potentially under attack by terrorists, except that as a Canadian or as a pacifist or as a guy who likes to walk on the left side of the street sometimes wearing headphones and blowing bubbles, I AM always potentially under attack by terrorists. I've had controlling bosses in the past, but if a job tells me to do things that go against my conscience, I quit. In the case of soldiers, they go AWOL. In this case, NO ONE EVEN ASKED HIM TO DROP A BOMB. So I guess I just don't understand why, even if he's not sorry because of some PTSS or other encephalous malfunction, he doesn't just apologize anyway. He could monotonously say "sorry" since his track record proves that he can be impulsive at times. It would be something.

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Blogger paulmonster said...

For what it's worth, I'm sorry.

I'm reading Lawrence Weschler's brilliant book, Vermeer in Bosnia, and he makes an excellent point about how war crimes tribunals like the big one at The Hague are all about assigning personal responsibility, precisely so that people can stop prancing around blaming the higher-ups, or the fog, or the culture, or The Bad Guys. (There's a stunning anecdote about how Weschler was walking the site of a massacre, Muslim bodies everywhere, and he comes upon a Serb sentry and asks him what happened here. The Serb, who's a teenager, takes a long pull on his cigarette and he says, "Well, in 1389...")

So, for what it's worth, you have my sympathy and my solidarity. I promise you, there are those of us in this country who continue to work for peace and responsibility. Please do not think for a moment that the arrogant hubris of our government characterizes all of us.

7:15 p.m.  
Blogger sirbarrett said...

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7:40 p.m.  
Blogger The Lioness said...

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4:56 a.m.  

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