In praise of Ethan McCord

* Update 9 May *
Note to self: don’t publish blog posts late at night while still processing confronting information just consumed in front of large screen. It may give incorrect impression on ticker, resolve etc, and things will be different in the morning. Same goes for sending emails to careless tradesmen, irresponsible colleagues etc. Yes, the feelings will be the same (you will not turn into an automaton) but your response may be more appropriately communicated. Carry on.
= = = = =

I’m beginning to  think I don’t have the stomach, the ticker, the resolve to continue studying International Relations. I’ve just watched John Pilger’s documentary The War You Don’t See, and I wish I hadn’t seen part of it; the children, dead and dismembered, strewn across the rubble of destruction wreaked by distant, emotionally removed soldiers – the good guys of our Western narrative.

Remember the Wikileaks footage of the US Apache helicopter shooting at the group of civilians, including the Reuters cameraman (and, now I discover, two children)? This footage is discussed in the documentary, and this post is as a result of that footage.

In particular, I want to congratulate Ethan McCord.

He was one of the first US foot soldiers to arrive on the scene after the shooting, and I won’t go into detail here on what he saw, or what he did, other than he acted humanely – more humanely than his superiors wanted him to.

He has since left the army, and has spoken in various public arenas about the experience on the day of the shooting. Here he is addressing the United National Peace Conference in New York in July 2010.  The full 17-minute Wikileaks video of the Apache footage, shown to this crowd just before McCord made these remarks, can be found here – but a warning, it’s confronting, and you’ll have to sign in.

This link on The China Rose site has an interview which brings us more up to date with McCord’s activities. Here is the apology letter he refers to in this interview, which I think is magnificent.

So congratulations to Ethan McCord for not letting his military training get in the way of being a compassionate human being, first and foremost. I know the purists will argue, “he should have done his job, he could have let his team down, that’s what he signed up for, that’s what he’s paid for,” etc. But I don’t think too many purists are ever put in his position.

And this post – having taken an hour or so to write – has now re-inspired me, again, to keep watching and reading and learning about the geopolitical horrors occurring around the world. But what can I do with this knowledge?

Watching a doco like Pilger’s makes you feel so helpless, so completely impotent (such a good word to use in this world of men at war); that, as one person in li’l ol’ Western Australia, what difference can I make? And yet McCord is just one man; a man who, at one stage, was part of what Assange and others call the military-industrial complex and yet he has made a big difference in his individual way.

I’m just going to check the boys are asleep now.

In WWI, civilians accounted for 10% of deaths.
In WWII, civilian deaths had risen to 50% of all casualties.
During the Vietnam War, 70% of deaths were civilians.
Poor Iraq.  Nearly 90% of the deaths have been civilian men, woman and children – one million people. And that’s just Iraq.


  1. Just a note of thanks for linking to my site. I posted this article about Ethan because he is someone I admire, and I am hoping that others who read about him will act on their conscience, whatever their current position is. Ethan’s moral decision was very courageous, but it always takes courage to speak truth to power, whether it is at the grocery store, or talking to co-workers, friends, neighbors, family, PTA, whatever. So few people have this kind of integrity. I believe its the lack of solidarity which is killing us all. Whenever we fear or despise each other and cave in to this craven cowardice, there are politicians, CEOs, or talking heads who will discover how (like vampires) they can exploit our weaknesses to aggrandize their own power or profits.

    So to Ethan McCord, all conscientous objectors, whistleblowers, activists, and insurgentes — you have my deepest thanks and respect!


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