Investigative organization WikiLeaks released classified U.S. military video today showing the killing of more than a dozen Iraqis, including two Reuters employees, with a spokesperson for the whistle-blower group slamming the soldiers involved for their "video game" like behavior.
That video, which is incredibly disturbing and graphic, shows a group of Iraqis walking the streets of New Baghdad, identified as armed "insurgents" by military personnel. The group, which reportedly included Reuters photojournalist Namir Noor-Eldeen and assistant Saeed Chmagh, is gunned down by a pair of Apache attack helicopters. Later, a minivan that appears to come to the assistance of the wounded is fired upon.
Australian journalist and WikiLeaks advisory board member Julian Assange released the video at the National Press Club in Washington. "The behavior of the pilots is like they're playing a video game," said Assange, according to a report from Fox News. "It's like they want to get high-scores in that computer game."
Assange may be referring to the detached, casual nature of the dialogue between military personnel and the excitable language following the attack. While the comparison of real-world violence to that of video games isn't uncommon, in this case, it's perhaps accurate, if a bit inflammatory.
The gruesome video will be visually familiar to anyone who has played through Infinity Ward's most recent Call of Duty games, in which the player pilots an AC-130 gunship in an attack on ground forces. The in-game dialogue in Modern Warfare 2, which closely mirrors that of the WikiLeaks-released video, appears to be just as realistic in its nature as the piloting of a military aircraft and the destructive firepower inflicted upon human beings.
Clearly, some games like Modern Warfare and Battlefield, the aim for a high level of realism, but the unsettling video released by WikiLeaks may put that virtual violence in a new context for some viewers. Whether its appropriate to toss out a "video game" comparison in a grim story like this is up for discussion.