Visual Intelligence: IED Attacks from Wikileaks’ Afghan War Diary

This is probably my favourite YouTube video for the year–an astonishing application of the raw data from the Afghanistan war logs released by Wikileaks. It is deceptively simple, but as an amateur video editor I can only begin to imagine the formidable knowledge and skills required to animate this data, and to send a message at the same time, much the same message intended by the Wikileaks team in statements to the press–a widening war, reaching alarming new heights of tragedy. Does the video itself sanitize deaths by reducing them to blips and numbers ticking up at hyper speed? Not really–it focuses us on the whole picture, a combined effect of many discrete instances. The music is meant to aid in conveying drama. Two other versions exist: one, the original by this video master, Shannon Larrat at, accompanied by the song by Iron Maiden, “Run to the Hills,” about the conquest and resistance of the Natives of the Americas by Europeans. The other is a larger, silent version produced by The Guardian, as shown here. One can download the original data sets from either of the last two sources.

A more specific message, perhaps the one originally intended by Shannon with his choice of song is: they are fighting back. Julian Assange put it differently in one of his recent television interviews,

The Taleban are part of the will of the Afghan people. The Taleban are Afghanis [sic]. This is a civil war that is going on, and the Taleban are part of the will of the Afghan people….In terms of bodies on the ground, the people  actually doing the work, the Taleban is part of the will of the Afghan people. The United States and other forces need to recognize and understand that is part of the Afghan people, and if you are shooting the Taleban you are shooting the Afghan people.”

They may also be part of the will of Pakistan’s ISI and the will of Saudi Arabia, he notes in between.  And he notes that he does not mean to suggest that the Taleban have no blood on their hands, and the released records do not paint any of the armed parties to the conflict in a positive light. The following is a video of Taleban IED makers, in the process of making one, and then–warning–detonating it as a pickup truck passes along a road, utterly disintegrating it and its many occupants, of which no trace remains apart from fragments of the truck. These are the same devices that have caused vast numbers of civilians to be killed and wounded, as well as effectively challenging the advance of NATO forces.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

We are also building up a Wikileaks Afghan War Diary video stream on ZATV.

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2 thoughts on “Visual Intelligence: IED Attacks from Wikileaks’ Afghan War Diary

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