Permission to Engage (2010)


Permission to Engage was inspired by a military video titled "Collateral Murder" that I watched from a website called WikiLeaks. The complete footage is about forty minutes long, and shows the U.S. Apache helicopter gun crew killing innocent civilians on a street in Baghdad, Iraq.  For soldiers, requesting "permission to engage" is the proper way to ask if one can start shooting.  As I listened to the conversation between the soldiers, I was struck by how human beings can be desensitized to the taking of lives.  Once desensitized, one may even develop an enjoyment out of the killing process itself.  The automatic and rhythmic sounds of gunshots at one moment in my piece depict this perverse pleasure in violence that is developed once one's heart no longer feels the value of human lives.


Yet, soldiers are not the only ones that suffer from this emotional paralysis.  As viewers of the video, we also cannot feel the real fear, pain, or sorrow as long as we are not directly involved.   The soldiers whose voices we hear have opened fire not only because they were trained to carry out orders, but also because they have lost the ability to trust the other and feared for their own lives.  I dedicate this piece to all the innocent who had died at war.   

© 2020 by Sang Mi Ahn (안상미). All rights reserved.

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