Murder, my ass

April 6th, 2010

I just watched the leaked video of the killing of two journalists and a number of other Iraqis by U.S. attack helicopters in Iraq in 2007.

The publisher of the leaked video, cialis decease WikiLeaks, sovaldi sale obviously believes the video is evidence of intentional homicide. (The web site they built to display the video is named Collateral Murder.) But from the video the attack was clearly a misunderstanding.

The audio indicates the helicopter pilots thought the men were armed (they mistook a camera for a weapon and one of the other men does seem to have an AK-47). Ground troops in the area had just been fired upon.

The attack was horribly tragic, ailment but it was obviously a case of mistaken identity not murder.

WikiLeaks slows the gun camera footage down and zooms in to reveal that the pilots were mistaken about the camera being an RPG, but the pilots were in combat not a computer lab.They didn’t have the luxury of playing the video back and enhancing it. They were making decisions literally on the fly.

This shooting was a horrible event and my heart feels for the victims and their families.

But, if anything, this footage actually supports the military’s version of events. The pilots clearly thought they were firing on armed insurgents who had just attacked their ground troops. They tried to ascertain the threat. They asked for permission to fire. They didn’t purposefully murder unarmed civilians, which seems to be the conclusion WikiLeaks wants us to reach.

Entry Filed under: Observations

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. grumps  |  April 6th, 2010 at 2:57 pm


  • 2. Elliot  |  April 6th, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    I still feel sick about it, though. Especially, for the kids.

    If I ran the world, nothing bad would ever happen to a child.

  • 3. John Foust  |  April 7th, 2010 at 8:58 am

    When you add the effect on the survivors in the neighborhood, and multiply by how many times this sort of misidentification and remote-control slaughter has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, then what do you think and how do you feel?

  • 4. Elliot  |  April 7th, 2010 at 10:23 am

    I think it’s horrible.

    All wars are horrible, but sometimes they’re necessary.

    The tough part is figuring out which are necessary and which are not.

    I’m not 100% convinced any war the US has fault in my lifetime was truly necessary.

  • 5. John Foust  |  April 7th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    WikiLeak’s page uses the phrases “indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people” and “unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers”. As described on their pages, their mission is to release information that isn’t coming out through the regular channels, as verified as best they can. I don’t see where they suggest that the soldiers “purposefully murder unarmed civilians”. You don’t like the juxtaposition of “collateral” and “murder”? You’d prefer “collateral damage”? The killings were not intentional? Maybe you have some advice to give us from other realms, say, in choosing book titles with sly double-meanings and provocative implications.

    I think you need to ask yourself if you approve of a system that allows for such error and such ease in remote-control killing. “It saves American lives,” they’ll say, as if to reinforce the notion that some lives are more important than others. What’s the relevance of “asking permission to fire” in such a situation? You argue that the remote-video wasn’t clear enough to accurately determine friend-or-foe, the misidentification is passed along in confident tones in rapid-fire communication, that such approval shifts blame, and a few mouse-clicks later, they’ve zapped a dozen lives and the people who tried to help them. How many others in Iraq and Afghanistan were killed in situations like this? Did you actually hear any Bush administration officials ask “Gee, but what effect will collateral damage cause in generations to come?”

    (See also “Iraq slaughter not an aberration”.)

  • 6. David Casper  |  April 7th, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    I’m missing something here. Where does it say this is a “remote-control” killing. By that I assume you’re referring to a drone. But this appears to be a manned Apache doing the firing, i.e. “shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site.”

    There’s a distinct difference between the two, the most obvious being that there’s a real person sitting right there in the aircraft, not miles away in a hanger.

    Also, using words such as “indiscriminate” and “unprovoked” doesn’t mesh with what appears to be a military aircraft being in a warzone and being fired upon. I’ll give you “mis-identified,” but it’s obvious from the video that the pilot/gunner believes one of the men is holding an RPG and there is weapon fire. They may have been seriously mistaken, but again, there’s a difference.

  • 7. John Foust  |  April 7th, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    No, by “remote-control” I was referring to the distance, and the manner in which the US troops are often quite out of reach from the weapons of their targets. Do you think the copter was at risk? I didn’t verify the distance, but the copter certainly wasn’t hovering in place. Maybe an unguided RPG could reach it, maybe not. I believe the report said troops in the area had been fired upon, but it didn’t say they’d fired on the gunship, right?

  • 8. David Casper  |  April 8th, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Are you attempting to assert that it’s somehow “unfair” for US troops to be using weaponry that keeps them at a safe distance from those they are engaging? When an IED is employed against US troops, those that used it typically enjoy a similar “distance.” Military forces throughout history have sought weaponry that will inflict the greatest amount of damage on an enemy without endangering themselves. I’m sure the first army to brandish a trebuchet thought themselves pretty fortunate to be able to fight an enemy from a relatively safe distance. This isn’t something new. Warfare isn’t meant to provide some sort of level playing field. The idea is to have bigger, better and more deadly weaponry with which to defeat your enemy.

    Which brings me to your point that it was the ground troops being fired upon, not the Apache. The men and women piloting aircraft over a battlefield are on the same side as the men and women on the ground, providing close air support. From what you’re saying, I get the feeling you think it’s only appropriate to engage ground troops with ground troops. Well, that’s simply not how it works. See the last two sentences of my previous paragraph.

    Do I think the chopper was it risk from being hit by an RPG? Yes. It’s entirely possible. Even if it didn’t directly hit the aircraft, shrapnel could have caused enough damage to injure the pilots or bring it down. Hell, AK fire could penetrate the cockpit and take out the crew. And the fact that the aircraft was manned and in now way “remote-controlled” means that there were people on board forced to make the decision of “it’s us or them.” Once again, “us” includes not only the chopper crew but also the forces on the ground. But whether or not the aircraft was fired upon or in danger is moot. Their comrades on the ground were. As such, the “enemy” was engaged.

    Don’t get me wrong. This is an extremely unfortunate incident. But from what I’ve read there was an RPG found on the scene afterwards and some of these men were carrying weapons in a place where the ONLY people that are supposed to have them are either coalition forces or the Iraqi military and police. The pilots did the right thing by protecting themselves and their fellow troops on the ground. The real problem here is that there was some sort of cover-up, and that’s where the focus should be, not on telling soldiers being fired upon that they shouldn’t have responded because they were in a relatively safe position.

  • 9. Debunked  |  April 8th, 2010 at 9:10 am

    With great power, comes great responsibility.

    If you’re going to have the capability to click a button and kill a dozen people from a kilometer away, then you should also have the capability of ensuring that the people you are firing on are a threat.

    From what I can tell, they confused a camera and a tripod for an RPG and an AK-47.

    You are correct. The problem isn’t that the soldiers fired given the circumstances. The problem is, first of all, the cover up. And second, that they have the capability to easily kill a large number of people over that distance but they don’t have the capability to confirm that group of people are a threat?

    Oh, and in response to the topic post – titling the video “Collateral Murder” isn’t saying that the soldiers committed intentional homicide. It’s a sensationalist headline designed to cause provocation. Something that you yourself (as well as pretty much every other blogger in the world) is guilty of.

  • 10. John Foust  |  April 10th, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Dave, I’m not trying to make some lame slippery-slope argument. Debunked summarizes it pretty well. Is our goal to zap every pair of suspicious characters walking down a dusty street in some tiny Afghan town? What error rate is acceptable in that situation? What cost is too high?

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