“War is Cruelty” – WT Sherman

 "…the second unarmed survivor as Mr. Chmagh, who runs along a row of houses until he too, is shot, and lies writhing on the ground – apparently unable to get up. The helicopter keeps its cross-hairs on the injured man while one of the US soldiers jokingly pleads over his radio "all you have to do is pickup up a weapon" – which would have allowed him to finish the man off under US rules of engagement at the time. There is no weapon visible.

Shortly thereafter, a minivan pulls up alongside the injured Iraqi. From aboard the US helicopter, a soldier asks, "Can I shoot?" and is then heard requesting "permission to engage?" At that point, another voice – presumably an officer not on scene – asks if the van is "picking up the wounded" and is told that they are. Two Iraqis from the van carry the wounded man around the side of the van to load him inside.

An American voice with the call sign "Bushmaster 7" says, "Roger, engage." One of the helicopters blankets the van with machine-gun fire. The two Iraqis who were loading the wounded man inside scattered, but are quickly cut down as they try to flee"  Dan Murphy


What happened here?

1- The attack helicopter was evidently there to provide fire support for US infantry in a nearby street.  These ground troops are the men in Bradley AFVs who show up after the helicopter stopped killing people.

2-  The helicopter was supposed to shoot up people identified under ROE existing then as insurgents.  This identification depended on things like carrying weapons or activity that indicated hostile status.  Correct me if I am mistaken, but I do not think that shooting people carrying off what are believed to enemy wounded is a violation of the law of war unless the "bearers" are marked as medical personnel.  Is that cruel and heartless?  Yes.  Sherman was right.

3- The helicopter crew was clearly "leaning forward" in its eagerness to do the job.  I think this is what shocks and surprises a lot of civilians who would like to think of soldiers as wounded or victimized children.  Don't worry, the passing of years will bring all the emotional stress that a therapist might hope for.

4-  In any event. their higher headquarters (probably that of the infantry they were supporting) cleared them "hot" to engage, cleared them twice in fact.

5-  Bottom line from the Army's point of view – a misidentification of the victims by the helicopter crew.

6-  Cover Up?  No.  A local inquiry would undoubtedly decide that this was an accident, stupid, but an accident.   Since this would not be legally actionable, that would be the end of it.  The Army does not think it has an obligation to inform the public when its people "screw up." 

Step back and look at this from the perspective of the whole war.  The decision to invade Iraq and to introduce a heavily armed and very capable modern fighting force into an urban combat environment led directly to that moment in Baghdad when two men, probably in their mid-twenties, decided to kill a group of unfortunates on the street below.  The conditions of the war made this sort of thing inevitable.

In a very real sense the Bush Administration itself killed these people.  pl 


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121 Responses to “War is Cruelty” – WT Sherman

  1. kao_hsien_chih says:

    I think your last observation that the blame for the deaths of these people ultimately lies with the Bush administration is spot on.
    War is ultimately messy–as would any chaotic environment where good information is scarce and a lot of dangerous materials are flying about all over the place. Bad things will happen, no matter how careful the participants are. Attempting to pin the blame on those on the scene, whether intentionally or not, often winds becoming an exercise in shifting blame away from those who are ultimately responsible for the whole mess itself–the war, especially if it were a “mistake”–to those who may or may not be directly responsible for the messy execution–even if execution is almost certainly bound to be messy by nature of the enterprise.

  2. Cato the Censor says:

    In a very real sense the Bush Administration itself killed these people.
    That would make the members of the Bush Administration war criminals, from the chief executive down to every level of involved decision maker. How many other incidents like this happened that weren’t captured on videotape? Bush and his crew are probably the worst war criminals in this nation’s history. Yet due to the current dysfunctional state of extreme moral and political rot in America, they will in all likelihood go scot free for their crimes with no judgment except that in history books written when they’re either dead or elderly.

  3. BillWade says:

    I 100% agree with Colonel Lang. It’s a damn shame and it should have never happened in the first place but I would also blame the Congress for letting Bush get away with murder.
    Compared to Abu Graib (sp?), this is a relatively minor incident and no fault should be placed on the shoulders of the troops.

  4. HJFJR says:

    Before everyone jumps on the ship of the Bush administration condemnation let put this all in perspective (BTW there is plenty to condemn but I believe that is a separate and distinct discussion). When this incident occurred Congress was controlled by the Democrats and not the Republicans, so if they has chosen to they could have cut the money off and required our troops to pull out. Moreover this incident occurred four years after our invasion where I would argue we were no longer the invader but the occupier. Second, this was at the height of the surge period when the US was just beginning to commit five more Brigade Combat Teams, it was at the height of violence in Iraq. As someone who served in Iraq (albeit on the staff of MNFI) I can tell you that engagements like this are chaotic and people are having to make split second decisions without perfect information. Third I am suspicious of leaked material that is not verified as authentic and is perhaps missing important aspect which were not recorded. What was the transmissions between the Infantry on the ground and their higher headquarters, not just between the Apache Unit and the Infantry on the ground. What other helicopters were on the scene, were their Scout birds (OH58C or D) in support of the Apaches. What was the intelligence. Fourth, my guess is there was an exhaustive AR 15-6 investigation done of this incident which for reasons known only to the Appointing Authority the Army has chosen not to release. Those reasons could be from the mundane to protecting intelligence and intelligence sources.
    I am with COL Lang on this, as Sherman said, “War is Terrible.” It is shame this incident happen, but it awful easy for armchairs Generals to second guess those who are being shot at, particularly if they have an ax to grind.

  5. Phil Giraldi says:

    Exactly. The public tends to forget that you recruit and train soldiers so they can kill people. If they are enthusiastic about their jobs some might view that as a moral tragedy but it is nevertheless what the work is all about. The criminals in this case are the politicians and media types who put those soldiers there in the first place for no good reason and fighting the type of war that can only produce horrible incidents.

  6. JohnH says:

    Absolutely! The “conditions of the war made this sort of thing inevitable.”
    And part of those conditions was the embedding journalists to write an unending stream of favorable stories. Another part was to shield the American people from any images, including coffins of dead soldiers, that might provide a clue as to the reality of war or give a negative impression of what the “good guys” were doing in their fight against “the terrorists.”
    We really need more of these videos to give Americans an accurate picture of the true costs of war to counter the “bring it on” bravado of the Bushies, their neocon allies, and many Hollywood war films.
    Only then can we be sure that America is fighting justified wars, not just a bunch of “cool, wars of choice.”

  7. Vicente says:

    I can’t believe nobody is talking about the timing of this video’s disclosure – coming weeks after Allawi’s slate cleans up in nat. elections and just as the US is all but pulling up the stakes on their combat presence in the country.
    Combine this with the bombings of the last week, and I am forced to conclude that someone or several persons or groups are none too pleased that Iraq has not reignited into a internicine killing field. They are doing their damndest to throw some coleman fuel on those embers, and this video’s release is a part of it.
    Whistleblowers my foot. Someone wanted this out, knowing what it would engender in the public eye (in Iraq, that is). The motivations are self evident.

  8. jr786 says:

    The naqsbandiyya tell the story of a thief who was entering a house through a window when the frame slipped. He fell to the ground and broke his leg, at the precise moment the police were passing by. Hauled before the qadi, the thief acknowledged his guilt but complained that he, too, had been wronged: What about my broken leg, he asked, don’t I deserve some consideration? The qadi conceded the point and summoned the owner of the house, who in turn complained that he hadn’t built the house, after all; they brought the builder. He said it wasn’t his fault that the frame slipped but rather that of the carpenter who cut and placed it in the wall. They summoned the carpenter. He defended his skills and asserted that any clumsy job was because he had been distracted by a beautiful woman who passed by when he was installing the window. The judge patiently had the woman found and summoned. But when she heard what was going on, she asked the judge to look at her; she was hardly a beauty. She claimed it wasn’t her features that distracted the carpenter but her clothes, which she was wearing. They summoned the tailor; who in turn pointed out that clothes were just clothes; it wasn’t the cut but the colors that had turned the head of the carpenter. And this the judge could see since the woman’s clothes were truly dazzling. Having finally arrived at the real culprit, they summoned the dyer.
    Who turned out to be the woman’s husband.
    Him they hanged.

  9. jr786 says:

    Forgot to mention the the dyer was the thief.

  10. somebody says:

    1. It is a PR desaster above else. People at home are not supposed to know what war means.
    US soldiers are supposed to protect the civilian population, remember?
    2. How come sone simple relevant questions are not asked, even now? This is a Baghdad residential area. Were people there warned before it was turned into a battlefield?
    Would anybody have moved so casually on the street if people had been warned? How come only the two reporters are known individuals among the dead? The others must have relatives, too.
    3. Seems to me the soldiers were told to shoot at anybody carrying a weapon. I guess Iraquis felt they had to be able to defend their homes. Carrying a weapon is not the legal definition of being a combatant. Or are there strict gun laws in the US?
    4. No colonel, you are not allowed to shoot at an unarmed person who is trying to help an unarmed wounded person.That would qualify as murder under any circumstances.
    5. July 2007 was the surge month with the least US fatalities. It is absolutely understandable that people try to make it as safe as possible for themselves. I suppose those helicopters were meant to err on the side of civilian deaths.
    6. Somehow I do not share your optimism, colonel, that Afghanistan is the better war.
    7. This video has made both wars futile, the US is demonstrated as incapable and unwilling of granting security to the population.

  11. Arun says:

    Does the discussion of incidents like this help the President, Congress people and voters understand the consequences of their somewhat ignorant decisions to go to war?

  12. Adam L Silverman says:

    I just wanted to make a couple of points, one reemphasizing something you said in a previous comment thread in regard to this.
    1) From what passes for news reporting: The US unit the Apaches were supporting had actually come under fire the next block over.
    2) All Iraqi males (and I’m sure Green Zone Cafe can attest to this as well and all other SST readers who’ve been or are deployed in Iraq too) over a set age are authorized to possess one AK-47 and a set amount of ammo each month. Many Iraqis have additional weapons; some with official permits, including the local variant of carry permits (I know a local judge, some sheikhs, some council members, and several SOI leaders that all had these or were trying to get them) and it is NOT uncommon to see Iraqis walking around armed (or it least it wasn’t when I was there in 2008).
    3) This incident took place in 2007, at the height of the Surge. Part of the reason the Surge was needed: the Iraqis, especially in the City of Baghdad and its immediate environs (ie areas where there were mixed Sunni/Shi’a neighborhoods, as well as Arab/Kurd neighborhoods, and Muslim/Chaldean neighborhoods) were communally cleaning themselves along ethno-sectarian, ethno-linguistic, and/or ethno-religious lines. So there was a lot of high tension, Iraqi on Iraqi violence, let alone Iraqi on Coalition or Coalition on Iraqi violence.
    4) This brings me to a paraphrased, semi-reiteration, and expansion of COL (ret) Lang’s point from a previous comment thread: these gunship units are combat units. They are there to protect the troops, provide fire support, and kill the enemy. What far to many never realize, because it never makes it through the sound bite, Red State/Blue State parametered media is that in COINOps there are three phases (in the COIN shorthand): Clear, Hold, and Build. A good chunk of what was going on in 2007, especially in the urban environs of Baghdad City and its environs (even those in the adjacent provinces) was Clearing and Holding. These are much more kinetic and lethal phases than late stage Holding, let alone Building. Moreover, a large number of the Army leadership, both in and out of Iraq, were still coming around to GEN Petraeus’s COIN guidance. For all the smart commanders or officers or senior NCOs that got it even before it was pushed forward as official policy (the MEF CDR in Anbar in 2004 who tried to cut a deal with the Sunni tribal leadership, but was shut down by Wolfowitz, LTC Nagl and his Armor Battalion, LTC Kolasheweski and his Cavalry Battalion, and many others), a lot of people were still learning to do this; and they were learning the hard way. Moreover, they often had very, very kinetic problem sets to deal with: the cleansings, interdictions of IED materials and networks, what the media calls insurgents and terrorists, but who were all too often local thugs and organized criminals using terrorizing tactics to enrich themselves, and many more.
    As COL (ret) Lang wrote to expect combat personnel to simply give up a career’s worth of training on how to engage in an operational sense and suddenly embrace wandering around, asking about prices in the market, and drinking tea is simply naive. Its both a testament to the quality of US forces and their coalition allies that so many were able to make the mental leap and try a new way of operating and that more of these unfortunate incidents did not happen.

  13. RJH says:

    “In a very real sense the Bush Administration itself killed these people.”
    Precisely. And aided and abetted by that administration’s alleluia chorus, which included Andrew Sullivan, who now is calling the Pentagon to account for this. I guess Sullivan really believed smart bombs would make it cleaner, and, therefore, it was okay to tell lies in furtherance of his greater good (heaven on earth).
    The war was not justified. That’s the crime here.

  14. Cieran says:

    And who elected the Bush administration?

  15. par4 says:

    It’s easy to blame Bush/Cheney,yes they should be prosecuted, but ultimately in a democracy ALL citizens are responsible because it is supposed to be OUR government.

  16. Patrick Lang says:

    “No colonel, you are not allowed to shoot at an unarmed person who is trying to help an unarmed wounded person.That would qualify as murder under any circumstances.”
    Is this a moral or a legal opinion?
    I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you are engaged with an irregular force who are not uniformed. You have knocked down several of them, and others show up to carry off their wounded and/or dead. These people are not wearing red cross arm bands nor are they otherwise marked as medical personnel in the sense of the Geneva Conventions.
    You maintain that they are not legitimate targets? If you do, what is your argument? pl

  17. R Whitman says:

    There is no crime here. Only GI’s doing their job. It could have been me 55 years ago in the US Army.(for the record I never got within 5000 miles of any combat zone).
    The real error by the US Military was supressing this tape for two years. Material this embarrassing will always be leaked. There are probably many other tapes in the same vein. They need to be made public now and get this nonsense over with, otherwise we may have an”Embarrassing Leaked Tape of the Month Club”.

  18. Nancy K says:

    I have always felt that we should not go to war against another country unless it is so needed that we do so, that we are all willing for ourselves and our children and grandchild to fight and die if need be.
    Too many arm chair warriors love war, banging their chests and declaring water boarding and blanket bombing is just fine ie Rush Limbaugh and William Kristol for example.
    I think all should listen to the words of one of the greatest Generals, Robert E Lee when he declared “It is well that war is so terrible or we should grow too fond of it.”
    Young men with adrenaline flowing can pretend that it is all a video game, but someday they will return home, and view it all in perhaps a different context. As a nurse, over 20 years as a psychiatric nurse, I heard many stories and know that war can be very terrible, to those that died, but also the living.

  19. kd2kd says:

    You are exactly right. It was the decision to begin this travesty that led to this tragedy and thousands more like it. These young men and women were/are put in extraordinarily complex situations and they did/do their best.
    But where is the justice? I believe that our culture requires, at least, the attempt at justice.
    Is voting the guilty out of office the only remedy? I do not feel that it is enough. Would not a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as was done in South Africa be useful? If not to punish, at least as a means of public education. Do you think that this “remedy” would be of use in America?

  20. JoeC says:

    Agree 100% with Colonel Lang. Saw similar actions in RVN – not the fault of the marines I served with, but the fault of those who put them in the situations they were in – although dealing with main force NVA one day and VC and booby traps the next can be disorienting.
    The initial NPR report on this had some important context info (if true) –
    1. This occurred very close to Sadr City in a period of serious US forces conflict with Sadr’s militia; and
    2. One person was apparently determined after the fact to have been carrying an AK and another an RPG.

  21. Under our Constitution, Congress declares war. This was placed into the Constitution by the Founding Fathers as a restraint on arbitrary Executive action which would drag our nation into war without due consideration of the elected representatives.
    Although war was not formally declared, Congress did “authorize” the use of force which the Bush Admin used.
    About 3/4 of the House and 3/4 of the Senate voted for war (force) against Iraq. Many of those members are still in Congress and have the blood on THEIR hands.
    The decision to go to war is the gravest decision a nation can make. Col. Lang’s point is very well taken.

  22. Jose says:

    Sir, these were Warrant Officers not enlistees, so they have to be held to a higher standard.
    The person authorizing the additional firing was probably a Commissioned Officer, so again he must be held to a higher standard.
    If you want to blame the Commander-in-Chief, you also blame the whole chain of command.
    Combined with the SF fiasco in Afghanistan, this being to show a lack of discipline in out forces.
    Since you serve several tours in Vietnam, do you think the stress is beginning to break our forces?

  23. joe brand says:

    We’ve been deluged for years with prattle about American troops building schools and helping Iraqi neighborhoods. And now we’re stunned: Oh my God, the military is killing people! What went wrong?
    Generals McChrystal and Petraeus have helped to sell the fantasy. A few officers on active duty have pushed back — Gian Gentile comes to mind. He’s engaged in a running debate with John Nagl, centered on the theme that soldiers aren’t really social workers and that military institutions exist to kill the nation’s enemies. High heresy in the days of the colonial constabulary — arms are for nurturing, apparently.

  24. WP says:

    For the sake of argument, consider your comment to somebody, “I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you are engaged with an irregular force who are not uniformed. You have knocked down several of them, and others show up to carry off their wounded and/or dead. These people are not wearing red cross arm bands nor are they otherwise marked as medical personnel in the sense of the Geneva Conventions.”
    Let’s take it for what the truth may be. The invaders doing the shooding invaded without provocation and used a cloak of lies to the justify a criminal invasion. The invaded country posed no real threat to the invader.
    The irregular troops are patriots defending their homeland against the invaders. The irregulars were just there and not holding any weapons or doing any hostile act against the shooters. They were just there to be “eliminated.”
    How can the shooters, soldiers of the criminal invaders, be justtifed for killing the irregulars? Doesn’t it just compound the initial crime.
    Does the obvious enthusiasm in killing on the part of the shooters make any difference at all?
    This is the way a large part of the world sees US in Iraq.

  25. Cloned Poster says:

    Ok sorry Mr Pat Lang, next time we are invaded by the USA, when we Iraq are on our knees. We will get proper stickers on our ambulance fleet.

  26. Don Quijote says:

    And who elected the Bush administration?
    In 2000 that would have been the USSC, in 2004 the great American Public in it’s wisdom…

  27. Patrick Lang says:

    are you the usual CP? I doubt it. As for the stickers, good idea, or a can of paint. It would have blocked these guys from shooting. pl

  28. Paul Escobar says:

    To all those concerned…
    If you really gave a damn about those dead & injured people, you’d be doing your best to get good folks elected.
    That would mean you’d have to give up your free time to organize & educate.
    You’d have to answer FDR’s challenge: “Make me do it…”.
    For some of you, that’s too high a sacrifice.
    It’s much easier having some lawyer scaring & punishing soldiers.
    What do you think? Enlistment will run dry & you’ll be spared horrific combat video?
    That seems alot easier than challenging our academic & political elites…who only sent those soliders into hell, in the first place.

  29. Patrick Lang says:

    This political argument is utterly irrelevent to the issue of whether or not this helicoper crew acted within the law of war. I know they made a bad decision. pl

  30. Ken Hoop says:

    Of course the blame is proportional but all soldiers are after a short time aware of dissenting vet groups which expose the ongoing barbarism and the corruption of those who set it in motion.
    An example.
    They have some duty to support in some fashion
    the vets telling the truth about the immoral wars.

  31. Patrick Lang says:

    “Does the obvious enthusiasm in killing on the part of the shooters make any difference at all?”
    Not at all. You want them to be enthusiastic. Otherwise you can’t depend on them. You obviously have never served in combat. pl

  32. Patrick Lang says:

    Joe Brand
    Joe. Joe, Try to get your brain to surround the fact that they have done both. pl

  33. Fred Strack says:

    HJFJR, I disagree with both “It’s Bush’s fault” and “Congress voted for it, too” arguments. The likelyhood of Congress cutting off funding is zero; The only chance of Congress cutting off funding was prior to the invasion.
    As the Col. said “”Step back and look at this from the perspective of the whole war. The decision to invade Iraq … The conditions of the war made this sort of thing inevitable.”
    Not just the members of Congress, but every citizen, should always be cognizent that war means killing. Unfortunately it is far easier to find out who Tiger Woods last slept with than it is to get any accurate, and timely, information about Iraq or Afghanistan out of the press. Just look at what is passing for news related to Iran’s nuclear program.
    Dr. Silverman, thanks for the analysis.

  34. Patrick Lang says:

    You found WOs to be semi-divine beings? The officer who cleared the engagement on the radio could not see the target. The pilots could. He had no choice but to accept their view of the situation or not grant clearance. Which would you have done? pl

  35. Secretarybird says:

    “War is cruelty”.
    You might have quoted the whole of Sherman’s sentence:
    “War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.”
    Who brought war to Iraq?

  36. Ali Mirza says:

    How is this different from the situation in the occupied territories? Israel cites similar arguments for there actions in Gaza/West Bank (ROE,active combat zone-tough they add a dehumanizing element). In fact such parallelism has been actively promoted by the hasbara, since 9/11. Their need to have the US tarred with same brush. I need to understand this.

  37. joe brand says:

    They did both. Which one matters more?

  38. Ael says:

    Shooting wounded people who are no longer considered a threat is a clear contravention of the first and second Geneva Conventions.
    As such, it is a war crime.

  39. Jose says:

    At the “after action report,” probable charged the WO’s for falsifying a report.

  40. DanM says:

    I was hoping to get to this again today but Kyrgyzstan intervened. Front line troops should be trained to kill and do everything they can to protect the men fighting with them. Were the Apaches less aggressive a week earlier and some men died as a result? Maybe. Were they convinced that these guys were “Bad guys” based on a briefing before the mission (“might not be up to no good now, but I’m certain they’ll be laying IEDs later”) and see saw a little bit of what they w anted to see? Maybe. Did they get this call wrong? Clearly so, for a variety of reasons.
    I never had a candid talk with a soldier or marine in Iraq who didn’t have some horrible story to tell about a family car getting shot up because they failed to head warnings at a checkpoint and/or because of a frightened/over eager/whatever young man behind a 50 cal.
    They always feel bad about it later, through frequently mixed with anger and exasperation (“why didn’t the fuckers stop the car!?”)
    As the Colonel points out, if you want an army that plays nice with the locals you need a different kind of soldier. But then do we NOT want a military with lots of hyper-aggressive, trained killers? Only if you think Santayana was wrong.
    Shall we have both kinds? Very, very expensive.

  41. Secretarybird says:

    “The officer who cleared the engagement on the radio could not see the target. The pilots could. He had no choice but to accept their view of the situation or not grant clearance. Which would you have done?”
    It’s not what that officer did then, but the decision to cover the whole tragic thing up afterwards, once those in charge could assess what occurred, that is so appalling.

  42. Watcher says:

    For a little clarity, in the Army these days, when a call sign ends with a seven, that is usually the First Sergeant or Command Sergeant Major. Bushmaster 7 in this case would have been the company/troop/battery first sergeant, the commander’s right hand man. If it had been Bushmaster 6, then it would be the actual commander. It would not be unusual for the 1SG to make a call such as this, depending on what was happening on the ground, helping the commander to run the battle.

  43. walrus says:

    Col. Lang,
    “”Does the obvious enthusiasm in killing on the part of the shooters make any difference at all?”
    Not at all. You want them to be enthusiastic. Otherwise you can’t depend on them. You obviously have never served in combat. pl ”
    I respectfuly have to disagree Col. Lang, what’s more, I think the helicopter crew liked what they were doing.
    The images of Iraq that sticks in my mind is this same type of casual brutality. The Two that immediately come to mind are the video of two warthogs during the invasion that were looking for something to kill, they were bored – and find a British Armoured vehicle.
    Then there is a video of one of the “Thunder runs” through Baghdad. In that video a small delivery truck comes out of a side street, obviously unaware of what is happening on the main road, He stops the truck and tries to back away, but the tankers blow him up and kill him anyway.
    Then their is McChrystals recent observation that around Thrity people had been killed at checkpoints, and not one of them had hostile intent.
    Are you also aware that at least one British Officer resigned his commission in disgust after the bombing of retreating Iraqis at towards the end of Gulf War One?
    One may of course argue that a reputation for savagery is a good thing to have, and of course war is hell and accidents happen and all that. Me? I’m not so sure, but what would I know?
    Having said that, if I were a platoon commander under fire in a Baghdad street and a chopper pilot said he could see some bad guys in the area I would immediately ask for their removal, no questions asked.

  44. kassandra says:

    On this, the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, how easy it is for lies and blame to dominate the discussion. Especially after listening to the audio, to that self-congratulatory snickering after killing wounded men and wounding children,there is no doubt who is at fault, jr and his charming story about the Sufi notwithstanding.
    It is no wonder that after each return from deployment, incidents of spousal and child abuse increase dramatically among military families.
    And a reminder, more French civilians were killed during the Normandy invasion than were Allied soldiers. May all the Sufi saints save us from our liberators!

  45. Patrick Lang says:

    Are we all so evil as you think? pl

  46. Patrick Lang says:

    With respect friend I do not think that you have been in sustained combat. pl

  47. Patrick Lang says:

    are you blind or do you not wish to understand. There was no “cover-up.” It was not enough out of the ordinary to merit a cover up. pl

  48. Patrick Lang says:

    I doubt if they were “charged” with anything. pl

  49. Patrick Lang says:

    Joe Brand
    You have made up your mind. You hate us. pl

  50. Patrick Lang says:

    I think Hank is wrong in that the Demos took over Congress when we were in Iraq and policy was well set. What were they to do? Cut off funds for American soldiers in the field? pl

  51. ennui says:

    here is the analysis of a former infantry sergeant with experience in Iraq.
    here is a link to a pdf of the army investigation report.

  52. kao_hsien_chih says:

    Just my two cents about all the people who want to hang low ranking soldiers for supposed “crimes,” figuratively or literally.
    I think these people are eager to make wars not “so terrible,” to twist Lee’s words, because they are (or want to be) so fond of it–but don’t like its looks. These people, to me, are exactly the people who made the war in Iraq happen, who sought to satisfy their own self-righteousness by convincing themselves that these goals can be met at minimal cost in horrors that accompany war. They seek to “sanitize” the practice of war by pinning the blame for ugliness of warfare on soldiers in the field because they still want to cling on to their fantasies that wars can be made sanitary and not “so terrible” because they want to remain as fond of them as they have been.
    Personally, I find these do-gooder warfighters rather disgusting and repulsive, and indeed, even downright evil, should the good colonel permit use of such language on his blog.

  53. WP says:

    I have not had the privilege of serving in combat unless you consider a courtroom combat which, I surmise is not even close to live fire.
    My point was meant to be a legal and not a political one.
    If the question is whether the pilots acted within the laws of war, there is a more fundamental question.
    If a war is an illegal war of agression to begin with, can any member of the illegal agressor’s force ever act within the laws of war?
    As for the individual helicopter pilots and the headquaters staff who authorized the killing, I make no harsh judgment. They seem to me to be doing their job even though they may have erred and I want our soldiers to be enthusiatic. That judgment does not affect the fundamental question of whether any act by the forces of an illegal agressor can be legal.
    I do not restrict, or even particularly apply the facts to Iraq or Afghanistan or any act by the US. I do not here intend one way or the other that the actions of US are legal or not. My question is broader and more fundamental.
    It does not seem to me that any act of the forces of an illegal agressor can be cleansed with the label Legal. The soldiers of an illegal agressor may not be culpable for their participation in an illegal war, but I do not see how they could be acting legally.

  54. Patrick Lang says:

    I have a long record of having opposed the initiation of this war, but I do not remember that it was an ILLEGAL war. The intervention was conducted under the authority of a UN Resolution and with a grant of authority of Congress. pl

  55. Patrick Lang says:

    And where is that? pl

  56. Jose says:

    I “doubt” it too…

  57. samuelburke says:

    no crime?

  58. reader says:

    @anonymous:” The only reason this event got any attention was the presence of mass-media people among the killed. The same mass-media which made the war possible now demands attention to the sacrifice of its peons.
    This is the post-holocaust cynical game of exacting pity from the tragedy of the lower ranks of the very group which makes the tragedy inevitable.”
    Spot on. This is a realism about war as well and has been for centuries. The knights get ransomed and shake hands, peasants get impaled. Every time the US or Germany goes after a 90 year old Nazi prison guard, I am reminded of all the high-level Germans who got off the hook after WW2 because they were “necessary” for the war against communism.
    Does anything change? No, Chelebi swims in his pool, and Bush is back to being a horse-shy fake rancher.

  59. Patrick Lang says:

    a moral crime, but whose? pl

  60. WP says:

    I did not say that the Iraq invasion was illegal, though as explained below, it may well be illegal. Adjudicating the legality of the war is something beyond my portfolio.
    I posed the question more generally. If a war is an illegal war of agression to begin with, can the acts of any member of the illegal agressor’s force ever act to prosecute the war legally?
    In response to your question, there is no clear argument that the invasion was legal. There was no UN resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq, only a resolution finding Iraq to be in violation of prior resolutions and warning of future dire consequences of continued violations.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Security_Council_Resolution_1441, “On November 8, 2002, the Security Council passed Resolution 1441 by a unanimous 15-0 vote; Russia, China, France, and Arab countries such as Syria voted in favor, giving Resolution 1441 wider support than even the 1990 Gulf War resolution. Although the Iraqi parliament voted against honoring the UN resolution, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein over-ruled them.[citation needed]
    While some politicians have argued that the resolution could authorize war under certain circumstances, the representatives in the meeting were clear that this was not the case.”
    Bush “decided” that since Iraq was in breach, he was “justified” in attacking. Rycroft, Matthew (2005-05-01). “The secret Downing Street memo”. London: The Sunday Times. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/election2005/article387390.ece. Bush’s case on the war was presented by Colin Powell and the record is vast on the quality, motivation, and veracity of that presentation. The UN never authorized the invasion, Bush did. The UN only made do with subsequent actions that were made necessary by the fait accompli.
    As for Congressional approval, in the broader view, Congress really does not have the power or the jurisdiction to determine whether a war they sanctioned is legal or not. Certainly, virtually every nation that has fought a war of agression passed some internal law or resolution justifying its actions. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_aggression Given what we know was known by Bush and his advisors prior to the war, it seems clear that the Iraqi war was not waged with the justification of self-defense.
    If the US is ever to get out of the hole it keeps digging, there must be some sort of honest accessment of all our actions and culpability under some more enduring standard than self-delusion. We will be reaping what we have sown for generations.

  61. Redhand says:

    In a very real sense the Bush Administration itself killed these people.
    I certainly agree with this. When you let the war genie out of the bottle and cede the power of life and death to 20-somethings armed with this kind of technology, such horrors are bound to happen again and again, ROE or no.
    Still, this video was worse than most, because of the war-as-pornography pleasure the shooters took in the killings. It was something right out of “Lord of the Flies.” As to whether the shooters will be haunted by this incident and its attendant publicity in future, I suspect so. It’s gotta leave a mark on those who took part in this.
    What I don’t comprehend is the “serves-em-right” inhumanity displayed against the wounded children. Is the expression of such sentiments really tolerated in our military today because to discourage it would degrade the “fighting spirit” of “the troops”? If so, we are in a bad way.

  62. optimax says:

    The pilot did not want to kill innocent people. His conscience will haunt him for the rest of his life because of this mistake. It makes no difference whether we condemn or condone his actions, his struggle is internal. War is hell even for the victors.

  63. Medicine Man says:

    Simple-minded thinking on my part, I’ll admit, but what are people honestly expecting to happen in a heavily populated war zone?

  64. confusedponderer says:

    as for US domestic law the aspect of legality is probably correct.
    Under international law … the case the US made that their attack was lawful under UN resolutions is unconvincing to me.
    A mandate is ‘X has the right to go to Y and do Z’.
    My problem is with the US interpretation of the relevant UN resolution. It ignores that if the UN had meant to empower the coalition to go to war with Iraq over non-compliance under the iirc unspecified ‘severe consequences’. The argument being that if the other SC members would have wanted to allow the US to go to war over Iraqi inaction, they would have said so explicitly. Well, they didn’t (i.e. they didn’t want to).
    To be best of my knowledge an implicit mandate to violate the sovereignty of another country is novel to international law (much like the enemy combatant, but I digress). And I clearly remember a lot of people being pissed about that point at the time, even though that wasn’t a particularly popular view to hold in the US (even more so while the Bush administration was pushing their line with a straight face all over the place). In that sense, I cannot agree with you on that the US acted under a UN mandate.
    The Bush administration’s claim to have a UN mandate is once more the result of creative lawyering. It’s weasel wording that US negotiators quite skilfully managed to inserted into the resolution during the drafting process. When the time came and the US wanted to claim the mandate they could then refer to that line. I cannot, with a clear conscience, call that a ‘UN mandate’.
    I may be literal and blue eyed about it because I believe in law, and there is still the possibility that the other countries accepted the phrasing, knowing what would come out of it. But that might just be one conspiracy theory too far, even more so when the Bush administration’s outright hostile approach to international law (as indicated by their serial ‘treaty busting’ in early 2001) explains it well already.
    In my view the only reason the US were able to get away with it is that they have a veto right, including the right to veto the questions that are being bright before the UN security council.

  65. confusedponderer says:

    PS: As for unspecified ‘severe consequences’ – the idea is that the UN security council only said that because they couldn’t agree on what measures to be taken, i.e. they wanted to wait and give Saddam time to come into compliance. Only then and if he didn’t they would decide on specific measures at a later date, suggesting that what they most certainly did not want to do is to give the US a UN mandate. Quite the opposite.
    In all likelihood that date didn’t conform with Bush’s set war plans and thus the recourse of simply claiming to have a mandate was taken.
    And that approach works, if only for powerful countries.

  66. FMC says:

    “The intervention was conducted under the authority of a UN Resolution …”
    That is quite surprising – I remember differently from the discussions among lawyers at the time. Which one would that be, in your opinion ?
    Further, staying strictly in the legal sphere, as long as the main aim of the soldiers was to give fire support to their unit on the ground any additional motivation they may have had (racial dislikes, vengeance, whatever) is irrelevant in law.
    Whether the attitude shown in the vid endears yr men and women in uniform to “the outside world” is a purely political question.

  67. somebody says:

    Have you read the Geneva Convention, colonel?
    Art. 5. Inhabitants of the country who bring help to the wounded shall be respected and shall remain free. Generals of the belligerent Powers shall make it their duty to notify the inhabitants of the appeal made to their humanity, and of the neutrality which humane conduct will confer.
    The presence of any wounded combatant receiving shelter and care in a house shall ensure its protection. An inhabitant who has given shelter to the wounded shall be exempted from billeting and from a portion of such war contributions as may be levied.
    Art. 6. Wounded or sick combatants, to whatever nation they may belong, shall be collected and cared for.
    Commanders-in-Chief may hand over immediately to the enemy outposts enemy combatants wounded during an engagement, when circumstances allow and subject to the agreement of both parties.
    Those who, after their recovery, are recognized as being unfit for further service, shall be repatriated.
    The others may likewise be sent back, on condition that they shall not again, for the duration of hostilities, take up arms.
    Evacuation parties, and the personnel conducting them, shall be considered as being absolutely neutral.

  68. Tyler says:

    Its posts like this that show the majority mindset of the civilian populace of the US, who seems to think war is a reality tv show. Anything that knocks them out of this mindset seems to be met with cries of amazement that people DIE in wartime, and sometimes hard decisions must be made.
    I guess there are more than a few people here who want a huge mea culpa from the Army because people were killed in a war zone with a known insurgency?
    Or maybe its an apology for rattling their mindset of everything being black and white in a combat situation?

  69. Patrick Lang says:

    “What I don’t comprehend is the “serves-em-right” inhumanity displayed against the wounded children?”
    I didn’t hear that. what I saw was two ground soldiers running to take these children to evacuation.
    Not making the story “better” are you? pl

  70. Patrick Lang says:

    The international law of war is taught to all US officers as well as the applicable US law.
    I understand this provision to be applicable to treatment of wounded, medical personnel and civilians coming to their aid in a conventional war.
    In a war in which combatants do not wear uniforms (and that would have been Baghdad in 2007)would this provision apply? pl

  71. Patrick Lang says:

    Your snide condescension is not welcomed.
    Read my article “Drinking the Koolaid” in “Middle East Policy.” Summer, 2004. pl

  72. Patrick Lang says:

    “Lord of the Flies?”
    You may not be “cut out” for this kind of occupation. pl

  73. confusedponderer says:


    Art. 6. Wounded or sick combatants, to whatever nation they may belong, shall be collected and cared for.

    Yes, it says that. But what it means is that caring and collecting the wounded, while an obligation, is to be done after a battle, or in battle pauses.
    You don’t have to stop the shooting immediately when you wounded the enemy.
    There is no indication the US in the helicopter incident violated Art.6.

  74. Walter says:

    Our entire nation has been seduced by love of comfort, material wealth and pathological aversion to physical/emotional pain. We vote to kill in exchange for cheap oil; this bargain allows us to avoid suffering legitimate pain and hardship.
    We win financially but lose spiritually.

  75. WP says:

    You asked, “In a war in which combatants do not wear uniforms (and that would have been Baghdad in 2007)would this provision apply? pl”
    Art 50. Definition of civilians and civilian population
    1. A civilian is any person who does not belong to one of the categories of persons referred to in Article 4 (A) (1), (2), (3) and (6) of the Third Convention and in Article 43 of this Protocol. In case of doubt whether a person is a civilian, that person shall be considered to be a civilian.
    2. The civilian population comprises all persons who are civilians.
    3. The presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian character.
    Art 51. – Protection of the civilian population
    1. The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations. To give effect to this protection, the following rules, which are additional to other applicable rules of international law,

      shall be observed in all circumstances.

    2. The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.
    3. Civilians shall enjoy the protection afforded by this section, unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.
    4. Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited. Indiscriminate attacks are: (a) those which are not directed at a specific military objective; (b) those which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective; or (c) those which employ a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited as required by this Protocol;
    and consequently, in each such case, are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction.
    5. Among others, the following types of attacks are to be considered as indiscriminate: (a) an attack by bombardment by any methods or means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects;
    (b) an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.
    6. Attacks against the civilian population or civilians by way of reprisals are prohibited.
    7. The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour or impede military operations. The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.
    8. Any violation of these prohibitions shall not release the Parties to the conflict from their legal obligations with respect to the civilian population and civilians, including the obligation to take the precautionary measures provided for in Article 57.
    Shooting incapacitated wounded, dressed in civilian clothes and killing those who came to their aid seems a clear violation of these provisions. Perhaps John Woo is in charge of the JAG office who wrote the rules of engagement for the helicopter action?
    There is no exception to this rule in the text of the conventions. Arguably, the requirement should be even more strictly applied in a case where the combatants do not wear uniforms because in such an engagement the civilians are at an increased risk because they can be so easily misidentified as being militants. There is nothing in the texts of the conventions that makes civilians legitimate targets because the militants dress as civilians. To have such an exception would make the whole place a free-fire shooting gallery.
    In a situation such as in Iraq, it would seem that the law of war would look toward the behavior and conduct in the moment of the person dressed in civilian clothes as the primary determinant of whether the person should be protected. Thus, if the person is unarmed and giving aid to a wounded person, that person has a right to protection and it would be a violation of the conventions to kill them.
    Likewise, a wounded person, dressed in civilian clothes who does not poses a threat cannot be murdered, especially if unarmed.
    To hold otherwise would essentially be a rejection of any law on the battlefield where a non-uniform insurgency operates.
    The fact that the insurgents are not uniformed places a greater, not lesser duty to evaluate the present conduct of people before shooting at them.
    It is this problem that raises the serious question as to whether the use of drones to kill is a war crime in and of itself because ot the impossibility of separating the combatants from the civilians from a remote location. (There seems to be one very clear exception to my question and that is circumstances where there is ongoing combat and the drone is used for close air support directed from a ground observer who is charged with making the judgment calls. That would be legal if it is legal to fight.)
    Fighting a non-uniformed insurgent war places a huge responsibility on the uniformed combatant. The abscence of unifoms is one of the strengths of an insurgency. Unfortunatly, the choice not to use uniorms does not relieve the uniformed side of the duty to treat persons as civilians when a doubt exists as to whether the perosons are combatants or not.
    The rules are the rules and in answer to your question to somebody, the answer is yes. The rules apply without exception.

  76. Patrick Lang says:

    It would seem that you are a lawyer.
    How on earth can you expect people to be able to discriminate perfectly between true non-combatants and combatants also dressed in civilian clothes in an insurgency in which the enemy always wears civilian clothes?
    You question whether or not not using UAVs as bombers is illegal? What about manned bombers?
    Look, to be against this war or any war is one thing but to argue that unrealistic rules should apply is another. pl

  77. Patrick Lang says:

    Oh for god’s sake, the oil silliness again! pl

  78. Tony C. says:

    “How on earth can you expect people to be able to discriminate perfectly between true non-combatants and combatants also dressed in civilian clothes in an insurgency in which the enemy always wears civilian clothes?”
    Yes, well, unfortunately, that perspective (or rationalization) essentially grants occupying forces (e.g. the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel, etc.) carte blanche to kill whomever they please.
    I also find it odd that the following has not been mentioned previously:
    The eventual victims, whom the soldiers in the helicopter somehow took to be dangerous, showed no signs whatsoever of being concerned about a U.S. helicopter gunship that was circling while in range of them. How could this possibly be consistent with the likelihood of them being a threat to our forces?

  79. confusedponderer says:

    I wrote my last two replies sort of in a hurry and from memory. I now had time to check for the UN resolution I had in mind. It is resolution 1441 (2002). The relevant passages for my point:

    “13.Recalls, in that context, that the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations;
    “14.Decides to remain seized of the matter.”

    The full text can be found here:

  80. Patrick Lang says:

    How high was the helicopter? Do you know? I don’t. What is the magnification on the lens through which the recording was made. You don’t know and neither do I.
    You did not answer my point as to how you tell the difference.
    The helicopter crew did not see the children before they shot up the van. Did they? It seems to me that there is a big difference between IDF troops deliberately killing Palestinian kids and these two crewman shooting up this van in which the situation in their minds seems to have been quite different.
    Your point which seeks to spread blame to everyone is unconvincing pl

  81. JoeC says:

    Having reviewed the two investigation reports released by CENTCOM (see url in my last post), they show pretty clearly that the situation was considerably more complex than appears from the youtube video. Anyone who chooses to judge the pilots’ actions should do so with an adequate grounding of the situation. The 2nd Brigade report is the more detailed.

  82. Tony C. says:

    I am not seeking to “spread blame to everyone”, but rather making the point that occupying forces frequently attempt to rationalize the killing of non-combatants in the manner that you suggested above (i.e. it is difficult to distinguish the innocent from the guilty when they are wearing civilian clothing).
    The adjoining point that I was attempting to make is that given such circumstances (i.e. no uniforms that would obviously mark people as “the enemy”), shouldn’t it be incumbent on the superior force to take special care in making such distinctions? And if, as was clearly the case in the Wikileaks video, the people on the street posed no threat to the helicopter, and showed no signs of moving surreptitiously (as one would have expected had they been looking to attack anyone), on what reasonable basis should they have been gunned down?

  83. Patrick Lang says:

    It is not a question of “guilt” or “innocence.” This is not police business. This is war. It is a question of “friend” or “foe.”
    They posed no danger to the helicopter? That is irrelevant in war. The heliccpter was there to pose a threat to them if they were insurgents.
    The helicopter was there to kill insurgents, not arrest them. Not police work. Get it now? pl

  84. Patrick Lang says:

    This does not open for me. pl

  85. FDRDemocrat says:

    For those who consider this a war crime, take note:
    – it occurred during an urban combat operation
    – opposing forces did not wear regular uniforms
    – opposing forces were known to typically possess weapons, e.g. RPG, that if not taken out in a split second, could destroy US aircraft or vehicles and their occupants
    You can go through any war of the past and find tragedies like this. You need only pick up today’s paper to read of one or another Iraqi faction intentionally blowing up men, women and children. That is not what happened here. These soldiers believed they were engaging enemy forces.
    As harsh as this video seems, the US soldiers were acting as they were trained. Did the comments they made as they acted seem awful? War itself is awful.
    As far as shooting those who come to carry away wounded, irregular forces do not typically wear red cross/crescent arm bands. In war both sides shoot to kill the enemy when they see him. If that enemy, through choice, is not wearing a uniform, it increases the odds the wrong people get shot.
    And yes, as the Colonel implies, in the end I blame the Bush Administration who glibly launched this war. I would go one step further and blame all of us who, through our failure to stop Bush, ended up accomplice to his actions.
    The last ones I would blame are these soldiers, placed into a situation where something like this happening, under these conditions, is inevitable.

  86. Tony C. says:

    I’m afraid that I still don’t “get it”. You said:
    “The helicopter was there to kill insurgents, not arrest them.”
    Which begs the basic question, on what basis were they judged to be “insurgents” (or “foes”)? A small percentage of them had weapons? My understanding is that countless Iraqi citizens carried weapons during that period, and yet only a fraction of them were insurgents.
    So what was it about that group that marked them clearly as being insurgents? And again, I don’t understand why their (lack of suspicious) behavior was not factored in, and should not have given the shooters pause.

  87. somebody says:

    if you classify the Iraquis on the street as combatants or civilians, they are “nevertheless entitled to the safeguards accorded to prisoners of war.”
    Let’s not forget that they did not fight, but carried or were close to people who carried weapons, which is legal in Iraq, I am told.
    If you classify the wounded guy who clearly was in no position of being a threat to anyone as a civilian, to kill him and his helpers makes it murder, if you classify him as combatant, it is a war crime.
    “.. in particular instances (occupied territories, so-called asymetric conflicts setting regular armed forces against guerrilla fighters), it suffices for guerrilla fighters to distinguish themselves from the civilian population by carrying their arms openly (i.e. visibly) during military engagements and before launching an attack. Guerrilla fighters who fail to meet these requirements, either by not carrying their arms openly or by taking unwarranted advantage of the possibility to limit themselves solely to this distinction—the exercise of which must be supervised by the authority to which they are answerable— forfeit their combatant status. They are civilians liable to prosecution for illegally carrying arms and for any hostile act they may have committed, but nevertheless entitled to the safeguards accorded to prisoners of war if and when they are tried and punished.”
    The Protocols additional to the Geneva Conventions

  88. JoeC says:

    pl –
    Try this url –http://www2.centcom.mil/_layouts/AccessAgreement.aspx and then see the
    “Death of Reuters Journalists” folder near the bottom of the next page (third from the bottom).

  89. anna missed says:

    I think the helicopter was pretty high up (maybe as much as a mile), as the no one on the ground seemed concerned and nobody looks up throughout the whole ordeal. Secondly, after the request to fire is given, you can hear the gun fire – and there is a distinct lag (at least a second) between the gun sound and the the visual impact of the rounds hitting the target. This would suggest the bird was well removed from sight.
    Also, one thing I see emerging from the discussion above is, a question as to what mission the helicopter was on. Was it deployed/called in, in direct support to the apparent ground mission going on in the area? If so, wouldn’t it be normal that obvious fighting/gunfire going on in one neighborhood set off some kind of public reaction in all the adjacent neighborhoods, with people emerging from their houses, congregating in groups to decide what to do if the action comes into their neighborhood. It seems likely that this is what is going on. The reporters got a tip from someone in the neighborhood that there was fighting nearby and so went to that location and caused a little neighborhood powwow in the street trying to assess the situation when the helicopter caught the action from the air and reacted to the assembly below.
    It would also seem that such an occurrence would be a predictable enough sort of thing whenever a ground mission was underway, that such a thing would be an expected part of the mission. Or in other words was the helicopter on a support mission, or a mission searching for human activity adjacent to the mission. And if it’s the latter, wouldn’t one expect a particularly sensitive process of discriminating between locals and insurgents? If this was not the case then why wasn’t it?

  90. somebody says:

    and – there was a reporter in the neighbourhood the day after, so that’s what Iraquis on the ground said about the reason, people were on the street that day

  91. Patrick Lang says:

    You are a German, resident in Frankfurt am Main.
    With regard to your contention as to their rights as POWs that is absurd and you know it. They were not in custody. You are just another European America basher.. pl

  92. Patrick Lang says:

    Proximity to the action.
    At least you are an American. It seems we have traveled 40 years into the past. Do you find it satisfying to do this? Did you miss the chance? Too young at the time? pl

  93. somebody says:

    Dear Colonel,
    as long as we know who is friend and who is foe,
    or do we?

  94. Patrick Lang says:

    Sophistic bullshit. It’s clear which you are. pl

  95. JoeC says:

    All –
    Many questions about what happened are answered in the released investigation reports. I suggest that you read them (see my second post above at 4:03 PM) rather than continuing to speculate about the events depicted in the video.

  96. Patrick Lang says:

    Please copy the text into a comment. pl

  97. JoeC says:

    Col. Lang –
    The 2nd Brigade Combat Team 15-6 Investigation is a 43 page pdf of a document that has been scanned into the pdf format, so I can’t copy any of the text into the comments as the text is in image form ( I tried to copy some excerpts into a comment but this does not work).

  98. Patrick Lang says:

    OK. Don’t know what to do. pl

  99. JoeC says:

    Maybe this link will work –
    I found the investigation report releases in a Danger Room article at http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/04/military-releases-report-on-2007-apache-attack-and-questions-linger/
    One can read down in the story text to the link to CENTCOM which should work.

  100. reader says:

    FDRDemocrat says we are all to blame for this tragedy; I agree. As voters and taxpayers we ultimately are responsible for those things done in our name. But when he says:
    “The last ones I would blame are these soldiers, placed into a situation where something like this happening, under these conditions, is inevitable.”
    No, I repeat no. I sympathized with the guys in Breaker Morant as much as the next person. And I have never been in armed conflict. That said, as I am partially responsible for this as a taxpayer, I’ll only add. These men were not conscripts; our military is volunteer. This should never be forgotten when discussing wartime behavior. Second, soldiers do what they are trained and ordered to do. But I will not dehumanize them and absolve them of any responsibility. That would set a horrible precedent and send a clear message to that small minority of folks in uniform, the sociopaths, who do enjoy killing.
    People like Rumsfeld ought to be making license plates for the government, or making large rocks into smaller ones, but, if tried and found guilty, these soldiers should still face some consequences for their actions.

  101. WP says:

    Your question as to how to distinguish the combatant from the non-combatant when all are wearing civilian clotnes is a very hard question and problem.
    Unfortunatly for the invader, the choice not to use uniorms does not relieve the uniformed side of the duty to treat persons as civilians when a doubt exists as to whether the perosons are combatants or not.
    Perhaps a rule of thumb would be that if they are shooting at you or they are carrying arms, one may be justified in considering them to be combatantants.
    If they are wounded on the ground, they are not combatants unless they are still carrying arme.
    If they are coming to the aid of a wounded person and are not carrying arms, they are civilians.
    If you are in an aircraft or an armored vehicle that is not vulnerable to small arms fire, and not subject to a threat from a wounded person on the ground or from someone coming to the aid of a wounded person, then for the sake of the law, they are civilians.
    It is a very hard question. But the obligation is to err on the side of the person being a civilian rather than being a combatant. But, if the person has a weapon and it is pointed at you, you shoot with a very clear conscience even if the person is wearing civilian clothes.
    Generally, children should always be considered to be civillians.
    This is a hard to follow rule, but it is the law and as a result of following it, some “civillians” will most certainly come back on a later day and shoot at you.
    There is another consideration to this and it is fundamentally political. All wars are politics and if one is an invader, the only way the war can be “won” is to convince the hostile population to stop shooting. Thus, all of the persons on the ground, combatant and civilian alike are your political constituents. If you want your constituants ever to tolerate your control over them, they must be convinced that their interests are your interests and that you are going to protect them.
    It is very, very bad politics to kill non-combatant civilians by “mistake”. My guess is that if one were giving a numerical score to the political game, for each plus points earned from killing a combatant, nine or ten negative points are earned for the killing of each non-combatant civilians. Over a very short time the anger and hate builds up in the population subject to a large number of civilian deaths that may make the entire campaign unwinnable and too costly to support over time. Short of committing a genocide, the natives have much more staying power and patience than do the invaders.
    The US is facing this situation right now. We will leave Afghanistan and we will have won nothing for our effort except to reap the consequences of such violence upon our warriors when they bring their burdens home.
    The rules of classification with respect to erring in favor of a person being protected as a “civilian” are not only the law, they are also good politics!

  102. WP says:

    In response to your question concerning the use of manned bombers, the answer must be an equivocal, it depends.
    Each action must be tested on its own action plan. In every use of manned bombers, civilians must be protected, even in cases where the target is military. It is a balancing. The general law is set forth in Protocol 1 if it is an international conflict http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Protocol_I#Chapter_IV._Precautionary_measures and in Protocol 2 http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/protocol2.htm if it is a domestic conflict.
    You wrote, “It is not a question of “guilt” or “innocence.” This is not police business. This is war. It is a question of “friend” or “foe.”
    They posed no danger to the helicopter? That is irrelevant in war. The heliccpter was there to pose a threat to them if they were insurgents.
    The helicopter was there to kill insurgents, not arrest them. Not police work. Get it now? pl”
    Indiscriminate “hunting” of anything that moves would clearly be illegal. In a real sense, it is police work because before unidentified persons can be classified as combatants, they must show some hostile intent or be otherwise identified as insurgents. This is the logical consequence of the requirement that in cases of doubt is controlled by the “Basic Rule”
    “Art 48. Basic rule
    In order to ensure respect for and protection of the civilian population and civilian objects, the Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.”
    The basic rule is subject to the presumption in Article 49. “Art 50. Definition of civilians and civilian population
    1. A civilian is any person who does not belong to one of the categories of persons referred to in Article 4 (A) (1), (2), (3) and (6) of the Third Convention and in Article 43 of this Protocol. In case of doubt whether a person is a civilian, that person shall be considered to be a civilian.
    2. The civilian population comprises all persons who are civilians.
    3. The presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian character.”
    Paragraph 3 is most instructive because it decrees that to a large degree in an insurgency, almost everything is civillian. This means that the manned bomber cannot bomb much because under the presumption nearly everything is off limits as civillian. A very hard rule, but is is the law.
    Close air support killing active combatants in actual fighting operations and clearly identified enemy concentrations seems OK to bomb. But not much else is allowed.
    No hunting of anything that moves is legal.
    In the end, it is police work once the invader is the primary authority. The requirements to protect the civilians trumps military necessity in many cases. Again, the presumptions are hard on the warrior, but they are good politics. So, we have the warrior as a politician. If the warriors refuse to accept the requirements of politics, they collect too many negative points and lose in the end makiing all of their military bravery and sacrifice a waste.
    It is all police work and politics if the war is to be won.
    To a large degree the lesson that it is all politics and police work is the real lesson of the Iraq war. To a large degree, learing this hard lesson is one of the US military’s greatest achievments because it goes against the basic training and instinct of the warrior. As this lesson is learned, the liklihood of success will increase.

  103. WP says:

    You commented to me, “Look, to be against this war or any war is one thing but to argue that unrealistic rules should apply is another. pl ”
    It is irrelevant whether I am for or against the war for this discussion. I assume you are against the war and believe it will ultimately be futile.
    I have tried the argument that the law is unreasonable several times. Everytime, the judge reminded me that he did not write the law and then ruled against me.
    The rules of the Geneva Protocols are hard on the warrior and run against the grain, but they are the legal standard. They also contain a lot of wisdom and humanity. Perhaps, the concepts of fairness and compassion to those who are the victims of war, and those victims include present and former combatants and civilians, is something that should be honored and nurtured. To a large degree, following the rules and really protecting the civilians in a conflict, and especially the children, really is good policy and good politics.
    In the end, I pose my question back to you. How can any act of the soldiers an illegal agressor be legal if the war is an illegal war of agression? I cannot see how they can be. I have given my lawyer analysis. I speak from the civilian side. I would like to see the issue analazed from a soldier’s perspective.

  104. Cold War Zoomie says:

    “I think the helicopter crew liked what they were doing.”
    Sure they did, and that doesn’t bother me since I can understand even a tiny little bit what they felt like even though I have no combat experience. It was truly *enjoyable* watching AC-130 film clips of terrorists getting blown to bits in Afghanistan right after 9-11. Those bastards in Afghanistan deserved it in my book, so it is somewhat of a relief to see them bite it. Sometimes revenge is sweet. These guys in Iraq thought they were supporting their buddies on the ground. Believe you me, I’m much more an egghead than a fighter, but even I can relate to how they felt.
    “What I don’t comprehend is the “serves-em-right” inhumanity displayed against the wounded children. Is the expression of such sentiments really tolerated in our military today because to discourage it would degrade the “fighting spirit” of “the troops”? If so, we are in a bad way.”
    My first thought when I heard those lines is that they are trying to rationalize away in their own minds what happened. Who wants to admit to shooting children? And they have more missions to fly, so it would make sense to shove those thoughts away for awhile. I think that is what will come back to haunt these young men most as they get older.
    I can only speak for myself, having never shot another human being or been shot at, but when I was younger it was much easier to go out hunting and to kill something. I’ve gotten much softer as the years add up, and cannot even imagine tromping through the woods shooting squirrels or birds or deer anymore. Clay birds don’t have eyes.
    Maybe that’s why we put 20-somethings behind the trigger out there. Maybe it’s easier when you’re young. Blowing shite up is fun.
    Our guys screwed up. This video was very, very difficult to sit through. The sooner we leave the better.

  105. JustPlainDave says:

    I believe the link that JoeC was trying to post is related to this one: link. The link is to a portion of the CENTCOM “reading room” containing various documents relevant to the death of the Reuters reporters, including the Article 15 paperwork and sworn statements from the pilots involved. The link off the wired site is to one of these docs.

  106. Neil Richardson says:

    Following this thread, I am astonished by some of the comments from those who are shocked by the contents of the video. Dr. Silverman has described the context of the situation in Baghdad when this tragedy occurred namely the surge. It’s just amazing to me that some people continue to view small unit engagements of ground forces as merely police action.
    Misidentification happens all the time even among highly trained units in high intensity combat operations. Adrenaline affects what is seemingly a very easy binary decision process such as distinguishing an M1A1 from a T-72. We’ve had enough data over many years at NTC when highly trained tank crews with two to sometimes all four pairs who misidentified targets. And this isn’t just unique to the US Army. During the Normandy campaign, the RAF and USAAF repeatedly bombed V and VII Corps units during Cobra. The Poles and the Canadians also had devastating fratricides. This wasn’t uniquely an Allied problem. The Luftwaffe bombed 902 Regiment of Panzer Lehr killing hundreds of grenadiers. LXXXIV Corps had documented cases of fratricide by corps artillery that led to heavy casualties among 922 Grenadier Regiment. According to some estimates 10 percent of all casualties in ETO were fratricide. Patton was nearly shot down twice by RAF fighters who misidentified his Piper Pup as a Storch. According to Bradley the main reason why he had halted the Third Army rather than close the gap at Falaise was precisely because he had feared fratricide. He’d seen enough in that month as even Gen. McNair was among the casualties. It isn’t easy to identify FoF correctly all the time even if combatants are clearly wearing different uniforms, carrying different weapons, etc etc, because even highly trained and experienced soldiers are flawed human beings who make mistakes especially when they are sleep deprived and full of adrenaline.
    Listening to the radio transmission, it’s fairly clear that the pilots and weapons officers really believed they’d properly identified insurgents. They were supporting infantry who had come under fire in the vicinity. One could even infer that the situational context (namely hostile small arms fire and especially mortar fire) led to suggestibility of identifying these unfortunate individuals as insurgents. When police officers (who have been trained in non-lethal use of force far more than most soldiers on the line) have drawn their sidearms in tactical situations, there have been plenty of unfortunate incidents of misidentification of weapons before firing (e.g., the suspect was turning around too quickly or he was reaching for a wallet). And this is in domestic law enforcement context where the ROE are clearly defined.
    Unfortunately for the civilian casualties, the weapons officers and the pilots thought they saw RPGs and that probably was the decisive threshold in that tragic FoF mistake.
    To WP:
    I will acknowledge your good intentions in trying to improve the ROE in counterinsurgency operations. However I am not confident that we’ll ever get that right. During the Korean War the Inmingun would routinely use South Korean civilians as human shields while advancing along their axis of advance. (And it’s still part of the KPA’s techniques according to NK defectors) I’ve known decent and honorable men who had to make those terrible and unspeakable choices. And believe me some of them carried their silent burdens all the way to their graves. IMHO men fight for their buddies (small unit cohesion). When you heard one of the Apache crewmen say “pr–k” I am fairly certain that man was thinking of what this insurgent could’ve done to infantrymen who were nearby. (I also wonder if these were experienced crew who’d done rotations earlier in 2004 and 2005) Hatred of the enemy is fairly normal in military sense as soldiers and Marines are asked to do what isn’t quite normal in civil society. While the Conventions are better than nothing, they don’t come close to answering some of the so-called moral dilemmas that arise in combat even in high intensity conventional operations. This problem worsens when it comes to insurgency operations IMHO.

  107. Arun says:

    Col Lang – if I (a non-combatant) was in a combat zone and saw a combat helicopter casing me, I would put my hands up, trying to show I was harmless. That was my reaction as I started watching this video Would I have been recognized as a civilian by that gesture?

  108. Patrick Lang says:

    I hope so. I think so. pl

  109. optimax says:

    When the civilian photographer knelt and took a picture around the corner, the camera was misidentified by the pilot as an RPG, the telephoto lense seen head-on looks similar. The pilot thought the civilian was going to fire at the U.S. troops and that is when he determined hostile intent.
    After the van had been shot and two of the victims identified as children, the pilot said, “You shouldn’t bring children to a battlefield,” and not, “It serves them right.” He was angry at adults for putting the children in danger. The pilot was right. And his anger at the driver is normal. I’ve never been in a battle but have been on the locomotive of train that hit a car stopped on the tracks that killed 3 of the 5 people in it. The accident wasn’t our fault but our first reaction was to get pissed at the driver for stopping on the tracks and at passengers for not leaving the car despite the fact that the crossing gates having come down and the blaring horn gave them ample time to do so. The anger is normal.

  110. J says:

    Now the familes of those killed are demanding trials for those involved:

    Reuters families demand U.S. troops be tried over shooting
    The White House on Tuesday described the leaked footage as “tragic” but President Barack Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs said U.S. forces in war zones take pains to avoid civilian casualties.
    The Pentagon has not disputed that the video is authentic.

  111. optimax says:

    The exact words of pilot, “Well it’s their fault for for bringing kids to a battle.”
    Unidentified, “That’s right.”
    Unless there’s a more complete video (wikileaks vid is edited), I never heard, “Serves them right.”

  112. Redhand says:

    “What I don’t comprehend is the “serves-em-right” inhumanity displayed against the wounded children?”
    I didn’t hear that. what I saw was two ground soldiers running to take these children to evacuation.
    Not making the story “better” are you?

    I don’t think so. There were some comments at the end of the clip by the guys in the helicopter – during discussion about where the wounded kids were being taken – that had a TS “that’s what happens when you take your kids into a war zone” flavor to them. I found them quite off-putting.
    As I viewed the incident, the initial shoot-em-up could be chalked up to a mistake of war. But the scene where they were begging the wounded man crawling on the curb to pick up a weapon so they could kill him, then eventually got permission to nail the van that went to take him away, well, that was a bit much. It looked for all the world to me like some stupid locals who reacted instinctively to help the wounded man “after the shooting stopped” and got blown away for their troubles.
    As to this:
    “Lord of the Flies?”
    You may not be “cut out” for this kind of occupation.

    I’ll never know. I’ve spent much of my adult life with that as a background question — I even wrote a well-regarded non-fiction book about B-17 crewmen to explore the matter for myself — but I can’t say. I never actively sought out combat during the Vietnam era, but I also didn’t shy away from service at the same time. I did three years active duty on a US Navy destroyer from 1971-73.

  113. samuelburke says:

    let’s just blame western armament-ism and radical colonial ideology.
    no one pays and the ideology just continues on unchanged.
    america what a country!!!

  114. Mike C says:

    Redhand and Optimax should be made aware: The edited 17 minute tape puts the “It’s their fault for bringing their kids to a battle…” quote out of sequence for dramatic effect.
    What actually happened, when the gunner and pilot heard the radio call about an injured child they both sounded shocked.
    “Ah! Damn!” -followed by a resigned sounding “oh, well…”
    Then after about 50 seconds of silence came:
    “Well it’s their fault for bringing their kids to a battle.”
    “That’s right.”
    It sounded in real time more like two professionals shaking off some bad news so they could get back to work.

  115. Mark Logan says:

    Optimax, I do not think the intial identification of the RPG was related to the kneeling around the corner, it was at 3:38. Upper right of the frame, and away from the photographer are two men, one with an AK and one with an RPG.

  116. optimax says:

    Mike C,
    Thanks. Edited for dramatic effect and, intentional or not, as propaganda serving an ideology by editing out the pilot’s initial reaction of his conscience.

  117. optimax says:

    Mark Logan,
    Yes, but when he was kneeling was when the pilot said, “He’s going to shoot,” or something close to that, his voice becoming excited due to his perception that the situtation was dire. This article quotes a Dr. Moore who says there was an RPG identified in the group. It’s from antiwar.com.
    You’re right, Mark, identification of an RPG established hostile intent but the perception the kneeling man was going to shoot solidified the idea these were bad guys bent on violence, making immediate action imperative.
    Why would someone in the group have an RPG, if they were just there to take picture? It doesn’t make sense.

  118. Mark Logan says:

    I quite agree.
    I would venture to guess they were not a group, or more of them would have been armed. But we can only guess.

  119. fnord says:

    Sir. I agree with you that this falls in under the “s’ happens” category in a battlezone, given existing ROE and so on.
    However, the leftist military critique would be to point to differences in attitude between US and Euro forces, and suggest that the armed forces employed in Iraq had a way too agressive attitude to warfighting. I do not mean to bash US forces, but they come across as very gung-ho now and then. That is a good thing in an attacking force, but a bit problematic in a occupying force. I think thats a relevant point?

  120. Neil Richardson says:

    “However, the leftist military critique would be to point to differences in attitude between US and Euro forces, and suggest that the armed forces employed in Iraq had a way too agressive attitude to warfighting. I do not mean to bash US forces, but they come across as very gung-ho now and then. That is a good thing in an attacking force, but a bit problematic in a occupying force. I think thats a relevant point?
    Posted by: fnord | 10 April 2010 at 01:29 PM”
    AFAIC, this isn’t a criticism at all. Of course when you read something like this, it’s quite amusing to a number of us who see the superior way of soldiering by the representative “Euro forces” as somewhat less than efficacious (excepting the Dutch and the Danes who’ve shed their own share of blood).
    A report by Germany’s Parliament found forces in Afghanistan got through more than 1.7 million pints of beer and 92,000 bottles of wine last year.
    They are already on track to top those figures this year, with 901,000 pints of beer and 56,000 bottles of wine being shipped in the first six months.
    US forces are not allowed to drink, while British soldiers are allowed only small quantities while off-duty.
    Earlier this year, another report found that 40 per cent Germany’s 3,600 soldiers in Afghanistan were overweight.
    This has prompted Reinhold Robbe, Parliamentary Commissioner for the armed forces, to observe: “Plainly put, the soldiers are too fat, exercise too little and take little care of their diet.”
    There was also a stinging assessment given by the head of Germany’s crack commando squad, the KSK.
    In a frank outburst, General Hans-Christoph Ammon, whose soldiers are fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban, said the scheme to train Afghan police – for which Germany is responsible – had been “a miserable failure”.
    He said the German Government had put just 12 million towards training the Afghan Army and police.
    “At that rate, it would take 82 years to have a properly trained police force,” he told Deutsche Press Agency.
    The fresh criticisms follow a string of accusations against Germany’s military effort in Afghanistan, many of which revolve around alcohol.
    Last year, American officers complained about a German colonel who was drunk at mission briefings, Der Spiegel has reported.
    Thomas Raabe, a defence ministry spokesman, has defended the alcohol intake, saying it amounts to 0.77 litres of beer a day per soldier – less than the two 500ml cans they are permitted.

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