Who hasn’t seen these 38 minute long gun camera clip that this still was taken from? Released by Wikileaks this week, the clip graphically displays the killing of two journalist by a US Army Apache gunship crew in Iraq in 2007. The first thing to note is that these people were killed by the helicopter’s crew, the gunship is just the tool and without EDI-like artificial intelligence, the crew is the decision-making engine that decides to pull the trigger or not…in this case they opted to fire, based on what appears to be the flimsiest of ‘evidence’…
Wikileaks has established a specific site for this topic, named appropriately Collateral Murder, that has links to the full and abbreviated clips and the transcript of communications between the two crew members and US troops on the ground in the vicinity. It is certainly worth a look to draw your own conclusions.
While I don’t think that the smugness of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, (see wiki on Wikileaks) did anything to enhance his own credibility nor add anything to the story, I have to agree that, in this case, he is in the right to be blowing the whistle on this incident. It appears that the DoD was well aware of the incident at the time and cleared the gunship crew in an internal review process at the time. If that is the case, then there is clearly more to this story than meets the eye as they is nothing in the footage nor the transcript to support the this use of force.
No one denies that operations in any environment are challenging and often tough decisions have to made in a split-second but this doesn’t seem to be one of those times. This is the warzone that Iraq was in 2004 and 2005 – this incident occurred post-surge in 2007 when, theoretically, the US had a good handle on both TTPs for the contemporary environment AND in training its people for that environment.
That the DoD chose to sit on this incident after conducting an internal whitewash is a clear indication that many of its staff still don’t ‘get it’ so far as this new and complex environment that we operate in. At the very least, this incident should have been reported as one of those things that happen in war, with apologies, condolences and reparations where applicable. However it is not unreasonable, noting the cavalier attitude of the gunship crew, that there is a case for willful negligence in these deaths – one definitely gets the feeling that both men were just looking for any excuse (not reason) to squeeze the trigger and nowhere is this made clearer than in the comment passed when ground troops reported that children had been injured “…Roger. Ah damn. Oh well…Well it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle…” With friendly troops on the ground, there appears no reason that other courses of action could not have been adopted to at the very least confirm the targets before engaging them…
While the use of force is a legitimate tool in Countering Irregular Activity, and ISAF’s squeamishness about directly engaging targets in the vicinity of hostile forces is another example of not ‘getting it’, this incident violates everything we try to teach about getting ahead in the contemporary environment….
Afterthought: how come the Marines never seem to have these kind of problems…?