Right Thinking From The Left Coast
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Collateral Murder?

This video, from Wikileaks, is burning up the blogosphere.  Please watch before you comment.

The Left is, predictably, calling this a cold-blooded murder while the Right is, predictably, calling it justified.

As usual, I’m in the middle.  This wasn’t cold-blooded murder; nor was it a routine engagement that the Left is blowing out of proportion.  I would estimate that 90% of the people commenting on it have not actually watched the fucking thing.  Because if they had, they would not be making such definitive statements.

First, there is a context missing from the video and the Left’s analysis.  There had been a report of small arms fire in the area.  Additionally, while the journalists were not carrying weapons, several men in the group were.  A report of small arms fire, a group of men, some of them armed.  Was firing on them an unjustified decision?  I don’t think so.  It’s easy to comb through the video and identify cameras that were mistaken for weapons.  But the Left is not being honest about this.  In the heat of battle, with an insurgency going on, would you have positively made that identification?  Would you have staked your life on it?  Can you really tell, without prompting from the video, that that’s a camera and not and RPG?

Second, what happens later in the video is disturbing.  The helicopter pilots actively hope that the wounded man will reach for a weapon so they can finish him off.  They assume the van to be filled with more insurgent and fire on it.  However, none of those men appear to be armed.  This appears, on first blush, to be people stopping to help the injured.

However, again, this is a decision made in the heat of battle.  If the helicopter pilots wait until an RPG comes flying out of the back of the van, it’s too late. It’s tragic, but it does not, to me, seem like murder.  They didn’t deliberately kill innocent people; they responded erroneously do a difficult situation in which the enemy is known to pose as innocent civilians. (Update: I was reminded, after posting this, that firing on those tending to wounded is illegal, unless their PIDed as combatants.  More here.)

(I would also note that the soldiers who arrive later, who have a much clearer view of what’s going on, carry the children out of the van and take them to a hospital.  The video makes a big deal out of their using a local hospital instead of the US hospital.  But it doesn’t spell out how badly they were hurt or what happened to them.)

Third, the stone-walling and cover-up is, indeed, appalling.  Indeed, it is the refusal to provide the video that has fed Left-wing raving about deliberate murder, savagery and blood-thirstiness.  Someone in the Pentagon needs to figure this out: covering up collateral damage feeds conspiracy theories.  Awful things happen in war.  The American people will accept this.  But even the faintest whiff of a cover-up feeds the Left.  Be honest.  Bad shit happens in war.  The US military is the best in the world at minimizing it.  We have restrictive ROE and train our soldiers well.  But bad shit still happens in a war.  If you don’t like it, don’t go to war.

Finally, this is demonstrating why Wikileaks is useful and why the government is so determined, through overhauling the internet, to stamp it out.  This video was under FOIA request for two years.  What other things might we find out?  Not just about war, but about healthcare, the deficit and White House machinations?

Update: You must read the second letter here, where one of Sullivan’s readers provides the background that the video leaves out.  I’m not going to defend the cover-up.  But the actions seem less and less like “murder” and more and more like “tragic accident”.  Of course, that’s not stopping Glenn Greenwald from saying we do this all the time.

Update: And this.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 04/06/10 at 06:29 AM (Discuss this in the forums)

Comments


Posted by on 04/06/10 at 09:42 AM from United States

The whole situation reminds me of Holiday in Cambodia by The Dead Kennedys. It’s easy to sit in your arm chair, and believe you know what life is like in a war zone, but the reality is much different.

So you been to school
For a year or two
And you know you’ve seen it all

I think Wikileaks was not wrong in uncovering the video, but I think that their take is wrong, as it’s based on a life spent sitting in a comfy chair, and not knowing the reality of the situation.

Posted by on 04/06/10 at 11:43 AM from United States

Right on, Hal.  As usual, partisanship is distorting what really happened

Posted by on 04/06/10 at 12:18 PM from United States

This reminds me of the BS my sister-in-law’s idiot husband spouts off all the time.  He comes from wealth, basically quit his job almost 20 years ago to tool around for his mother in exchange for vastly inflated wages, and makes all sorts of asinine pronouncements about the military based on his absolute zero experience of military matters.

One of these days I plan to fucking punch his lights out when his mouth writes too big a check.

Posted by AlexinCT on 04/06/10 at 02:01 PM from United States

Whenever I hear the people that claimed to support the military, but wanted them to lose at their mission, complain about some action by the troops in harms way, I tend to immediately side with the military. Historically you tend to end up on the right side 99 out of 100 times. It is instructive how a-holes that have never been in the heat of battle themselves and would likely piss their pants at the sound of a gunshot complain about the reactions from our troops, yet always find the time to defend real vile and atrocious behavior by pathological murderers that embrace the “progressive” ideology. This was a tragedy, but to play it the way these morons are, is disgusting. They are just hoping to relive the glory days of smearing the military like they did back during the Vietnam era. To them soldiers are dumb and crazy trigger happy accidents waiting to happen, and everything is to be analyzed from that perspective. They can kiss my ass.

Posted by on 04/06/10 at 02:39 PM from United States

This was a tragedy, but to play it the way these morons are, is disgusting.

For once, you and I argree.  Wikileaks called this proof of “Colatteral Murder”.  Thats pretty awful.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 04/06/10 at 04:49 PM from United States

The more I think about it, the more this bothers me—not the actions of the soldiers, but the reaction.  It’s armchair quarterbacking and frequently ignorant armchair quarterbacking.  Most of them don’t know that this was one of the most violent neighborhoods in Baghdad and the height of the surge.  The see the little arrows saying, “here’s a camera” and don’t bother to wonder what guys in a helicopter think.  If it had been an RPG, those soldiers might have been dead.  RPG’s can take out helicopters, as we found out in Somalia.

Collateral murder is not wikileaks title for it, but the title of the website that’s been agitating on this.  The second link above to Sullivan’s letters details earlier examinations that concluded this was a tragedy, but an understandable one, given the circumstances.

Posted by HARLEY on 04/06/10 at 05:43 PM from United States

This is a tragedy, a terrible one. In war this happens. Anyoen remember the camraman that got killed when he stopped hi car along a militry convoy, jumped out and threw a camrea on his shoulder, and got zapped whiel doing it?
Same thing here.
IT is hard for a Apache gunner to make out what exactly they are carrying given the small screen they got to work with and the image quality in there helmet mounted display. They do not have the time or luxury to stop a video, and blow it up like the people who run this site do.
One thing that i do find a bit odd, is that the van entered a active combat area, without any marking indicating that it was a PRESS van.
and also quickly retrieving the bodies , right after a engagement, where they knew the Apache, had to be still on station.

Posted by on 04/06/10 at 09:25 PM from United States

I agree with all the comments above and just want to add that from a historical perspective, today’s US army does more than almost any army in history to reduce this sort of thing (including the US army of a few decades ago).  The history of warfare is filled wtih tragic errors such as this (along with deliberate civilian killings on a massive scale).

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 04/06/10 at 10:00 PM from United States

It just seems to me that if you’re an “Independent” journalist (why were those guys there, anyway? Did they not expect to be in danger?) then there’s an element of risk involved.

Posted by on 04/07/10 at 01:00 AM from United States

I was thinking the same thing about the lack of press markings. I would have my shit covered with it.

Posted by on 04/07/10 at 04:06 AM from Japan

All of I have seen of this is this video. And the only comments I have read about it are Hal’s. However…

I am extremely disturbed by the fact the fact that those in the Apache consistently misrepresented the situation in order to get clearance to fire on those on the ground. Here’s my take, based on what they said vs what I saw:

- “We had a guy shooting… and now he’s behind the building” - who fired at them? I saw no evidence of that at all.  If they were, you’d kind of think they would engage in behavior like… I dunno… taking cover? And just about everyone in Iraq carries a weapon. Carrying an AK47 is evidence of what exactly?

- “He’s got an RGP. OK We got a guy with an RPG”. None of the guys walking up to the building was holding anything at all that looked like an RPG - they only identified AK47s. Again. No-one else is ducking and weaving. Nothing to indicate that these men were about to engage, let alone actually engaging.

- And look at them strolling like that across a square - certainly doesn’t look like they were planning to fire on anyone.

- And then: “We have a van that’s approaching and picking up bodies” Again, clearly completely untrue. They are picking up and putting a wounded man in a van - no reaching for weapons (which they had previously said they wanted to see before they fired), and no clear sign of danger to themselves or others.

This is appalling, and breaks clear rules of military engagement in the US, and should be considered a war crime. Nothing they said to their commanding officer matches the facts on the ground.

Posted by on 04/07/10 at 06:58 AM from United States

I am extremely disturbed by the fact the fact that those in the Apache consistently misrepresented the situation in order to get clearance to fire on those on the ground. Here’s my take, based on what they said vs what I saw:

You’re disturbed at any US action at anytime, so this outrage is nothing new. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a peep out of you about those who would blow up IEDs in front of schools or marketplaces killing their own as long as it’s for a good cause, so let’s just acknowledge this is about taking sides rather than human treatment. Hell I have my biases, let’s not pretend your side doesn’t.

- And look at them strolling like that across a square - certainly doesn’t look like they were planning to fire on anyone.

Hey, turns out suicide bombers just stroll along too. It’s war, it’s about making best judgments. Have you been there to know exactly how it appears before strolling individuals open fire? I haven’t, but I don’t think you have either. What I do know is there were a lot of surprise attacks.

There is more to consider here. The environment of the area, rules for being outside at the time, what you could carry, etc. It was fucking war, it’s different rules at that time. Now whether we should have been in Iraq is one thing, but once there and in war, it’s not about taking a stroll in the park.

Posted by AlexinCT on 04/07/10 at 07:23 AM from United States

The more I think about it, the more this bothers me—not the actions of the soldiers, but the reaction.  It’s armchair quarterbacking and frequently ignorant armchair quarterbacking.  Most of them don’t know that this was one of the most violent neighborhoods in Baghdad and the height of the surge.

As if that would make a bit of difference in their reaction Hal. You are giving them the benefit of the doubt when it is totally unwarranted. The reaction will be the same because the end goal is to demonize the military and portray them as evil blood thirsty murderers. It fits in with the whole idiotic “violence never solved anything” rhetoric.

If it had been an RPG, those soldiers might have been dead.  RPG’s can take out helicopters, as we found out in Somalia.

That’s their favorite kind of soldier: one that dies stupidly. It helps the narrative and the agenda. These are the people that always feel more empathy towards and commonality with bad guys and their causes than either the victims or those trying to stop them. From criminals to terrorists, they prefer to find fault with those out there doing the hard work that allows them to be the asses they are without fear of consequences, while making excuses for the bad guys.

I agree with all the comments above and just want to add that from a historical perspective, today’s US army does more than almost any army in history to reduce this sort of thing (including the US army of a few decades ago).

And the MSM does its damndest to portray them as anything but. It is almost as if the more concerned they become with collateral damage and avoiding it, the more concerned the MSM has been with taking every possible incident to paint them negatively. When the enemy does much worse and commits real atrocities it gets no coverage, or worse, we get told that while it is horrible, they expect it so it is no big deal. My response is always WTF? I do not care if we expect it or not, show the enemy’s brutality so people have proper perspective. Of course then they wouldn’t be able to play games and accuse the military of massacring innocents when they don’t like the president at the time, while giving a pass to one they do like that escalates what the president they called evil was doing to a whole new level.

Was not surprised to see Stogy and his take on this argument either.

I am extremely disturbed by the fact the fact that those in the Apache consistently misrepresented the situation in order to get clearance to fire on those on the ground. Here’s my take, based on what they said vs what I saw:

I find it telling that you, from the comfort of your couch or chair, with no pressure and ample time to go over the video, were able to determine that they were “misrepresenting” the situation, Stogy. That lack of ability to place yourself in their shoes exactly what we all have been pointing out right here. If you never have had to make split second decisions under duress, never mind life and death decisions under real pressure as this was the case, it is easy to miss the impact of what is referred to by those that know better as “the fog of battle”. Second guessing others far better people’s decisions in these harsh times is easy for those that have no such experiences. Especially if it also can help with a certain political agenda.

Posted by on 04/07/10 at 07:33 AM from Germany

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a peep out of you about those who would blow up IEDs in front of schools or marketplaces killing their own as long as it’s for a good cause

Actually, Ive made plenty of peeps about that stuff. I am quite consistently against the use of violence against anyone. Yes - there are lots of nutballs on the left who see it as fashionably legitimate when directed at the capitalist/imperialist state. I’m not one of them.

Have you been there to know exactly how it appears before strolling individuals open fire? I haven’t, but I don’t think you have either.

So you are saying it’s normal to not take cover when you are about to shoot at someone? This statement actually beggars belief. There is nothing at all in this video that shows that these people were engaged in combat activity.  It doesn’t matter how you interpret it - it’s not there.While the ‘RPG’ was being pointed around the corner, the other ‘bastards’ are standing having a bit of a chat.

Hey, turns out suicide bombers just stroll along too. It’s war, it’s about making best judgments.

So you think it’s acceptable for soldiers/flyboys/other military personnel to misrepresent the situation to their commanding officer?

Let me say it again: there is nothing in what these guys say to their superior officer that matches the situation on the ground - now this is either shockingly poor training or it’s murder.  Either way these guys had no business pointing guns at people. And yes, they should be charged.

Posted by on 04/07/10 at 07:53 AM from Germany

If you never have had to make split second decisions under duress, never mind life and death decisions under real pressure as this was the case, it is easy to miss the impact of what is referred to by those that know better as “the fog of battle”

These two should not be making life and death decisions for others if they are unable to determine whether or not they are under fire. Again: they said they were under fire, when they very clearly were not. There was no real sign of any threat apart from something that might have been an RPG - a fact that was not supported by any of the other evidence available to them, and a fact which they subsequently misrepresented to their commanding officer.

Fog of battle my ass. This was hardly a situation where it was difficult to determine friend from foe. They circled a couple of times, calmly talking, shooting video, analysing the situation - and very badly too.

And then shooting up a van rescuing the one surviver while again misrepresenting the situation to their superiors. After really really really wanting the guy to reach for a weapon, and the van pulling up gave them a semblance of an excuse. This is not ‘fog of war’ - they lied!

It’s unconscionable that these journalists were killed as a result.

And as for the Stogy as ‘anti-military’ argument - it’s pretty much ad hominem. You need to really argue that I am wrong based on argument, rather than your perception of my political position. Whether you think I am anti-military or not is irrelevant.

Posted by on 04/07/10 at 08:21 AM from United States

- “He’s got an RGP. OK We got a guy with an RPG”. None of the guys walking up to the building was holding anything at all that looked like an RPG - they only identified AK47s. Again. No-one else is ducking and weaving. Nothing to indicate that these men were about to engage, let alone actually engaging.

- STOGY

If you look at the start of the clip you will see the camera man crouch down by the side of the building with his lens sticking out. I’m sorry but a 1000mm lens from that distance does look like an RPG. I have a lens like that and people call it my bazooka.

Posted by on 04/07/10 at 09:14 AM from Germany

I’m sorry but a 1000mm lens from that distance does look like an RPG

Yeah. I get that. But NOTHING ELSE MATCHES! If it was an RPG, people would be getting into position, taking cover etc.  And remember, no one identified the RPG beforehand when they had a clear view of the courtyard, but suddenly here it is 5 seconds later pointing out from around the corner. And when the chopper comes around the building again, what do we see? People chatting. Not looking at the chopper, not pointing anything at the chopper. You don’t think that would send that this was not exactly how the guys up top thought it was?

And again - they lied when they said they were being fired at. Anyone see a muzzle flash? Or people prepping weapons as the now deceased dawdled their way across the courtyard? And they lied about the van picking up the wounded guy. And they really so wanted him to reach for a weapon (that he really never had) so they could finish him off.

So do you think it’s poor training, incompetence, or a war crime? This is certainly not heat of battle stuff.

Posted by on 04/07/10 at 11:28 AM from United States

I think it was a tragedy. As a former military person myself, I don’t think it was lack of training, incompetence and especially not a war crime, only if it was intentional could it be labeled a war crime. I think they were being over cautious and I think fear of being killed mislead their judgment. It happens with police all the time, scared for their lives and accidentally shot the wrong person, dark hallways....whatever. Fear got the better of them but it was an accident. Muzzle flash happens so quick it could be easily recreated in ones mind, or even a glare from something on the instrument panel in the corner of your eye.

I don’t think this was intentional and should be deemed an accident. Another reason reporters should stay out of hot zones during war time.

Posted by on 04/07/10 at 05:44 PM from United States

Yeah. I get that. But NOTHING ELSE MATCHES! If it was an RPG, people would be getting into position, taking cover etc.

LOOK CLOSER. About 4 minutes to 4:20 it looks like a guy crouching around the corner aiming something like an RPG. You can see him pretty clearly between the corner of the building and the telephone pole.

Second, you don’t wait until they are actually ready to shoot you (which it appeared they were anyhow between 4:00 and 4:20) or shooting you, so just because they came around the building and they didn’t re adjust just doesn’t mean shit. It looked like an RPG. It was a mistake. Unfortunately, once again your bias and disdain for America in general is keeping you from seeing this, and you’re hollering war crime.

And they really so wanted him to reach for a weapon (that he really never had) so they could finish him off.

Second, you’re predicting yesterday. At the time if it appeared an RPG was being pointed, which it clearly did look that way if you actually pay attention to the video, telling a wounded guy to grab a gun makes more sense with that in mind as opposed to knowing now that it was a camara guy and saying oh shit what did we do?

Think about it, they could have just shot him and said he had a weapon, since all they were doing is nothing but lying and all.

Actually, Ive made plenty of peeps about that stuff.

Really? Small peeps maybe.

Posted by on 04/07/10 at 06:09 PM from United States

Again: they said they were under fire, when they very clearly were not.

True, they could have said, “The guy in the white shirt at the end of the building about 4 feet from the telephone pole to his right is in a crouched position and appears to have an RPG in his hand that is aimed at us, but it could be a baseball bat, or a bunch of cans taped together, or a log and looks as though he may fire in our general direction. Rodger…

Give me a fucking break. It looked like he was about to fire, so the guy said they were firing. I doubt at the time he thought the words would be nitpicked. If something appears imminent, people generally call it. That’s not new. That’s not a crime.

The only, and I mean only time you would think American use of force is justified is AFTER the aircraft is hit and going down in flames.

Posted by AlexinCT on 04/07/10 at 06:26 PM from United States

The only, and I mean only time you would think American use of force is justified is AFTER the aircraft is hit and going down in flames.

Nah, I bet even then it would be painted as a disproportionate response, unwarranted, and deserved anyway, because America shouldn’t have been there in the first place. When you understand that’s the way they think you know better than to waste time discussing stuff with them. These are after all the same people that given a video showing ACORN is manned by criminals, could not be convinced that was the case. A video about soldiers mistaking a camera for an RPG that can be used against the US military? That they would believe in a flash. Heck I bet that even if it was an RPG they would demand the pilots wait until they are shot upon to respond. After all, the guy with the RPG might just be hunting!

Posted by HARLEY on 04/07/10 at 08:11 PM from United States

Stogy, please read the two updates that HAL posted.

Im still looking for any evidence that Reuters told the US ARMY that journalists were operation in that part of the combat zone.
also, where i the identification that they are required to wear and display on their vehicles?
also. If they were reporters, why were they hiding in position?

Posted by on 04/09/10 at 02:33 PM from Germany

I don’t like that Wikileaks is editorializing this, they are of course absolutely correct in pointing out that the permission to engage was granted long before the crouching guy was seen.

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