Friendly Fire On
March 23, 2003 7:01 AM   Subscribe

US Patriot hits British plane. I guess someone left friendly fire on. In an exchange between tables at a Baghdad restaurant, the Director General of the Information Ministry, Uday Altaiee, said: "We have them in Baghdad. They thought it would be a picnic - cream cakes and crates of Pepsi. But you will see that they will be slaughtered." How is this war really going?
posted by letterneversent (47 comments total)
 
yo! it's fog of war time y'all. everything we see might or might not be happening. yo! lot's of people are going to die.

for real.
posted by oliver_crunk at 7:13 AM on March 23, 2003


At lest two of the eight supposedly Iraqi missiles that hit Kuwait turned out to be US sea-launched cruise missiles that strayed off course. This can be clearly seen even from the craters left in the ground by the explosions of these missiles. After detonation the “Scud” warhead leaves a crater as much as 8 meters deep. What was observed in Kuwait, however, is the typical crater left by the detonation of a cruise missile’s warhead. The story with the rest of the Iraqi missile launches is also unclear. Experts are leaning toward a possibility that the explosions in the Kuwaiti border regions were caused not by missiles but by 120-mm mortar shells fired by the Iraqi mobile units.
posted by letterneversent at 7:16 AM on March 23, 2003


The war is going fine, as wars go. Thanks for asking! Let's hope it is over soon.
posted by effer27 at 7:36 AM on March 23, 2003


letterneversent : oh that makes me laugh.

That really morbid laugh that I've developed lately rather than the odd Sid James laugh i normally have...
posted by twine42 at 7:38 AM on March 23, 2003


How can you accidently down a friendly plane when there aren't any enemy planes?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:39 AM on March 23, 2003


sigh
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:48 AM on March 23, 2003


There are reports on tv (sorry, no link) that the Tornado's IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe) transponder wasn't working. This is a device that electronically identifies friendly aircraft to prevent just this sort of tragedy.

Granted that the Iraqi airforce is essentially non-existent, the fears of chemical and biological weapons dropped from a drone or a sneak attack by an airplane probably mean that unidentified targets still need to be shot down unless they can be identified, and quickly.
posted by Zonker at 7:48 AM on March 23, 2003


letterneversent: Hate to be a stickler, but what's the source of that quote?
posted by PenDevil at 7:49 AM on March 23, 2003


may I add that Al Jazeera has just shown graphic footage of dead American soldiers, and, even more disturbing, four or five American prisoners (one of them a woman, one is a bespectacled private from Kansas) have been filmed and interviewed by the Arab network

Rumsfeld's comment on CBS Face the Nation: "That's a violation of the Geneva Convention, those pictures you showed"
posted by matteo at 7:59 AM on March 23, 2003


Pendevil: it's that article I linked.

matteo: Haven't they showed Iraqi POW's in American media?
posted by letterneversent at 8:05 AM on March 23, 2003


Rumsfeld quoting the Geneva Convention -- doesn't that invoke Godwin's Law?

Why haven't they worked out the friendly fire thing yet? What is it about British (and Canadian) forces that make them such attractive targets to American forces?
posted by MiG at 8:22 AM on March 23, 2003


letterneversent: as Pretty_Generic said, this is ordinary news. You could have put together a FPP about friendly fire instead of having only one link. And, even for this post, your second quote (what source?) is more interesting than the first.
posted by MzB at 8:27 AM on March 23, 2003


Rumsfeld's comment on CBS Face the Nation: "That's a violation of the Geneva Convention, those pictures you showed"

Ummm..... I could have sworn CNN and Fox have been showing video of captured Iraqi soldiers for the last three days now.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:31 AM on March 23, 2003


Did I say that?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 8:32 AM on March 23, 2003


How can you accidently down a friendly plane when there aren't any enemy planes?
your question presumes the occurence of thought.
americans do what their technology tells them to do.
when the vile spam says "click here to be removed", it gets clicked.
when the IFF says "enemy! shoot it now!" it gets shot.
posted by quonsar at 8:38 AM on March 23, 2003


And don't hold your breath waiting for an apology or admission of guilt on the incident. The United States will likely express sorrow that the incident happened, whatever that's worth.

Rumsfield is referring to the humiliation aspects in Article 17, though the evidence is a bit weak at the moment:
Article 17 of the Geneva Convention

Every prisoner of war, when questioned on the subject, is bound to give only his surname, first names and rank, date of birth, and army, regimental, personal or serial number, or failing this, equivalent information. If he wilfully infringes this rule, he may render himself liable to a restriction of the privileges accorded to his rank or status.

Each Party to a conflict is required to furnish the persons under its jurisdiction who are liable to become prisoners of war, with an identity card showing the owner's surname, first names, rank, army, regimental, personal or serial number or equivalent information, and date of birth. The identity card may, furthermore, bear the signature or the fingerprints, or both, of the owner, and may bear, as well, any other information the Party to the conflict may wish to add concerning persons belonging to its armed forces. As far as possible the card shall measure 6.5 x 10 cm. and shall be issued in duplicate. The identity card shall be shown by the prisoner of war upon demand, but may in no case be taken away from him.

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.

Prisoners of war who, owing to their physical or mental condition, are unable to state their identity, shall be handed over to the medical service. The identity of such prisoners shall be established by all possible means, subject to the provisions of the preceding paragraph.

The questioning of prisoners of war shall be carried out in a language which they understand.
posted by cardboard at 8:39 AM on March 23, 2003


letter, XQU:

I guess Rumsfeld's complaining of the actual media _interviews_

I have seen Iraqi POWs on TV but the US military didn't allow interviews that I know of (Iraqi TV questions: what's your name, where are you from, why do you come to Iraq)

anyway the prisonres are apparently 507th Maintenance personnel
I guess the Pentagon is contacting their families, maybe after they've done that, the interviews'll be broadcast by the US media, too (beware: there's very graphic shots of the corpses, be warned. and the interviews are very disturbing, too: most of the American POWs -- one is injured -- look scared shitless, and I can't blame them one bit)
posted by matteo at 8:43 AM on March 23, 2003


Pretty_Generic: mea culpa (following the wrong link, too many windows opened)
posted by MzB at 8:48 AM on March 23, 2003


It would stink to be a tank fueler one day and a POW the next. Wasn't there a Pauly Shore movie like that?
posted by letterneversent at 8:54 AM on March 23, 2003


there's already been a lot of strange ally on ally violence in this war.
posted by jessamyn at 8:56 AM on March 23, 2003


The war is going fine, as wars go. Thanks for asking!

whew! after a few days of having every horrible thing about war that hangs over me plastered onto every news outlet, it's a good thing you came along and said that or else I might start regretting that we started it.

It would stink to be a tank fueler one day and a POW the next. Wasn't there a Pauly Shore movie like that?

indeed. and if I'm not mistaken, IT KICKED ASS!
posted by mcsweetie at 8:57 AM on March 23, 2003


The Brits don't have GPS standard on every unit, so they're more vulnerable to friendly fire.

Also - there's no way we're going to lose this war or even suffer major casualties. So it might be a bit premature to start questioning after every tiny coalition setback.

After all - we've processed thousands of surrenders, bombed the hell out of Saddam, and captured cities and territory already...I'd be surprised if we lost more than a few hundred when all is said and done.
posted by balajis at 9:01 AM on March 23, 2003


In an exchange between tables at a Baghdad restaurant, the Director General of the Information Ministry, Uday Altaiee, said: "We have them in Baghdad. They thought it would be a picnic - cream cakes and crates of Pepsi. But you will see that they will be slaughtered."

Questions from the audience? Yes, thank you, I have one. Minister Altaiee, would you comment on the fact that one of the chief reasons it will be a difficult campaign is your willingness to place Iraqi women and children between your brave and fierce soldiers and the US troops? No? You don't want to comment? What? What do you mean I have to leave the country now?
posted by MidasMulligan at 9:03 AM on March 23, 2003


Actually, cardboard, it's Article 13 -- which says in part Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.

A year and a half ago, in order to deflate charges of torture and other grave breaches of humanitarian law at Camp X-Ray, the Pentagon released photographs of the prisoners taken from a distance, and were promptly accused of violating the Geneva Conventions for doing so; in order to comply reporters ' access was restricted to Camp X-Ray and its successor Camp Delta.

The rules that coalition forces are using for photography of prisoners are generally that a "respectful distance" be maintained. Interviews of persons in custody are strictly forbidden. Rules 4.G.18-19 covering unreleasable information state no photographs or other visual media showing an enemy prisoner of war or detainee's recognizable face, nametag, or other identifying feature or item may be taken; still or other video imagery of custody operations or interviews with persons under custody. Arguably some of the footage released earlier (surrendering and surrendered Iraqi soldiers) skirts these rules, although especially with live reporting it may be difficult to prevent. The alternative, of course, is post-hoc censorship by the Pentagon, and nobody wants that, right?
posted by dhartung at 9:20 AM on March 23, 2003


Well, not only that, but apparently we're busy shooting friendly journalists too.

Frighteningly enough, I wonder how the friendly versus unfriendly kill count will play out.
posted by Samizdata at 9:29 AM on March 23, 2003


I hate to be such a pussy, but could we be a little less self-satisfied when peoples' deaths reinforce our take on things? What happened to accusing the US of encouraging a "Nintendo" view of war in the last Gulf Conflict? Now it's "Friendly Fire On" references to Counter-Strike. I'm not asking for opening moruning of the dead, just a little less assholery on Sunday morning.
posted by yerfatma at 9:34 AM on March 23, 2003


Yerfatma -

Humor is an inevitable, if sometimes inappropriate, response to stress.
posted by Samizdata at 9:40 AM on March 23, 2003


No, that's cool, I get that. I'm usually guilty of it too, but where's the stress here? It seems like a lot of back-slappers guffawing to me. If one were attempting to actually be humorous, why not suggest the Bush Administration modified the batteries to actually test for true Patriots? Everyone else gets shot down.
posted by yerfatma at 9:51 AM on March 23, 2003


Also - there's no way we're going to lose this war or even suffer major casualties. ...I'd be surprised if we lost more than a few hundred when all is said and done.

That sounds disturbingly casual. As if it's no big deal. A cheap price to pay. Of no consequence.

Every death has great consequence. Children are parentless. Spouses are heartbroken. Social networks torn apart. A gaping hole is left in a dozen people's lives.

Not to mention that the person who was killed no longer gets to experience life.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:05 AM on March 23, 2003


Ummm..... I could have sworn CNN and Fox have been showing video of captured Iraqi soldiers for the last three days now.

Gee smartass, were the Iraqi prisoners shown dead with bullet holes in their foreheads after having been apparently been executed after capture? Maybe that's what Rumsfeld's complaining about.
posted by chris24 at 10:12 AM on March 23, 2003


letterneversent: I was referring to this quote which does not appear in the linked article.
posted by PenDevil at 10:51 AM on March 23, 2003


Rumsfeld's comment on CBS Face the Nation: "That's a violation of the Geneva Convention, those pictures you showed"

It's going to be hard for him to argue the point, to the U.S. or the rest of the world, after the maneuvering and wordplay the administration went through to allow us to keep (and 'coerce') foreign prisoners outside the Geneva Convention standards.
posted by troybob at 11:08 AM on March 23, 2003


Truly, chris, your capacity for civility is matched only by the impact calling me a smartass has on the persuasiveness of your argument. Lick me.

Rumsfeld noted that under the conventions governing prisoners of war, "It's illegal to do things to POWs that are humiliating to those prisoners."

Gee, guess that's what he was complaining about, since, you know, that what he said and not just your speculation. And it's a rational argument that playing close-up video of captured Iraqis as part of a press clip touting the superiority of our military might be construed as humiliating, as dhartung and others have already linked to. That's what the news has been doing for the last few days. Considering our exploits of the last year, including our public debates about torture and that little day camp in Cuba (and successive attempts to forego Geneva as troybob just noted), the U.S. might have a higher but not astronomical moral high ground in the "prisoners of war" department.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:11 AM on March 23, 2003


would you comment on the fact that one of the chief reasons it will be a difficult campaign is your willingness to place Iraqi women and children between your brave and fierce soldiers and the US troops?

Yes, Midas, I have a few thoughts on that. Isn't it possible that those civilians are in the line of fire because they live in the areas we're invading? Are you really going to claim that if the Russians/Iraqis/Cubans/Martians invaded your state, your town, your neighborhood that you wouldn't be fighting house to house if it was to your advantage? You'd come out in the open and fight like a man just like the enemy general told you to do? Come on. Get real. We're invading their country and they're going to take every advantage they can.

I'm not taking the Iraqi side in this fight; I just think the charges of hiding behind civilians are disingenuous and parroting them indicates one is buying into the propaganda a little too much.
posted by brantstrand at 11:19 AM on March 23, 2003


I do feel very bad for many of our troops who joined under the assumption that they'd actually be defending the United States. I'm sure many would like to dopeslap the pushy recruiters who telemarket every high school senior's home. The ones who joined hoping to relive Saving Private Ryan I feel less bad for.
posted by letterneversent at 11:23 AM on March 23, 2003


I just think the charges of hiding behind civilians are disingenuous and parroting them indicates one is buying into the propaganda a little too much.


Well, since that seems to be the Iraqi brass's main strategy, how is it disingenuous? They aren't prepared for a stand up fight, so they attempt to mix with the innocent (another Geneva violation).

So: fight in the open and get slaughtered or hide behind kids? If those are your choices, maybe one could conclude that the best option is not to fight.
posted by ednopantz at 11:35 AM on March 23, 2003


Can anyone here answer this - have Patriot Missiles actually ever shot down anything they were supposed to? I recall that reports of the Patriot system intercepting Iraqi Scuds during the last Gulf war later proved to be untrue, but apparently they can down a British fighter jet. Have they ever succesfully hit a Scud.....or anything else, other than this haplessly transponderless British plane?
posted by troutfishing at 11:37 AM on March 23, 2003


If there is a plausible scenario of Iraqi first use of WMD, including indirectly via transfer to a terrorist group, is it not in response to an American attack on Iraq that placed Saddam in the position of certain doom, thereby removing any “deterrent” obstacles to taking down as many of his enemies as possible on the way to his own extinction? During the Gulf War, Saddam pre-delegated orders to Iraqi Scud batteries to launch biological- and chemical-armed missiles at Tel Aviv if the coalition forces advanced on Baghdad. President Bush himself has acknowledged that an “Iraqi regime faced with its own demise may attempt cruel and desperate measures.” A CIA assessment concluded that Saddam, if convinced that a US attack could not be deterred, might “decide that the extreme step of assisting Islamist terrorists in conducting a WMD attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking large numbers of victims with him.” At a minimum, Saddam would target Israel and thereby guarantee his posthumous fame among many in the Arab world. Thus, would not a US attack on Iraq make Saddam’s first use of WMD a self-fulfilling prophesy?

In the earliest years of the Cold War, before the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb, there were calls in the United States for preventive war against another evil dictator. The calls continued even after the Soviets detonated their first bomb in 1949. Indeed, in the following year, the Commandant of the Air Force’s new Air War College publicly asked to be given the order to conduct a nuclear strike against fledgling Soviet atomic capabilities. “And when I went to Christ,” said the Commandant, “I think I could explain to Him why I wanted to do it now before it’s too late. I think I could explain to Him that I had saved civilization. With it [the A-bomb] used in time, we can immobilize a foe [and] reduce his crime before it happened.”

President Truman fired the Commandant, preferring instead a long, hard, and, in the end, stunningly successful policy of containment and deterrence.


The Bush Doctrine and War with Iraq
Jeffrey Record
From Parameters, The US Army War College Quarterly, Spring 2003, pp. 4-21.
posted by y2karl at 11:38 AM on March 23, 2003


Trout: the success of the Patriot is certainly hghly contested. The answer depends on what you count as an intercept. Sometimes an explosion within 3 miles of the target has counted as a success, other times only direct collisions would count as success. Given the structural stability of scuds and al samouds, it's a dubious case either way. Nevertheless, I would recommend the very well done Strategic Deception, by Gordon Mitchell, which looks at this issue in a number of areas, from the Patriot missile to THAD.
posted by hank_14 at 11:53 AM on March 23, 2003


"stunningly successful policy of containment and deterrence. "

Too late. If in fact Iraq has WMD, and it supplies them to terrorists who have shown that they can and will use methods of assymetrical warfare, then we cannot contain or deter such a threat. It is too easy to sneak into the U.S.

Any such threat must be eliminated. The cost of not eliminating such a threat is too high, if we're talking biological weapons in particular.

Mutual assured destruction does not work with people who are willing to become martyrs, I think.
posted by geekhorde at 12:14 PM on March 23, 2003


geekhorde.... and eliminating the threat is done by.... invading Iraq and inspiring possible terrorists to commit terrorism?

If in fact Iraq had WMD, it's had 12 years to give them to other groups. Explain to me how being invaded by the United States and the growing crisis in the West Bank is making it LESS likely that Saddam now wants to do this. If Saddam had WMD info or technology, guess what- it could very well be out of Iraq by now. It's likely already in the hands of terrorists who secured it out of fear the invasion would destroy it. And considering how much Saddam and groups like Al-Qaeda dislike each other, it would take something like... oh, I don't know... a mutual hatred of the United States or Israel (what COULD they be doing to stoke that fire these days)... to fuse a bond between them. Unless you plan on vaporizing about 80% of the earth's land mass, the threat that someone on the planet will have the means and desire to use WMD exists.

What exactly is "too late?" You mean the 57 years in which no one has managed to detonate a nuclear weapon in a populated country? I'm grasping at the idea of how that's a failure.

People need to stop feigning blindness to the fact that somewhere out there people are going to exploit existing technology. The only way to destroy the threat of WMD is to destroy the potential to make them and the excuses to use them... you will never destroy 100% of the people who want to use them.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:29 PM on March 23, 2003


XQU, you're right. Faced with the horrific facts of the situation, I overreacted to what I thought was an inappropriately snarky post with a snarkier of my own. Apologies.

That said, I can't agree with the moral equivalence argument I think is implicit in your post. Your comment on the western press showing Iraqi prisoners seems to be saying why should we be entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention since we're supposedly not abiding by it. But I think there is a difference between press showing prisoners surrrendering or detained and the public interrogation of POWs on state TV. And no matter how you feel about the treatment of Al Queda/Taliban detainees, I do not think it equates to what seems to be coldblooded execution.
posted by chris24 at 12:37 PM on March 23, 2003


were the Iraqi prisoners shown dead with bullet holes in their foreheads after having been apparently been executed after capture? Maybe that's what Rumsfeld's complaining about.

No, he isn't. At least, not under the Geneva Convention, which prohibits photography of prisoners of war, not dead combatants. It's pretty fucking grotesque, but not an issue of treaty obligations per se: the alleged treatment of those killed is, of course, another grave issue.
posted by riviera at 12:45 PM on March 23, 2003


My point, chris, was that only a few weeks ago both on all outlets of American media as well as this very website we were arguing over rational excuses for torturing people because of an alleged importance to our nation's sanctity. I'm implying that the U.S. has set itself up in a way that at the very minimum it needs to take a good long moment or three to reflect on how far down the line it really stands on moral equivalence.

This is an administration that has at countless moments skirted age-old deals and treaties in the name of domestic interests. That known, it's understandable that many would scoff at the nature of the administration's declaration that the Iraqis aren't playing by the rules. Hell, Bush began the military action with a speech in which he declared his intent to invade Iraq followed by a list of rules to which he expected the people he was about to order killed to obey.

To top off all of that, this is a military action that Bush has sponsored not in accordance with international consensus and procedure, but in direct and blatant defiance of it. How can we accept any standard of "rules" or decency in this military and international equivalent of a dysfunctional family?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:55 PM on March 23, 2003


Riviera, I meant that the execution of the POWs would be a violation, not the showing, though that is obscene.

How can we accept any standard of "rules" or decency in this military and international equivalent of a dysfunctional family?

Whether you agree with the genesis, justification or prosecution of the war, that in no way justifies, at least in my mind, the coldblooded execution of defenseless POWs in your custody.
posted by chris24 at 1:04 PM on March 23, 2003


Mr. "No Pants", you fail to counter my main assertion, that anyone defending their homeland from foreign invaders is going to do so in the most effective way possible. Our inability to distinguish civilians from the opposing force in Viet Nam was a huge problem; guess which American war the Iraqis have probably studied the closest to prepare for this one?

If China invaded the US tomorrow morning, and the Army wanted to put a guy with a shoulder-launched SAM on your roof, would you think, "Those dirty bastards, hiding behind little civilian me!"?? I highly doubt it. You'd be bringing him sandwiches, and so would I. (Assuming here that you're US citizen. Insert your country if not.)

> Well, since [hiding behind civilians] seems to be the Iraqi brass's main strategy, how is it disingenuous?

Seems to be? Based on what? Based on your briefing from senior Iraqi military? Based on your observations on the battlefield? No... based on what you're parroting from the press, who are repeating what they're told by the people prosecuting this war on the US/UK side.

>They aren't prepared for a stand up fight

They aren't "prepared" to fight the fight that we're best prepared to fight, so we're going to try to shame them into fighting that fight or, at least, dehumanize the enemy on the 'home front' by painting him as cowardly and/or ruthless. No doubt true in some cases, but not on the level we're asked to believe.

This isn't the Olympics. It's not simply an international contest for prestige. Hate Hussein or not, you have to understand we are a foreign power invading their country, and many people there are going to do everything possible to repulse us and maintain their sovereignty. To paraphrase FDR, I imagine many Iraqis are of the opinion that Hussein is a son of a bitch, but he's their son of a bitch. And when a nation fights for its sovereignty, they're all in it together.
posted by brantstrand at 3:40 PM on March 23, 2003


Letterneversent: Where did you find that quote? I did a Google search, including the "lest" typo and the only root source I could find for that article was a biased russian wesbite. They don't offer any evidence or sources for that allegation, but it's being rerprinted on blogs now. You really should quote your sources, ya know.
posted by MJoachim at 6:19 AM on March 24, 2003


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