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November 28, 2005 1:00 AM   Subscribe

A trophy film of what appears to be civilian defense contractors shooting innocent Iraqi civilians has appeared on the internet. Investigations are ongoing. (via Taegan Goddard's Political Wire)
posted by darkstar (104 comments total)

 
Agh! I just found this referenced in a comment by jellicle in this thread.

Feel free to delete this post. Sorry.
posted by darkstar at 1:03 AM on November 28, 2005


This topic probably deserves its own thread.

You can also get the video in Quicktime here.
posted by homunculus at 1:09 AM on November 28, 2005


Direct link to video [WMV]

This is seriously messed up.
posted by knave at 1:13 AM on November 28, 2005


Winning hearts and minds. Greeted with kisses, flowers, and candy. Freedom is on the march. Mission accomplished.
posted by fandango_matt at 1:22 AM on November 28, 2005


Gah. I'm pretty much at my limit with what will surprise and shock me from all of this anymore. The daily stories and reports of how our administration is raping what our country should stand for no longer surprise me in the slightest. I think that there would have to be a story about bush or cheney personally killing someone to really surprise me now, and I'm not even entirely sure THAT would anymore.

This, however, certainly got me worked up again. This is what appears to be video footage of actual war crimes being committed. This is disgusting. I wonder how much will be done about this? Not nearly fucking enough, is my guess. Just like everything fucking else about the last few years.

I'm almost embarrassed to admit I'm from here; for now I just have to include a vigorous claim that that the America I'M part of has been hijacked. Bleh.
posted by Stunt at 1:37 AM on November 28, 2005


Nothing will be done about this, don't be silly. A little sound, a dash of fury... then the waiting game while people easily forget... all of it signifying nothing
posted by hincandenza at 1:39 AM on November 28, 2005


Let's see them blame this on Grand Theft Auto.
posted by deusdiabolus at 1:45 AM on November 28, 2005


It's great that people are getting to the point now where they have seen so much of this sort of behaviour that they are ceasing to even register shock anymore. This is exactly where they want you to go.
posted by nightchrome at 2:01 AM on November 28, 2005


It's not so much getting numb. It's more a growing sense of futility.

There was a point where you could comfort yourself by believing that at some point, it would get outrageous enough that people would take to the streets in significant numbers and put a stop to this.

More and more people realize this will never happen.
posted by uncle harold at 2:16 AM on November 28, 2005


Torture!
posted by growabrain at 2:18 AM on November 28, 2005


The only thing I could think of as I watched this was: what if that had been in Phoenix, and those had been my parents in that car, driving down the street on their way to the grocery store or church or whatever?

Then, just like that, foreigners riding around in an SUV - ostenibly there to make the roads safer for democracy - shoot out my parents' windshield, killing them.

There is no response from the government, no condemnation of the actions, no accountability for the perpetrators, no censure of their continuing to kill like this. It goes on for months, years. Some of my neighbors are killed, including other relatives, during this time.

I think, at the very least, I'd be wanting these foreigners out of my country, regardless of whatever great and noble deeds they were doing on my behalf. Preferably, they'd be imprisoned for murder.

I mean, if it were in Phoenix, and those had been my parents...
posted by darkstar at 2:26 AM on November 28, 2005


Other than the name of the file being Aegis ( a company that does indeed have contracts in Iraq) and PSD (which stands for Personal Security Detail, what proof is there that this is even what it says it is? A file name is a weak link at best.

Also, the clips are not long enough to give anything close to resembling a full picture. Just the end of what happened.
posted by Dagobert at 2:37 AM on November 28, 2005


150 years ago, civilian contractors would sit on trains going through the Great Plains and shoot up Indians the same way. Instead of thinking of this as war crimes, can't we just place it in the American Tradition?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:42 AM on November 28, 2005


Those commuters obviously hated our freedoms.
posted by brundlefly at 3:04 AM on November 28, 2005


There was a PBS Frontline documentary all about security contractors in Iraq a few months ago. It shows what a difficult position the Iraqi citizens, and the contractors themselves, are in.

As the article states, the road this was supposedly video'd on is attacked more than once a day with mortors and other assaults. The specifics are hard to tell from the video, but it's not surprising that the contractors are quick to open fire on a vehicle that doesn't respond in a manner that they find 'appropriate'.

That's not a value judgement about what they did, but given the situation they're in, it's a predictable response. It's an environment where their enemies blend in with the normal citizens. If they fuck up identifying an enemy once, they and their passengers die.

This same shit happened with some of the massacres in Vietnam. NPR had an interview with a special forces member involved in some of the incidents. Without mincing words, he stated that if the thought of shooting someone crossed his mind, he did. He couldn't afford to mistakenly identify an enemy as common villager.

If you put troops in a situation like this, you can count on a similar response.

The waters are a little muddier with contractors, since they aren't being ordered to be there, like normal troops. But, then again, if the contractors weren't there, then normal troops would be protecting the convoys. They would be in the same shitty situation.

Having said all that, if I saw a vehicle of heavily armed contractors, I'd get the hell away from them as fast as I could.
posted by jsonic at 3:05 AM on November 28, 2005


Capt Adnan Tawfiq of the Iraqi Interior Ministry which deals with compensation issues, has told the Sunday Telegraph that he has received numerous claims from families who allege that their relatives have been shot by private security contractors travelling in road convoys.

He said: "When the security companies kill people they just drive away and nothing is done. Sometimes we ring the companies concerned and they deny everything. The families don't get any money or compensation. I would say we have had about 50-60 incidents of this kind."


So, this sort of thing gets posted on the internet, comments follow, creating an illusion of outrage and protest where there is none, meanwhile the matter is said to be investigated, and we all know how that ends, and... that's it? That's how political debate in a democracy works?
posted by funambulist at 3:13 AM on November 28, 2005


Talk about predictable responses...
posted by funambulist at 3:15 AM on November 28, 2005


Oh it's okay, Tim Spicer is investigating. I am sure we'll get a full and in-depth report on how it wasn't anything to do with his company. Google his name for fun, frolics and adventures in the world of shadowy mercenary forces. Not only does he run Aegis but he's also been the owner of Sandline. Everything he touches turns to shit so I am 100% sure that it will all turn out great.
posted by longbaugh at 3:18 AM on November 28, 2005


jsonic, yeah, the specific actions are unsurprising, and the static angles of the video give little context (although the POV vehicle is moving, so I doubt contractors were outside waving people down). What does disturb me is that someone took the time to shoot it, edit it, set it to music and post it online.

Then again, one could say the same thing about any number of gore-soaked still photos that have appeared online (in exchange for porn, sometimes). As much as I'd like to blame the Bush Admin. for this (and I suppose I can for putting these people there in the first place), this is simply how people behave in war zones, whether it be Iraq, Nam or Normandy. We just get the snuff footage faster now.
posted by brundlefly at 3:23 AM on November 28, 2005


If they fuck up identifying an enemy once, they and their passengers die.


Yeah, but you need some reasonable evidence surely. It's unlikely any of those vehicles were a threat, and if they thought they were, why not just warning shots, why shoot the windshield out risking killing the driver and passenger?


I reckon these were just some American thugs having a fun time shooting up some towelheads.
posted by snoktruix at 4:02 AM on November 28, 2005


I'll say it again. This saddens me to no end.
posted by furtive at 4:02 AM on November 28, 2005


Other than the name of the file being Aegis ( a company that does indeed have contracts in Iraq) and PSD (which stands for Personal Security Detail, what proof is there that this is even what it says it is?

My understanding is that it was first picked up off an Aegis-associated blog, and that it was pulled from there in response to concerns of the company.
posted by bashos_frog at 4:07 AM on November 28, 2005


I think this is where it came from.
BTW - I first heard about this from bareknucklepolitics.com. There were links in the comments to more info.
posted by bashos_frog at 4:14 AM on November 28, 2005


Oh America, who won't you slaughter indiscriminately?
posted by Jairus at 4:24 AM on November 28, 2005


WTF!?
posted by nola at 4:28 AM on November 28, 2005


Oh America, who won't you slaughter indiscriminately?

Anyone with their own nuclear weapons.
posted by bashos_frog at 4:31 AM on November 28, 2005


Real nuclear weapons, that is.
Weapons-related program activities just don't cut it as deterrents anymore.
posted by bashos_frog at 4:32 AM on November 28, 2005


From the article:
The video first appeared on the website www.aegisIraq.co.uk. The website states: "This site does not belong to Aegis Defence Ltd, it belongs to the men on the ground who are the heart and soul of the company." The clips have been removed.

The website also contains a message from Lt Col Spicer, which reads: "I am concerned about media interest in this site and I remind everyone of their contractual obligation not to speak to or assist the media without clearing it with the project management or Aegis London.

"Refrain from posting anything which is detrimental to the company since this could result in the loss or curtailment of our contract with resultant loss for everybody."
To my eyes, this seems to suggest that Tim Spicer was likely well aware of the videos ahead of time, and wasn't then and isn't now disturbed by them except in the sense that they may harm the company's sweetheart deal with the government. The idea that he's now "investigating": as longbaugh has already noted, this is a cruelly laughable assertion at best. Spicer's skillset is in creating these kind of psychopathic brutalities, it is that previously demonstrated skillset for which the similarly psychopathic monsters inhabiting the White House were more than willing to pay handsomely.

The only sane reaction is to go insane: go videotape yourself shooting up Spicer's parents as they drive around their hometown. Send that video to everyone in Washington who is tainted with what Iraq has wrought. Anything else, any other silly hand-wringing and blog-posting, is wasting time.

These people are monsters- we must become monsters to defeat them. They are killers and destroyers of life- proposing that we sit down in a "friendship circle" and join hands and talk out our issues is pathetic. They are beyond redemption- let their imaginary God judge them now. If you don't kill them and their families first, they will kill you.
posted by hincandenza at 4:35 AM on November 28, 2005


From the link bashos_frog posted:

guys, ref the video, are you surprised at this?? I mean you post this and other stuff on an unsecure site for everybody (media/terrorists etc) to see. Are you all fucking mad?

Uh, yeah. That about sums it up. Not only do you have to fight the dirty sandniggers, but you get backstabbed by the terrorist media as well! It's ok to murder, just don't show the footage to the enemy!
posted by uncle harold at 4:39 AM on November 28, 2005


Wow. That's pretty fucked up.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:46 AM on November 28, 2005


Spicer's been notorious for years, worthy of his own post, in fact. Do a google search on him and be amazed.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:47 AM on November 28, 2005


I keep going back to the fact that there is really no documentation regarding the source of this video. (unless I've missed something)

I'm not saying that it couldn't be US paid contractors, just that we have no idea who this is.

I'm reluctant to rush to judgement based on this, there's enough documented crap out there to be outraged about.
posted by HuronBob at 4:49 AM on November 28, 2005


I'm calling my Senators and Congressman as soon as their offices open.

The people responsible for this insanity must be hung from the highest possible tree.
posted by I Love Tacos at 4:51 AM on November 28, 2005


creating an illusion of outrage and protest where there is none

My outrage is extremely real. The lunatics in this video are doing severe harm to our troops, our mission and our country.
posted by I Love Tacos at 4:58 AM on November 28, 2005


My outrage is extremely real. The lunatics in this video are doing severe harm to our troops, our mission and our country.

Americans murdering Iraqis? I am outraged at the harm being done to America by this!
posted by Jairus at 5:00 AM on November 28, 2005


Americans murdering Iraqis? I am outraged at the harm being done to America by this!

I know that America's policy in Iraq is, to put it delicately, poorly executed and unpopular.

No matter how you feel about that policy, it is inarguable that these men were acting outside the bounds of humanity. As such, they should be located, identified and brought to justice.

These are not the sad casualties that sometimes result from a military attack, these are murders for sport.
posted by I Love Tacos at 5:12 AM on November 28, 2005


Why is everyone bashing the Americans on this? Aegis is a British company and the article says that you can hear "a Scottish or Irish accent."
posted by Dagobert at 5:19 AM on November 28, 2005


The website also contains a message from Lt Col Spicer, which reads: "I am concerned about media interest in this site..."

Something tells me that the only thing that will get investigated thoroughly is the matter of this material being distributed on the internet, while the issue of what happens in the video will be allowed to die a very discreet death.
posted by clevershark at 5:23 AM on November 28, 2005


Just a few "bad apples". Nothing to see here. Move along please.
posted by kcds at 5:24 AM on November 28, 2005


I am notsurprised at the actions of people who will actively seek and take money, in order to put themselves in a situation where they may (and likely will) have to take lives.

Fundamentally that seems wrong to me - and we've heard too many stories recently about the behaviour of these animals.

However distasteful and wrong a war is, it does seem like a job for at least a decent and honourable military - and maybe here lies the root of the problem, there aren't too many of those any more.
posted by mattr at 5:41 AM on November 28, 2005


for those who are doubting this video ... obviously, someone's somewhere shooting up cars, aren't they?

"US military vehicles carry a sign warning drivers to keep their distance from the vehicle. The warning which appears in both Arabic and English reads "Danger. Keep back. Authorised to use lethal force.""

like someone's going to be able to read that sign at the distance they were shooting from
posted by pyramid termite at 5:55 AM on November 28, 2005


I don't think we can tell much from the video. It could be a humvee load of contractors taking shots at motorist for fun, it could be something justified or something in between.

I did notice that they only shot at autos coming toward them from the rear. They didn't appear to shot at any that passed them in the opposite direction. Also, didn't it appear that one of the autos continued to follow along for quite some distance after they initially hit it with gun fire?

My suspicion is that they may have been shooting at any auto that closed on them from behind based on the fact that would be the most likely way they would be attacked from another auto. If so, that, by itself, doesn't seem like sufficient justification to start shooting.
posted by Carbolic at 5:59 AM on November 28, 2005


These are not the sad casualties that sometimes result from a military attack, these are murders for sport.

Agreed. My comment was meant to illustrate the fact that your first reaction to this was to the harm done to AMERICA by this, and not the harm done to the people who are being shot.
posted by Jairus at 5:59 AM on November 28, 2005


Where has my country gone?
They have stripped her from me.
Taken the light from my eyes, the right from my heart, and the dream from my sleep.
posted by Rubbstone at 6:18 AM on November 28, 2005


Well gee, it's seems pretty obvious to me, the SUV these guys are in is white. Iraqis should all quake in fear of white vehicles. White sedans. White Scooters. White Bicycles. Anything on wheels in white. . .
Or perhaps the fucking contractors should do a hell of a lot better job of indicating exactly what kind of vehicle the average joe Iraqi citizen is coming up on in the street so they can back the hell off before mom and dad end up in the morgue courtesy of lawless, trigger-happy mercenaries.
And fuck Spicer and his offer to 'investigate'. He should be 'investigated' for war crimes over a period of decades. . .
posted by mk1gti at 6:25 AM on November 28, 2005


Just a few "bad apples". Nothing to see here. Move along please.

Tell that to the occupied Iraqis. A few bad apples among the contractors, a few bad apples in the military and a few bad apples among the politicians. That makes a hell of a lot of bad apples.

but sure, lets close our eyes and move along in our own little, pathetic comfort bubbles. Ignorance is bliss after all.
posted by twistedonion at 6:32 AM on November 28, 2005


Well this is just dandy.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 6:33 AM on November 28, 2005


Why is everyone bashing the Americans on this?

I think the Elvis track is confusing matters.
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 6:43 AM on November 28, 2005


A+++ WOULD CONTRACT AGAIN!!
posted by prostyle at 7:02 AM on November 28, 2005


I wrote about this earlier today: Self Link and I had a look around their Message Board... frightening stuff in there
posted by quarsan at 7:04 AM on November 28, 2005


Even if it's strictly British private contractors for a British company, other incidents have involved US soldiers, it's no wonder there's a conflation here too...

Tacos: but the point is not your or anyone's individual outrage. As long as it remains an individual reaction it might as well not exist at all.

Also, like Jairus hinted at... it's also not about what episodes like this and the attitude behind them do to any US citizens' image of their own country, you know... (also considering that image may be a little too rose-tinted to start with?).
posted by funambulist at 7:04 AM on November 28, 2005


Also posted with extensive quote yesterday here (military ethics officer suicide story)
posted by hank at 7:41 AM on November 28, 2005


But to save you the trouble of scrolling all the way down in the prior thread, this corrective information from the Telegraph (newspaper) publication of the original story:

QUOTE
A spokesman for Aegis Defence Services, said: "There is nothing to indicate that these film clips are in any way connected to Aegis."

Last night a spokesman for the [British] Foreign Office said: "Aegis have assured us that there is nothing on the video to suggest that it has anything to do with their company. This is now a matter for the American authorities because Aegis is under contract to the United States."
END QUOTE
posted by hank at 7:48 AM on November 28, 2005


The Washington Post reported on frequent shootings of civilians by security contractors, including an incident that's similar to the one in the video:
The contractors -- 16 Americans and three Iraqis -- were traveling west from Baghdad in a convoy of white Suburbans. As they passed the Abu Ghraib prison, whose perimeter is guarded by Horst's soldiers, they were shooting indiscriminately at the sides of the road, the general said.

"They were doing what we call 'clearing by fire,' " Horst said. "They were shooting everything they see. They blow through here and they shot at our guys and they just kept going. No one was shooting back."
They're usually not mentioned as part of the coalition of the willing (they're more like coalition of the billing), but the approximately 25,000 security contractors are the second-largest foreign military group in Iraq. The UK has the third-largest contingent, with approximately 8,500 troops in Iraq as of August 2005. At least 286 contractors have been killed in Iraq.

the SUV these guys are in is white

It's OJ! He's finally getting revenge on the real killer or killers.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:53 AM on November 28, 2005


Coalition of the billing, I like it.
posted by anthill at 7:57 AM on November 28, 2005


"civilian defense contractors"

Can we just call then mercenaries now? Or is that not PC anymore?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:02 AM on November 28, 2005


jsonic: ... given the situation they're in, it's a predictable response. It's an environment where their enemies blend in with the normal citizens. If they fuck up identifying an enemy once, they and their passengers die.

This same shit happened with some of the massacres in Vietnam. NPR had an interview with a special forces member involved in some of the incidents. Without mincing words, he stated that if the thought of shooting someone crossed his mind, he did. He couldn't afford to mistakenly identify an enemy as common villager


This is the same point that Sy Hersh has been trying to make: We've created an ethical no-win situation -- an atrocity-producing situation, to borrow still someone else's phrase.

At least now we're outsourcing it to freelancers...
posted by lodurr at 8:02 AM on November 28, 2005


twistedonion, I think your sarcasm detector may be broken.
posted by Stauf at 8:04 AM on November 28, 2005


twistedonion, I think your sarcasm detector may be broken.

For some reasons there's always way too much interference on mefi for it to work properly.
posted by twistedonion at 8:22 AM on November 28, 2005


For one, the professionals working in this industry do not like to be referred to as 'mercenaries'. We are Security contractors, specialists, advisors, risk mitigation specialists. Tne fact that you refer to this line of work in that terminology clearly indicates that you have no fucking idea whatsoever.

O RLY?
posted by mek at 8:24 AM on November 28, 2005


jsonic: You're hitting on what's important, but not quite going the whole way. Yes, troops in a similar situation might make similar choices, but there would be a chain of command, and they would actually be responsible for their actions. Mercenaries Independent Contractors answer to no one. They aren't even accountable for their bookkeeping, much less what their employees do while they speed around an occupied country with loaded weapons pointed at civilians.

Derailers: This is not about Aegis or where the video came from. It is clearly wrong - and clearly someone from or related to so-called "coalition" forces. Furthermore, the reason this is important for Americans is because America fucking invaded the damn country.
posted by odinsdream at 8:40 AM on November 28, 2005


Tim Spicer
posted by adamvasco at 8:45 AM on November 28, 2005


We are Security contractors, specialists, advisors, risk mitigation specialists
-------------------------------
We are Fluffy Little Bunnies, Mincing Fairies, Cute Little Gingerbread Men, Little Girls in Gingham Dresses. Oh, and we kill innocent people 'cause we can. . .
posted by mk1gti at 9:33 AM on November 28, 2005


This is a central problem with the whole mission. The idealogy behind the nation building strategy requires a 1km 'green' buffer zone around any coalition or contractors vehicle to ensure the successful process of democratization of Iraq to take hold.

All residents of Iraq have been notified of this policy via printed signs illustrated on the vehicles in question.

However an anonymous contractor commented - 'they just kept getting in our gunsights while trying to read our signs, we have to keep getting them out of the way so we could see the real terrorists' .



/parody
/disgusted with the whole damn package.
posted by rawfishy at 9:36 AM on November 28, 2005


In the 1977 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions, there is an attempt to define "mercenary" for the purposes of treatment when taken prisoner:

Art 47. Mercenaries

1. A mercenary shall not have the right to be a combatant or a prisoner of war.

2. A mercenary is any person who:

(a) is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict;
(b) does, in fact, take a direct part in the hostilities;
(c) is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party;
(d) is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict;
(e) is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict; and
(f) has not been sent by a State which is not a Party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces.


The US never signed the 1977 Protocol, though, and citizens of the US and the UK are "nationals of a Party to the conflict", so the clause does not apply to them, in that context (similarly, Iraqi security guards are not covered). As nationals of parties to the Conflict taking part in hostilities, they would be entitled to POW status, but that's the only context in which this particular definition is intended.

US law is murky. At best, this is a gray area, due to the inconsistency in international law (1977 signatories vs. non-signatories). I'm uncertain whether private contractors are given any attention in the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement between the US and the interim Iraqi government.
posted by dhartung at 10:09 AM on November 28, 2005


I don't think the video as-is is enough for anyone to make a clear call of atrocity vs. combat engagement. There is possible exonerating context in the minutes or seconds leading up to the shooting; and there is in some cases reason enough to be suspicious about the target vehicles.

In particular: the gunner appears to fire shots 'across the bow' that kick up dust in front of the suspect vehicle in at least one clip, and the vehicle doesn't slow. That would be a sign of bad intent.

In another clip, suspect vehicles swerve around a shot-up car and continue to make their way towards the gunner's vehicle, rather than braking or turning. That is also a sign of bad intent.

There are other clips where it is not at all clear that the vehicle or the people in it were posing any kind of threat, though. They're very far away, not gaining ground, and at least from the clip don't appear to be doing anything like shooting at the gunner's vehicle.
posted by felix at 10:17 AM on November 28, 2005


The only thing I could think of as I watched this was: what if that had been in Phoenix, and those had been my parents in that car, driving down the street on their way to the grocery store or church or whatever?

Have you seen pictures of Fallujah before-and-after?

Before, it was a modern city. It looked a whole helluva lot like any American city of a few hundred thousand people. Office towers. Street-level shopping. A downtown core packed with businesses. Apartment buildings, parking lots, everything.

Before, it was a modern city. People drove to work, took an elevator to their office, sat at a desk, shuffled papers. People bussed to work, dressed nicely and ready for a day of helping customers decide what to purchase. Children went to school. Folk went out to the clubs, to the movies, to the coffeeshops.

And now it is nearly flattened. Everywhere you look, you see that the city has been destroyed by the invading army. Collapsed buildings, rubble on the streets, gunships flying overhead, dead bodies, burned-out cars.

Now people are starving, or thirsty, or ill and unable to get quality medical attention. Now people are out of work, are impoverished, are desperate. Now people are grieving for their dead children, dead parents, dead friends.

Imagine it was you. Look outside and around you. Imagine that an army has bombed the living shit out of your community. Imagine that your workplace is destroyed. Imagine it being difficult to find safe drinking water. That your spouse has been killed. That your home is damaged from shrapnel. That your car is a burned-out husk. That you wake up and go to sleep with the sound of war all around you.

Imagine how overwhelming grateful you are to the invading army.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:39 AM on November 28, 2005


Sure, they want to name themselves something like "Security Contractors" or what-have-you but sorry, that's like trying to give yourself a nickname and forcing other people to use it. It's lame. Let's call a spade a spade. They're mercenaries.

I would much rather have the military doing these jobs, because at least with soldiers you have folks that are accountable to an official command structure, and also have some sense of duty beyond pulling in a cool grand or more in cash per week.

They are also a drain on our military, as many of these dudes are former soldiers who didn't reenlist because the pay was better as a private soldier, without all the responsibility of "support[ing] and defend[ing] the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, ... [and] obey[ing] the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers ... , according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice."
posted by moonbiter at 11:13 AM on November 28, 2005


Felix writes - 'In particular: the gunner appears to fire shots 'across the bow' that kick up dust in front of the suspect vehicle in at least one clip, and the vehicle doesn't slow. That would be a sign of bad intent.'


You are assuming that the driver saw the dust and heard the shots as directed in their direction.


If someone was shooting around the car you were in.. in an area renowned for hijackings and car bombs - would you gun it out of there? Or would sit and wait for your passengers or family to get turned into scraps of diced meat.

People are panicing out there on both sides - and with damn good reason too. You get the fuck out of a dangerous situation if you can.

As for the Mercedes that crashes into the other parked car after being shot. It looked like it was coming around a bend on the outside lane and would have close to no way to identify the contractors vehicle and slow down in time to avoid a hail of lead.

Democracy in Iraq - stop and die, go and die - go figure how to get somewhere.
posted by rawfishy at 11:37 AM on November 28, 2005


Imagine how overwhelming grateful you are to the invading army.

Exactly.
posted by darkstar at 11:45 AM on November 28, 2005


rawfishy writes:
You are assuming that the driver saw the dust and heard the shots as directed in their direction.

No, I'm not -- I'm noting that the gunner apparently fired warning shots. Whether or not the target noticed them in his path, that would suggest an attempt by the gunner to resolve the situation relatively peacefully. Which would in turn suggest the gunner's motive in that clip was defense, rather than cold blooded murder.

There's two really big problems with this clip. First, it is possible that it's just war-criminal murder. Second, even if it's not just murder, it's trivially interpretable as murder. And video circles the globe, nowadays. I bet the backlash makes the videotaped death of 6-12 innocents look like a walk in the park.

As lodurr very eloquently puts it:

This is the same point that Sy Hersh has been trying to make: We've created an ethical no-win situation -- an atrocity-producing situation, to borrow still someone else's phrase.
posted by felix at 12:00 PM on November 28, 2005


I had no idea there were so many experts on MeFi! I mean right here, before my very eyes is a person well versed in the standard operating procedures to be enacted when under fire from semiautomatic weaponry in a passenger vehicle during a highway commute in the middle of a war zone. Thank you for shedding such valuable insight onto these pressing issues!
posted by prostyle at 12:44 PM on November 28, 2005


No, I'm not -- I'm noting that the gunner apparently fired warning shots. Whether or not the target noticed them in his path, that would suggest an attempt by the gunner to resolve the situation relatively peacefully.

What the fuck are you on? "Warning shots" is a term that comes from fucking movies. It doesn't exist in a goddamn warzone. Every shot is hostile. Every bullet fired at you is an attempt on your life. It isn't a goddamn greeting, or a "message" of some kind to be interpreted and reasoned-out.

Peacefully? Resolve the situation peacefully>?? God DAMN it. What??! Peacefully would be not ferrying occupiers through someone elses' goddamn country. Peaceful resolutions never involve firing live rounds at someone's moving vehicle.

Defense? Defense from what? God, this is insane.

"Sign of bad intent" my ass. How about fucking invading someone's city and bombing the ever-living shit out of it for "bad intent."
posted by odinsdream at 1:09 PM on November 28, 2005


Well, there will always be someone who makes excuses for murder, like the way there will always be mold, cockroaches, and rats.
posted by fandango_matt at 1:12 PM on November 28, 2005


odinsdream writes:
What the fuck are you on? "Warning shots" is a term that comes from fucking movies. It doesn't exist in a goddamn warzone. Every shot is hostile. Every bullet fired at you is an attempt on your life. It isn't a goddamn greeting, or a "message" of some kind to be interpreted and reasoned-out.

First, you're factually incorrect. Warning shots are used by all branches of the US military and every other military force on earth and have been forever, since well before there were movies.

Second, "DEFENSE FROM WHAT?" -- getting killed by car bombers. Note the # of results google is returning for that term.

Second, what the FUCK? I pointed out that there could be, in SOME clips, cases for believing this wasn't random joy killing, and all of a sudden I'm "making excuses for murder"? Get a grip. If these guys weren't defending themselves against a credible threat, then they should be tried for war crimes and hanged. But some of the clips do suggest that someone bad was after them. What do you suggest they do instead of shooting to kill?

If you'd like to engage in a pissing contest about who between us hates the war the most, has done the most to stop it, and is the most bona fide fully credentialled lefty, let's get it on. But random false screaming melodrama about how much I'm a murderer's apologist? Jam it up your ass.
posted by felix at 1:50 PM on November 28, 2005


But some of the clips do suggest that someone bad was after them. What do you suggest they do instead of shooting to kill?

They are trying to be killed because they are an invading force that has caused untold destruction. If they wish to avoid being killed, they should remove themselves from the situation, perhaps by taking other jobs, maybe even in their own country.

This response, people trying to kill them every day, is completely unsurprising to anyone paying attention.

As for your warning shot theory - it's patently ridiculous in this situation. Imagine you're driving on the highway, and a white SUV about half a mile down the road starts shooting bullets at you. Firstly, to suggest that the shooter has any reasonable expectation that he can accurately fire something and not hit the car (I'm assuming your definition of "warning shots" would require that), is laughable. On that point alone, your warning shot theory fails miserably, but further, since the car is traveling at, what, at least 40 mph? the bullets hitting the ground in front of you would be behind you in a matter of seconds. There'd be very little "smoke" to "interpret," as there would be with, say, shooting an explosive artillery shell well shy of an intended target, or in water where it would splash. In any case, you'd have to first recognize that you were being shot at - no easy task in a congested city during wartime. Once you somehow magically determined that it was you that the shots were directed at, you'd need to determine that the shots were "warnings" from that white SUV. You'd then need to know that the white SUV only wants to communicate with you, and doesn't intend on killing you.

I want to know how you get "someone bad was after them" from anything in the video, much less how you define "bad."
posted by odinsdream at 2:05 PM on November 28, 2005


Does anyone know if this is getting wider play? Have american news outlets picked any of it up?
posted by crunchland at 2:13 PM on November 28, 2005


posted by odinsdream I want to know how you get "someone bad was after them" from anything in the video, much less how you define "bad."

Undoubtedly it was the same logic with which officers Powell, Koon, Wind, and Briseno determined Rodney King was someone bad.
posted by fandango_matt at 2:54 PM on November 28, 2005


Food for thought.


posted by fandango_matt at 3:01 PM on November 28, 2005


odinsdream, I agree with you that they should not be there, and that they should not be in the position of driving down the road with automatic weapons afraid of getting blown up.

But let's take the illegal invasion for granted; and given that, let's go the step further and also take for granted that our military was so stupidly undermanned for this mission that we had to go get outside contractors to even attempt to provide security for the 'good guys', whom you can take as Iraqis, well-meaning liberal American NGOs, whatever you like.

CLIP 1. A convoy of cars is approaching the car at a high rate of speed. At about 120 feet away -- well within range for small arms fire from the lead car -- the gunner shoots a warning shot burst into the ditch by the side of the road, at enough of an angle to kick up visible dirt and show an unmistakable muzzle flash to the following car. The lead car stops, but a following van does not slow down and, with a companion vehicle, swerves around the slowing traffic and speeds up. The gunner opens fire and the companion vehicle swerves and drops off. The van keeps coming. More apparent warning fire. The gunner calls for help ("he's not stopping.") and intensifies the fire, eventually disabling the van, probably by killing the driver.

Note that the gunner's vehicle is a standard passenger vehicle, so the van driver would have had to fail to notice that (1) all traffic is stopping around him, (2) someone is leaning out of a chevy suburban with a semiautomatic rifle, (3) that rifle is making giant booming sounds and bright muzzle flashes in his direction, and (4) dirt clouds and pavement are being kicked up in front of him. And after failing to notice that, the van driver would then have had to decide to speed up for no apparent reason.

CLIP 2. A car approaches at a very high rate of speed. It shows no sign of slowing despite the gunner's car coming to a stop ahead of it. The gunner fires a burst (possibly intended to warn; it doesn't seem to hit the car), to no effect, and then a second later kills or injures the driver with another burst.

The gunner didn't have a lot of time to react, but probably could have fired warning shots sooner. The driver didn't seem concerned about being about to plow into the stopped car in front of him with the guy leaning out the window holding a blazing semiautomatic rifle, though.

CLIP 3. A car is following at high speed 200-250 feet behind. The gunner clearly and deliberately fires into the ground directly behind his car, throwing up a large plume of dust over several seconds and exposing muzzle flash. The following car drives through the smoke, and drops back (clearly as a result). When the gunner's car comes to a stop, the following car approaches and shows no sign of slowing. At 150 feet away, the gunner declares "he's not stopping" and fires on the vehicle, which swerves to avoid and stops. The driver gets out and stands next to his car, apparently unharmed.

The driver received a lot of warning here; but his closing speed wasn't that crazy by LA traffic standards. That said, the gunner had only a few seconds in which to make the decision. He stopped shooting once it was clear the car was not going to be a threat any longer, and didn't kill the driver even when the guy was standing still next to his car.

CLIP 4. The gunner's vehicle is being forced to come to a stop. A white car is approaching the vehicle rapidly. There is also radio traffic which sounds like someone thinks the vehicle has been positively confirmed as a threat. The gunner fires warning shots at 200-250 feet away, with no effect. The car speeds to within small arms fire range. The gunner opens up, probably killing or injuring everyone inside and stopping the vehicle.

Watching this now 20-30 times, I no longer see any reason to think any of these clips is cold blooded murder. One of them may have been a bit fast on the trigger, but all of them featured suspicious driving, dangerous situations, warning attempts, and controlled fire that stopped once the perceived danger was over. I doubt that anyone else in that situation would have done much differently.
posted by felix at 3:23 PM on November 28, 2005


And Rodney King was beaten nearly to death by thugs, none of whom had over 2309 reasons to believe that if they didn't do it he would explode and kill them all.
posted by felix at 3:26 PM on November 28, 2005


You're making it all so complicated, when it's really a lot simpler. As we all know, Iraq is full of terrorists, and they don't carry ID badges advertising the fact do they? anyone could be a terrorist especially if they're driving a car which could be a terrorist car, especially if they're driving that car on that road which is the fullest of terrorists among all the roads full of terrorists in Iraq. Humans can be terrorists. Cars can be terrorist weapons. 2+2+=5. You need to start shooting the potential terrorists in potentially terrorist cars the moment you see them, just in case. If they're not terrorists, too bad. But if they are, you're not going to be able to shoot once they blow you up, are you?

Survival on the one hand, terrorists on the other, do you even have to think about it?

Terrorists have the advantage of surprise attacks. That advantage must be taken from them, by adopting it. You need to use the same tactics if you want to beat terrorists.

Terrorists. Once you have terrorists out and about, the stakes are raised. Terrorists terrorists terrorists. You're all talking like there's no terrorists in Iraq. Well, you're wrong.

Do I win the prize for best defense of war crimes ever or what?
posted by funambulist at 3:38 PM on November 28, 2005


Paging Dr. Zimbardo, Dr. Phil Zimbardo.
posted by sellout at 3:38 PM on November 28, 2005


I doubt that anyone else in that situation would have done much differently.

And Rodney King was beaten nearly to death by thugs, none of whom had over 2309 reasons to believe that if they didn't do it he would explode and kill them all.

see, Felix gets it! you beat me to it, Felix. I happily pass the prize on to you.
posted by funambulist at 3:42 PM on November 28, 2005


Exactly, funambulist. Murder is acceptable if you're defending yourself. Therefore, murdering random civilians in Iraq is perfectly acceptable, since in Iraq you're always defending yourself.
posted by fandango_matt at 3:46 PM on November 28, 2005


As lodurr very eloquently puts it:

This is the same point that Sy Hersh has been trying to make: We've created an ethical no-win situation -- an atrocity-producing situation, to borrow still someone else's phrase.
posted by felix at 4:49 PM on November 28, 2005


fandango_matt++. Captured the essence of it so well.
posted by beth at 5:06 PM on November 28, 2005


if i was driving along this motorway type set up, i would be driving fast.

if a car slowed or stopped in front of me, i would swerve/steer around it.

If im innocent, and there is a military vehicle up front and someone with a gun drawn, i go around it giving it as much room as possible. Im innocent. Ive no reason to belive they want me to stop or keep back.

Thats presuming I dont see any warning shots. Im innocent, I'm not looking for warning shots being fired at me.

thats what I got from watching it. Im not an expert on anything, so i dont really care what people say in response.
posted by lemonfridge at 5:22 PM on November 28, 2005


I'm no expert either (not even close), but I tend to agree with felix, and I think these mercenaries are pondscum. I watched the video twice without reading the article or the comments here, and I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on.

It definitely does seem to be a "trophy" video, which is disgusting enough, but I don't know how any of us can tell if the victims are civilians or attackers.

That said, I'd guess that some of those people they shoot are innocent of anything dangerous. It looks like some ill-advised shooting, but not premedidated murder of civilians for kicks (if it were murder, as felix notes, why not shoot the driver when he gets out of his car?). Just my2c. I hate this fucking war and all these assholes profiting from it, but that video doesn't upset me as much as the large-scale air attacks or the American occupation in general.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:56 PM on November 28, 2005


In my experience muzzle flashes from small-arms caliber weapons like those in the video are nearly invisible.
posted by atchafalaya at 6:34 PM on November 28, 2005


Q: What kind of person becomes a mercenary?

A: One who can kill fellow human beings, innocent or guilty, friendly or hostile, without a qualm.

Goddamn, it must be a great time to be a US American sociopath! You can get paid -- and paid really well! -- for fulfilling your sickest fantasies!
posted by five fresh fish at 7:42 PM on November 28, 2005


Yeah FFF i totally agree, i just wonder whats going to happen when the crows come home to roost and they have certain 'sociopathic issues' readjusting to normal society.

Homeland security anyone?
posted by rawfishy at 10:42 PM on November 28, 2005


I can understand people who are interested in more information/expert opinions. This is why I called and write my Congress critters, to ask them to investigate and determine possible wrongdoing.

I can't fathom non-experts like Felix who watch a low-res video 20-30 times and declare that all the attacks they witnessed were 100% okay. The fact that it took that many viewings is proof positive that it's far from a cut and dried situation. Besides, if nobody did anything wrong, an investigation can't hurt anything.

I sincerely hope that this video is thoroughly investigated, and any wrongdoing is punished appropriately by the Iraqi police.

I further hope that the guy who edited it and added an Elvis soundtrack buys an ounce of humanity somewhere along the way.
posted by I Love Tacos at 10:48 PM on November 28, 2005


I can understand people who are interested in more information/expert opinions. This is why I called and write my Congress critters, to ask them to investigate and determine possible wrongdoing.

I can't fathom non-experts like Felix who watch a low-res video 20-30 times and declare that all the attacks they witnessed were 100% okay. The fact that it took that many viewings is proof positive that it's far from a cut and dried situation. Besides, if nobody did anything wrong, an investigation can't hurt anything.

I sincerely hope that this video is thoroughly investigated, and any wrongdoing is punished appropriately by the Iraqi police.

I further hope that the guy who edited it and added an Elvis soundtrack buys an ounce of humanity somewhere along the way.
posted by I Love Tacos at 7:25 AM on November 29, 2005


I Love Tacos writes:
I can't fathom non-experts like Felix who watch a low-res video 20-30 times and declare that all the attacks they witnessed were 100% okay.

I actually do have detailed relevant knowledge in this area, and I never came close to declaring "that all the attacks [I] witnessed were 100% okay."

Compare this to the people who actually admit that they have no expertise at all, but are calling this "indiscriminate slaughter", "war crimes", "thugs having a fun time shooting up towelheads", "lawless, trigger-happy mercenaries", and so forth. Even with the awesome 1984 references, how clever.

The specific point I was trying to make was that unless you're making the (valid but controversial) point that all soldiers are murdering scum of the earth, you need to differentiate between the actions of people in war, and the fact of the war that they're in.

For example, one of my close friends, a Marine, was a crew chief on a Huey during the assault on Fallujah. During that hectic fight, he had to fire his .50 cal machinegun into civilian housing -- from which RPG fire was streaming up, but civilian housing nevertheless -- to suppress enemy fire.

Is he a bad guy? To a civilian who got caught in the crossfire, he sure is. To someone who believes that all soldiers are murderers, this again could be taken as an example of big brother amorality etc., etc.

But the thing is, in a war, the rules really do change. My friend was desperate not to kill any civilians. But the overriding concern was to prevent his bird, and the medevac copters, from being blown out of the sky by the guerrillas attempting to use civilian houses as concealment.

Both my friend and I agree that this war was idiotic; that we have only inflamed our enemies, and spent a giant sum of blood and money, ours and theirs. But being dirt poor and having no education and no prospects, he signed up to serve his country. He had to go, and while he was there, he had to do his duty. This included split second decision making about grey areas in the rules of engagement, just as you see in the video.

Hating the war is very different from branding individual soldiers "war criminals" on the basis of a video of military engagements. If you don't like war, work to stop it. But if you're one of those people, as I am, who "hates the war but supports the troops and wants to bring them home", then understand that this video is quite possibly just a video of some troops doing their extremely distasteful everyday job.
posted by felix at 8:37 AM on November 29, 2005


posted by felix understand that this video is quite possibly just a video of some troops doing their extremely distasteful everyday job.

All of that neatly ignores two facts: these weren't soldiers, they were mercenaries civilian defense contractors. Also, they weren't being fired upon.
posted by fandango_matt at 8:49 AM on November 29, 2005


Ah, the old "war is hell, so anything goes"...

For example, one of my close friends, a Marine, was a crew chief on a Huey during the assault on Fallujah. During that hectic fight, he had to fire his .50 cal machinegun into civilian housing -- from which RPG fire was streaming up, but civilian housing nevertheless -- to suppress enemy fire.

Why not use the bombing of Dresden as an example? it's just as relevant to what's depicted in this video, the incidents the Iraqi Interior Ministry is referring to in the article, and those that had already made the news before this.
posted by funambulist at 9:12 AM on November 29, 2005


Felix, you need to stop transposing army soldiers and mercenaries. They are not one and the same, and any analogy you make between situations that either of them may find themselves in is absolutely pointless. You're backing yourself into a corner with every ridiculous jump of logic you make.

The fact that you repeated lodurrs quote twice in seperate posts ("We've created an ethical no-win situation -- an atrocity-producing situation, to borrow still someone else's phrase.") testifies to the fact that your argument revolves around absolving any sense of responsibility or ethics based on the situation.

Initially I had imagined we agreed on the basic principals of the material contained in the video, but after your ridiculous analasys (and even more absurd defense of said analsys) that went out the window. You don't need to defend these people, Hollywood-FX logic or not. The people who are deriding you directly know this, but they also know another important fact. These mercenaries deserve no defense, they gave up morality and ethics (among other things) when they got their first paycheck.

Fuck them.
posted by prostyle at 9:41 AM on November 29, 2005


It's great that people are getting to the point now where they have seen so much of this sort of behaviour that they are ceasing to even register shock anymore. This is exactly where they want you to go

Not long before we find out we really are The Great Satan
posted by fullerine at 10:12 AM on November 29, 2005


So it's not the acts that they're committing any more, it's the fact that they're mercenaries that sucks so bad? OK, I'll grant you that one.
posted by felix at 11:19 AM on November 29, 2005


I don't see dishonour in being a mercenary - no more than being a soldier working for a government. There is nothing wrong morally with hiring your military skills out to someone who wishes to purchase them - that's just capitalism. I do have issues with the activities of these fucks because they don't have a proper chain of command and they feel they can act as they please.
posted by longbaugh at 12:00 PM on November 29, 2005


Felix: I just want an investigation. I'm not pretending to fully understand the situation.

Baseless claims of war crimes are a bit daft, but the response to them would be an investigation, which would be relatively harmless if all the actions were justified.

Unsubstantiated declarations of innocence, like you continue to make, could prevent an investigation altogether. If this was shooting for sport (or even just a violation of the rules of engagement), that would be a travesty. Even if it was all proper, your defense implies that these contractors should be held to a lower standard of accountability than the real armed forces.

This is why I'm attacking your claims.
posted by I Love Tacos at 7:47 AM on November 30, 2005


Again, I didn't declare innocence in any way, shape or form. I pointed out that there is a case to be made for this not being "civilian defense contractors shooting innocent Iraqi civilians" (per the FPP).

your defense implies that these contractors should be held to a lower standard of accountability than the real armed forces.

No, not in the slightest.

I agree with you that there should be a comprehensive investigation.
posted by felix at 8:10 AM on November 30, 2005


I didn't declare innocence in any way, shape or form.

You claimed higher authority when you wrote:

I actually do have detailed relevant knowledge in this area

And you strongly implied innocence with this (especially the closing sentence).

Watching this now 20-30 times, I no longer see any reason to think any of these clips is cold blooded murder. One of them may have been a bit fast on the trigger, but all of them featured suspicious driving, dangerous situations, warning attempts, and controlled fire that stopped once the perceived danger was over. I doubt that anyone else in that situation would have done much differently.

This is a clear defense of the actions.

Logically, I believe that any strong defense of the video is an implication that investigation is unneccessary.

If you disagree with me on any of these points, then we think so differently that I simply don't know how to communicate with you.
posted by I Love Tacos at 8:57 AM on November 30, 2005


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