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Collateral Murder
April 5, 2010 8:09 AM   Subscribe

Wikileaks posts a classified US military video (17:47) to YouTube. It depicts "the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad -- including two Reuters news staff." Supporting documents from military whistleblowers appear at the site they set up, Collateral Murder.
posted by cashman (423 comments total) 81 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the site: "After demands by Reuters, the incident was investigated and the U.S. military concluded that the actions of the soldiers were in accordance with the law of armed conflict and its own "Rules of Engagement"."
posted by cashman at 8:12 AM on April 5, 2010


Oh My Lai! This will not end well.
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 8:14 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


.
posted by jquinby at 8:19 AM on April 5, 2010


Consequently, WikiLeaks has released the classified Rules of Engagement for 2006, 2007 and 2008, revealing these rules before, during, and after the killings.

Are Rules of Engagement always classified? What's the logic behind that?
posted by Think_Long at 8:21 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess this just means for us non-USians that we must all pucker up and be nice to the US, or one day they'll come with their fancy gunships and aircraft carriers and artillery and blow us all to kingdom come. Serves you right, Iraqis, for having a leader that once dared be rude to the US! You totally totally deserve every bullet you get in your collective faces.

Or maybe we're supposed to be nice to anyone with fancy gunships. I suppose if you have a fancy gunship the least you could expect is for everyone else to pucker up and kiss your ass.
posted by WalterMitty at 8:24 AM on April 5, 2010


.
posted by knapah at 8:26 AM on April 5, 2010


I understand that things like this could happen in a war. It's hard to see those kids and it's hard to tell an AK47 from a Playstation controller on that cam. But the coverup is what really bothers me. Honest Abe: "If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it. ".

The more they hide, the more lost we all become. Video is pretty awful, make sure you wanna watch it.
posted by GilloD at 8:27 AM on April 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Goddamnit. Fuck war.
posted by graventy at 8:28 AM on April 5, 2010 [15 favorites]


I guess this just means for us non-USians that we must all pucker up and be nice to the US, or one day they'll come with their fancy gunships and aircraft carriers and artillery and blow us all to kingdom come.

This is inflammatory and alarmist. We're only going to blow away brown people with oil and you know it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:29 AM on April 5, 2010 [30 favorites]


I can understand mistaking a camera for an RPG or other weapon, although I don't know what's SOP for a helicopter engaging a group of people like that. Attacking the rescue van is pretty disturbing though.
posted by Think_Long at 8:30 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cameras are indeed weapons.
posted by swift at 8:30 AM on April 5, 2010 [32 favorites]


Glenn Greenwald: The war on wikileaks and why it matters
posted by delmoi at 8:30 AM on April 5, 2010 [21 favorites]


Link to transcript only.
posted by The Mouthchew at 8:31 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Video is pretty awful, make sure you wanna watch it.

I disagree. Yes, it is awful; but it's things like this and Nick Ut's Napalm Girl photo which help bring the horror of war home. It should be required watching, if only to let us know: this is war, this is what war is, and what war does, and don't let anyone tell you any different.

Awful, yes, but sadly unsurprising, after all we've heard about this war and about wars in general.
posted by WalterMitty at 8:32 AM on April 5, 2010 [25 favorites]


Or maybe we're supposed to be nice to anyone with fancy gunships.

Not the most satisfying course of action, but probably the most prudent.
posted by bgribble at 8:33 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, looks like they mistook the zoom lens for an RPG.
posted by delmoi at 8:33 AM on April 5, 2010


Why do they keep saying "weapons"? I didn't see a single weapon, and only one or two cameras that could be mistaken for weapons. But when the van shows up, the guy on the radio says they are picking up bodies and weapons, when clearly they are not picking up any weapons?

Do the ROE permit shooting if the person is carrying a weapon? So, if you want to shoot, do you eventually learn that all you have to do is say the guy has a weapon and you'll get permission to engage? Does "weapon" automatically justify engagement under the ROE?

This is very seriously fucked up. It might actually be more humane and more ethical to just openly steal all the oil and withdraw from the country than to continue with whatever this is that we are doing over there.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:33 AM on April 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


Jesus. End this war now.
posted by Damn That Television at 8:34 AM on April 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


This is inflammatory and alarmist. We're only going to blow away brown people with oil and you know it.

Vietnam.
posted by WalterMitty at 8:34 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are Rules of Engagement always classified? What's the logic behind that?

I think the logic is pretty self-evident: if your enemy knows what specific situations prohibit you from using lethal force, they can stage those situations and exploit your inability to respond.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:38 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Okay, even if they confused the camera for the RPG, what's the excuse for shooting the van picking up the wounded at 9:40-10:30?
posted by delmoi at 8:40 AM on April 5, 2010


Jesus. End this war now.

This video could have been shot in any modern war. Let's just stop doing this altogether.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:40 AM on April 5, 2010 [19 favorites]


Well, I really do believe (or hope I guess) this was just a terrible accident to begin with, I only fault the military for what they did afterwards in covering it up.

Also, how much longer is the wikileaks going to stay up? Next thing you know it's going to be closed down for "unspecified personal reasons" or something.
posted by DoublePlus at 8:40 AM on April 5, 2010


Why do they keep saying "weapons"? I didn't see a single weapon

Near the beginning of the video there is one man near the back of the group of people who is carrying what looks an awful lot like an AK-47 or similar rifle. It isn't highlighted in the video, but it's pretty obvious. But remember that under Iraqi law it is entirely legal to own one AK-47 per household for self defense, so the guy likely wasn't doing anything illegal at all.
posted by jedicus at 8:41 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whoops!

Jesus. End this war now.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:41 AM on April 5, 2010


"Well it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle"
"That's right"

What the fuck? About the most one sided battle I've ever seen. Don't ambulance drivers get some sort of protections?

And I love* how the chopper radio guy, within a minute, moves from "I see weapons" to "He's getting ready to fire an RPG" to "There are about 4 to 5 armed with AK-47s"... I guess "I think maybe he has a weapon" does not get your CO to say "light 'em up".

But I am sure these are just a few bad apples, and we can still proudly support our brave troops!
posted by Meatbomb at 8:42 AM on April 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


Can we please stop calling this a 'war' when there's no opposing army to defeat? This is an occupation.
posted by mullingitover at 8:44 AM on April 5, 2010 [125 favorites]


I think the logic is pretty self-evident: if your enemy knows what specific situations prohibit you from using lethal force, they can stage those situations and exploit your inability to respond

Yeah, I pretty much came to that conclusion a second after I posted the question.
posted by Think_Long at 8:46 AM on April 5, 2010


I just watched the video and it I found it incredibly compelling, as in I could not look away, yet the feeling of pure horror and disgust is overwhelming. On the one hand there is the technical amazement, that war seen through the lens of a gun's camera appears so much like a video game. Click and shoot. But then there is the knowledge that these are real people crawling on the curb in their last moments, not even engaging or seeing the enemy who attacked...

I want to find blame, to point a finger and say "How could you?" and punish. But who? The gunners who see or thought they saw armed men? From that perspective they were trying to save their fellow American soldiers on the ground who were moving in that direction. Should I blame the men on the ground, as it does appear some had weapons? The reporters for taking too great a risk to capture the action?

The truth I resign myself to is that none of these people are to blame. As Sherman once remarked, "War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it." It is not these individual actions in war that are wrong, as if more of the men had guns it would have been okay. Or had the rescuing van been a tank, action would have been justified. No, it is war itself that is completely to blame. It is by definition a ruthless and uncaring destruction of life. Once pursued, war can only lead to this.

So as to blame, I will again recall Sherman's words when he said "and those who brought war... deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out." Those who clamoured for war in 2003 deserve to have this on their conscience.
posted by boubelium at 8:47 AM on April 5, 2010 [66 favorites]


The worst part of the video was the emotional disconnect between the heartless murder of civilians and the banal actions and communications of the men in the helicopter, all of it viewed through a bleak, colorless lens. They clearly don't feel a thing for what they're doing, and that lens just keeps telling you which side of the gun you're on.

Fuck.
posted by Bobicus at 8:47 AM on April 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


The truth I resign myself to is that none of these people are to blame.

Bullshit. I blame the gunner personally, and everyone up his chain of command, that decided wounded men being taken for treatment are legitimate targets.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:51 AM on April 5, 2010 [52 favorites]


Stunning. Opening fire on a group of people who are just walking down the street, showing no aggression at all.

It does appear one man has a rifle. It is never lifted; I see him holding it with the muzzle pointed down at the street. The strap, I think, is slung over his shoulder.

The photographer takes a picture and his camera is mistaken (incredibly) for an RPG. Supposedly. I find myself wondering if someone wasn't trying to set up an alibi in advance here. I can't see mistaking a camera for an RPG.

Somehow, when the rest of the men have been mowed down, the photographer survives, though obviously seriously wounded. He attempts to crawl away, and even if he was even considered a threat before (again, I have my doubts) he is so wounded he can't get to his feet. No weapons remain. People try to help him (bless them), try to carry him on a stretcher to a minivan, which is in turn bombarded, this time with absolutely no justification whatsoever...not even manufactured. Just no reason at all.

At one point the shooters in the helicopter are taunting the wounded photographer to just pick up a weapon, so that they can use the Rules of Engagement to let them shoot him again. Obviously, he doesn't. And yet they kill him anyway.

The first shooting is just brutal and left me breathless. I can't countenance it, hate that it happens. I know I'm going to come across as naive for being surprised violence unfolds in this way during an occupation. But let's say they really, really honestly felt it was an RPG. Even so, that last part, with the ambulance, is simply indefensible.

I am just so saddened and outraged for these reporters and their families and the people who tried to help them.

Incredible.
posted by misha at 8:52 AM on April 5, 2010 [35 favorites]


Rules of engagement: if you get shot, you better wait till we come get you. Anyone trying to aid you also becomes a target, including a family of Samaritans in a minivan.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:53 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm 90% sure there was a guy with an AK47 at the beginning, just behind the photographers. And if the makers of the video hadn't told me they were photographers carrying cameras, I would have assumed they were carrying weapons; the lens poking around the corner certainly looked like an RPG or similar. So the initial mistake strikes me as sad, but not particularly surprising.

The second "mistake" -- attacking the van -- seems to me less like a mistake, and more like the decision of someone hopped up on adrenaline and itching for more contact. Very sad, and totally avoidable.

And has been said above, cover-ups are never ok.
posted by Forktine at 8:53 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


The worst part of the video was the emotional disconnect between the heartless murder of civilians and the banal actions and communications of the men in the helicopter, all of it viewed through a bleak, colorless lens. They clearly don't feel a thing for what they're doing, and that lens just keeps telling you which side of the gun you're on.

They don't think they are "murdering civillians" they think they are "engaging the armed enemy." They don't have the luxury of playback or perspective and the commander may not even have the luxury of seeing the video at all before having to make the order to fire to his men. He has to trust that his men (who sound quite confident) saw weapons. He has to trust them that they saw an RPG pointed around the side of the wall. Once the group of walking men becomes armed enemies the soldiers' task is to eliminate them. That is the harsh, and often tragic, reality of combat. Had this actually been a band of men with RPGs and the commander not ordered them to fire, there would have been dead soldiers instead.

I am not arguing that this is not barbaric or tragic, but it is something that happens in modern, from a distance warfare. Less so than, say, indescriminate carpet bombing of a German city.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:55 AM on April 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


But I am sure these are just a few bad apples, and we can still proudly support our brave troops!

Well, there is this to consider:

WikiLeaks obtained this video as well as supporting documents from a number of military whistleblowers.
posted by jquinby at 8:56 AM on April 5, 2010 [35 favorites]


This news was leaked by members of the military. At least there are still some in the military with enough conscience to make secrets like this public.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:57 AM on April 5, 2010 [11 favorites]


Oh My Lai! This will not end well.

I think it's pretty safe to say that for a majority of the participants it already hasn't.
posted by doctor_negative at 8:58 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


War is hell. I used to read that and think yeah, war sucks, man, but these days it's clear that if there is a hell it is this.
posted by sallybrown at 8:58 AM on April 5, 2010


Yeah, looks like they mistook the zoom lens for an RPG.
posted by delmoi at 8:33 AM on April 5


"Mistook"
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:59 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


A few good apples doesn't redeem the barrel.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:00 AM on April 5, 2010 [20 favorites]


It might actually be more humane and more ethical to just openly steal all the oil and withdraw from the country than to continue with whatever this is that we are doing over there.

Ah, should it be so easy. The oil isn't kept in a series of buildings, boxed and ready to be shipped around the world.

The worst part of the video was the emotional disconnect between the heartless murder of civilians and the banal actions and communications of the men in the helicopter, all of it viewed through a bleak, colorless lens.

They're military folk. The video was shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, not something for the US news stations. I imagine they're trained to view everything as a potential danger, and I'm sure they've seen some unusual attempts to mask actual weapons and explosives as harmless items. Also, military folk aren't supposed to get emotional even at the loss of people they actually know who are fighting beside them. Emotions don't mix well with guns.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:01 AM on April 5, 2010


Disgusting. Cowardly. Dishonourable.
Surprising? Not one bit.

Also in the news today: Special Forces cut bullets out of civilians to cover up murder.
posted by Flashman at 9:03 AM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


If the system is set up the way it appears, this kind of shit is almost certain to occur:

It appears that the person responsible for giving the permission to engage can't see the situation - he has to rely solely on the description given to him by a kid with an itchy trigger finger. (Of course, I could be wrong, but that's the way it looks.)

If, indeed, that is the case it's just extemely irresponsible; we certainly have the capability to share the view in real time, I would think.

And I agree with everyone above- shooting at the ad hoc ambulance was criminal.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:04 AM on April 5, 2010


Does anyone else think it's weird that this only has 359 views?
posted by incessant at 9:09 AM on April 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


And I agree with everyone above- shooting at the ad hoc ambulance was criminal.

Once again, from the soldiers' view, those coming to aid the enemy is an enemy. Once a zone is declared hot, anything in that area is fair game until it has been cleared.

Again, I think the whole goddamn thing is barbaric. This is just how the sausage gets made.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:10 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, military folk aren't supposed to get emotional even at the loss of people they actually know who are fighting beside them. Emotions don't mix well with guns.

Watch again, filthy light thief, the bit at 9:30 where the gunner wants to kill the people in the minivan. He is really impatient, desperate to light 'em up. "Yeah, we're trying to get permission to engage. Come on, let us shoot!."
posted by Meatbomb at 9:10 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


This makes me wish that Tipper Gore and the PMRC had focused on video games and won.

And by won, I mean made it illegal for fucking kids to play video games with guns. Period, full stop.

They can fucking wait till they're adults the way everyone who grew up in the 70's and 80's had to. Their developing brains, it seems pretty clear to me, aren't benefiting from the games I love like Halo and GTA and the industry will survive if that stuff really is restricted.

I hate censorship like I hate Illinois Nazis, but this isn't about the freedom of kids to read or even watch anything, it's the freedom to have their brains rewired by incredibly sophisticated military training tools the likes of which this world has never seen.

I might feel differently after I stop shaking. I hope I don't. Technology has far surpassed what our rights are supposed to protect us from and entitle us to.
No kid has the right to shoot heroin, or drink alcohol, or perform brain surgery on themselves and these games mimic the effects of ALL of those things.
The euphorias, the comedowns, the jitters, the hypersensitization, the placing of morals and empathy on hold and the changes to the way the brain functions going forward.

Fuck.

And those kids in the helicopters aren't monsters. They're us. And we're going to be caring for the damage that this shit has done to them for the rest of their lives.
(and the damage done to the people onthe other side of the guns for even longer.)

(and then the damage done by the people who were damaged by our damaged people.)


(fuck)
posted by mer2113 at 9:12 AM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


This video would be 10% less disturbing if it didn't sound like Ventrilo chat. The men there, they're not doing their jobs, they're not using their brains or their training, they made leaping assumptions in order to get permission to engage. They were waiting for an excuse to use their weapons and create some damage.

I don't condemn soldiers for their dismissive attitudes to the dead, because there are very often situations where they do have to justifiably kill people on the ground, and the brain has to cope somehow. But to the living, they have every responsibility to do everything they can before a trigger is pulled. I can only hope those children that had to witness and survive that do not grow up to become yet more people twisted and manipulated into terrorism. If you want more planes flying into buildings, more explosives on mass public transit for the next fifty years, then this is exactly the best way to achieve it. Get 'em while they're young and scar them for life.

To the Iraqi people, I am sorry that my country helped to create this, and that I now live in a country where my tax dollars directly pay for this horror. This is fucking bullshit, and the general public is too stupid or apathetic to really stop it from happening.

. for the fallen
posted by saturnine at 9:18 AM on April 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


i feel sick
posted by lslelel at 9:19 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just like the photos of US troops burning the bodies of dead 'insurgents' to get other 'insurgents' to surrender; and the prisoner abuse photos, the video is already unavailable on the various websites. (Maybe it's because of the region from which I'm connecting - I can't be sure). It's interesting the way this happens even though everyone knows it's going to end up public anyway. People needs to get their story straight , I suppose..
posted by tbonicus at 9:20 AM on April 5, 2010


Their developing brains, it seems pretty clear to me, aren't benefiting from the games I love like Halo and GTA and the industry will survive if that stuff really is restricted.

This is extremely shoddy analysis, Mr. Thompson. The rest of your post is such hyperbole-drenched knee-jerk demagogic bullshit I'm not going to dignify it by pulling it apart.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:20 AM on April 5, 2010 [26 favorites]


Video has been pulled from YouTube. Looks like it's still up on WikiLeaks.
posted by Think_Long at 9:22 AM on April 5, 2010


mer2113: "This makes me wish that Tipper Gore and the PMRC had focused on video games and won."

Because there was no senseless violence before video games came along? And yeah, those men in the helicopters actually are your classic, textbook monsters of the type that goes back to before written history. If there were some foreign nation occupying your country, with men murdering your family in exactly the same way they murdered those journalists, you wouldn't be splitting hairs.
posted by mullingitover at 9:23 AM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have a high tolerance for shocking media. I frequently enjoy movies and video games with strong violence and imagery. I confess I feel just a bit condescending toward MeFites who say things like "you should've added a 'not safe for weak stomachs' label" in threads for content that's actually pretty tame. I don't flinch at Hollywood's depictions of what war is all about and I relish a good action scene.

But I watched half of this video, and I'm literally shaking and sick to my stomach. I'm profoundly disturbed to see the military in real-life, close-up action, killing and maiming people indiscriminately and even eagerly. It's repulsive.

If this is what the military is, there is no justification for it. I'm not just anti-war, I'm anti- any organization that systematizes the dehumanization and wanton killing of human beings for any reason. I'm disgusted that my friends and family still think of the military as necessary, and its actions noble. I get a shiver down my spine when I hear the patriotic music swell and see people showering soldiers with appreciation for their "service." I do not feel served, and the families of the victims slaughtered in this video certainly do not. The most appalling thing to me is that my hard-earned money is funding this, as if I were complicit in the act.

I will concede that even if the U.S. were to cut all military funding tomorrow, other nations would still have very similar militaries doing very similar things, possibly to us. So in the interest of defense, something must remain. But even a purely defensive force would look a lot different from what we have today. What kind of world legitimizes (certain kinds of) murder? As though a big budget or the endorsement of the U.S. federal government somehow makes an immoral act become more righteous than if it were a street gang doing the same thing.

The only reason more people aren't outraged is that they haven't confronted the reality of what's happening. And I bet most people, if they did, would perform all sorts of mental gymnastics to avoid the cognitive dissonance of contrasting real life with the storybook patriotism they've been indoctrinated with since they were old enough to say "I pledge allegiance." Forgive me, my Stop Ranting switch is broken this morning.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:24 AM on April 5, 2010 [32 favorites]


Also in the news today: Special Forces cut bullets out of civilians to cover up murder.

-Three of the civilians were women, two were pregnant, including at least one of the corpses out of which the incriminating bullets were carved. The original army report cover-up said the knife wounds were possibly the cause of death. Hours before the gunfight. During the party going on in the house.

-The official press-release was madeon Easter. Charming bit of news-burying there.

-Remember that survivors of the raid said that the special operations forces denied the wounded medical treatment and prevented survivors from going to get medical help for an extended period of time, during which one of the women and one of the men who were mortally wounded died.

That means special operations forces were busy digging bullets out of walls and/or people to cover their asses while the innocent people they shot bled to death.

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:24 AM on April 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm 90% sure there was a guy with an AK47 at the beginning

You would make an excellent Apache helicopter gunner!
posted by stbalbach at 9:24 AM on April 5, 2010 [14 favorites]


Right around 3:42 - 3:50 in the video there appear to be two men with rifles of some sort right in the center of the frame. Aren't those rifles? Or am I misunderstanding what I'm seeing? (Not that the owning of weapons in Iraq is illegal or grounds for shooting from a helicopter.)
posted by shakespeherian at 9:28 AM on April 5, 2010


Jesus.

(insert snark about the power of the Son of God here)

End this war now.

Don't worry. Soon a group of people will tell you all about how its better under the new guy.

Perhaps they'll tell ya about how during the election there was a plan for Afganistan, cuz that seems to happen whenever 'ending' the 'war' is mentioned.
The MPs present say that Karzai even threatened to join the insurgency at one point.
Huh. The 'leadership' saying they will join the 'enemy'. Interesting plan we've got going on eh?

Can we please stop calling this a 'war' when there's no opposing army to defeat? This is an occupation.

And the process as stated in the Constitution wasn't followed either - but hey it sure does otherwise act like one of them kinda Wars. 'Cept for the "not winning" part. And the length. And the funds spent. But the killing part - war.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:31 AM on April 5, 2010


Video has been pulled from YouTube. Looks like it's still up on WikiLeaks.

That's why I downloaded it from youtube right when I read this post :)
posted by DoublePlus at 9:31 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Putting aside for a moment that this is a completely illegitimate war and the real reason these people died was that our leadership was a bunch of assholes with a grudge and our country has a taste for oil...

The first shooting was horrific, but by the standards of a war on people who are living among civilians, it was at least a predictable engagement and/or mistake. It was one sided and unfair, but war is. It's not just us. It's just as one-sided when an IED gets detonated remotely by cell phone in the middle of the street. Modern is mostly death-from-nowhere.

I can see why the ROE would allow them to shoot in that situation. It's wrong and it's shortsighted if what you want is to make people hate you less, but at least there's some logic or method or rules to it. I can imagine being a person with a kill-the-enemy mindset who thought this was the best way to win a war.

What the fuck was up with the second round of shooting, though? I can't even begin to come up with an explanation for that. The guys in the van were unarmed, they weren't collecting the "weapons" that had fallen to the ground, they were moving injured people which makes them traditionally off-limits. On a real battlefield, sure maybe you shoot whatever moves until it's over, but here where no one was being directly threatened at the get go?

As for the detached voices the pilot/gunner had: duh. How the hell do you do that and not become detached or bloodthirsty? You expect our killers to go through the day sighing sadly about their lot in life? You or someone you know would likely talk the same way in that role.
posted by paanta at 9:31 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


You totally totally deserve every bullet you get in your collective faces.
We're only going to blow away brown people with oil and you know it.

Putting on the oversimplified voices of racists so you can in some way show that you are not a racist or that the situation is complicated is a backfiring strategy.
posted by jessamyn at 9:32 AM on April 5, 2010 [18 favorites]


And by won, I mean made it illegal for fucking kids to play video games with guns. Period, full stop.

Are you out of your mind? People enjoyed shooting guns before the 1980s. And there wars and all kinds of atrocities. I mean, duh.
posted by delmoi at 9:32 AM on April 5, 2010


Utterly fucking horrible, senseless, and unnecessary, like so much of war. Starting a war means taking on the guilt of actions like this, whatever level you're involved at, because war makes these actions inevitable. Making that commitment frivoulously -- that is, for any except the most genuinely dire and urgent defensive reasons -- is humanity's sickest illness.
posted by Drexen at 9:33 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


he truth I resign myself to is that none of these people are to blame. As Sherman once remarked, "War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it."

I prefer Phil Ochs' remark: "Is there anybody here, who feels that following the orders takes away the blame?/Is there anybody here that wouldn't mind a murder by another name?"
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:33 AM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Full version 39:14
posted by atomicmedia at 9:34 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


the placing of morals and empathy on hold

Hey now, we got that covered in other ways it seems.
The study offers "striking evidence" that the right TPJ, located at the brain's surface above and behind the right ear, is critical for making moral judgments Now just tie that to cell phones or bluetooth and we'll be good.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:35 AM on April 5, 2010


> "made it illegal for fucking kids to play video games with guns."

This would be a law no one could enforce. People break the law. All the time. They let their children play unsuitable games for their age. No one would even remotely think about reporting their neighbours to the police for letting their kids play "illegal" games, not in the privacy of their own homes, which tends to be a highly valued aspect of American culture.

If there's any issue here, it's with censorship of the media. If the BBC and CNN and Fox reported the news with uncensored footage like this, with blood and bodies and real violence from both sides, with less bias and less talking head personalities driving up the advertising revenue, then maybe the public would have had access to better information. But no. Most of America drives in tank-like SUVs, high on ~patriotism~, low on education; less awareness of the outside world whilst simultaneously having maximum contact with it in a violent capacity. The media keeps us well fed and stupid, which is why every single part of the war machine continues to this precise second. I thank the internet every single time information of this nature is leaked, because without the reality, I think I would value human life and the horror of war a lot less.
posted by saturnine at 9:35 AM on April 5, 2010 [11 favorites]


I'm not an expert in war--whether tactics or history--and I'm very anti-violence, your classic bleeding-heart liberal and all of that, so when friends and acquaintances with military experience tell me I don't know what I'm talking about I believe them. And I know that this is one isolated incident not representative of all war.

But this video is far fucking worse than I ever imagined war could be. The laughing, the "Nice...nice," is more chilling to me than the trigger-happiness because at least the latter might be explained by a fear, however absurd, of danger. Watching these men look at a street full of bodies and covered in blood and not show even a modicum of sadness at what they've done--however justified they think they are, however much they think these people are our enemy, however much that sadness might be focused on the part of them that's lost by killing someone--made me weep.
posted by sallybrown at 9:37 AM on April 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


America: Winning hearts and minds.

oh wait, never mind.
posted by Xoebe at 9:37 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


What an ugly, ugly thread.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:37 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


They don't think they are "murdering civillians" they think they are "engaging the armed enemy." They don't have the luxury of playback or perspective and the commander may not even have the luxury of seeing the video at all before having to make the order to fire to his men.

I am fully cognizant of this. I was remarking on the separation of the human tragedy down below, and the robotic checklist-following up above: "Identify target, determine threat level, engage, confirm kill." And how I felt more connected to the one reality than the other as I watched that video.
posted by Bobicus at 9:38 AM on April 5, 2010


This makes me wish that Tipper Gore and the PMRC had focused on video games and won.

It makes me wish that Al Gore had become president and that the US wouldn't have been dragged into a pointless invasion under false pretenses, so those kids could be at home playing Halo instead of being 7000 miles away flying around in a helicopter trying to tell the difference between an AK47 and a telephoto lens.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:38 AM on April 5, 2010 [61 favorites]


mer2113

Sources, sources, sources. Where are your fucking sources?

I suppose you'd blame My Lai on comic books?
posted by The Confessor at 9:38 AM on April 5, 2010


I just want to say that, God damn, I'm so glad that Wikileaks exists.
posted by reductiondesign at 9:38 AM on April 5, 2010 [35 favorites]


Benny, and others who are calling for a real-time battlefield video, I can't agree with you more. I'm currently working on a system that can provide this capability, but there are many constraints on a battlefield that you can't easily get around. For instance, your smartphones can do streaming video, but a) they are on very high-latency connections, and b) can rely upon multi-million dollar fixed infrastructure (towers, fiber optics, etc.) that you either don't have or cannot trust (vis-a-vis reliability or snooping) in a conflict. Another thing that your smartphone doesn't have to worry about is being shot at if someone with a directional antenna and a scanner finds it.

That said, this situation sucks, and should not have happened. I find it hard to fault the soldiers for the initial engagement. On a tiny, fuzzy, black-and-white zoom screen, you bet a lens could be an RPG. The second strike was a bit greyer. I'd imagine that there's no standard "Ambulance Uniform" in Iraq, certainly not at that time, so it could have easily been some enemies in some way, maybe. And I feel it is a very low blow to point out the two children in the front seat of the van. There is no way the gunner could have seen that. Even on YouTube, our helpful editors had to zoom in to make it obvious.
posted by Xoder at 9:38 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Their developing brains, it seems pretty clear to me, aren't benefiting from the games I love like Halo and GTA and the industry will survive if that stuff really is restricted.

lol, wut?

There's been a lot of knee jerk reactions in this thread (which is totally understandable, this was terrible), but I don't know how you jumped over to video games being at fault here. Just because you thought of Modern Warfare 2 when you saw this video doesn't mean we need to blame games for this horrible accident.
posted by DoublePlus at 9:39 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


This makes me wish that Tipper Gore and the PMRC had focused on video games and won.

Yes, because being in the military and being trained to kill had nothing to do with this. It was video games. My developing brain grew up on video games, and I have killed exactly 0 people, stomped on 0 turtles, and whipped 0 vampires in my life. I'm kind of pissed about that last one, actually.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:39 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Perhaps they'll tell ya about how during the election there was a plan for Afganistan, cuz that seems to happen whenever 'ending' the 'war' is mentioned.
The MPs present say that Karzai even threatened to join the insurgency at one point.
Huh. The 'leadership' saying they will join the 'enemy'. Interesting plan we've got going on eh?


You do know that we're talking about the other war, right?
posted by Think_Long at 9:39 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]




Who were these people supposedly a threat to at the time anyway? Were they considered a threat only because one of them appeared to be lightly armed? Did we have troops positioned nearby that these guys seemed to pose a threat of ambushing? What explanation has the military offered, if any, for the second round of attacks on the rescuers? Do the rules of engagement require them to completely "clear" any area in which someone is seen carrying a weapon (if so, what the hell is the justification for that)?
posted by saulgoodman at 9:41 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]



No shit there was war before video games. You're right.

But before our video games became so immersive and graphically brilliant and fucking wonderful, and before the gun sights from our airships looked JUST LIKE VIDEO GAMES, people hadn't logged thousands of hours of practice killing people before they ever enlisted.

Have any of you ever watched a kid play one of these fucking games? Have you ever played them?
If you've done either of these things then you are full of shit if you think they don't help you build up fucking muscle memory so when you play the game again (only for real this time) your brain is off and you are just running on pure instinct and adrenaline.

In the olden days, like Vietnam, people who massacred humans from helicopters had to make a new space int heir brains to deal with what they had done.
Now, it just gets filed in the previously created SUCCESSFUL MISSION LEVEL UP space.

And is your problem that you don't believe that kids' developing brains are effected by the kind of overwhelming stimuli that modern games represent? (not their morals or their souls, I know you can play the games, kill up a storm and not be a senseless mass murderer)

3-d technology is likely to have unforeseen effects on children's physiology and brains. Why the hell should our awesome video games be different?
posted by mer2113 at 9:43 AM on April 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Video has been pulled from YouTube. Looks like it's still up on WikiLeaks.

Wrong again me, I guess it's just behind a 'maturity content' wall now.
posted by Think_Long at 9:43 AM on April 5, 2010


God damn, I'm so glad that Wikileaks exists.

They really need your help too.
posted by stbalbach at 9:43 AM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Their developing brains, it seems pretty clear to me, aren't benefiting from the games I love like Halo and GTA and the industry will survive if that stuff really is restricted.

Is this the part where you tell me that 9/11 had something to do with high rates of falafel consumption in the Middle East?
posted by phaedon at 9:44 AM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


In the olden days, like Vietnam, people who massacred humans from helicopters had to make a new space int heir brains to deal with what they had done.

What the fuck are you talking about? Soldiers are trained to kill and not think about it until the engagement is over. This is all about training.
posted by Think_Long at 9:45 AM on April 5, 2010


Fucking awful.
posted by brundlefly at 9:46 AM on April 5, 2010


This isn't about video games or television or anything else. People have gathered up other people, equipped them with food, a flag, and some weapons (from rocks on up) from day one and said, "Go make those other people die. While you're at it, do the kids, do the livestock, salt the earth." We have always had folks eager to do it and have always had those cheering them on. Probably since before written language we had people who specialized in making other people better at killing.

The incredible imbalance is what makes this incident so shocking. IEDs are "asymmetrical warfare" but "Yeah, we've got half a dozen Smite-o-Tron 3000s mounted on flying engines of mutilation versus a few dudes with guns and their wives" is just fair play these days, as long as it is the United States with the technological superiority.
posted by adipocere at 9:48 AM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Please, for decency's sake, can we not turn this into a thread about whether or not video games are corrupting our youth? We'll have plenty of more appropriate opportunities to hash out the arguments on both sides of that issue some other time.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:48 AM on April 5, 2010 [13 favorites]


Wow mer2113, I'm not even sure if you are serious.

It sounds like you're just making a lot of unfounded (or at least unsourced) assumptions.

build up fucking muscle memory so when you play the game again (only for real this time) your brain is off and you are just running on pure instinct and adrenaline.

had to make a new space int heir brains to deal with what they had done. Now, it just gets filed in the previously created SUCCESSFUL MISSION LEVEL UP space.

3-d technology is likely to have unforeseen effects on children's physiology and brains.

Could you correct me and show some sources for these ideas? I always love to learn new things.
posted by DoublePlus at 9:48 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh my God. Words cannot express how horrified I am by the actions of those Army personnel, the cover up, then the lies. What is this, some evil playtime for United States' sociopaths and mass murderers? It's transparent the Iraqi people walking there were not in the middle of any wrong doing as they walked nonchalantly under the American helicopter as it circled repeatedly above their heads, chatting, in plain sight.

That these Army murderers and their weapons are paid for in any portion by my or my friends' tax dollars is truly revolting.

If any of the families or friends of the Iraqis murdered in this video were allies before why would they not now become enemies? My sincere condolences for the families and friends of those who were slaughtered.
posted by nickyskye at 9:49 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jesus I just got very uncomfortable chills and nausea from that video. I haven't much to say right now - here's hoping one day justice will have a place in the military again.

.
posted by deacon_blues at 9:49 AM on April 5, 2010


But before our video games became so immersive and graphically brilliant and fucking wonderful, and before the gun sights from our airships looked JUST LIKE VIDEO GAMES, people hadn't logged thousands of hours of practice killing people before they ever enlisted.

I would prefer our soldiers to be better shots, chiefly because they do often fight, you know, real bad guys.

Have any of you ever watched a kid play one of these fucking games? Have you ever played them?

Yup. I play them. So far my total kills in real life are zero. Guess I didn't get the message (or the headshot bonus).

If you've done either of these things then you are full of shit if you think they don't help you build up fucking muscle memory so when you play the game again (only for real this time) your brain is off and you are just running on pure instinct and adrenaline.

Are you a combat veteran or a scientist studying such phenomena? Otherwise, I don't want to hear about your rudimentary, reductionist models of cognition.

In the olden days, like Vietnam, people who massacred humans from helicopters had to make a new space int heir brains to deal with what they had done.
Now, it just gets filed in the previously created SUCCESSFUL MISSION LEVEL UP space.


You're about 30 years too late to the deconstructionist cultural criticism party.

And is your problem that you don't believe that kids' developing brains are effected by the kind of overwhelming stimuli that modern games represent?

Burden of proof is on you, chief.

3-d technology is likely to have unforeseen effects on children's physiology and brains. Why the hell should our awesome video games be different?

Either you post a list of substantive, empirically valid, on-point studies a mile long or I continue to mock you.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:50 AM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


mer2113 : This makes me wish that Tipper Gore and the PMRC had focused on video games and won.

And by won, I mean made it illegal for fucking kids to play video games with guns. Period, full stop.

They can fucking wait till they're adults the way everyone who grew up in the 70's and 80's had to. Their developing brains, it seems pretty clear to me, aren't benefiting from the games I love like Halo and GTA and the industry will survive if that stuff really is restricted.

I hate censorship like I hate Illinois Nazis,


...but I'm willing to support it based upon an admitted emotional reaction, evoking unsupported, stupid, ad-hoc theories on what caused an event I know next to nothing about.

And those kids in the helicopters aren't monsters. They're us.

No, they're them. I doubt you're a child development psychologist that has evaluated them sine their early years. You have no idea what effect anything has on them Maybe they were warped by media. Maybe, just maybe, they were scared because they were in a goddman war and made a mistake and screwed up.
posted by spaltavian at 9:51 AM on April 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Finish him!
posted by Xoebe at 9:52 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do something. I don't care what it is - donate to WikiLeaks, write your congressman, write to President Obama, find out what collections (if any) are being taken for the people killed, and donate to them.

No, seriously - do something, something more than posting here and feeling sick or angry or hurt or sad. I'm donating to WikiLeaks because that's something I can do right now until I figure out what else to do, but damn Damn DAMN this has to stop.
posted by Pragmatica at 9:53 AM on April 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


I'm suspicious that the audio was either augmented or replaced. It would be really awesome if there was some kind of visual "audio checksum" on each frame which would authenticate the audio that is presented along with it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:53 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm suspicious that the audio was either augmented or replaced.

Why?
posted by sallybrown at 9:54 AM on April 5, 2010


So there doesn't appear to be any mention of this on CNN or some of the other usual suspects. I was looking around because I was wondering how this was playing in the media. Anyone have links to mainstream media stories about this video?
posted by jefeweiss at 9:54 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ha! I can't believe this thread turned into the old video game argument. Such a waste of time.

I agree with the point of view that, although this is a terrible terrible accident and an embarrassing cover-up attempt, it's better than, say, firebombing the entire country of Japan indiscriminately, like we used to do in war. If only we had the technology to have video of all of that? Imagine if we had ground-level cameras all over Hiroshima when we dropped the bomb, or security cameras in Dresden when we destroyed that city?? We have to keep this stuff in perspective. In every war, these horrible things happen, and I'm not trying to say it's ok or anything.. I wish there were no wars but that will never be.

And now, to make everyone feel better, here's a link to an oldie but goodie: a video where the bad guys DO get what's coming to them.. AND they clearly have RPGs with intent to fire them.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:55 AM on April 5, 2010


Thanks for the verification Think_Long. Turns out university IT had just blocked the site locally.

What. The. Mutherfuck.

Knowing that this is possibly happening for every report of 'insurgents killed' in the media and seeing it with one's own eyes are two completely different things.
posted by tbonicus at 9:55 AM on April 5, 2010


Instead of knee jerk defense of video games for all from the childless crowd, it would be nice for someone to address what I actually said.

The games don't make murderers.
The games are not bad.
The games should not be banned or censored.

CHILDREN have no business playing them. It doesn't cause the kind of xbox live chatter we hear in the video, but it contributes to normalizing it, you fucking bet it does.

I love the games. LOVE THEM. And until today I thought it was harmless fun when my friends' kids played the kind of games I would have loved to have had at their age.

I overstated my case. that was stupid.

But, after watching that video and listening to the same chatter I hear whenever the games are being played by kids or adults, I'm not so sure.

I don't think they harm adults.
I think children are different. And not just smaller and dumber. Their brains function differently and I think until the gaming industry can prove, with peer-reviewed studies, that the games don't fuck with kids in harmful ways, that kids, KIDS should be legally barred from them the same way they're barred from cigarettes.
Yeah, they still get 'em, but the illegality reduces that number and gives parents a very simple comeback when pressed "It is against the law. Not till you're 18."


(won't somebody please think of the children?! How the fuck did I become Helen Lovejoy?)
posted by mer2113 at 9:57 AM on April 5, 2010


Wrong again me, I guess it's just behind a 'maturity content' wall now.

To view the same video without having to sign in, use this link:

http://www.youtube.com/v/5rXPrfnU3G0
posted by bobo123 at 9:57 AM on April 5, 2010


So there doesn't appear to be any mention of this on CNN or some of the other usual suspects. I was looking around because I was wondering how this was playing in the media. Anyone have links to mainstream media stories about this video?

Weirdly, Google News isn't finding much.
posted by reductiondesign at 9:58 AM on April 5, 2010


Instead of knee jerk defense of video games for all from the childless crowd, it would be nice for someone to address what I actually said.

You are derailing the thread. Please stop.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:59 AM on April 5, 2010 [41 favorites]


Al Jazeera English has some coverage, but that's all I can find.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:59 AM on April 5, 2010


Well, they clearly were out of line with this one:

Rule #2c: "Do not target or strike anyone who has surrendered or is out of combat due to sickness or wounds."

But to be fair, those guys were looking really suspicious, huddled around a corner. Obviously, way out of line with the call to engage. Once you start killing people tho, you can't doubt what you're doing, everyone is a terrorist - hence the comment about kids. Chopper pilots have to sleep at night too.
posted by brocklanders at 9:59 AM on April 5, 2010


It's not apparent when this massacre happened, and in what context (was there an offensive going on?).

That said, modern military technology is just chilling.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:01 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


For some reason while watching this I feel like the circumstances were made up by guys who just wanted to fire their weapons on anything and everything. Reminded me of the Southpark hunting episode...where they would shoot only in defense yelling "its coming right for us!" even if it was a squirrel. Not the best frame of reference...but its what came to mind, the fabrication of evidence to justify the means..
posted by samsara at 10:02 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


If someone would pop up in this thread and say "But but but videogames are art!" it would make this thread complete.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:04 AM on April 5, 2010


I see this more as an indictment of war than the individual soldiers. Once you put someone in a place where they have to make life and death decisions on the spot with limited information, things like this will happen. I'm past even thinking that this is an exceptional event. The terrible thing about war is that it makes things like this inevitable.
posted by jefeweiss at 10:04 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


It said the footage filmed from a helicopter cockpit shows a missile strike on a crowded square in a Baghdad neighbourhood in July 2007.

What was happening in Summer 2007 in Iraq? Was this during "the surge"? I can't remember.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:05 AM on April 5, 2010


In the olden days, like Vietnam, people who massacred humans from helicopters had to make a new space int heir brains to deal with what they had done.
Now, it just gets filed in the previously created SUCCESSFUL MISSION LEVEL UP space.


What the hell does this even mean?

One of the biggest problems in modern policy and political discourse is that people think their outrage makes them an expert in whatever makes them mad.
posted by spaltavian at 10:05 AM on April 5, 2010 [11 favorites]


So there doesn't appear to be any mention of this on CNN or some of the other usual suspects. I was looking around because I was wondering how this was playing in the media. Anyone have links to mainstream media stories about this video?

ThinkProgress just picked it up

posted by Think_Long at 10:07 AM on April 5, 2010


You're right. I'm out. Sorry for the derail.
Legislation was a stupid, kneejerk suggestion made by someone (me) who was horrified by how much that video seemed like a video game.

We don't need the govt to protect us from games.

If the media did their fucking job and showed this video, parents would decide whether to let their kids play these games armed with the knowledge of how frighteningly realistic they are.

I hate the PMRC. Sorry I went all Dennis Miller 9/12 on everyone.

(War really does make people do strange and horrible things)
posted by mer2113 at 10:08 AM on April 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


Fucking animals. This is intolerable.

I don't suppose they actually found any weapons? There appeared to be a weapon-like object at the beginning, but I have a tripod that I carry on a strap which has been mistaken for a rifle in the past. To me, the camera poking around the corner was clearly a camera and a calm, highliy-skilled military pilot should have been able to see it as well as I can on a crappy youtube video.
posted by klanawa at 10:08 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


>Right around 3:42 - 3:50 in the video there appear to be two men with rifles of some sort right in the center of the frame. Aren't those rifles? Or am I misunderstanding what I'm seeing?

Yes, I think you're seeing it correctly. The beginning of the video actually explicitly acknowledges that some of the men may have been armed. It's up to the viewer, of course, to decide if that influences his or her opinion about what comes next...
posted by artemisia at 10:09 AM on April 5, 2010


It's not apparent when this massacre happened

Sometime in 2008 or earlier, judging from this:

...WikiLeaks has released the classified Rules of Engagement for 2006, 2007 and 2008, revealing these rules before, during, and after the killings.
posted by mediareport at 10:09 AM on April 5, 2010


Does anyone understand why there isn't any mention of this on the wikileaks website, and the only apparent "wikileaks" related material connected with this incident is on a separate domain named "collateralmurder.com"? Just wondering.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:10 AM on April 5, 2010


In the full length video, nothing really happens (aside from engaging the reporter), until around 34 minutes in and they shoot a hellfire missile into a building. There's a dude just strolling along and I'm thinking, "Uh oh, I hope that's not the building" and then boom ... but after the dust settles it looks like he just kind of stands up and brushes himself off! Sure hope that was the same guy.
posted by geoff. at 10:11 AM on April 5, 2010


Support Wikileaks. And on their other site, support WikiLeaks.
posted by nickyskye at 10:12 AM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Legislation was a stupid, kneejerk suggestion made by someone (me) who was horrified by how much that video seemed like a video game.

It only seems like a video game to someone whose only experience with combat is in video games.
posted by lullaby at 10:13 AM on April 5, 2010 [10 favorites]


Sometime in 2008 or earlier, judging from this:

...WikiLeaks has released the classified Rules of Engagement for 2006, 2007 and 2008, revealing these rules before, during, and after the killings.


Al Jazeera is reporting the incident happened in July 2007.

I'm past even thinking that this is an exceptional event. The terrible thing about war is that it makes things like this inevitable.

Yeah, back when my wife was pregnant with my son, I heard a story about American soldiers killing two women who sped through an Iraqi checkpoint. Afterwards, it was discovered that one of the women had been pregnant and in labor, and the other had been her aunt, driving her to the hospital in a panic. The story made me so angry I nearly had a road rage incident. War also, paradoxically, has a way of spreading like fire in the outraged hearts of the survivors.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:13 AM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, looks like this: 2 Journalists Among 16 Killed in Clash in Iraq
posted by mediareport at 10:13 AM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's not apparent when this massacre happened

These events happened on Thursday, July 12, 2007, during the Surge.
posted by sallybrown at 10:14 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


...why there isn't any mention of this on the wikileaks website...

What? It's literally the first thing on their website.
posted by reductiondesign at 10:16 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Something nobody has brought up yet is that there is a reason soldiers act like this, and it's not that they played video games as kids -- it's that they are trained to act this way. This wasn't always the case, and it was noted by the top brass that a lot of the grunts deployed with rifles on our behalf in WWII were not very effective. They had been taught to hit what they shoot at, but not to shoot reflexively. So in the postwar years a lot of behavioral science was deployed in the cause of redesigning Basic Training so that firing on certain targets would become a conditioned reflex. This was pretty much accomplished by Vietnam and a lot of numbers were published about how much this improved kill rates. Bottom line, superior officers don't want the guys with guns thinking too hard about what they're aiming at. They want you to pull the trigger, preferably before whatever you're aiming at has a chance to do the same to you.

And this makes sense in a battlefield situation where you can be pretty sure everybody you encounter is going to be a combatant. But take people trained that way and put them where the combatants are mingling with bona fide innocent bystanders who are just trying to mind their business, and you're going to get atrocities. That is 100% inevitable, and the people who arranged for this absolutely know that because they had to work very hard to make these guys act this way. And they were getting guys to act this way long before computers were capable of photo-realistically rendering much of anything.
posted by localroger at 10:20 AM on April 5, 2010 [58 favorites]


Yes, I think you're seeing it correctly. The beginning of the video actually explicitly acknowledges that some of the men may have been armed. It's up to the viewer, of course, to decide if that influences his or her opinion about what comes next...

Thanks. And, agreed.

Also What the fuck is wrong with humanity that I feel like I need to couch everything I say with 'I'm not in favor of shooting civilians with giant flying machine guns while whooping and quoting South Park and then covering it up and making it look like you're a hero for doing so'?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:20 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you are a sadist, who enjoys being the cause of suffering and death, and who is enthralled by the process of it while completely untouched by the horror of it -- you're going to join the army, and you're going to take advantage of, or manufacture, every opportunity that you have.

The reasonable response for this would be to discharge the solider(s) responsible, and bring charges against them. That neither of these things has happened tells us that some of the sadists have made it far enough up the command chain to be running the show.

There are some days I wish it were easier for an American citizen to emigrate to another country. I've had a lot of those days lately.

.
posted by davejay at 10:22 AM on April 5, 2010


I have seen autopsy videos. I have seen film of the inside of slaughterhouses and cruel prisons, images of mistreatment and horror. But a moving image has never made me so nauseous and blank with horror that I have been sick. Until today.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 10:23 AM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


The reasonable response for this would be to discharge the solider(s) responsible, and bring charges against them.

Why would that be the reasonable response? I'll admit I don't know about war crime laws and such, but this looks like an honest accident to me. Is that really enough to charge someone?

If you are a sadist, who enjoys being the cause of suffering and death, and who is enthralled by the process of it while completely untouched by the horror of it -- you're going to join the army, and you're going to take advantage of, or manufacture, every opportunity that you have.

Also this seems a bit of an overreaction to me.
posted by DoublePlus at 10:28 AM on April 5, 2010


Also What the fuck is wrong with humanity that I feel like I need to couch everything I say with 'I'm not in favor of shooting civilians with giant flying machine guns while whooping and quoting South Park and then covering it up and making it look like you're a hero for doing so'?

I know how you feel.

Not sure what the answer is, but over in this other thread on ethics, you'll find quite a few otherwise reasonable-seeming MeFites arguing passionately that there's no solid, defensible rational basis for considering the murder of innocents a moral wrong.

So, maybe we've got a little problem with ethics that isn't strictly limited to the battlefield.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:29 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


...why there isn't any mention of this on the wikileaks website...

What? It's literally the first thing on their website.

Oh, whoops - I was looking at a cached page. Thanks!
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:29 AM on April 5, 2010


There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!
Mario Savio, 1964

Watching that video made me sick at heart.

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posted by mer2113 at 10:31 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


At about 4:08 there's a guy looking around the corner holding what appears to be an RPG (in fact the guy says it's an RPG). Could easily be a camera with a big lens. But that's typically not what's on someone's menu of thinking in those situations. And he does seem to be hiding behind cover. Coupled with a furtive action, it's easy for context to change or reinforce identification of an object. Under the ROE you have to have a positively identified target. The crew clearly though they did.

I'm not sure why the photographer didn't hold up the camera so it could be seen more clearly. Wave perhaps.
It's also fairly clear the Apache crew wasn't covering anything up and wasn't aware of the tragedy.
(They directed ground forces to the scene. Contrast this with the three Afghan women killed). And they wanted the evidence to stay there (e.g. they fired on the van to prevent anyone from taking evidence, wounded, etc. from the scene).

I don't know why there were watching that particular square though, so I don't know what led them to believe these guys might have been combatants in the first place.

But there certainly seems to have been some covering up after the fact and I'm glad WikiLeaks is on it (longer version of the film here - nonannotated). Doesn't seem to be much in terms of regular media coverage.

The hell of it is, this wasn't wanton violence, that is, there was a command structure in place and the rules were followed. The irony is, this is what in part protects people from war crimes (no, not the "I was just following orders crap") the lawful and agreed upon rules of engagement, you check with your superiors if it's ok, you have a clear target, he's got a weapon, all that.
And yet, it's exactly the same structure that is capable of making any mistake from one as egregious as this to an accidental misfire, into a grade-A shitstorm because it gets covered up and argued over.
And eventually some low ranking enlisted person who was only vaguely involved takes all the heat and everyone pretends it's all over now.
That's what keeps this kind of crap rolling on. Jesus, no one wants to just take the hit. "I was wrong. My mistake." - It's like the antichrist of sentences. You never hear anyone say that. Unless they're headed to detox or it's not so much in earnest.

War is dangerous. People should know it. Not just that you might get shot, but you might shoot someone accidentally. The more people were acquainted with footage like this, the less likely maybe we'd be to engage in wars in the first place.
I'm a bit iffy on the video game thing. But in terms of all media - video games, movies, the news - war is always completely desensitized. No one accidentally shoots the wrong people. No one craps their pants. You never change your opinions or views. Wounds are little scratches on the shoulder or dramatic blood gushing holes that you can magically overcome because Grrr! you're just SOO mad now!
It's not like that. It's more like this.

"What difference does it make to the dead...whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy." - Gandhi
posted by Smedleyman at 10:33 AM on April 5, 2010 [14 favorites]


DoublePlus: "...this looks like an honest accident to me. Is that really enough to charge someone?
"

Killing 12 people and wounding two children? Fuck yes! What kind of question is that? Why do so many people work so hard to distance themselves from the horror of this and rationalise it?
posted by klanawa at 10:34 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Both because I am at work, and already have a head full of badness, I'm going to opt to not watch the video right now, but, and I've been saying this for quite some time, videos like this need to exist and be seen.

It's too easy for people to happily accept that there is a conflict going on, because it never directly touches most of us.

People need to know what is going on in their name, even if it horrifies them. Because, a lot of the support for actions like this would evaporate if we knew, from visceral visual evidence, that there was a real chance that our soldiers would gun down civilians trying to administer aid to other civilians.
posted by quin at 10:36 AM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


.
posted by yeloson at 10:37 AM on April 5, 2010


I wish there were no wars but that will never be.

Oh, you'll get your wish, all right. There just won't be any humans left alive to see it happen.
posted by WalterMitty at 10:39 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


These soldiers are cowards, pure and simple, unwilling to take the slightest risk and taunting their wounded enemies.

There used to be honour among soldiers, not much, perhaps, but a code of conduct - with increasing use of distance-weapons and the utterly overwhelming superiority of American military, they have created an army of cowards.
posted by Rumple at 10:39 AM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


The vast majority of people who join the army aren't sadists. They have been trained to respond reflexively and not to think about it. An actual sadist who was deriving enjoyment from his acts would not really be what the military wants, because he'd still be spending too much time thinking about it and not enough pulling the trigger.

As for what you think about it afterward, the nifty new and improved basic training doesn't really address that; once you've killed the enemy your superiors really don't care how much it might bother you. One thing that came out after Vietnam was that it bothers some people a lot, and there was a sharp increase in things like PTSD which was credited to the new training techniques.

One thing that is constant about the military, whether you are part of it or facing off against it, is that it doesn't think of you as a person. You are a unit, a machine, an element of force and you only have value if you can be depended upon to overcome the threat before it overcomes you. If you're not part of the machine you're either enemy, in which case its components are supposed to shoot you, or you're background noise in which case the machine doesn't really care whether you get shot as long as the enemy got shot.
posted by localroger at 10:39 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Killing 12 people and wounding two children? Fuck yes! What kind of question is that?

You seem to be new to this whole "war" thing... see, you and your buddies walking down the street, you have a right not to be killed. But when a foreign country thousands of miles away has declared war on you, you no longer have a right to walk down the street, much less carry a camera. And if you're ballsy enough to have a legally purchased rifle to protect yourself from area "freedom fighters", you might as well be dead where you stand.

Hey, you didn't choose to participate in this whole war thing, but the important thing is that someone else did. So, it's okay for them to kill you. That's how war works. I hope you understand now.
posted by shii at 10:40 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Looks to me like any shoulder strap could/would be identified as a weapon. Which is insane. But then, when the errors you make cost someone else, why change SOP?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:40 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why do so many people work so hard to distance themselves from the horror of this and rationalise it?

Because they would be forced to acknowledge to themselves that the United States has been engaged in two unlawful, irresponsible, and unnecessary occupations for close to nine years now.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 10:41 AM on April 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


This was first item on the 6 p.m. Al jazeera news on TV (watched in Ireland), including an interview with the founder of Wikileaks.
posted by fcummins at 10:44 AM on April 5, 2010


Why would that be the reasonable response? I'll admit I don't know about war crime laws and such, but this looks like an honest accident to me. Is that really enough to charge someone?

Enlisted folk have been discharged for less, and the second shooting in the video should be more than enough to justify a hearing, so yes.

Also this seems a bit of an overreaction to me.

When a person has just killed someone, and expresses enthusiasm over the method used without expressing any remorse or regret? From the transcript: "Oh yeah, look at that. Right through the windshield!" "Ha ha!"

Or when someone has just killed a child is able to rationalize it easily and move on? From the transcript here: "Well it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle." "That's right."

No, I don't think mine is an overreaction at all.
posted by davejay at 10:45 AM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fuck yes! What kind of question is that?

I realize this is a hard issue to think about. But I don't know what charges would be brought against them? Murder? Accidental manslaughter (or something similar, I don't even know if that's an actual thing)? Shouldn't we be protecting our troops that are trying to do their jobs? (and who had direct permission from their superiors)
posted by DoublePlus at 10:47 AM on April 5, 2010


If you can't distinguish an RPG from a telephoto lens you have no business behind the trigger of a 50mm weapon. This is goddamned fucking amateur hour here.

"OMG that guy has two tactical nuclear weapons strapped to his feet!"

"No, Gomer, those are shoes."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:47 AM on April 5, 2010 [15 favorites]


But this video is far fucking worse than I ever imagined war could be. The laughing, the "Nice...nice," is more chilling to me than the trigger-happiness because at least the latter might be explained by a fear, however absurd, of danger. Watching these men look at a street full of bodies and covered in blood and not show even a modicum of sadness at what they've done--however justified they think they are, however much they think these people are our enemy, however much that sadness might be focused on the part of them that's lost by killing someone--made me weep.

My grandfather was in WWII. He served in the Navy. He lost the hearing in his right ear to yellow fever shortly after basic, and was a gunner on an amphibious landing vessel during Iwo Jima and some other battles. He was in the thick of it a few times. He never talked about it at all until he was very near the end of his life. Even then, there were things he would not share.

I fully expect that he was as gung-ho and murderous as these fellows. It wasn't because he could be an inveterate jackass. He could be - but this is different. In fact, he was much more often a very kind and funny man. It's hard for me to imagine him being the sort of stone cold necessary for war. But I know that must be the case. He told me that it had been the case.

He told me it's because namby pamby nancyboys who worry about hurting other peoples feelings in a war zone often get themselves or their squadmates killed. At some point, you learn to not feel or care because you have to. You must act so that you do not die. Sometimes, you must kill, and keep killing, until you are safe. You don't last long if you cannot do this. You might not last long anyways.

He was all but a boy, who shot other boys with a machine gun. He had scars on his arms and chest from grabbing the hot barrel of the ack gun and holding on for dear life as the ship shook and shuddered from the bombs and shells falling around it. A piece of shrapnel amputated his pinky on his right hand. He stood for endless hours on watch in the pitch black of night, nervously looking for any sign of the next attack. He watched several of his friends die or be maimed, as he himself nearly was.

How can you do that, day in, day out, and not become the monster in the abyss ?

He paid for it though. Later in life, the nightmares and alcoholism and broken relationships became the bill for that buffet. Those gunners you see in the video - those boys - are going to come home someday, and they will have to reckon with what they saw and did.

And then their sons are going to go off and do the same thing.

I watch this video, and I feel sad. I feel sad for the dead. I feel sad for the living. This is a mess and we deserve to, and can do, better.

But we won't.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:48 AM on April 5, 2010 [53 favorites]


Ehh, well, the US is just engaging in pretty standard-issue hegemonic behaviour, anyway. Look into history and you'll see that the dominant hegemon at any one time was usually waging war somewhere far from its country of origin, oppressing the people and doing nasty stuff while making witty bon mots and drinking [alcohol of choice] at home.

It's the US now, it'll probably be the Chinese next, and maybe later it'll be the Outer Space Creatures from Outer Space using us as food sources and slave labour. It's not right, but that doesn't make it any less inevitable.
posted by WalterMitty at 10:48 AM on April 5, 2010


Shouldn't we be protecting our troops that are trying to do their jobs?

What do you mean by "our"? There are non-Americans on MetaFilter you know, and this war concerns the entire world.
posted by Rumple at 10:49 AM on April 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


But when a foreign country thousands of miles away has declared war on you, you no longer have a right to walk down the street

Remind me again which country declared war on us?
posted by JaredSeth at 10:49 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


"And I'm looking over rooftops and I'm hoping that it ain't true
that the same God looks out for them looks out for me and you" - Josh Ritter
posted by jbickers at 10:50 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


But I don't know what charges would be brought against them

Incompetence. Is incompetence a crime? No?

Carry on then.
posted by WalterMitty at 10:51 AM on April 5, 2010


I watch this video, and I feel sad. I feel sad for the dead. I feel sad for the living.

I guess that's a difference between you and me, then.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:57 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I mean I'll tell you what: I'll come shoot some of your family and friends, but I promise to be haunted by it someday.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:58 AM on April 5, 2010 [11 favorites]


Here's the thing. The guys on the ground are doing the best they can, and it's hell.

But if you wanna be promoted, if you wanna be a general? By and large those that learn to kiss enough rear and brown nose and be politic, etc, these are the dudes that get promoted and make the big decisions. Including when to cover their own rears.

It's the decent warriors that are blowing the whistle.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:59 AM on April 5, 2010




Do something. I don't care what it is - donate to WikiLeaks, write your congressman, write to President Obama, find out what collections (if any) are being taken for the people killed, and donate to them.

No, seriously - do something, something more than posting here and feeling sick or angry or hurt or sad. I'm donating to WikiLeaks because that's something I can do right now until I figure out what else to do, but damn Damn DAMN this has to stop.
posted by Pragmatica at 9:53 AM on April 5



Gave up permanent US residence, moved to another country and started my life over so at least my US tax dollars wouldn't be funding this kind of bullshit.

Iraq could just as easily be my country if tomorrow the US government deemed it necessary.

I really feel for the Americans that want no part of this.
posted by tbonicus at 11:01 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]





I guess that's a difference between you and me, then.


The difference that I'm able to understand a complex and nuanced situation, and that you are merely ruled by your most basic emotional responses ?

I'm OK with that, actually.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:01 AM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


I guess that's a difference between you and me, then.

The fact that your empathy is limited to only the most obvious and deserving victims is not really something to be proud of.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:03 AM on April 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Ah, St. Alia. You know, individual MeFites don't stand out much for me, but I remember you for having characterized U.S. soldiers in Iraq as being "in harm's way". I remember because I thought it was a pretty venomous twist of the language. How it must be, I wonder, to be "in harm's way" just by walking down any street, with those same soldiers there?

The difference that I'm able to understand a complex and nuanced situation, and that you are merely ruled by your most basic emotional responses ?

Yeah, Pogo. You mourn for the living not the dead. That's some very un-cliched, nuanced shit you got going there, man.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:03 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Okay, it still says 359 views.

CONSPIRACY!?

Or caching?
posted by delmoi at 11:05 AM on April 5, 2010


Just being in Iraq puts you in harm's way. Does it matter who you are?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:05 AM on April 5, 2010


Just being in Iraq puts you in harm's way. Does it matter who you are?

Doesn't seem to.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:07 AM on April 5, 2010



Yeah, Pogo. You mourn for the living not the dead. That's some very un-cliched, nuanced shit you got going there, man.

That's not what I wrote. Not even a little tiny bit. Your reading comprehension sucks.

Man.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:07 AM on April 5, 2010


From the Huffington Post link:

Washington Post reporter David Finkel described the incident -- and the video -- in great detail in his September 2009 book, "The Good Soldiers"....

Finkel also described a review session after the shooting, where Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, commander of the Army's 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment "concluded that everyone had acted appropriately." (Kauzlarich was also involved in the Army's Pat Tillman cover-up, and later told ESPN that the reluctance of Tillman's parents to accept the military's story that he was killed by enemy action, rather than friendly fire, was the unfortunate result of their lack of Christian faith.)


Disgusting.
posted by sallybrown at 11:08 AM on April 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


"We're only going to blow away brown people with oil and you know it."

Sales of sunscreen way up in Canada.
posted by Mitheral at 11:08 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


posted by Durn Bronzefist Ah, St. Alia. You know, individual MeFites don't stand out much for me, but I remember you for having characterized U.S. soldiers in Iraq as being "in harm's way".

Please knock it off with your axe-grinding crap or take it to MetaTalk.
posted by mattdidthat at 11:10 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


The mainstream media has not yet responded because they are too busy fact-checking.

The video is shocking, disturbing, and so terribly sad. As a moment in time it is over, and those people are long since in the ground. But the real and continuing story is the coverup. Reveal that, and the press will effect some good on this atrocity by creating momentum to punish those responsible and hopefully prevent future incidents.

Fact-checking is the foundation, and does not happen at the speed of the internet. But that is ok - truth takes time.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 11:10 AM on April 5, 2010


That's not what I wrote. Not even a little tiny bit.

You're right! That's a very surprised re-read for me. Truly sorry, Pogo. If it helps, I was reacting to a statement that I thought was "I don't feel sorry for the living. I feel sorry for the dead." Which is where I thought you were heading. Sorry, PF.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:10 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Okay, it still says 359 views.

I guess we'll find out if Google's views on censorship in China are mouthy platitudes, or actually how they plan to run an ethical business.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:10 AM on April 5, 2010


Slaughter, error, sadism, numbed brutality, cover-up: When it comes to war, these things aren't part of a sub-clause to the bargain, they are the bargain. Sure, videos like this should be promulgated as widely as possible, but not for their "shock" value, so much as their reminder value.

It's probably safe to assume that things more or less like this happen on a very regular basis, not least because this is what an occupying army, in a high-conflict zone, does.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:11 AM on April 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


What makes me angry about this video is that while the soldiers in the helicopter firing on the civilians truly thought they were insurgents (a camera is mistaken for an RPG), the military reports it as a successful attack on insurgents rather facing the cold hard fact that WAR. SUCKS. The fact that war sucks (while following protocol) isn't good PR for the Pentagon.
posted by yeti at 11:11 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Smedleyman: "I'm not sure why the photographer didn't hold up the camera so it could be seen more clearly. Wave perhaps."

I would assume it may have been because cameramen in Iraq have long thought they are liable to be treated as targets by all armed participants.

Additionally, have you ever been under fire, even in a situation where the incoming rounds are stingers from teargas grenades or paintball pellets? Standing up and calling attention to ones' self is NOT what is first in your mind. Getting away or hiding is. Having the presence of mind to try to shoot footage under the circumstances is hard for me to imagine.
posted by mwhybark at 11:12 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


mattdidthat -- oh please. It's the same topic. It's not like I have it out for someone because of anti-vaccination views and lo and behold spot them in a climate change thread. Views on war and occupation are a part of this very discussion.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:13 AM on April 5, 2010


posted by mwhybark Having the presence of mind to try to shoot footage under the circumstances is hard for me to imagine.

See also: Bob Capa, Reid Blackburn.
posted by mattdidthat at 11:15 AM on April 5, 2010


this only has 359 views

Youtube's viewcounts have never updated in real-time.
posted by yeti at 11:15 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Give it some time, and this will end up as a republican email FWD: WATCH OUR BRAVE TROOPS TAKE DOWN ARMED TERRORISTS GO TEAM AMERICA GOD BLESS THE U.S.A.!!!!!!!

Direct to all the inboxes of retired military and computer-illiterates who love Yahoo! Literati and forwarding email chainletters.
posted by Malice at 11:16 AM on April 5, 2010


Making the mistakes they made from the air, the detached attitude about the situation - that doesn't really take me aback. It's shocking, of course, and very sad. But what gets my blood boiling is the subsequent bald-face lying about what happened. Not that that should surprise me by now.

Maybe they're trying to numb us to horror so we stop becoming outraged and just let it keep happening.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:17 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The mainstream media has not yet responded because they are too busy fact-checking.

I can't tell if this was written ironically or not. As sallybrown points out upthread, this 2007 incident has been known about for at least seven months (i.e. since the publication of Finkel's book), and probably a lot longer. They're not fact checking anything. If the story shoots up into mainstream media it will be a combination of timing, circumstance and luck. One more story to help us get out of Iraq is probably thing though. Meanwhile Tiger Woods is giving a live press conference at the Masters or something. Seriously.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 11:17 AM on April 5, 2010


is probably a good thing though
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 11:17 AM on April 5, 2010


posted by Durn Bronzefist oh please. It's the same topic. It's not like I have it out for someone because of anti-vaccination views and lo and behold spot them in a climate change thread. Views on war and occupation are a part of this very discussion.

No, you're bringing up SAotB's history to satisfy your own axe-grinding urge. That's bullshit and you know it.
posted by mattdidthat at 11:18 AM on April 5, 2010


Matt, take it to Metatalk, please.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:18 AM on April 5, 2010




From Huffington Post:

"Reporters working for WikiLeaks determined that the driver of the van was a good Samaritan on his way to take his small children to a tutoring session. He was killed and his two children were badly injured."
posted by mer2113 at 11:19 AM on April 5, 2010


Wired's got it now, too.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:21 AM on April 5, 2010


Ralph Kauzlarich
posted by lslelel at 11:22 AM on April 5, 2010


If anyone is interested in pursuing what localroger talks about above further, I can recommend On Combat by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. For what it's worth, he also believes that video games are training children to kill, but although in my opinion he way, way overplays his hand there, the rest of the book is excellent.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:22 AM on April 5, 2010


Give it some time, and this will end up as a republican email FWD: WATCH OUR BRAVE TROOPS TAKE DOWN ARMED TERRORISTS GO TEAM AMERICA GOD BLESS THE U.S.A.!!!!!!!

So what? Who gives a shit what some republican emails out? This thread seems to be using a fairly awful, graphic, soul-crushing video (without any context or background information) as an excuse to hate hate hate.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:23 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


You're right! That's a very surprised re-read for me. Truly sorry, Pogo. If it helps, I was reacting to a statement that I thought was "I don't feel sorry for the living. I feel sorry for the dead." Which is where I thought you were heading. Sorry, PF.

Very well then.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:24 AM on April 5, 2010


Thank you adamdschneider I was really intrigued by localroger's post.
posted by DoublePlus at 11:24 AM on April 5, 2010


this 2007 incident has been known about for at least seven months

The incident is not news - the coverup is news.

it will be a combination of timing, circumstance and luck.

Or, more simply, the release of a video that can't be ignored will push reporters further in their fact-checking that stalled without a specific, visual reference to engage the public.

How big would Abu Ghraib have been, without the photos?
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 11:27 AM on April 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Unfortunately, I can't seem to open the .pdfs. Does anyone have an answer to Pastabagel's questions way up top re: the ROE?

If troops spot a weapon, even if it's not being used (and not directed at them), do the ROE permit fire?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:29 AM on April 5, 2010


I'm not sure why the photographer didn't hold up the camera so it could be seen more clearly. Wave perhaps. It's also fairly clear the Apache crew wasn't covering anything up and wasn't aware of the tragedy.
Why would he even think to do that? There are probably helicopters flying around all the time.
posted by delmoi at 11:29 AM on April 5, 2010


This thread seems to be using a fairly awful, graphic, soul-crushing video (without any context or background information) as an excuse to hate hate hate.

I can't speak for the thread, obviously, but in general many people are angry b/c this incident reflects a larger problem: the endless quagmire clusterfucks in Iraq and Afghanistan have been largely eclipsed in the news, and for no good reason. Both wars were totally unnecessary (IMO), and we were led into them through a series of carefully calibrated lies. Yet no one was held responsible, and there appears to be no end in sight. What does it take to get us out of there?

And of course this is not the only important thing that needs to change. So there is a lot of free floating anger in the body politic now, and for good reason.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 11:32 AM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Right around 3:42 - 3:50 in the video there appear to be two men with rifles of some sort right in the center of the frame. Aren't those rifles? Or am I misunderstanding what I'm seeing? (Not that the owning of weapons in Iraq is illegal or grounds for shooting from a helicopter.)

Not sure if this was answered (whole debate is TL;DR) but yes, I do believe they were carrying rifles of some kind, at that time in the video.

And at 4:07 the one gunner announces 'he's got an RPG!' The guy in the video has a long item he's holding. Hard to see, but yes I think I see ... something. I'm not saying it's an RPG but I don't think it's a broom either.

At 4:15+, do we have a guy shooting around the corner of the building? The one guy announces on the radio that the people on the ground were shooting. Were they?

Who were these guys with the reporters?

Was this ever covered in any of the websites or articles discussing this incident? (who were the armed men & why were they armed? And confirming they were armed?).

FWIW I recall maybe 20-30 years ago, an Israeli tank fired at (and decapitated) a french cameraman because his news camera looked like a rocket launcher. The IDF released two photos afterwards, one of a guy holding an anti-tank rocket launcher, the other of a guy holding an ENG news camera. Both of them looked the same - a big boxy thing you rested on your shoulder.

Not to endorse war or anything, in any case...


posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 11:33 AM on April 5, 2010


Also, as for why the reporters didn't attempt to identify themselves, to the helicopter, consider the following:
Time lag between first shots fired from the helicopter and visual evidence of impact in the gun camera: 2-3 seconds.

Muzzle velocity of M230 chain gun (which is the most likely the armament used on that helicopter): 805 m/s

Estimated average speed of 30mm round: 750 m/s

Distance from the helicopter to the crowd of civilians: 1 - 1.3 miles.
They were shooting at them from 1 to 1.3 miles away.

Consider how common a sight US military helicopters flying over Iraqi cities must be at this point. Unless Iraqis are expected to walk around nude with their hands up at all times while in public with big signs idenitifying themselves as peaceful civilians, there's no way these people could have avoided being massacred.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:33 AM on April 5, 2010 [45 favorites]


This thread seems to be using a fairly awful, graphic, soul-crushing video (without any context or background information) as an excuse to hate hate hate.

Hate what? Unjustifiable, systematized killing of innocent people in faraway corners of the world? Well yes, I guess I agree. I'll take any "excuse" I can get to do just that.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 11:35 AM on April 5, 2010 [18 favorites]


This thread seems to be using a fairly awful, graphic, soul-crushing video (without any context or background information) as an excuse to hate hate hate.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:23 AM on April 5


FUCKING. AGREED. FTW. With the proper context or background we'd see that those journalists deserved to be murdered.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:40 AM on April 5, 2010 [20 favorites]


This makes me wish that Tipper Gore and the PMRC had focused on video games and won.

And by won, I mean made it illegal for fucking kids to play video games with guns. Period, full stop.

They can fucking wait till they're adults the way everyone who grew up in the 70's and 80's had to. Their developing brains, it seems pretty clear to me, aren't benefiting from the games I love like Halo and GTA and the industry will survive if that stuff really is restricted.


Kids are creative, and they're little frickin sponges. They'll catch ideas from things adults didn't even notice. Example in the topic of kids with guns: my mom, trying to be a good mother, kept my little brother from having any toy guns. My grandfather got him a little play jeep steering wheel/dash thing, and it came with a plastic gun. My mom kept the gun, but let him have the wheel. Some time later, he was playing with my mom, and he picked up a cow, held it by the body and aimed the tail at her, and sad "Bang." He was 3 or 4 years old.

These are people who are living in scenarios I can't imagine, so I won't try to rationalize what they did or didn't do, but I'll say that it's not because they played video games with guns.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:41 AM on April 5, 2010


Yet no one was held responsible, and there appears to be no end in sight. What does it take to get us out of there?

That's not true. We are still very much on track to pull out of Iraq.

Granted, Afghanistan is a very different situation. But combat operations have already ended and full withdrawal from Iraq by the Iraqi legislature's established deadline of December 31, 2011 is now accepted as inevitable by everyone.

There is an end in sight to at least one of these conflicts. At least that's something.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:41 AM on April 5, 2010


jesus h christ. happy easter.

i agree with the poster upthread who commented about the kids growing up to become terrorists. i would say "well done" sarcastically, but then i wear my tin foil hat and realise the US military needs these kids to become terrorists so they will have an enemy to fight in 20 years time.

and as for "This thread seems to be using a fairly awful, graphic, soul-crushing video (without any context or background information) as an excuse to hate hate hate." wtf? so am i supposed to be cheering then? are you cheering?
posted by marienbad at 11:43 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Look, whether the gunners should have known better or not - the bottom line fact is, these folks were killed for a mistake. Unless there was some attempt at some engagement other than deadly force that is not included in this video, this was a FUCK UP. These people died for no reason.

Somebody needs to point me at the military statement that says that (oh, and the apology)
posted by victors at 11:44 AM on April 5, 2010




And of course this is not the only important thing that needs to change. So there is a lot of free floating anger in the body politic now, and for good reason.

Obama's proposal was the Volcker rule. Congress and pundits of every stripe quickly pounced on that baby and smothered it.

But more importantly, what the fuck does any of that have to do with the Pentagon possibly covering up a massacre? Damn, people.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:45 AM on April 5, 2010


FUCKING. AGREED. FTW. With the proper context or background we'd see that those journalists deserved to be murdered.

I think that his point was that this awful, soul-crushing video of the horrors of dehumanizing the other is not a great reason to cheer for anyone's particular political team or beat up on anyone's particular MetaFilter nemesis, although both of those things have happened in this thread, and it's stupid.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:45 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


in the postwar years a lot of behavioral science was deployed in the cause of redesigning Basic Training so that firing on certain targets would become a conditioned reflex. This was pretty much accomplished by Vietnam and a lot of numbers were published about how much this improved kill rates. Bottom line, superior officers don't want the guys with guns thinking too hard about what they're aiming at.

Excellent comment, localroger. Again and again we hear that soldiers trained for war are not an appropriate choice for occupation, but seldom is there much insight into why.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:46 AM on April 5, 2010


"Additionally, have you ever been under fire, even in a situation where the incoming rounds are stingers from teargas grenades or paintball pellets?"

Sure. They look fairly casual though. In those cases - why not stay under cover? Why not get away? Drop the camera perhaps? That or they were deliberately targeted anyway. I'm unclear on the context of the situation.
It looks like, from the photographer's perspective, he thought some action was going to occur and he set up to shoot it, not knowing apparently, he was the action. But that's speculation on my part. He could have IDed himself and his intentions better. And the gunship certainly could have done a better job figuring out what was happening.

"'I'm suspicious that the audio was either augmented or replaced.'
'Why'?"

Doesn't seem to match the transcript for one. But I have no reason to doubt the veracity of it. Probably augmented for attention's sake.

"If you are a sadist, who enjoys being the cause of suffering and death, and who is enthralled by the process of it while completely untouched by the horror of it -- you're going to join the army, and you're going to take advantage of, or manufacture, every opportunity that you have."

And you're going to die early because you don't have the discipline to work as a team or the control to listen to orders or the restraint to not attract attention to yourself by firing your weapon or the common sense to know your brothers in arms aren't going to take kindly to your random killing of civilians as it gravely endangers their lives and because if you have no fear of horror you don't mind standing up in a hail of gunfire. So even if you don't get kicked out of boot on a psycho and somehow make it through AIT, when you get out in the field you'll last maybe 3 minutes. And good riddance.

Re: Video Games
I won't say mer2113 is accurate. But I will say he's right about the effect of video games. (Hell, lots of desensitizing media out there too.)
I'm not a big Clinton fan so I didn't much go for their beliefs on the restriction of video games. Still don't (taking something away from people is not the best assurance that they will not misuse it). But I do think there's something to the general idea.
According to a University of Indiana School of Medicine study kids that had a lot of exposure to media violence had less activity in certain areas of their brain connected with logical thinking. Kids with less media violence had more.
Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has a bunch more to say on it. Some I can see, some I'm a bit iffy on. But I don't let my kids watch much violence. Healthy sex (non misogynistic) or simple anatomy on t.v. doesn't bother me as much. Although seeing the genuine after effects of violence and seeing non-exploitative sex on American t.v. seems both in short supply.

"Or when someone has just killed a child is able to rationalize it easily and move on? From the transcript here: "Well it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle." "That's right.""

But kids are sometimes brought into battle in different ways. It's common in some parts of Africa to use them as front line troops.

"If you can't distinguish an RPG from a telephoto lens you have no business behind the trigger of a 50mm weapon. This is goddamned fucking amateur hour here."

I think more should have been done. I can't disagree with that. But look at those photos. You can tell for certain within a short period of time (the clock being his lining up and firing at you) whether a guy hiding behind a building (and why is he doing that again?) is just poking out his telephoto lens or the unloaded front end of an RPG7? Know what a 7d looks like? Iran has been giving Gremlins to the Taliban in Afghanistan. No reason one couldn't be in Iraq. They look like this. Dunno, you tell me.
I'm not saying it wasn't a screw up. I'm saying I can see how it occurred.
But with that in mind - the people on the ground looked pretty laid back for folks with an American Apache nearby.
Was the photographer traveling with insurgents? Was it a random crowd who happened to be toting weapons? I don't know.

"Shouldn't we be protecting our troops that are trying to do their jobs? (and who had direct permission from their superiors)"

An investigation would be warranted in any case. Whether they're negligent or criminally culpable, getting that information and clearly establishing what went wrong - because clearly it went wrong - would help everyone do their jobs better.
Even if everything went by the book and this was a complete and unavoidable mistake, you can recheck your procedure and try to make allowances for certain situations, get more input from the press so you know where their people are perhaps, a coded transponder perhaps (with IFF), just off the top of my head.

What does not help is pretending nothing wrong happened and covering it up or ignoring it.

This can't just roll on like this.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:46 AM on April 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


Also, in case anyone was laboring under the impression that the helicopter crew in some way felt threatened by the "RPG", consider that RPGs are unguided missiles suitable for anti-tank operations.

Not anti-helicopter operations.

The most advanced RPGs available in Iraq have a maximum effective range against tanks of 500 meters.

Anyone who has played any kind of fps game knows you can't take out helicopters with RPGs.

And in case anyone was wondering, the alleged "AK-47s" all those civilians were running around with have a range of around 300 meters.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:49 AM on April 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


b/c this incident reflects a larger problem: the endless quagmire clusterfucks in Iraq and Afghanistan have been largely eclipsed in the news, and for no good reason

I disagree.
posted by rosswald at 11:51 AM on April 5, 2010


Anyone who has played any kind of fps game knows you can't take out helicopters with RPGs.

Other than Half-Life 1 and 2, in which the RPG is the only really reliable weapon for killing helicopters.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:52 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


BBC's coverage of the story is here now.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:54 AM on April 5, 2010


Still no luck getting these pdfs to work. I'd like to know if this was a deviation from the ROE or if the ROE accounted for/excuses this. It seems like all the spotter/gunner has to do is claim to see a weapon and they can fire on what they will.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:55 AM on April 5, 2010


Well... at least Sadam isn't opressing them any more.
posted by codacorolla at 11:57 AM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Anyone who has played any kind of fps game knows you can't take out helicopters with RPGs.

Other than Half-Life 1 and 2, in which the RPG is the only really reliable weapon for killing helicopters.


Well, technically, the Half-Life developers shouldn't have called those "RPG"s, since RPG really refers to an unguided rocket.

And RPGs are sometimes used to take down hovering helicopters, but a circling helicopter at a 1 mile range? Forget about it.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:57 AM on April 5, 2010


Anybody old enough to remember that Doonesbury cartoon of the little Vietnamese guy on the ground railing at the bombers overhead that they have no idea what they're doing to his country -- and the last frame is in the cockpit as the fliers are comparing sports scores while bombing?

It's inspiring to see how much more involved they are nowadays.
posted by hank at 12:01 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


First they bomb you from 500 miles away with missiles. Then they shoot you from a helicopter you can barely see. Then they blow up your makeshift ambulance. Then they take your wounded children to a military installation. Then you win.
posted by Rumple at 12:10 PM on April 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


take it to Metatalk, please.

Generally speaking, going after one particular user in a thread because of what they said in another thread is probably better served with email or, barring that, MetaTalk.
posted by jessamyn at 12:15 PM on April 5, 2010


This video is horrible; jacked up adrenaline monkeys shooting up a makeshift ambulance....I hope you realize (firsthand) that war isn't just about shooting unarmed civilians...its about being shot at while you are unarmed. I hope you get to experience that.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:22 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anyone who has played any kind of fps game knows you can't take out helicopters with RPGs.
Helicopters have been shot down with small arms fire before. RPGs have been used to shoot down helicopters as well, notably, at the Battle of Mogadishu, which they made a movie about.
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:24 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


My grandfather was in WWII.

So was mine. Navy as well—subs. Father, Air Force. Great-grandfather, Army. Great-great grandfather, Army.

And none of them got to play Golden Eye-shoot-'em-up from over a mile away with giant, gyro-stabilized, heat-tracking scopes.

While there are plenty of common, modern-day analogous situations our forces deal with, bringing up Brave 'Ol Grandpa in this particular situation is completely disingenuous.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:24 PM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


My comment wasn't 'about' any political agenda. I just have to wade through my grandfather's and mother's emails every now and again to help them clear their inboxes and these types of forwards are always there from other family members or friends of theirs who happen to be Republican, Ex-Military or both.

Recently, I saw a video very similar to this one in an inbox describing the people being murdered as terrorists. The way they were speaking about the murdered people was the same. I did not see any weapons. Only a group of people from an aerial view. They were whited out.. night or heat vision or something, I'm not sure. There were body parts flying though, that was quite obvious.

It just seems to me that this will pass into the night the same way most outrage does, and end up in a forward with a spin of some pro-America, anti-terrorist 'good thing'.
posted by Malice at 12:27 PM on April 5, 2010


...end up in a forward with a spin of some pro-America, anti-terrorist 'good thing'.

But other than a handful of brainwashed "tea party" enthusiasts and the folks at an AEI luncheon for Dick Cheney, who the fuck believes that kind of polished-turd nonsense anymore? I think the idea that these are "Good Wars" has been mostly discredited by now. For one thing, they've gone on too long and the violence remains unabated.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 12:33 PM on April 5, 2010


You're absolutely correct. Grandpa's gyro-stabilized scope was did not see in the infrared. And usually the bombs were getting dropped from much further away then a mile. Only a mile up was a pretty dangerous place.
posted by jefeweiss at 12:33 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


We used to judge the ethics of a war based on how many civilians died. A war that took beyond a certain number of civilian casualties was an unjust war. Another question in determining whether war is just? The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.

I think discussions of war crimes must begin by weighing the justice of the action. This was not justice. A crime was therefore committed. Who should be punished?

Well, the soldiers did not act in a proportional way. This was a mass slaughter. And there could be little doubt that civilians would die. They are implicated.

But the war itself is unjust. Those who chose to wage it are implicated most of all. We cannot punish our soldiers for waging a war in a manner they were taught to -- at least, not more than we punish those who created the war. But it is always the choice of a soldier not to participate in an unjust action -- it is, in fact, their duty to refuse an unlawful order. So I don't hold these soldiers blameless in this act.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:40 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


HP LaserJet P10006: I think you're giving an awful lot of credit to the average American citizen. In my experience, most people don't think to question authority. Whatever war is going on must be justified because "we're the good guys." People believe the government without thinking, and assume the president and top brass must be doing the right thing based on their military intelligence and other stuff that makes them "experts" on the matter. It's a lot easier to put your faith in politicians if you assume they know better than you and have some intrinsic moral compass simply by virtue of being American.

You and I know better, but we ain't the majority, by a long shot. Most of the country is still swooning about "duty" and "honor" and "courage" and "spreading democracy" and "defending our nation from international terrorism."
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 12:43 PM on April 5, 2010


Oh, we're talking about RPGs now?

War Nerd has something to say.

(Bottom line, RPGs have self-destruct mechanisms which make for remarkably effective airburst weapons.)
posted by effugas at 12:45 PM on April 5, 2010


This video is horrible; jacked up adrenaline monkeys shooting up a makeshift ambulance...

We cannot punish our soldiers for waging a war in a manner they were taught to

Yes, anyone who wants to lay the blame on a couple of "jacked up adrenaline monkeys" would do good to remember the "few bad apples" of Abu Ghraib.
posted by phaedon at 12:51 PM on April 5, 2010


A cop sees a suspect pull out a small black object and start to point it at him? The cop fires. Later it's discovered the dead suspect had a cellphone. Do you blame the cop for not waiting to get shot?

It's a fucked up situation.

The soldiers in the Apache genuinely thought the guys on the ground had weapons so they fired. When they didn't see a weapon (on the wounded guy still alive) they didn't fire.

What I don't get is why they fired on the van. I hear one guy mention the people in the van were picking up weapons and wounded. Was it the picking up of the weapons (or the idea of, I guess) or does the military engage those trying to rescue wounded enemies?

As for the radio chatter, let's be honest with ourselves and not so self-righteous, okay? In the context of war, the emotions and adrenaline are not something a rational civilian can begin to relate to. It's a coping mechanism to deal with the reality of the situation. Let it (the words) go.

I hope some RoE changes were made after this incident was analyzed by the Army and/or DoD. There's too much room for error when decisions are being made by a low-resolution video feed.
posted by ruthsarian at 12:53 PM on April 5, 2010


"Consider how common a sight US military helicopters flying over Iraqi cities must be at this point... there's no way these people could have avoided being massacred."

There was some time before they opened fire they were circling. At 2:34 on the longer version (he's got an RPG) the photographer (I think) pokes his head out from behind a wall and it does look like he's looking at the Apache. No way to tell for sure though.
Could be he thought there was going to be fighting down the street and he was taking cover from that (they do say 'shots fired'). The photographers are walking with a group who have weapons. I'm not sure why.
How do journalists operate? They travel with armed non uniformed groups?
I'm not arguing there was something they could have done to avoid being shot. I'm asking what it is they might have been thinking.


"Also, in case anyone was laboring under the impression that the helicopter crew in some way felt threatened by the "RPG", consider that RPGs are unguided missiles suitable for anti-tank operations."

Gosh, I know some people in Somalia and Serbia who were laboring under that impression. Only 700m huh. Couldn't possibly go double that as indirect fire? Their flight times can't be changed for self detonation out to 900 meters?
They only take out tanks? Never Blackhawk or Chinook helicopters? Those main and tail rotors, bundles of wires and electronics can withstand anything apparently. Fire into a path of a chopper, they don't hit walls of shrapnel?
So those Somalis were just firing into the air randomly with RPGs and the Blackhawks, what? Ran out of gas?

"Anyone who has played any kind of fps game knows you can't take out helicopters with RPGs."

As opposed to someone who's actually seen a helicopter take a proximity hit from an RPG and crash.
Lure and destroy is very old tactic.

But ok, the helicopter here was a long way out. Why was it there? What was it doing there? Why were they concerned with the RPG?

Well, because some of their guys were on the ground driving a Bradley, which are vulnerable to RPGs. That's why they were concerned. They weren't worried about racking up points or keeping their player alive. They weren't randomly shooting people. Someone with an RPG poses a threat to other troops. And, to some extent, to them, so they kept distance.
But they weren't threatened on their own behalf.
I think this needs to be investigated and I'm glad to see wiki leaks release this. I can't handle the ignorance as predicate for hating whatever. I don't know what this is or what's going on so it must be evil!

Just admit you don't f'ing know. Do I know what the journalists were doing? No. Doesn't make them wrong in anyway.
Oh, but small unit operations with decentralized close air support, yeah, f'ing expert, because I played Call of Duty 4 this one time.

Plenty of reasons I resist the overuse of CCA helicopters, the greater uncertainty in urban engagements is one of them (as seen here), with greater civilian casualties and collateral damage. And if it's that easy to foul it up on your own - if I'm on the other side - why not engineer a situation where that happens? (Not that this is what happened here, but it can and does happen and can happen easier given the use of certain tactics).

Beyond that you can ambush them pretty well if done right.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:59 PM on April 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


This thread seems to be using a fairly awful, graphic, soul-crushing video (without any context or background information) as an excuse to hate hate hate.

The incident on this video is the result of hate, not the cause.
posted by rocket88 at 1:00 PM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


While there are plenty of common, modern-day analogous situations our forces deal with, bringing up Brave 'Ol Grandpa in this particular situation is completely disingenuous.

I don't think so. These guys might be monsters in their real lives, too. Real sociopaths who love to kill just for sport. From the video, they just might be. But they might not be.

The video doesn't show us what these guys saw in the hours or days prior. Was there some other attack in the vicinity ? What was the situation? What sort of tactics had the bad guys been using, what were other patrols telling these guys? What were they on the lookout for ?

This context is important, and it is missing. (Yes, there are a number of other mistakes independent of that context, but that's not the point of this comment).

So, I knew my grandfather as a certain kind of person. But at certain points in his life, particularly the time from 1942-1946, you might have thought of him as a murderous monster. He certainly thought of himself that way. It's hard for me to reconcile these two things and I knew him well.

It's harder to extend that sort of credit to some kid playing Helicopter Gunner 4000. But we should try. War is hell. This is what happens when you occupy a nation. Who knows what he's going through in that situation? Demonizing him might get you 5745 favorites on Metafilter, but it's not good discussion.

That was my point. I'm sorry if it wasn't clear.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:02 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


For those who are concerned about this story being underreported - - I am watching it on MSNBC as we speak.
posted by orville sash at 1:03 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


So there doesn't appear to be any mention of this on CNN or some of the other usual suspects.

MSNBC is showing and talking about the video.
posted by homunculus at 1:04 PM on April 5, 2010


This thread is really unhealthy for me.

It took nearly three hours of off-the-wall vitriol to get to this revelation. Now I'm only full of sorrow.

The only winning move is not to play.
posted by Fezboy! at 1:05 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyone who has played any kind of fps game knows you can't take out helicopters with RPGs.

And in case anyone was wondering, the alleged "AK-47s" all those civilians were running around with have a range of around 300 meters.


I really don't want to come across as justifying anything, but if the men on the ground had weapons, then the helicopter gunners would classify them as combatants - and, therefore, as legitimate targets to attack. Not because the weapons were a threat.

At the very beginning the one guy radios that there are no US-affliated units in the area. Therefore, if this group is armed, and not part of any US-affiliated operation, then by default (so the argument goes) they must be part of the Iraqi resistance.

I ask again: is there any independent confirmation that these guys were indeed armed? And if so, why?
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 1:07 PM on April 5, 2010


"What I don't get is why they fired on the van."
I speculate that they didn't want anyone taken off the battlefield by other insurgents and so forth.
I resist the cop/cell phone accident characterization. There's less immediacy here. Not 'none' as some folks seem to be asserting. But I think more time could have been taken to be certain they were targets. I would have liked some communication. That's not always possible in an urban environment.
But I'm hesitant to armchair quarterback. I dunno, it's tragic and perhaps I'm trying to reverse engineer a solution in which this didn't happen.

...tends to get me back to "don't invade Iraq."
posted by Smedleyman at 1:07 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


>This thread seems to be using a fairly awful, graphic, soul-crushing video (without any context or background information) as an excuse to hate hate hate.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:23 AM on April 5

FUCKING. AGREED. FTW. With the proper context or background we'd see that those journalists deserved to be murdered.


Yeah, well Optimous there was no explanation (eg, a link to the BBC story) in the original post. Glad to give a loudmouth jerk like you another chance to shout at someone in MetaFilter and show me how stupid I am and how right you are.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:08 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


You folk really don't want this occupation to end and the troops to come home. You really don't want those hopped-up, trigger-happy kids coming back into your society. Especially as they'll be unemployed and PSTDed.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:12 PM on April 5, 2010



"What I don't get is why they fired on the van."
I speculate that they didn't want anyone taken off the battlefield by other insurgents and so forth.


They were in a motherfucking helicopter. They could have followed the van - full of insurgent medics! and insurgent children! and insurgent wounded people! and an AK-47! back to the fucking insurgent base!

And maybe accomplished something smart out of this sorry, stupid mess. But blowing shit up is just so much easier.
posted by Rumple at 1:15 PM on April 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wow, the helicopter was 1 to 1.3 MILES away from the people they shot?! That's incredible. I didn't know a gun could shoot that far.

In the Washington Post, the cover-up lie the Army told:
The Apache crew fired because militants "were endangering the stability of Iraq" and because they had positive identification that the militants "had weapons and were using them against coalition and Iraqi security forces," said Maj. Brent Cummings, the battalion's executive officer. "No innocent civilians were killed on our part deliberately. We took great pains to prevent that. I know that two children were hurt, and we did everything we could to help them. I don't know how the children were hurt."

A little more background information about one of the victims in the video after his death, including the kids who survived and their mother, now a widow. It was these kids' father who was driving his kids to class in the van, when he came across the bodies in the street, tried to help and was murdered.
posted by nickyskye at 1:15 PM on April 5, 2010 [10 favorites]



They were in a motherfucking helicopter. They could have followed the van - full of insurgent medics! and insurgent children! and insurgent wounded people! and an AK-47! back to the fucking insurgent base!

And maybe accomplished something smart out of this sorry, stupid mess. But blowing shit up is just so much easier.


Which would have involved leaving their station and would have deprived the troops on the ground of their air cover and support.

The guy in the van could have been dropping IEDs (the viet cong were notorious for booby trapping their dead), leaving evidence, taking evidence, or there to create other kinds trouble.

Better safe than sorry, right ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:26 PM on April 5, 2010




According to a University of Indiana School of Medicine study kids that had a lot of exposure to media violence had less activity in certain areas of their brain connected with logical thinking.

Don't screw up correlation with causation. Also...its "Indiana University" not the other way around. If you don't know you're source, or what they're trying to say on MetaFilter, you're just going to look like a jackass.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:30 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, the helicopter was 1 to 1.3 MILES away from the people they shot?! That's incredible. I didn't know a gun could shoot that far.

Yes. A 20 mm sniper rifle has a reach out and touch someone range of 3.5 miles. 5 if you want to really try or you are quoting for distance....

http://www.vincelewis.net/20mm.html has a picture of a SUV with holes from a 20 mm.

Its not a tool for deer hunting. Unless you like hamburger. And no deer.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:32 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


repurpose
posted by infini at 1:32 PM on April 5, 2010


For those who may not be familiar with modern games, and to illustrate some comparisons being made: Gunning from an Apache helicopter in a recent FPS.
posted by paradoxflow at 1:32 PM on April 5, 2010


"You folk really don't want this occupation to end and the troops to come home. You really don't want those hopped-up, trigger-happy kids coming back into your society. Especially as they'll be unemployed and PSTDed."

That sounds a lot more appealing, to both sides, than a war of attrition that only ends when every deployed American is dead.
posted by Mitheral at 1:33 PM on April 5, 2010


Yeah, well Optimous there was no explanation (eg, a link to the BBC story) in the original post.

The FPP explains it pretty well, the thread explains it pretty well, and even the most half-hearted trivial web search will give you all the context you need. Don't claim that these murders are justified or that we don't have any of the facts because you can't be bothered to make an effort.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:36 PM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


The sad thing is this kind of stuff is happening all the time, and without much good reason, but we're too busy stuffing our faces with popcorn and watching "The Hurt Locker" to do anything about it.
posted by phaedon at 1:36 PM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


phaedon,

Don't you mean, not watching "The Hurt Locker"?
posted by effugas at 1:43 PM on April 5, 2010


A cop sees a suspect pull out a small black object and start to point it at him? The cop fires. Later it's discovered the dead suspect had a cellphone. Do you blame the cop for not waiting to get shot?

Umm... yes? These people are supposed to be trained to assess threats, not blow away everyone who happens to have their hands in their pockets.

Same deal with the soldiers. Why not watch the people on the street and assess what kind of threat they posed before opening fire? Why not follow and stop the van that came to pick up the wounded and figure out what is going on rather than shooting everything and hoping that a vague initial impression was entirely correct? The whole affair seems to full of uninformed and unnecessary shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy that, judging from the tone of the shooters, seems to be the routine.

mer2113: Nice job on that derail. Do you unlock any special abilities when you become a level 20 troll?
posted by Avelwood at 1:47 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The sad thing is this kind of stuff is happening all the time, and without much good reason, but we're too busy stuffing our faces with popcorn and watching "The Hurt Locker" to do anything about it.

This isn't even the half of the awful things that happen all the time, both on and off battlefields.

Such things don't happen, though, because of you or anyone else eating popcorn and watching TV. If you really think that's the underlying cause of this kind of thing, how do you explain The Rwandan Genocide? Did you or some other schmoe sitting in his living room, watching the idiot box and imagining himself to be the master of the universe "allow" that to happen, too?

No. That's just lazy talk, and scapegoating. The impulse is understandable, but neither you or I are in any position right now to prevent all horrors like this from happening, and it's arrogant and unhelpful to pretend we are. The real process of ending this kind of thing has been going on since the start of human history and may continue until its end. The solutions will never be easy, instant, or convenient, and they will never simply reduce linearly to individual choices as long as institutions for war-making exist and someone somewhere believes they stand to gain from war.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:00 PM on April 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


"They were in a motherfucking helicopter. They could have followed the van - full of insurgent medics! and insurgent children! and insurgent wounded people! and an AK-47! back to the fucking insurgent base!"

As a case in point: It's possible to attempt to understand something without condoning or condemning.
I don't know why they did or did not do certain things. I don't know what their mission was. I suspect air support, but I don't know. Hence: 'speculate.'

"If you don't know you're source, or what they're trying to say on MetaFilter, you're just going to look like a jackass."

Ill remember that, thanks. Im sure your right. Its important to have proper grammar. Otherwise, yeah, your going look like a jackass.

Grossman was mentioned above. I didn't think it was that necessary to delve further into something Im not fully on board with. Just pointing out theres other perspectives and perhaps some grounds for them. Folks can do they're own research.

"You really don't want those hopped-up, trigger-happy kids coming back into your society."

Totally. We should get some other people to kill them. No, wait...

Reminds me of a joke. Guy asks his wife who was a virgin before they were married to go down on him for the first time. After months of asking 'please, honey? We love each other. We're married. There's nothing wrong with it." Eventually she does and afterward she comes up and says "was that ok honey? Did I do it right." And he smiles. And she asks for a kiss. "Why would I kiss a filthy cocksucking whore?" the man says.

We have a volunteer military. Yet we let them get called back up again and again into active duty. The people in the reserves lose their homes and apartments. Spend years away from their families and get divorced. Develop drug and alcohol problems. Meanwhile the civilian leadership gets away with misusing the armed forces again and again.
Don't give me the crazy vet bullshit. They're the only ones who actually know what happens and either they're ignored, silenced or called nuts (and god forbid anyone give them mental health care, that would be socialism - but y'know, the wrong kind of socialism because these people signed up to serve their country - or pretended to, but we know they're all manic sadistic killers. Hell they probably even like PTSD, alcoholism, homelessness and committing suicide. It's what they signed up for.).

What crap. The upthread link on the war on wikileaks (and Public Apathy Enables Leaders to Ignore Voters) is dead on. On top of that, give people someone to blame and they'll spend the rest of their lives in self-righteous indignation, perhaps even working for something, without ever trying to understand the systemic manipulation.
I actually heard someone the other day say the problem with our school system (in Illinois) is that teachers are overpayed. Got quite a few hrumphs as well. (The 4 billion shortfall in the state budget? Eh. These things happen. But those teachers are money hungry dicks. Grrr!)
It's always got to be someone's fault, doesn't it. Can't look into the root causes as long as we can hang up a scapegoat.
Christ. Secrecy and manipulation kill more people that a billion bullets.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:07 PM on April 5, 2010 [14 favorites]


What we have here is yet another addition to evidence of a colossal mistake, the responsibility for which lies with a set of elected officials. There seems to be a feeling that these government officials did not govern entirely in good faith, i.e.: for the good of the people they represented. Even if that is not the case, at the time the colossal mistake was made, there was significant and vocal opposition to it, including by prominent experts.

The fact that such an extreme and disastrous decision can be taken in the face of vehement opposition indicates a fundamental systemic problem with governance. Does anyone know what (if any) solutions are currently proposed to address this systemic problem?
posted by yoz420 at 2:10 PM on April 5, 2010


mer2113: Nice job on that derail. Do you unlock any special abilities when you become a level 20 troll?

Uncalled for mer2113 apologized upthread.
posted by edbles at 2:11 PM on April 5, 2010


Hey, isn't it our guy in charge now? Some fellow named Obama or something? Hasn't he been for a year now? Can't he do something about this?
posted by JHarris at 2:16 PM on April 5, 2010


What's the "cover up" part I see mentioned? All I see is that the military reviewed the incident and decided it had been within the bounds of the ROE. I might disagree, but I wouldn't call that a cover-up. Is there more to that part of the story?
posted by freebird at 2:21 PM on April 5, 2010


HP LaserJet P10006: I'm in Canada and don't know any military or ex-military people. I've received a stream of pro-Republican, anti-Arab, Anti-Iraqi, pro-war emails pretty much since 9/11. I assume they come from right wing zealots in Canada and the US who have everything to gain from propagandizing leftists and fence-sitters like myself. This probably says nothing good about the "friends" who forward this garbage, but there are lots of people out there who find this type of thing acceptable.

This is exactly the sort of thing that's worked reliably in the past: demonize the enemy and demand support from the hometown. "If you're not behind our troops, maybe you'd like to stand in front of them?"

So no, I don't think we're all that far removed from the nearest tea-partier.
posted by sneebler at 2:32 PM on April 5, 2010


JHarris: Hey, isn't it our guy in charge now? Some fellow named Obama or something? Hasn't he been for a year now? Can't he do something about this?

Is that entirely fair? What can Obama do about it now? He could try to prosecute the individuals responsible, but they do have their own strong base of support, so such persecutions cause very significant divisions in the US, if not violence. He is trying to pull troops our of Iraq as soon as possible. What proposals are there for what else he should do?
posted by yoz420 at 2:37 PM on April 5, 2010


one crewman can be heard saying: "Well, it's their fault bringing their kids to a battle."

Military Training Program Error Code 90734: Units are attempting to employ basic reasoning.
Abort/Retry/Fail?
>
posted by polymodus at 2:44 PM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


So here's a question: did any of you see the children in the van? (before they showed them in closeup). I didn't. I had the preconception that only adults would be out in the streets.

This really sucks from a cognitive science point of view. The soldiers in the chopper made a decision based on what they thought was one guy holding an RPG. Once they made that decision, what's the likelihood that they would reverse it? In a stress environment, most of us would engage in confirmation bias. All contrary evidence that suggested they were civilians would be ignored.
posted by storybored at 2:44 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey, its front page main story on FoxNews.com


Your welcome.

I may have been contacting various news agencies incessantly, reminding them this was a very big story in "foreign" news outlets (BBC, Al Jazeera, etc.)
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 2:48 PM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Reddit has great commentary on this: CNN vs. Al Jazeera. Reminds me of this.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:51 PM on April 5, 2010 [11 favorites]


What I would like to know is this:

Has anyone in this thread been a soldier in wartime? Someone who could kindly tell us what it is really like from that perspective?

Because the truth is that the rest of us can only speculate and guess. I'm not being snarky here. I don't know what to think. I can't watch that video. But I would really like this explained by someone who has been in that position. Because I know it is easy for the rest of us to...have opinions.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:51 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree with those who say the biggest scandal in all of this is the way the US News media reports on the war, and reported on the war in its run up.
posted by cell divide at 2:52 PM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made." Except that if you really want to know what the hell you're eating, you'll sit still for the grinding up of pig ears, dicks and butts. I would argue that showing stuff like this, so that people understand where that cheap gasoline comes from, ought to be mandatory. And maybe some of them are okay with what is happening, and maybe some of them will rise up and put a stop to it.

Everyone should KNOW what is behind the curtain, whether or not it follows the rules of engagement. Covering this stuff up (the govt), or ignoring it (faux news), is honestly and horribly far far worse than having it happen.

Also, if anyone is wondering who the real journalists are...
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:54 PM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


@St. Alia

The military lied about this incident which happened two years ago. Stupid soldiers are stupid. Lying to the public is unacceptable.
posted by polymodus at 2:55 PM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


By the way, if you say you can't watch the video—you should just read the transcript. There's one over at wikileaks's page.
posted by polymodus at 2:58 PM on April 5, 2010


freebird: "What's the "cover up" part I see mentioned? All I see is that the military reviewed the incident and decided it had been within the bounds of the ROE. I might disagree, but I wouldn't call that a cover-up. Is there more to that part of the story?"

Quoted from The NYT:
"The American military said in a statement late Thursday that 11 people had been killed: nine insurgents and two civilians. According to the statement, American troops were conducting a raid when they were hit by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. The American troops called in reinforcements and attack helicopters. In the ensuing fight, the statement said, the two Reuters employees and nine insurgents were killed."

If the video is anything to go by, that is your coverup right there.
posted by idiopath at 3:01 PM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I wonder if this comment at Wired's posting is true or not:

Posted by: nuvector | 04/5/10 | 3:42 pm |

Two things are evident in this video. The first is that the fire was not from any kind of helicopter, but rather from an AC-130. This is evident from both its callsign (Bushmaster 26) and the way it circled the kill box. These are prop cargo planes converted to be weapons platforms for close air support and force protection. They typically circle from a very long distance and rely on zoomed video cameras aligned to their guns for targeting. Also, one of the gunners complained of an “azimuth” error in attempting to engage the targets. This is likely to prevent the gunner from blowing off the wings of the AC-130 which would be possible should the weapons have a wide angle of movement and be able to raise the barrel high enough.

Helicopters would have to engage from much closer distances and likely would not have misread the targets the way these gunners did as they can maintain fixed position and don’t have the added pressure of a limited targeting window.


Would explain the circling and the misidentification of the camera as an RPG (due to the video camera distortion). Doesn't explain the shooting on the rescue vehicle though.
posted by longdaysjourney at 3:04 PM on April 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Uncalled for mer2113 apologized upthread.

True. Sorry. I missed that post trying to scroll through the rapidly growing video-game violence discussion.


Hey, its front page main story on FoxNews.com

foxnews.com: "Army Accused of 'Video Game' Killings"

*sigh*
posted by Avelwood at 3:07 PM on April 5, 2010


And usually the bombs were getting dropped from much further away then a mile. Only a mile up was a pretty dangerous place.

This is why they should have never gotten rid of the analogies section on the SATs.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:12 PM on April 5, 2010


This is evident from both its callsign (Bushmaster 26) and the way it circled the kill box.

No, it isn't. I know Apache pilots and they used Bushmaster as a call sign in Iraq.
posted by Cyrano at 3:14 PM on April 5, 2010


longdaysjourney: Would explain the circling and the misidentification of the camera as an RPG (due to the video camera distortion). Doesn't explain the shooting on the rescue vehicle though.

The poster nuvector, on wired states that the military's rules of engagement clearly "allow them to fire on anyone attempting to remove wounded who are not clearly Red Crescent or medical workers." Does anyone know whether this true?
posted by yoz420 at 3:16 PM on April 5, 2010


Yeah, "nuvector" corrects his comment with another one downthread:

Posted by: nuvector | 04/5/10 | 4:04 pm |

And the call sign for the AC-130 was apparently CrazyHorse 8, not BushMaster 26.


Again, I have no idea whether this guy is right about anything. I just thought it was an interesting comment.
posted by longdaysjourney at 3:22 PM on April 5, 2010


The soldiers in the Apache genuinely thought the guys on the ground had weapons so they fired.

Maybe they initially actually thought the guys had weapons. Maybe. But once they shot them down the camera was going over there bodies and there weren't any weapons.

When they didn't see a weapon (on the wounded guy still alive) they didn't fire.

They were begging for him to pick up a weapon so they could fire. Then the van pulled up and they did.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:24 PM on April 5, 2010


.
posted by rudster at 3:31 PM on April 5, 2010


There is an MSNBC video discussion here.
posted by yoz420 at 3:41 PM on April 5, 2010


Hey, isn't it our guy in charge now? Some fellow named Obama or something? Hasn't he been for a year now? Can't he do something about this?

Lol.
posted by delmoi at 3:42 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]




Pentagon Sees a Threat From Online Muckrakers
"To the list of the enemies threatening the security of the United States, the Pentagon has added WikiLeaks.org, a tiny online source of information and documents that governments and corporations around the world would prefer to keep secret."
posted by ericb at 3:48 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


From FOX: Julian Assange of WikiLeaks released the video at the National Press Club in Washington. He described the U.S. troops as callous and the shootings as "another day at the office."
"The behavior of the pilots is like they're playing a video game," said Assange. "It's like they want to get high-scores in that computer game."

There's your video game derail. Just have to muddy the waters a bit, eh. Then no one's talking about what they should be talking about. Your anger is a weapon only for your opponent.

(Or have you learned nothing from the lesson of Ed Gruberman?)

"What's the "cover up" part I see mentioned?"

Back in 2007 when this happened, Reuters was asking why two of their reporters died. The military apparently lied about it (clearly the people on tape either had firearms or the Apache crew thought they did, but military officials said they were actively fired upon. Which, it doesn't look like. Although they do say in the video someone is shooting. But that doesn't look like direct fire on them. Or on troops. But that's looks. And just because there's not someone yelling about incoming fire on this particular audio, doesn't mean someone wasn't taking fire, because not everyone is on the same channel, for obvious reasons. Although none of that is evidence anyone was under fire either.), withheld evidence, and blew off their FOIA.

They also said the shooting was within the ROE (.pdf from wikileaks). I'm not so sure. (And I mean exactly that. I don't mean Fukkin A cowboy up let's geddim or goddamn all these videa game babbykillerz.)

Most of the rest of the info is a bit of a red herring. In part because of what homunculus links to regarding propaganda methods (AND YOU SHOULD READ IT).

But also because the IG report (that Reuters references) was right. There were/are serious inconsistencies between how media people maintain their safety and the responses and expectations of combat troops.

My first instinct in seeing the telephoto lens and the photographer hide behind the wall was the same as the rest of those guys. He's got a weapon and he's taking cover. This is why I am alive now. It doesn't justify, condemn or condone anything, I'm explaining the response.

The IG report (that studied the death of another Reuter's journalist in 2005) goes on to say that unless the situation were resolved, more shootings were likely to reoccur.

Reuters on the other hand doesn't seem to be playing 'gotcha' with this. They wanted the video to understand what happened and develop security policy to improve journalists safety.
Logical.
So, my questions upthread - why didn't the photographer do 'x' or 'y' or 'z'?
Well, because he didn't know any better. Why didn't he know any better? Because the military withheld information (this video) which could have shown how not to react around an attack helicopter (holding bulk black pipe looking objects in a low ready position, popping back and forth from cover) or given them other ideas (the IFF thing) or any number of things someone smarter than me can come up with - because it might have made them look bad.

So they're dead.

Plenty of other things to say there within this whole thing (not the least of which is conflict is inevitable; combat is an option. I don't know why people gotta use the equipment just 'cos they have it. But I've always been a black sheep in that regard) but that's the upshot.

They're dead. Whatever culpability these particular guys had or did not have, there was something that could have been done about it years before this. And it wasn't. And they knew better and actively prevented sharing it.
So that would be the "cover up" part of it. (Not trying to be snide to you, no such thing as a dumb question (although plenty of links here to educate yourself) the acid is directed more at the brass and the politicians).
posted by Smedleyman at 3:50 PM on April 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


I watched the PBS documentary series Carrier, and one of the things that struck me in a really bad way was how itchy all of the pilots were to drop bombs on the bad guys once they were in the Middle East.

Intelligent people that appeared to sincerely understand the meaning and value of human life, non-American life, ended up very disappointed that they did not get to drop any bombs on anybody.

The armed services creates a skill in many of its soldiers, sailors, airmen and servicemen. It is the ability to kill people in a quick, efficient and loud manner. The amount of training and resources that goes into teaching people how to kill is immense.

How do you do that? How can you train somebody how to become an efficient, professional killer and expect them not to kill when the slimmest of opportunities arises?

I do not doubt that we need professional warriors, set, ready and skilled, to carry out battles when needed. But we do not need a professional warrior mindset as the primary, if not sole, method of guiding our military.

We can do so much more good in the world with the network, mobility, equipment, and training of our military, if not for that damned trained-killing-apparatus mentality.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:52 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Shouldn't we be protecting our troops that are trying to do their jobs?

Some of us question whether the job they're being asked to do (i.e. occupy and subjugate Afghanistan) is legitimate in the first place.

We took out the Al Qaeda monkey bars years ago. Why are we STILL there, killing civilians and destroying their stuff??

You'd plant bombs and take pot-shots at foreign occupying troops on your home street. And if they got all twitchy and blew away your neighbors accidentally... oops, too bad the family in the house onthe corner ran afoul of the Rules of Engagement. Tough shit, this is our war, we're gonna fight it how we want.

Troops home now. (Not that it's gonna happen any time soon, not with that much untapped oil in the Caspian. I expect more of this sort of killing/cover-up stuff to cycle on and on as long as the people funding our debt-economy keep buying our Govt. bonds IOUs.)
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 3:55 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow idiopath, that /. comment is very interesting.

I'd also like to thank adamdschneider for the link to On Combat. I was at work when I left the comment and not really in a position to go nosing around for documentation.
posted by localroger at 3:59 PM on April 5, 2010


"The behavior of the pilots is like they're playing a video game," said Assange. "It's like they want to get high-scores in that computer game."

There's your video game derail. Just have to muddy the waters a bit, eh. Then no one's talking about what they should be talking about. Your anger is a weapon only for your opponent.
He said it was like playing a video game, but he didn't blame video games, and say that it was because of video games that these guys did this. I actually don't think the statement is that problematic. It was like a video game. But you can't blame games for causing the war.
posted by delmoi at 3:59 PM on April 5, 2010


In a stress environment, most of us would engage in confirmation bias.

It's not confirmation bias, this whole fucking video is wishful thinking. If the guys in the chopper can be excused for believing that a camera was an RPG, the I can be excused for my belief that the guys in the chopper were murderous bastards who were simply bored that day and wanted to kill something.
posted by Jimbob at 4:00 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


There is an MSNBC video discussion here.

There's a guy in that video who says "The mission was to protect the population, and that operation has succeeded."

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by knapah at 4:06 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]



Those crazy government trained to kill psychopaths will be employed by your local police department in the not too distant future.
posted by notreally at 4:15 PM on April 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


What makes me angry about this video is that while the soldiers in the helicopter firing on the civilians truly thought they were insurgents (a camera is mistaken for an RPG), the military reports it as a successful attack on insurgents rather facing the cold hard fact that WAR. SUCKS. The fact that war sucks (while following protocol) isn't good PR for the Pentagon.

This. Someone in the military surely has done the calculus and figured out, more or less, what the false positive rate is for a given set of rules of engagement and decided that they are acceptable. There is a very serious moral judgement being made here, and one that I, as a citizen of the country who is being represented by their bullets, believe needs to be made clear. That the military is goes out of its way to "sell" their kills (generally speaking — McChrystal's recent statements being an amazing exception) and that the media buys it is infuriating.

As for this video, I fall in with the people who can see how the first kills happened, but shooting the van was beyond any sense at all. They requested permission by suggesting that they were picking up weapons before anyone even got out of the van. If that is acceptable rules of engagement, fucking hell.
posted by Schismatic at 4:18 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


CNN finally has the story up. Behind Fox News, even!

They should just officially change their name to Celebrity News Network, since that's basically what they are now.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:49 PM on April 5, 2010


I kept thinking while watching this that the only reason it came to light as it did was that there were two Western journalists involved. The repeated signposting of the two only furthered in my mind that the other dozen or so involved were, as far as this story was concerned, trivial elements. Plenty of other events like this have and are going on and will never have the benefit of a well-funded media machine following up with FOIA requests.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 4:52 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


“Has anyone in this thread been a soldier in wartime? Someone who could kindly tell us what it is really like from that perspective?”

Hi there! I’ve mentioned the perspective a number of times in this thread and elsewhere. Lots more folks content to say “predators” and “sadist” and mention their wealth of video game experience and first hand knowledge of watching t.v. rather than listen to someone who’s actually been there. Typically my criticisms of the military are nuanced, and usually much heavier than theirs. I say “I was scared and trying to protect some women being systematically raped and slaughtered” but it always seems to get translated out to “Ha ha ha, I killed all those ‘ragheads’ and drank beer with my buddies.”

Don’t expect too many vets to uncloak to share much genuine experience. Too many people already seem to know more about what they think, saw or did. Only a few people interested in separating the (often justified) anger from reasonable discourse. I think it's worth it. I don't know that many other people do.

This, these guys were reacting. I don't know the mission so I can't really comment intelligently. I can speculate. But being prior service doesn't lend my analysis much more credence than someone who more involved.
I can say that from their position I don't see any glaring procedural flaws. They seem concerned for the kids once they see they're kids. They call for medical attention (later on they get a call for someone else as well). What they say and how they say it is not as important as what they do. They did not, for example, shoot the wounded man after the initial engagement until cleared because of the change in the situation.
Their radio tone is level because the more emotional you are on a radio the less clear and the less coherent you are and therefore the more you're endangering yourself and others. (If you listen to the tape of the cactus 1549 pilot he says calm and evenly "We're going in the Hudson" as he's crashing into the river. Same thing.)
It was not an indiscriminate killing. Nor was it a war crime. They followed proper procedure.
As it is, this is not to say the deaths of two civilians isn't a serious fuckup. Nor that procedure shouldn't have been changed. Nor that they didn't have some latitude they could have made use of.
The situation didn't look immediately dangerous (speculation on my part). It wasn't as dangerous to them, but they were part of an integrated situation apparently. And it's absolutely crucial to act in support of that. If one person misses their timing, it can have repercussions over the life of a given engagement.
So not taking out the RPG now, could mean they lose sight of it and/or the RPG guy gets in position to shoot at a convoy or something (if you've watched 300 - troops in a pharynx don't protect themselves, their shields protect the person next to them - same concept)
Controlling battlespace well often means you can protect your people better. Close air support is often about shaping the enemy (area denial, etc.) but can be used to attack until ground forces arrive.
Or you can have a mobile air defense. Because helicopters are faster, they can be used to screen or guard ground forces flanks. Looks like that's what was happening here.(Again, speculative) because there was some fire going on elsewhere.
And it looks like they were more interested in attrition than holding ground. Could have been an area defense though and the journalists walked into the engagement area.
I don't really know.
But unlike a video game, they don't just fly around in their helicopters and shoot at people. It's part of a coordinated effort and a tactical maneuver. The ROE may have been clear and specific in this case, but they were not appropriate in addressing threats.
(By definition - not only is it terrible to have killed civilians, but you're wasting time and resources on a non-threat when other actual threats could go unchecked).
posted by Smedleyman at 4:59 PM on April 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


"He said it was like playing a video game, but he didn't blame video games"

Sorry - to clarify - I'm not slighting mer2113 (who I cede(d) has a point, but slightly disagree with it's degree of relevance) or Julian Assange, but rather Fox's choice of focus. I suspect there were other quotes to choose from. The video game focus appears least likely to be at all productive for any sort of genuine criticism or to glean useful information.
Looks that way in microcosm on MeFi at least.
I suspect that's where most of the conversation/comment will lead in those quarters. I'd be surprised if it isn't repackaged that way to some degree.
(sorry, thinking about a lot of other things as well right now. Using too much shorthand. I'll slip out)
posted by Smedleyman at 5:07 PM on April 5, 2010


I would argue that showing stuff like this, so that people understand where that cheap gasoline comes from, ought to be mandatory.

Most gas pumps now have a video screen on them. That'd be the ideal place to portray the truth of oil wars.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:08 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


(repackaged in the mediasphere, et.al., not here)
posted by Smedleyman at 5:08 PM on April 5, 2010


"I'm not sure why the photographer didn't hold up the camera so it could be seen more clearly. Wave perhaps."

I suspect he didn't do this at first because he was running desperately for cover. After that, he didn't do it because he was dead.
posted by steambadger at 5:12 PM on April 5, 2010 [4 favorites]




As a photographer I could clearly tell that camera and telephoto lens was no RPG.

Since Apache helicopters are so devastatingly effective, they absolutely need better optical zooms if they are to accurately assess threats on the ground; had they been able to zoom in on the camera they would have realised their mistake before they opened up.

This is in part a failure of adequate technology to safeguard overwhelming technology. The pilots are soldiers and thought they saw aggression, so they responded with aggression.

All other arguments aside:

. . . . . . . . . . . . +
posted by bwg at 5:57 PM on April 5, 2010


The problem here isn't the actions of these particular troops, or the cover up. It's that we ever went into Iraq in the first place and that we're still there.
posted by empath at 6:00 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Donald Feith , Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell (who should have known better), and all the other motherfucking liars who started this mess should have to watch this video everyday for the rest of their lives before they are allowed to go to bed.

The pilots involved should be grounded at the least. And I am sure already replay this mistake, honest in my opinion, over and over in their heads.

Two of the men did have AKs, they were near a recent area of conflict, but none were acting as if they were INVOVLED in the conflict, aside from perhaps the camera man who at one point seemed to be trying to get a view of the action, thus hiding behind the wall while staring down the street.

War is an ugly thing, vanity wars started for profit even more so.

Say what you would about Viet Nam, this Iraq debacle will never be lived down.
posted by Max Power at 6:02 PM on April 5, 2010


A cop sees a suspect pull out a small black object and start to point it at him? The cop fires. Later it's discovered the dead suspect had a cellphone. Do you blame the cop for not waiting to get shot?

It's a fucked up situation.


I'm glad you said this, because it helps me say this:

Imagine the police officer is sitting in his car 100 yards away from the suspect and a companion, without having any contact with the subject or having any indication the suspect or companion are aware of him.

Imagine the police officer saw the suspect pull out a small black object, considered it probable cause, and shot him and his companion from the front seat of his car.

Imagine a samaritan walks around the corner and sees the suspect and his companion laying on the ground in pools of blood, and runs over to help.

Imagine the police officer then shoots the samaritan, then says to his partner "Got 'em right between the eyes." His partner laughs.

Imagine the police officer realizing the companion was a child, and saying to his partner "Serves 'em right for bringing his child to a gunfight." His partner laughs again.

Now THAT is a fucked up situation, one that is light-years away from the situation described by Pogo's grandfather, where "You must act so that you do not die. Sometimes, you must kill, and keep killing, until you are safe. You don't last long if you cannot do this. You might not last long anyways."
posted by davejay at 6:09 PM on April 5, 2010 [17 favorites]


Come on davejay, those two situations are no where near the same.
posted by DoublePlus at 6:11 PM on April 5, 2010


Not sure what the answer is, but over in this other thread on ethics, you'll find quite a few otherwise reasonable-seeming MeFites arguing passionately that there's no solid, defensible rational basis for considering the murder of innocents a moral wrong.

So, maybe we've got a little problem with ethics that isn't strictly limited to the battlefield.


Wow: you just used "the murder of innocents" as a goddamn point-scoring dig in a theoretical and otherwise unrelated argument on the internet... but someone else has "a little problem with ethics"? Physician, heal thyself...
posted by vorfeed at 6:14 PM on April 5, 2010


CNN's coverage somewhat lacking. CNN didn't show the shot, just the first few minutes of the video where you see the photographer crouching.

But one thing I noticed, Actually they get permission to engage before you see the photographer crouching by the building.

So really there was nothing threatening at the time they got permission. They waited until they had circled around the building to fire.
posted by delmoi at 6:19 PM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is not part of the problem the fact that the war is being waged exactly on top a civilian population? Wouldn't be be less worried about rules of engagement if this war were being conducted in open fields, like World War II, and at least some parts of World War II? And by the way, didn't we pursue other armies as war criminals for deliberately firing on ambulances?
posted by etaoin at 6:26 PM on April 5, 2010


“Has anyone in this thread been a soldier in wartime? Someone who could kindly tell us what it is really like from that perspective?”

Hi there. Yeah, it is hard to tell from the video what exactly was going on, what led up to what happened here. It's interesting that they were cleared to engage so easily, which to me says that there was some sort of suspected insurgent activity going on--it's unlikely that the helicopters were just flying around the area on accident and happened across the group of people without any specific information on what to look for. We don't know the full story that led up to this event, i.e., the type of operations that were going on or whether they had, in fact, been shot at before this took place.

consider that RPGs are unguided missiles suitable for anti-tank operations
They're pretty commonly used against helicopters because of a lack of advanced anti-air technology on the part of the insurgents. Usually unsuccessful, but do you want to be sitting in the lucky-shot aircraft?

I don't know what the ROEs were for that particular unit at that particular time (they do vary over time, mission, unit). But this thread begins with the knowledge that two of these guys were harmless journalists and this was a horrible mistake. The soldiers involved had no such knowledge until long after the rounds had been fired downrange. They thought that they were doing their job. I'm not the person who was pulling the trigger on the van, so I don't know what was going through his mind. I do know that in that situation, you are rarely trying to empathize with the people who you believe to be insurgents, because that makes it kind of difficult to go to work on a daily basis.

Seriously, thinking that the military sets out to deliberately injure and kill innocent civilians is ridiculous. I mean, if it gets you excited, then go ahead, have fun with the idea. But every time someone screws up and misjudges a situation, gets wrong intel, or does something outright illegal and stupid, the entire military suffers because of it in a very real way--if you don't think that anyone cares that innocents died, at least believe that it's recognized that it makes it that much more dangerous for everyone to operate in that area. It is very much in the best interests of the armed forces to try to get this right, to only use force when it's absolutely necessary.

.
posted by _cave at 6:32 PM on April 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Vancouver Sun does a nice job on it.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:56 PM on April 5, 2010


It's a unique time in history. I feel as if we are on the edge of a cliff. At the bottom, are the rocks and and water. Water that will extinguish the truth.

At the top of the cliff is Wikileaks.

I'm wondering who will be the one to push them towards their demise. Many hands, many profiteers. These people often win. Heads turn away. The push from the cliff remains a mystery. Silence the critics and the path becomes easy.

I'm also wondering who will take Wikileaks place and carry the torch of truth.

Truth is a powerful thing.

Never let the fire die.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 6:56 PM on April 5, 2010


It does seem that wikileaks might not understand just how powerful is the dragon it just decided to joust. Truth may be a powerful thing, but so are dragons. A lot of people learned that the hard way throughout the 20th century.
posted by localroger at 7:02 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Never fear a dragon
The thing the dragon fears the most is the truth.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 7:06 PM on April 5, 2010


bighappyfunhouse, the dragon also breathes fire and has a short temper.
posted by localroger at 7:21 PM on April 5, 2010


thinking that the military sets out to deliberately injure and kill innocent civilians is ridiculous.... It is very much in the best interests of the armed forces to try to get this right, to only use force when it's absolutely necessary.

It is, but very often groups do not act in their own best interest.

I was not surprised to read an article in a newspaper over the weekend quoting an American general in Afghanistan who was describing his new strategy of getting his soldiers to use more restraint, to wear less armour, to live amongst the population rather than retreating to fortified compounds, to try to actually befriend the locals by making more effort to reduce "collateral damage." Duh. Duh. Duh. Years after the US committed to being an occupying army, after it's way way too late, someone is thinking about whether it might be a good idea not to make the people who live there hate you more than they do already.

So anyway, just because something is counterproductive doesn't make it unlikely. Your position assumes that military theory or practice is never counterproductive. Which I find far more ridiculous. Of course it is, often.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:26 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


This better make the mainstream media. But it's too anti-military/Iraq war for Fox News, too grisly for CNN, and too grim for the Daily Show.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:27 PM on April 5, 2010


It's on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald's site. Here's the actual page for the article & video.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:32 PM on April 5, 2010


It does seem that wikileaks might not understand just how powerful is the dragon it just decided to joust. Truth may be a powerful thing, but so are dragons. A lot of people learned that the hard way throughout the 20th century.

Someone has to, though. If our troops are performing such actions, and we're actively covering them up instead of exposing and handling them responsibly, then, yes, sometimes someone has to stand up and point it out. Silence is assent.

I find it far more courageous to stand against wrongs, fully knowing that you're going to be harmed or killed for it, than to simply look away. Self-respect, if nothing else, demands it.
posted by FormlessOne at 7:47 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


A little more background information about one of the victims in the video after his death, including the kids who survived and their mother, now a widow. It was these kids' father who was driving his kids to class in the van, when he came across the bodies in the street, tried to help and was murdered.

Thanks for pointing that out, nickyskye.

From the video: "The children still suffer from the wounds inflicted in 2007. The U.S. military has offered no assistance to the family. The widow and mother of the two children had to sell their home and now depends on the support of her late husband's brother."
posted by homunculus at 7:48 PM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


But it's too anti-military/Iraq war for Fox News

As has been noted several times, Fox was the first major news outlet to lead with this story. Maybe you're looking for the Drudge Report?

It seems as if the mainstream press was just waiting for the government's permission confirmation of the video's authenticity before reporting it.
posted by swift at 7:53 PM on April 5, 2010


So anyway, just because something is counterproductive doesn't make it unlikely. Your position assumes that military theory or practice is never counterproductive. Which I find far more ridiculous. Of course it is, often.

No, I don't assume that. Military theory and practice may very well be counterproductive; the current conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan is extremely different from traditional warfare and it's really difficult to get your head around what exactly is happening on the ground, especially coming an organization that has traditionally dealt with political differences in very specific ways that were appropriate in WWII but have become less useful since then (coincidentally, I'm in the process of writing a paper about this). If you read FM 3-24 you can see that the general you read about in the news isn't really all that unique in his ideas. There's a dude named Petraeus who has done a lot of writing on the subject.

However, I dispute the idea that as an organization, the military sets out to be maliciously kill innocent people, or that most individual soldiers want to do so. If that was the mission, they kept it really well hidden from me, and told me to do what was legal, moral and ethical even if it was in violation of orders. An individual soldier can be just as stupid, careless, and cruel as anyone else; you aren't Superman just because you wear a funny costume. Equally, though, I found the people who I worked with to be as compassionate and moral, who abhor these types of events and are ashamed of the failures that lead to them. Pretty much like everyone else who I've met since leaving the military.

This isn't aimed at you, spleen, but apparently I feel like ranting. Believe what you want to believe about the war; I'm totally cool with that (just in case you were worried about having my permission). But I don't think any group of people deserves to be hated and treated as evil en masse, as is apparently reflected in some posts on this thread--that includes the military. I get really frustrated when I see this.
posted by _cave at 8:11 PM on April 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


I could not look away, yet the feeling of pure horror and disgust is overwhelming.

Hmm. I didn't feel that. I wonder what that means.
posted by Xezlec at 8:32 PM on April 5, 2010


a soldier comments on reddit.

I was going to quote from it, but it really should be read in full.
posted by empath at 9:00 PM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


You folk really don't want this occupation to end and the troops to come home. You really don't want those hopped-up, trigger-happy kids coming back into your society. Especially as they'll be unemployed and PSTDed.

What the fuck. Do you think this is helpful? In what way is it useful to stigmatize returning veterans as craaazy people from whom the public needs to be protected? That's a great plan, there - alienate veterans, and then act surprised if they have trouble reintegrating into society.
posted by lullaby at 9:07 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


which to me says that there was some sort of suspected insurgent activity going on

Yeah. And the streets. The streets look too empty for everything to be normal.
posted by lullaby at 9:19 PM on April 5, 2010


I watched the video and I can't see that anyone did any wrong. The cameras looked odd and when the photog peered around the corner, it looked every bit like he was gonna rpg something. Soldiers sounded like I'd expect; ambulance humour has a purpose.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:49 PM on April 5, 2010


What three people have said above. Two for, one against.

The guy with that large black pointy thing poking out from behind the building, while also looking like he was trying to hide as the helicopter swept past. That, unfortunately, was their death warrant being signed. I'll admit there's a chance they were already dead men walking, but that absolutely sealed it.

tldr on the comments, so I just did a search for "poking."
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:50 PM on April 5, 2010


The mistake to me seems to be that the upper cmdrs chose to be lazy & lie, instead of making the effort to spin. The soldiers, while of vulgar humour, clearly thought they had enemy in the sights. An inevitable fuck-up.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:53 PM on April 5, 2010


You know what? This tape is great. As a Rorschach test. Since you see it completely without context, you're able to ascribe motivations, ideologies and even back stories to people who you have not met that are in a situation that you can't possibly comprehend from the 12 minutes of footage here.

The tape is just a mirror.
posted by squorch at 9:56 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Lullaby: apologies. You are correct. I was unfair and hurtful.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:58 PM on April 5, 2010


The message I'm taking away is that we need Wikileaks--this kind of place is the only place where real journalism is certain to be able to happen. I just gave twenty five bucks, and should probably have given more.
posted by LucretiusJones at 10:51 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Has anyone in this thread been a soldier in wartime? Someone who could kindly tell us what it is really like from that perspective?

Oh, don't worry about that. You'll hear from soldiers. In fact, it's all you'll hear. Don't worry about just in this thread. Every time this gets reported in the papers, on the radio, on the internet, or on TV, it will be reported with the assistance of soldiers. You will hear over and over again about how it is completely reasonable for soldiers to do this kind of thing.

Has anyone in this thread been a civilian in an occupied country? That's the perspective you won't hear.
posted by stammer at 11:24 PM on April 5, 2010 [29 favorites]


I kept thinking while watching this that the only reason it came to light as it did was that there were two Western journalists involved. The repeated signposting of the two only furthered in my mind that the other dozen or so involved were, as far as this story was concerned, trivial elements. Plenty of other events like this have and are going on and will never have the benefit of a well-funded media machine following up with FOIA requests.

This, absolutely. I'm sure that this video is just one of very, very many.

Haven't watched it, don't know if I can.
posted by jokeefe at 11:35 PM on April 5, 2010


I kept thinking while watching this that the only reason it came to light as it did was that there were two Western journalists involved. The repeated signposting of the two only furthered in my mind that the other dozen or so involved were, as far as this story was concerned, trivial elements. Plenty of other events like this have and are going on and will never have the benefit of a well-funded media machine following up with FOIA requests.

They weren't Western journalists. They were Arab journalist working for Reuters - which I guess you could call a Western organisation. But I'm not sure if you should be using the location of head office as a reference.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:01 AM on April 6, 2010


...that is, assuming they weren't Western journalists born in a Western country but just with Arab-sounding names. :)
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:05 AM on April 6, 2010


Has anyone in this thread been a civilian in an occupied country? That's the perspective you won't hear.

Australia has been an occupied country since 1788, so yeah.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:33 AM on April 6, 2010


One can only imagine how many hundreds, if not thousands, of these sort of incidents have happened during this insane American Shock and Awe invasion and occupation.
posted by rmmcclay at 3:34 AM on April 6, 2010


Our children run through the streets
And you sent your flames
Your shooting stars
Shock and awe
Shock and awe
Like some, some
Imagined warrior production
Twenty-first century
No chivalry involved
No Bushido

-Patti Smith: Radio Baghdad
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:59 AM on April 6, 2010


"Has anyone in this thread been a civilian in an occupied country? That's the perspective you won't hear."

I'd be curious about Dee's perspective on this, although I'd understand if she found this too hard to watch.
posted by jaduncan at 4:47 AM on April 6, 2010


I thought of Dee also, and I also would understand her absence from this thread. I mean, really.... you're walking down the street, you maybe hear the gentle whup-whup of blades in the far, far distanc, and then.... death. That's one of the reasons this is so horrible; the impersonality yet lack of anonymity. Anyway, I'm really glad this story is doing well on the main news sites now.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:47 AM on April 6, 2010


“Seriously, thinking that the military sets out to deliberately injure and kill innocent civilians is ridiculous.”

You’d think so, but here we are. Why would anyone take the word of someone who had been there and knows maneuvers when they can formulate an argument.

“Your position assumes that military theory or practice is never counterproductive. Which I find far more ridiculous. Of course it is, often.”

You see – it’s not that you have experience in military operations. It’s that you have a position. Everyone’s opinion is equal. You’ve been in the military – but he’s read a newspaper quoting a general. Just because you are a neurosurgeon who has performed a procedure hundreds of times does not mean some guy who’s read an in-flight magazine vaguely related to the brain once knows the situation better.

Ask a question or get one answered, the matters settled or reasonably bracketed and 20 minutes later someone cuts and snips it for a snarky response and/or respins it to suit their own priorly formed options. Very few people want to read or comment in order to learn or understand anything. Very often they’re looking for bits that support their opinions.
To wit:
“Actually they get permission to engage before you see the photographer crouching by the building. …So really there was nothing threatening at the time they got permission.”
This after several comments from people who have been in combat and have explained that there was other activity in the area and the helicopter was probably a response to that, not reacting to this particular guy as a potential threat to them.

Oh, but RPGs can’t hurt helicopters, Smedley, I played a video game once. And why wouldn’t members of a unit do things counterproductive to other people in their unit such that it increases the likelihood they all get killed, huh? People do dumb things. Bob in accounting spilled coffee on himself because he was talking to this other guy. And that’s just like combat. I read it in a Tom Clancy book.

“Has anyone in this thread been a civilian in an occupied country? That's the perspective you won't hear.”
Yeah, Dee Xtrovert. She’s real understanding of people who sit around analyzing everything without any experience of what they’re talking about.

“You will hear over and over again about how it is completely reasonable for soldiers to do this kind of thing.”

Totally. That’s all the veterans here are doing. Being apologists for the wonton slaughter of civilians. Especially that ‘smedleyman’ shithead. No nuance or criticism of the military in his comments.
The level of willing ignorance in these kinds of threads is astounding. Don’t need to look at the video, nope. And if I do, it’ll prove those troops are evil. Don’t need to read anything an actual vet has said on the situation or on war in general, nope, they’re all going to say how great war is and how right this is.

Fucking Hell. You get people with attitudes like that in a science thread they’d have their asses handed to them by people with the actual PhDs. Here? No. Doesn’t matter for shit if you have any actual experience. Doesn’t even matter if every single one of you reiterate that “war is horrible” in some way.

Doesn’t matter if comments from an actual apache pilot is linked to saying RPGs are dangerous and questioning why they fired on the van. Everyone knows the helicopter wasn’t in danger (and that this is the only possible reason they would fire) and if you ask questions on something it doesn’t show a desire to understand, but is an opportunity for snarky musing from a position of complete (or near complete if you play COD) ignorance of the subject.
(No reason they’d want to protect the Bradley and the four hummers on the ground, they don’t do that in video games, no? Just CYA not cover someone else perhaps involved in a raid nearby taking incoming fire from RPGs – weird how, just because RPGs were fired in an area, someone could mistake a longish black cylindrical object as an RPG from a mile off)

You don’t just ride around looking for crap to ‘splode. It doesn’t work that way. (but, I must be trying to say how completely reasonable an outcome dead civilians and two dead children are, not explaining how it works. Got kids of my own. I can't wait to kill them with a helicopter in my own neighborhood - 'cos, y'know, I'm a crazy vet)

Tl:dr – oh, but plenty of time to comment over someone with knowledge to share or trying to understand the heart of the matter.

Talking about the Large Hadron Collider being dangerous because it could cause black holes, generalizing that the scientists in the thread explaining the physics of it are myopic eggheads more interested in funding than the good of humanity and you get your info from wikipedia – laughed out of the thread as a troll.

Generalize that all troops are psychotic war apologists and cite video game expertise and news paper articles in contrast to people talking realistically about their combat experience – you’re a fucking hero.

Keep it up, and things like this will never stop.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:09 AM on April 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


Smedleyman:

The perspective of trained and experienced soldiers who have had this sort of experience is important to understanding what happened in that video.

In a mainstream news source, the perspective of their superior officers is the most frequent perspective offered.

I can turn to the mainstream news outlets to find out what the military (as an institution) officially thinks about matters like these. I am pretty sure I have to come to a place like MetaFilter if I want any hope of hearing the voice of someone who has lived in an occupied country, or even to hear someone bring up that that perspective is important to understanding these events.

Of course the attitudes and views of the individual soldiers who have seen this sort of action can differ from the official talking points offered by the Pentagon. Can you blame people for hearing a soldier's opinion, seeing that it for a large part matches what all of the mainstream media quote the Pentagon as saying, and not taking it as the final answer?
posted by idiopath at 10:32 AM on April 6, 2010


They weren't Western journalists. They were Arab journalist working for Reuters - which I guess you could call a Western organisation. But I'm not sure if you should be using the location of head office as a reference.

I dunno. Think about how demonized Al Jazeera has been here in the US. Think this would have gotten the attention it's getting if they were working for AJ not Reuters?

I don't know that it matters. Sorry to be so defeatist on this, but I just don't see how you avoid this when you consistently work to wage a remote-control war. Forget video games - simply being able to kill from that distance via a trigger and a screen is going to have a desensitizing effect on anyone.

i_am_joe's_spleen talks about the ways you can work to avoid this, but those are ways that increase the danger to soldiers. And the metric for how worthwhile a conflict is has come to be purely by body count. Reports always contain a statistic. 3 deaths today. 50 This month. 1000 total. When the number of dead Americans in Iraq surpassed the number killed on 9/11 it was in the news, as if being dead soldier number 3,001 was better or worse or different than being dead soldier 1,125.

So who's going to advocate for the approach that increases those numbers? You're halfway down the rabbit hole already when you talk about how you're going to choose X over Y because it means 50 deaths rather than 100... as if the saving 50 makes the 50 lost less of a big deal. And mentally for people, it does. It's the war fire sale. Who cares if you really need to do that at all if you're getting it so cheap?

The news is going to run this video and have talking heads discuss whether the people involved were, in that moment, right or wrong. We'll get somewhat less discussion about the bigger evil, the cover-up. We'll get no discussion at all about how we chose this trade-off and how it made this kind of thing inevitable.

Partly that's because the news stinks at nuance and any sort of connecting the dots when it gets more complicated than X to Y to Z. And partly it's because America as a nation doesn't talk subtlety. How often do we hear people in power talk about how we're going to go with a solution that has these known problems but we're gonna do it because we decided that they're better than the repercussions?

Not often, but a shitload more than you hear someone say we decided to do nothing because these known things that are happening aren't as bad as these other expected side-effects. We're a nation of people who Do Things because we think that all movement is progress.
posted by phearlez at 10:43 AM on April 6, 2010


Anyone happen to know how many Iraqi civilians have been killed? I saw "1 million" as a number, but if that's the case, this war is heading toward genocidal levels of killing.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:23 PM on April 6, 2010


So who's going to advocate for the approach that increases those numbers?

With respect, I would advocate for exactly that, and many of those ideas are becoming more emphasized in counterinsurgency theory and practice. You run the risk of dying when you volunteer for military service. If you're concerned about taking casualties instead of an overall mission, then don't go to war for goodness sake. What you don't want to do is kill people who shouldn't be killed, or have that happen through your actions or lack of action. Not if you want to make a counterinsurgency work.

Counterinsurgency is all about establishing the legitimacy of the government and reducing the ability of the insurgents to impact governance and influence the population. This is why, even if every single person who the journalists were with was an insurgent, what happened in this case was an absolute failure from a military standpoint. A hundred good decisions on the part of individual soldiers and Marines were just undone. Better to accept risk instead of making these mistakes that prolong a war where even more of these incidents are likely to occur.

But your point is really well taken. Try accepting those risks as a general who is in charge of young men and women, many of who are about the age of his children. Then do this while the media is counting every dead American as a measure of your failure without any real understanding of the larger goal that you're trying to accomplish. Then tell me how the military is stupid and backward for emphasizing force protection for so long.

The level of willing ignorance in these kinds of threads is astounding.

I don't even care about that, so much. It's the unreasoning hatred that gets me. I get disgust with violence, I get anger at needless deaths. But there is no room for consensus, or intelligent discussion, when all you have is a person raging about a group of people who s/he doesn't even know. I have never in my life seen a person who was actually evil or totally malevolent. Funny that ostensibly intelligent individuals are so willing to pin that label all over the place.
posted by _cave at 12:24 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


all you have is a person raging about a group of people who s/he doesn't even know.

...who kills for money.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:49 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the Reuters photographers' blog: an email from the Reuters Editor-in-Chief.

The video of our colleagues, Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh, being killed in Iraq in 2007 was difficult and disturbing to watch but also important to watch.

If somehow you’ve missed it, our story is here http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticN ews/idUSTRE6344FW20100406 and the video is here www.collateralmurder.com

There is no better evidence of the dangers each and every journalist in a war zone faces at any time. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the men and women of Reuters news who put themselves on the front line to tell the story; we mourn and remember each of our colleagues who has died – our books of remembrance that we keep in our main offices are grim reminders of the sacrifices too many have made over the many decades and many conflicts.

It is impossible to watch and listen to the video dispassionately. I struggle with my emotions the way I’m sure many of you struggle as well.

I believe that we as an organization and I as an individual must fight for journalists’ safety. I will continue to campaign for better training for the military – to help as much as possible to teach the difference in form between a camera and an rpg or between a tripod and a weapon. I will continue to press for thorough and objective investigations. I will continue to insist that governments the world over recognize the rights of journalists to do their jobs. I will continue to ensure that our rules and operating procedures are the safest in the industry.

In this particular case, Tom Glocer and I want to meet with the Pentagon to press the need to learn lessons from this tragedy.

These stories are not easy for us to report or to be involved in. They test our commitment to viewing events and actions objectively.

What matters in the end is not how we as colleagues and friends feel; what matters is the wider public debate that our stories and this video provoke.

posted by WalterMitty at 12:53 PM on April 6, 2010


all you have is a person raging about a group of people who s/he doesn't even know.

...who kills for money.


Right. You got me. Everyone in the military is a mercenary. What a great and intelligent statement. How could I have ever missed that? It's obvious that your keen philosophical insights have contributed much to this discussion. What was I thinking, when I said that indiscriminate killing is recognized as being wrong, and the military is becoming increasingly willing to accept risk to avoid that? It's obvious that they're just a bunch of knuckle-dragging monsters. That's all that really needs to be said in this conversation. How completely correct you are.
posted by _cave at 1:02 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]




Thanks for the link, empath.

I am so sorry about what happened here, but the soldier posting in empath's link said what I thought when I watched this video:

Clearly the aircrew were wrong, but not unjustifiably and probably only in hindsight.


It wouldn't be a bad use of everyone's time to carefully review everything he had to say.

Mistakes happen in war. I've been listening to Shelby Foote's Civil War opus -- now there's a great example of incredible sacrifice of human life, often completely pointlessly -- and just learned about how Stonewall Jackson died as a result of a hail of friendly fire. That is, one of the South's greatest generals died, fairly slowly and painfully, because his own troops erred.

The cruelty of a war fought against insurgents in civilian territory is that this kind of mistake, which slaughters neutrals and innocents, will happen. That is in part the fault of insurgents who use civilians as targets and shields.

I completely disagreed with the invasion of Iraq myself, but this is one instance when I'm not willing to slam our military forces for their actions. I am just, again, so sorry about the grievous results of this mistake.
posted by bearwife at 1:09 PM on April 6, 2010


Here's another one from a soldier.
For those unaware of my background, I have spent quite a lot of time (a conservative estimate would be around 4500 hours) viewing aerial footage of Iraq. I am certain my voice can be heard on several transmissions with several different Crazyhorse aircraft, as I have called them to assist troops on the ground more times in my 24-months in Iraq than I could even attempt to guess. I need no reassurances to determine the presence of an RPG7 or an AK-variant rifle, especially not from a craft flying as low as Apache (even after the video has been reduced in dimensions to a point at which it is nearly useless).
There's more, obviously, but it's kind of long to quote. Worth a read.

And, five fresh fish - thank you. I appreciate that.
posted by lullaby at 1:20 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


So who's going to advocate for the approach that increases those numbers?

With respect, I would advocate for exactly that, and many of those ideas are becoming more emphasized in counterinsurgency theory and practice.


I would as well, and I believe that this is a case where earlier risk and loss of life likely would result in less long-term total loss of life. Not to mention less global instability, cost, etc ad infinitum.

And I predict that the chances that you or I are gonna get elected or keep our elected positions based on those statements is a big fat zero.
posted by phearlez at 1:22 PM on April 6, 2010


idiopath – fair comments. (I disagree that most servicemembers /veterans comments, here at least, matches the mainstream media, but point taken)

However, consider – if the perspective of the brass and military mouthpieces is the most frequent perspective offered in the (U.S.) media - is it not possible there’s a problem with the media?

I don’t know anyone shy of O6 who doesn’t think blatant fabrications are harmful. At the very least it’s bad for morale (because if what you’re doing is the right thing – why do you need to lie about it?). Obviously there are people who lie. I think any powerful organization needs watchdogs.
Why has so little of this discussion focused on the media?
Jerome Starkey says some journalists are hamstrung by security rules.
Starkey says some media organizations rely on filtered video and photos because it’s cheaper and easier.

I can’t speak on the “embed” culture. I can see how someone providing you with food, shelter, security, etc. can become a bit sympathetic to a journalist.
Starkey says British troops will only accept journalists who let military censors approve their stories before they are filed – I personally have no idea if that’s true or not. He would know better than I would. A lot of his comments (especially CYA) jibe with my personal experience.

I do know, from personal experience, how myopic and didactic most journalists are. I spoke to one a bit ago about something at occurred overseas. He took every opportunity to correct me on the “facts” and how this, that and the other thing never happened, such and such outfit wouldn’t do that, they would do this, etc.
I said I was there. He said ”Oh?” like I was lying. “You were embedded?”
Apparently he thought I was a reporter. Perhaps anchorman for the Podunk Eyewitness News (it’s the square jaw).
I said, no, I was shooting. I didn’t see anyone with cameras. Didn’t see you there.
He pretty much STFU after that.

Some reporters, the guys like Starkey and the two people here – I think they are among the bravest most selfless individuals the world has ever seen. Their kind is unparalleled in history. Never before has war been brought home to the population that enables it, purely for the sake of truth.
That is not only a service to their country and their citizens but to the cause of peace and mankind and it is an absolute tragedy when one dies. It’s even worse when they are killed in the line of duty. And it is a duty they perform.
One sometimes more noble than medicine, in my estimation, because if they do their jobs properly they can not only save lives but prevent them from going in harms way in the first place. I do think the pen is mightier than the sword.
And obviously so do the generals, joint chiefs and the politicians otherwise they wouldn’t need to lie.

But far as I can tell – most of the folks with actual experience have been saying “I don’t know” and asking what the context of the mission was and questioning why the helicopter crew did ‘x.’ They’re not, far as I’ve seen, laying claim to some knowledge of motivations and actions they don’t possess or taking a side.

Mostly explaining from a warfighters perspective what is, or what might be, going through the heads of the crew. That’s not support of a position, that’s facilitation of understanding.
Understand, lies eat up the genuine honor and actions of real troops. Jessica Lynch spoke long and hard about not being Capt. America in the field, but she was prettier than Lori Piestewa so the brass used it. NBC made a t.v. movie dramatization.
What, some LT in the field got that ball rolling? Some snuffy stuck in a mudhole somewhere knows a guy at NBC, or did a platoon invade their offices and force actors at gunpoint to put up that farce?

Point being – I think real journalism is critical. Wikileaks needs all the support it can get and there’s no way these two should have died.

But of course the pentagon and the mainstream media is going to be close to what a soldier’s opinion is – that’s why they call it distortion.
You can’t just create Comrade Ogilvy. You need a real person – Lynch. From there, who gives a shit what she says or what the real story is? She can say it but people hear whatever they want to hear. Troops are heroic. Troops are evil. Typically everything but the truth.

I don’t blame people for not understanding. I think they should be angry, this is fairly gruesome to Joe Blow who’s never been in it. But what they should be angry about is exactly that they don’t understand.

They should know all the facts. They should know what their military is doing and they should be demanding the right to know and see what’s going on and NOT taking the pentagon’s and mainstream media’s word for it.

I do blame folks though for not listening to a nuts and bolts explanation. If I (or someone else) explain how close air support integrates with ground unit tactics (and hell, with very little jargon I thought) I’m not expressing an opinion, I’m explaining how the machine works.
As much as if a physicist detailed the elements of a high energy experiment. And if someone came in with some end of the world biblical crackpottery and was serious about it, they’d be laughed off.

Ignorance in this case however, is celebrated. Perhaps rightfully so, I’d like to keep as many people as possible from the horrors of war. Unfortunately, I think the best way to do that is to educate them, which means showing them video like this and explaining to them the bloody realities of combat and what they, by representation, ask their fellow citizens to do on their behalf.
Naively perhaps, I expect them to turn to their leaders and demand answers, support more transparency in war coverage, stronger FOIA law, a change in military policy, elimination of war profiteering in the defense industry, anything along those lines that can lead to policy change and a broad effect , rather than become outraged at the delineation.

But hell, the pro-war folks just chuckle like they never heard anything or it’s an amusing anecdote and repeat the ‘hero’ mantra, so yeah, why should the opposite reaction be any different in form rather than kind.

y'know, idopath, if there weren't a few people that got it, I'd forget about it. I'd say it wasn't possible. But I think a lot of people purposefully misunderstand things like this and don't want to put it in context. Perhaps not mere prejudice, perhaps because it's emotionally traumatizing.

I mean - this is terrible, but people are human and make mistakes (and worst case scenario, do things on purpose), worse still though is the coverup because it enables things like this to continue - whatever the reason.

Same thing I heard a firefighter say a bit after 9/11. He needed to blame the hijackers and he couldn't take it out of that context. Because if he did, he'd have to do something about it. And he couldn't handle doing something about it.
Tough to be objective in response to events like this. I guess I'm saying, don't disregard those of us who are because it sounds like we're heartless. Just trying to illuminate it better so perhaps something can be done about it.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:26 PM on April 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


Smedleyman: "Same thing I heard a firefighter say a bit after 9/11. He needed to blame the hijackers and he couldn't take it out of that context. "

I want to make sure I understand you here - is the comparison here between the men in the apache and the hijackers?
posted by idiopath at 1:38 PM on April 6, 2010


"is the comparison here between the men in the apache and the hijackers?"
No. A lot of folks watch video like this and are emotionally upset - understandably. The firefighter said he hated the 9/11 hijackers with a sort of finality, he was asked about motivations, foreign policy, what the administration knew, Bush's actions, type questions.
He said he couldn't think about any of that. If he did, he'd have to do something (about foreign policy, the administration's lousy response, etc.) and he couldn't handle that just now.

So too, many people under emotional strain can't deal with nuance and just go look for someone to be angry at. This accomplishes next to nothing usually. But is often understandable. I disagree with the firefighters attitude, but I think we can all be sympathetic.

And then there's some other instances.

“ ‘all you have is a person raging about a group of people who s/he doesn't even know.’
‘...who kills for money.’” posted by Pope Guilty

“The perspective of trained and experienced soldiers who have had this sort of experience is important to understanding what happened in that video.”

I’ll try to keep thinking that.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:43 PM on April 6, 2010


Smedleyman, thank you for your insight and input in this thread. It is appreciated.

The situation is made more clear by the context you provided: the aircraft in the video is supporting a ground-based team in a personnel carrier which has been fired upon. I can better understand why the initial decision to fire was made.

But the decision to fire on the van trying to help the wounded, unarmed man seems indefensible. It is a step far too far, and the depersonalized nature of this type of combat contributes to the ease of this final escalation. The kneejerk hateful anti-military reactions are not justified, but outrage over the van shooting will remain and hopefully catalyze some popular action.

I fully agree with what I read as your broader point: that it is the government machine and the media that help sell the war who are the ultimate culprits here.
posted by yoz420 at 2:02 PM on April 6, 2010


So too, many people under emotional strain can't deal with nuance and just go look for someone to be angry at. This accomplishes next to nothing usually. But is often understandable. I disagree with the firefighters attitude, but I think we can all be sympathetic.

Intellectually I can understand and respect this thought. But as someone who was once married to a man with chronic ptsd, who'd come screaming/flailing awake if he was even brushed against accidently during sleep at night, and other accompanying horrors of alcohol dependency and anger addiction cycles, I can only say, that it was this very thought of being sympathetic, and compassionate, and big hearted and as loving as I could be, that led to my own treatment for short term ptsd and intervention to rescue me from an increasing abusive marriage in a foreign continent.

so, I don't know what the answer is... but it is surely not as simple or nor can it be applied without some critical appraisal in all cases
posted by infini at 2:10 PM on April 6, 2010


“But the decision to fire on the van trying to help the wounded, unarmed man seems indefensible.”
(I appreciate the thanks – not necessary. Just looking for reasonable discourse)
Agreed. I offered some speculation. But I have no clue why they opened up on the van. It’s because it seems without reason that makes me want to chew it over. Not “Hey they did it because:” but rather “Why TF would they do that?” I don’t accept the “just because they’re trigger happy maniacs” answer some folks conclude with.

Doesn’t mean they had a GOOD reason. I just have a hard time reproducing their decision making. If this were an equation there would be a logical (albeit wrong) formula with a “then suddenly for no reason!” in the middle of it. Even with a wrong answer you can follow the reason for the mistake.
Without more info I’m scratching my head. I seem to remember a van IDed early on in the video. I don’t know if that’s the same van. I'd like to dissuade folks from the t.v. cop show "tail them back to their hideout!" with the helicopter thinking.
But it looks like they had a number of options they didn't use. I simply don't know why from just this information.

Anyway, lullaby’s link does it better than I can.

infini – been there myself.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:00 PM on April 6, 2010


Smedley,

So, you've got "the bad guys".

They were "about to get away".

Isn't this, in general, what happens when "the bad guys are about to get away"?
posted by effugas at 3:10 PM on April 6, 2010


Smedleyman: "But I have no clue why they opened up on the van. It’s because it seems without reason that makes me want to chew it over."

I think you are being overly charitable with this. Throughout the video they have an urgency in their voices (especially regarding getting permission to fire) which seems (to me - someone who knows nothing of combat but a little about human emotion and motivation) like ruthlessness. When he says that the van is there, and is mentioning that they are picking up the wounded and possibly weapons - that speculation about the weapons sounds like fishing for permission to fire on the van. Just as they seemed to be pleading with the injured man to reach for a weapon so they could continue to fire on him. To me it was reminiscent of the tone of a horny guy trying any line that might get him laid. I will take your word that most soldiers are not sadists, but to my ears and eyes the words and actions of these people are consistent with those of a sadist.
posted by idiopath at 3:28 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the people that are judging the actions of the soldiers are, on the whole, complete assholes. Sitting back in your comfy chair with instant-rewind, it's pretty easy to call the soldiers sadists without giving a bit of thought to the larger picture.

The area is clearly an active war zone. The civilians have left the neighbourhood. Insurgents have been taking potshots at soldiers. There is a clusterfuck of people carrying weapons, peering around corners, and generally acting oddly, ie. peering around corners looking for more people to shoot instead of getting the hell out of dodge. A van has been running around scaring troops. And the guys in air are getting tired of their buddies dying.

You'd have blown them all away, too.

Further, you're upset about the wrong thing. What is bad about this incident is that the military chose to lie about it, instead of telling the truth. Why is that bad? Because when they tell lies, pissant stories like this get blown up into huge maelstorms of hate against soldiers.

Give your heads a shake. Quit being assholes.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:24 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't suppose the people who actually DID fire on the infantry down the block were ever engaged? Is that why they were dismounted just a few blocks away? The units that came on scene weren't the ones that were dismounted, correct? The Bradley was told that they'd also catch sight of the other troops when being given directions. There was mention of gunmen being engaged on a rooftop, and then another firefight before they launch the hellfire? Just how much was going on around the time of this video? I'd love to see the full report.

Man, though, the terrible luck of the journalists: walking a few blocks away from US troops; those troops being fired upon minutes before they walk into a clearing; the large group you're walking with has a few armed people, a couple guys with AK 47s, and one with a RPG*; reports of armed men being given to the military as you walk into the area; catching sight of the Bradley, and then taking a one-knee position behind the wall with his giant lens looking at it; doing this JUST at the moment an anxious gunner is looking for a reason to shoot, the same moment that the gunner rounds the corner leaving him without a clearer view and thinking he's readying to fire; having kept his lens behind his back prior to that. lullaby's link makes the sound argument that they still should not have been authorized, but to even get to that point seems like some cosmic conspiracy.

The poor guys in the van who came to help. No sign of an actual battle, arriving after the actual shots. The explosive bullets probably made it look like it could have been one large bomb. The whole event was probably silent from a block away (I have no idea what explosive rounds sound like near the receiving end). Arriving minutes before the soldiers do, which would have probably made them stay clear, or at least kept the gunner off of them with the soldiers so close. They were helping. So many places in the world where no one would have helped even in complete peace.



*That is an RPG that he's casually holding and resting on his foot, right? Why the hell would you carry that around? An AK at least makes sense for self-defense. What the hell good would an RPG do you? One shot, terribly aimed, and then you're done. And even if you plan mayhem with it, why the hell would you just walk around with it? You need to scurry and hide because you're gonna be the first aimed at. It makes no sense. And yet, it looks like an RPG. He's hanging back with the two guys holding AKs. What else could he be holding that is about a meter long with a bulbous end? The soldiers on scene identify an RPG round under one of the bodies, and say it's still live. Same site, right?
posted by FuManchu at 4:39 PM on April 6, 2010


five fresh fish: "The civilians have left the neighbourhood."

The van driver was in the process of driving his children to their lessons. Its what he gets, I guess, for trying to live in what someone has decided is a war zone.
posted by idiopath at 4:42 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


The van driver was in the process of driving his children to their lessons. Its what he gets, I guess, for trying to live in what someone has decided is a war zone.

One of the more popular responses to this on Freep is exactly this- that he shouldn't have brought his children into a war zone. I don't know if I want to break peoples' teeth or just throw up.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:04 PM on April 6, 2010


Interesting, from the WikiLeaks twitter:

Lots of people avoiding talking murderous attack on the van/wounded; strawmanning camera/rpg confusion as the issue.

The focus on the Iraq massacre response should be the cover-up and the van/missile attack.


It seems they would agree the initial shots aren't indefensible. I didn't know that from watching their take on the video.
posted by FuManchu at 5:10 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait, wait wait wait. I just read the military report linked at their site (which I can't find again easily). There were 2 RPGs recovered. Two of the men in the initial group were still alive and sent to Iraqi EMS. One of those men was found directly on top of one of the RPGs.

I'm growing more callous towards the reporters. They were walking with two men with RPGs during a US operation? Two men with RPGs, taking pictures of Humvees (the last photo in the camera before they're shot)? The only stuff you shoot with RPGs are Humvees and helicopters. I know guns are legal in Iraq. I don't think it's unfair to label men with RPGs as insurgents.

WikiLeaks blew it. If they really wanted to focus on the van and missile fire they completely blew it. They blew it by ignoring the positive identification of RPGs. They wanted people to get upset at the entire video. In this thread they certainly have. Now they claim the critical comments on their 'reporting' are strawmen. Fuck them.
posted by FuManchu at 5:38 PM on April 6, 2010


Also, why doesn't someone track down the adult survivors? Would love to hear their take on what they were doing with the reporters.
posted by FuManchu at 5:39 PM on April 6, 2010


Ah ha, found the PDF source, it was from their twitter feed, it's not linked in their 'Resources' page. It says:

US mil releases Iraq massacre investigation doc; note the tone. its junk http://bit.ly/cP9eoN

It links here. It's not junk. There is no 'tone'. It's a military review of what Reuters asked for. It offers a single paragraph on the shots on the van. It just doesn't resolve anything good for WikiLeaks.

Fuck those guys. They can't even offer up a good summary of the context of what was happening. They aren't even linking to it from their website, they're still claiming the military hasn't done enough. God damn, way to pull the same shit you claim to be against, wikileaks.
posted by FuManchu at 5:53 PM on April 6, 2010


FuManchu: There were 2 RPGs recovered.

There were guns recovered from the Danziger Bridge incident too. Turns out the cops planted 'em to lay a good story. Call me cynical, but you know people we trust do do shit like that. And it's already been established that the military tried to do a coverup on the FP incident, so they obviously thought there was something up worth covering.
posted by localroger at 5:56 PM on April 6, 2010


That link doesn't go anywhere, Fu.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:58 PM on April 6, 2010


Did they edit in the one RPG into the video with military CGI, as well?
posted by FuManchu at 5:58 PM on April 6, 2010


That link doesn't go anywhere, Fu.

Hm. They seem to be working on my machine. The twitter link, the bit.ly link, and the centcom link. Which are you having trouble with?
posted by FuManchu at 6:02 PM on April 6, 2010


The centcom link just times out over and over.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:03 PM on April 6, 2010


And look, I'm not saying the military investigators are saints, and that nothing ever gets covered up. It does.

What I get annoyed with it the blatant manipulation on the 'reveal', which ends up omitting more information that the official line. This is reminiscent of the previous military cover-up posted on the blue. The official investigation is thorough, but comes to a distasteful conclusion. People start calling it a cover-up. Someone does a one-sided writeup, poo-pooing the original investigation, and only interviewing people who totally agree its a complete coverup, man. When I actually get ahold of the original pdf, and it makes a hell of a lot more sense with a lot more detail than what the 'coverup' people were claiming. If you want to convince me, tell me everything up front, and argue against it. I get super paranoid when I can find out more details myself than you're willing to tell me, especially when you're claiming that someone else is doing that exact same thing to me.

Sorry. I'm ranty and need a nap. The whole thing was a goddamn travesty, and I don't need to be further manipulated, thank you.
posted by FuManchu at 6:11 PM on April 6, 2010


Uploaded doc to Scribd, PG. Hopefully shouldn't be a problem there.
posted by FuManchu at 6:22 PM on April 6, 2010


Fu, I didn't see a "reveal" anywhere, I saw what looked like a pretty unedited video which showed near the end the POV gunner unloading on a van trying to rescue a wounded person which is pretty much a war crime no matter what the context nor how you parse it. And the official review managed not to notice this extremely obvious and hard to ignore war crime being committed on camera, which is what most of us find the even bigger problem.
posted by localroger at 6:30 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The van driver was in the process of driving his children to their lessons. Its what he gets, I guess, for trying to live in what someone has decided is a war zone.

It's like being a motorcyclist in everyday traffic: you can be right. Or you can be dead.

If the US military comes into my town and blows the living shit out of my neighbourhood, I think I'll choose to leave. It will suck and be unfair and a war crime and all sorts of shit. But it'll be the thing that keeps me alive.

It is completely horrible that this good Samaritan was killed. I'm sure he had no idea what had just happened and how susceptible his actions were to misinterpretation. Just like the journalists and their companions. Innocent people in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Both sides were right in what they did. The journalist was right to be documenting the war. The guys with guns were right to be protecting the journalist from insurgents. The guys in the aircraft were right to protect their ground troops from insurgents.

The military lied about the incident. That is upsetting. Whoever lied needs to be served on a platter to justice, because in doing so, they put a lot of troops in much more danger: it gave Iraqis more reason to dislike and distrust soldiers.

Those of you upset by the contents of this video have missed the point.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:35 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


which is pretty much a war crime

It would have had to have been a marked medical vehicle for it to be a convict-able war crime. As is, it's a horrible thing to be SOP, because no matter how many times the enemy runs off with their wounded, it's worse to kill innocent people trying to help.


The military lied about the incident.

Actually, I'm a bit confused about what the lie was at this point. There was gunfire at US soldiers a block or two south of where they were killed. They were with two men carrying RPGs. The soldiers started receiving gunfire in the area as they left after cleaning up. The scope of the "fight" mentioned in the military press releases encompassed more than the one street corner and 5 minutes of leading up to their death.

I think I've gotten caught up in insignificant details, though. Can someone point out exactly what was a lie?
posted by FuManchu at 7:17 PM on April 6, 2010


It's like being a motorcyclist in everyday traffic: you can be right. Or you can be dead.

If the US military comes into my town and blows the living shit out of my neighbourhood, I think I'll choose to leave. It will suck and be unfair and a war crime and all sorts of shit. But it'll be the thing that keeps me alive.


I'm not clear on what about this you find confusing. Shooting someone trying to offer medical aid to wounded is absolutely, without a doubt, a crime. It doesn't matter at all who the guy was, or why he "chose" to keep living in his country.
posted by odinsdream at 7:18 PM on April 6, 2010


IMO, this:
The military did not reveal how the Reuters staff were killed, and stated that they did not know how the children were injured.
I guess the people upset about the van are choked with this:
the U.S. military concluded that the actions of the soldiers were in accordance with the law of armed conflict and its own "Rules of Engagement".
In that they tend to be arguing that "lighting up" the van was illegal. I dunno.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:26 PM on April 6, 2010


"I think the people that are judging the actions of the soldiers are, on the whole, complete assholes."

On behalf of the dozens of people I've spoken with in the last 24 hours: Wow.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 7:36 PM on April 6, 2010


If the US military comes into my town and blows the living shit out of my neighbourhood, I think I'll choose to leave. It will suck and be unfair and a war crime and all sorts of shit. But it'll be the thing that keeps me alive.

haha yeah what a bunch of dumbshits they should all move to canada

you're the smartest person
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:05 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The military did not reveal how the Reuters staff were killed, and stated that they did not know how the children were injured.

Right, that's on the WikiLeaks page. But it's not linked to or supported by anything. None of the articles I've read (I've tried to go through everything on their site) have any mention of the children, so I don't know how they could have responded.

The most thorough questioning was this 16-Jul-2007 article from Reuters. The military gave the same initial line, and said they were investigating. The official investigation was signed off on 27-Jul-2007 or so. After which I can't find a thing on it. Just that Reuters wanted the full video, which was denied I guess.
posted by FuManchu at 8:15 PM on April 6, 2010


Also, finding the full documents which are absolutely fascinating. Will upload everything to Scribd.

Latest gem, the interview with the gunner regarding firing on the van:
LTC: Did you see anything in the van?
CW3: I couldn't see inside the van, but they ran around right after I had seen them extract weapons and individuals.
LTC: As you saw on the tape, they didn't have any weapons. So, what drove you then? What threat made you want to engage the van?
CW3: Well the friendlies were 300 meters away and from the initial report that a black car, sedan haad been coming in and dropping off insurgents, taking them out, moving them to different locations. That was my whole thought process.
There is tons on the debriefing. They went over the ROE with their superiors a few days after the attack, having watched the video. They determined that it was within bounds and that the video should be used for training purposes.
posted by FuManchu at 8:24 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


1--Action by Appointing Authority: Signed by Brig General. He approved "Condolence payments to be made to families of the two children wounded in this engagement."

2 Sworn Statements: The juicy debriefings. Sworn statements by the four pilots (pilot, gunner on CH18 CH19). You learn how they each saw different events not entirely on the video. You learn that they saw six armed men go into the building before they launch the hellfires. You learn that there were multiple reports of soldiers on the ground taking fire within a few blocks. In interviews that mention they "hear it was a camera." It's a bit chilling in retrospect how little they consider whether or not everyone around the area was a target.

3 Attack Mission Request: Mostly blanked out. The request for air support.

4 Photographs: The photographs, which are included with better notes in #6.

5--1st Air Cavalry Brigade AR 15-6 Investigation: Col. signed off that ROE were followed. Denied the conclusion that "Reporters undergo 'hazardous duty training'." They find that:
There was neither reason nor probability to assume that neutral media personnel were embedded with enemy forces. It is worth noting the fact that insurgent groups often video and photograph friendly activity and insurgent attacks against friendly forces for use in training videos and for use as propaganda to exploit or highlight their capabilities. The aircrews erroneously identified the cameras as weapons due to presentation (slung over shoulder with the body of the object resting at the back, rear of the torso) and association (personnel colocated with others having RPGs and AK-47s.
6--2nd Brigade Combat Team 15-6 Investigation: Full investigation into killing of reporters. Included everything that the military knew, and how they came to know it. Lots of photos. Summaries from both pilots and ground soldiers. Over 40 pages of juicy details that WikiLeaks thinks is "junk."
posted by FuManchu at 8:57 PM on April 6, 2010 [10 favorites]


Military can’t find Iraq video -- "Clip was withheld from Reuters after 2007 request."
posted by ericb at 9:11 PM on April 6, 2010


From Thomas Jefferson's Second Inaugural Address:

"...an experiment should be fairly and fully made, whether freedom of discussion, unaided by power, is not sufficient for the propagation and protection of truth—whether a government conducting itself in the true spirit of its constitution, with zeal and purity, and doing no act which it would be unwilling the whole world should witness, can be written down by falsehood and defamation. The experiment has been tried; you have witnessed the scene; our fellow-citizens looked on, cool and collected....[T]he experiment is noted to prove that, since truth and reason have maintained their ground against false opinions in league with false facts, the press, confined to truth, needs no other legal restraint; the public judgment will correct false reasoning and opinions on a full hearing of all parties; and no other definite line can be drawn between the inestimable liberty of the press and its demoralizing licentiousness."
posted by sallybrown at 9:25 PM on April 6, 2010


Oh, and FuManchu, you are made of win for finding and reviewing all of that.
posted by sallybrown at 9:27 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


The dude from Wikileaks at the press conference reminds me of the baddie from Warlock.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:33 PM on April 6, 2010


Thx, FuManchu.

If there's anger and blame, it should be toward the Commander in Chief who set up the occupation of Iraq. Lies were told and war crimes committed—crimes, not mistakes.

If anything, Wikileaks is being used to scapegoat soldiers. Distraction. Venting. And off run the guilty who orchestrated the invasion.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:44 PM on April 6, 2010


The van driver was in the process of driving his children to their lessons. Its what he gets, I guess, for trying to live in what someone has decided is a war zone.

It's like being a motorcyclist in everyday traffic: you can be right. Or you can be dead.

If the US military comes into my town and blows the living shit out of my neighbourhood, I think I'll choose to leave. It will suck and be unfair and a war crime and all sorts of shit. But it'll be the thing that keeps me alive.


Yeah, just become a refugee. How hard can it be?
UNHCR sees deepening needs among Iraqi refugees even as world interest wanes
posted by homunculus at 12:34 AM on April 7, 2010


Am I to interpret that as some sort of refutation? Because if so, I'm not seeing how it refutes anything. Bush and cronies are to blame, not the kid in the gunship.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:56 AM on April 7, 2010


Since you're saying it's the fault of Iraqis for not magically leaving somehow, yeah, it's a refutation.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:17 AM on April 7, 2010


I have never seen anything on the internet that has made me feel this disgusted, powerless and furious.

Fuck this war.

Support Wikileaks. The more shit they uncover, the less civilians will ultimately end up dead by the hands of brainwashed automatons fighting a "just war" against whatever they deem to be "insurgents".

With the kind of asymmetry modern warfare has, is it any wonder that IEDs and suicide missions are so prevalent? THEY HAVE NO OTHER FUCKING METHOD OF FIGHTING BACK!
posted by flippant at 9:38 AM on April 7, 2010


“Isn't this, in general, what happens when "the bad guys are about to get away"?”
I’ll tell you, if you’ll tell me whether you’ve stopped beating your wife.

“I think you are being overly charitable with this.”

Ok – take this same response (being overly charitable) and apply it to the explanation of a scientific experiment or the evolution of a complex set of integrated and coordinated effort.

Take football for a simple example – , in the Notre Dame formation you have three backs lined up parallel to the line of scrimmage and behind the quarterback. The defense can’t tell from the initial formation whether it’s a run or a pass, it’s a flexible formation. So a quarterback might be thinking option, or sweep if they have a solid running game. If not they can pass to a receiver or tight end and have three backs in the backfield with the option of a screen or pass blocking. I see that’s the formation they started with, and I see how the play evolved. But without knowing the context, I don’t know why they passed (if they did) or tossed it out for a sweep.
Response: “I think you are being overly charitable with this”
Is it clear that understanding what you're looking at matters in this context as much as with another endeavor requiring technical expertise? Is it clear that the action itself can be, as will a piece of engineering, divorced from a moral judgment perspective when one is explaining how it works?

I’m describing what I see as a former professional. That you do not understand it, much as you perhaps have not played football and don’t understand the evolution of a play or what certain formations and strategies portend, does not mean I’m being charitable or not.
Explication is not commendation.

As it is, were I a football coach and my quarterback came out in the Notre Dame formation on, say, 4th and 22 on our own 20, I would have some questions about it, yeah.
But I wouldn’t conclude from just ‘4th and 22’ that my quarterback was crazy. Perhaps there’s only two seconds left in the game. Perhaps we’re down by 30 points, so punting makes no difference anyway. Without more information, I can’t tell.

Similarly – from just this bit of information, if these were my people I would have their testicles on my desk until I was shown a reasonable explanation for their actions. But I can’t say for certain from just this.

(Been thinking about the shit getting handed to ‘all’ troops. Kind of funny, you never see people in a bar somewhere riding a gangbanger or some mob hitman’s ass because he’s a dangerous psychopath or sadist or “kills people for money” You know why? Because they actually do.)

But they’re not ‘sadists’ in the same sense that the quarterback isn’t crazy, and on the same criteria. There’s no reason to conclude anything given just the video evidence. I was not discounting any possibility (although I see later data confirms some of my suspicions).

But other people were watching the video live, so that’s a great deal of collusion. So much so that it would include many people as accomplices (not just after the fact in terms of the cover up), but far enough up the chain. So this would only be tolerated if the strategy itself is genocide or wonton destruction. Plenty of reasons that’s unlikely.

But even given that worst case scenario – using a multi-million dollar piece of equipment with extraordinarily expensive ammunition solely for the purpose of killing people one by one or in small groups is ridiculous.

My experience gives me some insight into combat, but it’s common sense. Hell, the Nazis wouldn’t spare soldiers or bullets to shoot people to further their genocide because it was inefficient, but the U.S. army is going to spend millions in gas, ammunition, planning and design, repair, training, sustainment support etc. etc. - to enable psychopaths to kill people in twos and threes for hundreds of thousands of dollars and man hours each?
(30mm isn't an anti-personnel round anyway. Not that it's ineffective, but the pentagon doesn't mind paying $113 a round or more. The trade off for people isn't worth it. Force protection maybe, but see below).

And all that aside – my problem with this kind of air support is exactly that it is inefficient. There’s no reason to send an apache after targets that aren’t high value. Ostensibly this is to protect troops. But there are ways to mitigate casualties on both sides without dependence on that degree of hardware.
So I would argue the goal isn’t force protection but domestic production.
That is a far more subtle, but far more severe condemnation of the action here. Because it alludes to a systemic – not personal – kind of psychopathology. American generals are far too dependant on equipment. Big ticket equipment too. That dependence (as well as, in this case, lack of communication, transparency and accountability to the public through the press) and their fostering of it is what leads to more civilian deaths (as much as, in the larger picture, our oil dependency is pushed on us and so lead to the war).

That is far worse than saying “these guys are sadists” by a civilian who shudders at the sight of blood looking at overworked, high strung, nervous troops engaged in an uncertain, potentially lethal situation - that’s a well trained former professional warfighter unequivocally condemning a widespread policy that is formed in calm, reasoned attitudes at a desk or boardroom by individuals who do directly gain from it. Some people say 'these few nuts or all the military psychos.' I say it’s systemic.

There are people who men like myself have informed “Do this, execute this policy, operate in this manner, and it will not only lead to more civilian deaths but will sabotage your strategy” – and they did not listen.

No more than most folks listen when they’re pissed off. But at least folks like yourself are just angry. Those people do it out of apathy and greed. Systematically.

Which is why they looked to cover this up – even when it can be argued (and I mean precisely to point out that it can be contested not that it actually is – either way, since I haven’t fully educated myself on this as yet – haven’t read all of FuManchu’s links*) that the crew here did not act illegally.

A lot of people like to shame you into kissing their ass and depending on them laying things out for you even if, sometimes especially if, you don’t want to cover anything up.

“which seems (to me - someone who knows nothing of combat but a little about human emotion and motivation) like ruthlessness.”

Of course its ruthless. It has to be. Ever listened to surgeons doing their jobs? Up to their forearms in gore, they sometimes speak with urgency, sometimes they joke (heard a doctor say during surgery a patients mitral valve leaks like 'my sister's pussy'), but they maintain clarity in their conversation because lives are at stake. Sit in an emergency room and contrast the dispassionate staff with the patients. After a while it's just another gunshot trauma to the head. Doesn't mean they're inhuman though. They've been through this and the patient hasn't (hopefully).

“I have never seen anything on the internet that has made me feel this disgusted, powerless and furious.”
Are you familiar with 4chan?

“I'm growing more callous towards the reporters. They were walking with two men with RPGs during a US operation?”

Naaaaht so much for me. I have the same questions for the reporters I have for the crew. (Why TF would they do that?) I speculate that a lot of reporters need to get away from U.S. troops (given prior reading on security problems and being embedded) to get to the truth of a story. And/or get involved in a neutral way, and perhaps near insurgents. Given it’s a war zone, I wouldn’t fault them for their proximity to combatants.
Not having experience as a reporter in a war zone I can’t say. I speculate they didn't know what was up with the helicopter. And I think that might have helped prevent this (maybe not). And I think Reuters was being honest when they said they wanted the video to review to help keep their people safe.

And I can’t blame the guy in the van. It looks like he was trying to help and the crew mistook his vehicle for another or thought they were together. Unless I condemn the helicopter crew for opening fire to try to rescue/protect their people - I can't condemn this guy for his altruism in trying to save some other folks. Don't know that I would have brought my kids, but perhaps he felt he didn't have a choice. I don't know. Same deal, I'm hesitant to armchair quarterback.

What makes this terrible is, as was mentioned by cave above, the failure to protect him (and his kids) delegitimizes their authority and actually puts more troops in harms way (because yeah, if it were my nephews or nieces and my brother I’d be pissed off to shoot at someone too).

So, the harshest possible rebuke of their actions will come in the form of their dead comrades. That’s a hell of a price to pay for making a mistake. And that too is war.

(There’s a good scene from a movie (‘Soldier’ with Kurt Russell I think) where one man makes a mistake that leads to the death of someone else in his unit. The commander doesn’t punish him. He looks at the corpse. Then looks at the man who made the mistake. And looks back at the corpse. Doesn’t say a word.)

*I do note that one of the recommendations is to have reporters wear certain kinds of vests and/or distinctive body armor. That might work if it's a changing pattern (e.g. one type of vest/body armor one day, a different kind the next - in coordination with ground forces) and notification of a commander if a reporter is in their area of responsibility. Maybe. I think he's got his head up his brass (generals always want more control, you can't give it to them). I think a crypto-secure IFF transponder for reporters might be better than a vest. Certainly more 'visible' to helicopters and other folks who live in the low-rez.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:05 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]




Grossman's "On Killing" has been questioned a lot recently - the data he used to make his assertions was taken from S L A Marshall's "Men Against Fire" - the statistics used were pretty much made up wholesale by Marshall. Colonel David Hackworth's "About Face" was extremely critical of S L A Marshall despite his initial respect for the man.

US policy in WWII was to keep men at the front line until dead, wounded or reduced to a nervous wreck. Combat efficiency (i.e. aggressiveness, "will to fight") in WWII had a tendency to drop with exposure to fire because eventually, the men got sick of being shot at, shelled and bombed and they stayed tucked up as best as possible, fighting only when given motivation or when they had no choice.

"On Killing" is seen in poor light in most military circles nowadays. The main reasoning in the book is fundamentally flawed as by every available piece of historical evidence, human beings haven't ever really had a problem killing one another when given motivation. It's only on reflection after the battle that most soldiers experience remorse. As to rubbish like claiming that playing CoD4 and looking down iron sights on the hexbawks 360 makes you more psychologically able to cope with killing folk, that's pish as well.

What makes killing easy is distance - physical or psychological. One comes from remote warfare and the other comes from being a sociopath. Swords and knives are not weapons for the squeamish, guns are a lot easier to use and artillery is even easier.

As Smedleyman mentioned earlier it's a touch difficult to be a sociopath in a functioning military unit without getting yourself or your colleagues in extremely hot water, psychological profiling generally picks these guys out early in the recruitment process (although that's not to say that this sort of disorder can't develop over time given a predisposition and exposure to sufficient stress).
posted by longbaugh at 1:20 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


On preview...

Smedleyman - I'd agree with you about some sort of encrypted IFF for non-combatants (be they reporters/mdeics) - a pattered body armour or armour that has a specific marking when viewed through light intensification/FLIR/thermal imaging, or when quizzed by a transponder - problem being that when the OPFOR work it out they'll manage to find a way to get hold of it during it's safe period and use it against those who are doing their best to minimize casualties.
posted by longbaugh at 1:31 PM on April 8, 2010




"problem being that when the OPFOR work it out they'll manage to find a way to get hold of it during it's safe period and use it against those who are doing their best to minimize casualties."

Yeah, I think there's no case where this will be solved by equipment alone. At least with a transponder you can shuffle up the codes and that would force cooperation while limiting interference as much as possible.
If I'm Joe News agency, all I have to ask for is the code. I don't need a squad to provide security, all that. (Some news agencies might choose that, but they don't -have- to).
So after a day or some preset period, it blanks out. Something like that. The schedule and the code is more important than the equipment.
Vests and such would be far more easy to exploit.
I just don't think anyone's thought strategically about this.
Which is a damn shame because the best possible defense against insurgency propaganda is the straight truth from an objective source - given the mission is in earnest of course.
Tough finding an objective source in the media. Even the BBC isn't 100%.

Maybe set up a news logistics corp with independent funding. Fred Voss wrote about how WWII was covered. It was for the most part comprehensive and got people involved because of its depth. Not so much an Ernie Pyle thing - but straight reportage where you have field journalists and photographers and editors and so forth who get straight hands off funding for covering military operations however they see fit (granting exceptions for OPSEC of course, but after the fact there's no reason why the entire straight story shouldn't come out).

Just too many half-truths and partial bits of evidence and so forth to get a straight story with any consistency. We pulled it off in WII. No reason we couldn't figure something out now.
Of course, even Ernie Pyle got killed in action. So it would still be a dangerous job.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:08 AM on April 9, 2010


(Also, I agree with you on Grossman. But I find I oscillate between "Wow, that's a brilliant observation, I see the exact same thing going on" And "Wait, what the hell is he talking about?"

Reminds me a bit of some of the otherwise reasonable Libertarian speeches I've heard: "We don't need smaller government - we need more oversight and accountability and transparency in spending"
Makes total sense to me.
"We will do this by wearing lederhosen and going to the state capitol and developing best practices regarding waste, fraud and abu..."
Wait, what was that second part there?
"Transparency in spending? We would develop online databas..."
No, no, the uh, lederhosen?
"Yes, short leather pants. They're available at any Haus of Bavaria. Anyway, our federal system..."
Is this a German thing, or some kind of cultural or ideological statement?
"No, no, you need the lederhosen for government accountability. Look, it's very complex, you'll have to take my word on it."
posted by Smedleyman at 9:22 AM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Best method of getting news from the frontlines? Camera phones. Be they in the hands of the soldiers or in the hands of the the people under occupation. No PR, no bullshit, just straight video from the people at the sharp end of war. The military would never allow that but eventually you know as well as I do that one day every infantryman will have a digital camera on his rifle and another on his helmet. It's not just for the Monday morning quarterbacking/AAR but for legal disputes and giving the general officers something to jerk off to.

Eventually, that footage will be on TV, same as "Police, Camera, Action!", "COPS" and "Stephen Seagal:Urban Lawman"...
posted by longbaugh at 10:33 AM on April 9, 2010


Best method of getting news from the frontlines? Camera phones. Be they in the hands of the soldiers or in the hands of the the people under occupation. No PR, no bullshit, just straight video from the people at the sharp end of war.

I think you are significantly over-estimating the value of a recording. While there is a lot of value in the unedited capture from a camera it is still possible to misconstrue and outright lie through one. A video captured of one person's experiences in one place in one direction has great possibility to fail to convey the reality of a situation.

Consider what it would look like if you walked into a room where someone was in the process of resetting someone's dislocated shoulder. A person in pain is being held down why another person yanks on their limb. A war zone has the possibility for that situational myopia times a thousand.

Mind you, I am not discounting the value of "citizen media" but I think calling unfiltered video from civilians, absent context, necessarily the "best method" is not reasonable. I think coverage INCLUDING it is critical, but it cannot be valuable on its own. I would say Smedleyman's insights into the situation we're discussing here has demonstrated quite well the things simple recording doesn't provide by itself.
posted by phearlez at 1:30 PM on April 9, 2010


Salon Radio: Spc. Josh Stieber on WikiLeaks video

"Josh Stieber is a former solider in the U.S. Army deployed to Iraq in 2007 and 2008, achieving the rank of Specialist. While deployed in Baghdad, he was in the very same Company -- Bravo Company 2-16 -- as the soldiers involved in the Apache helicopter attack depicted on the video released by WikiLeaks earlier this week."
posted by homunculus at 2:51 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Turns out there's missing video in the 38m "complete" video, in which the soldiers don't fire on a vehicle and another group of people, because they don't appear to be threats.

Or so says Gawker.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:43 PM on April 9, 2010


I don't think more coverage would hurt. Damned if I know how to get it parsed intelligibly. I do think more of it should be on t.v. More people should be involved, it's their damned military and it's supposed to be their sons and daughters. You'd think they'd demand to know what's going on.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:56 PM on April 9, 2010


Turns out there's missing video in the 38m "complete" video, in which the soldiers don't fire on a vehicle and another group of people, because they don't appear to be threats.

Or so says Gawker.


So what? They fired on this vehicle that was not a threat and killed a bunch of people.
posted by odinsdream at 7:38 PM on April 10, 2010


Well, there is the minor point of Wikileaks claiming that this was the full and unedited video, when it is in fact an incomplete and edited video.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:06 PM on April 10, 2010


It could very well be the entire video that they were given.

In any case, it sounds like you're claiming that the fact that there is other video of them not shooting people somehow has a bearing on their shooting people in the video we do see. What is that relevance?

I would argue that it's not relevant - the incident of firing on the rescuers in the van stands alone. The moral, legal and ethical implications it represents are unmodified by the fact that they did not shoot another van.
posted by odinsdream at 2:13 PM on April 11, 2010


I think they were right to shoot the van, given their understanding of the situation. I think this video shows nothing particularly extraordinary, other than how gut-wrenchingly violent and impersonal war can be.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:18 PM on April 11, 2010


Why is it right to shoot the van? What are the consequences of them not shooting the van?
posted by odinsdream at 7:40 AM on April 12, 2010






odinsdream: IMO, given the knowledge the soldiers in the aircraft had, the consequence of allowing the van to drive off would be that the insurgents would live to blow away a few more US soldiers.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:49 AM on April 12, 2010


Families of Victims of 2007 US Helicopter Killing React to Leaked Video

The reporting on this is atrocious. The only family they ever talk to are the children and their mother.

I'd also like to hear about the two adult survivors who were treated by the Iraqi EMS (according to the military docs). The man carrying the RPG seen on the film was one of the men still alive. The other men helping would also be an interesting story, since they must have been in the neighborhood. Relative of the other men killed. They keep rehashing the same story that was around when the story broke.

As far as other shocking videos, there are tons found on LiveLeaks and the sort. You can see unarmed men being shot by AC130s. You can see bombs hitting houses. You can see US soldiers looking at the cameraman as they are shot in the head by snipers. You can see men with RPGs taking shots at military vehicles. There is nothing new in this video that hasn't been available for years.
posted by FuManchu at 7:21 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]




Wikitruth or Wikifalse – "WikiLeaks, for instance, initially never made clear that one of the men targeted by the Apaches was actually carrying a rocket-propelled grenade."
posted by tellurian at 6:53 PM on April 15, 2010




Wikitruth or Wikifalse

Ahh, dig 'round the right spots on the 'net (a site where everything bad is the result of the Chinese) and you'll read a claim that the video is a staged Chinese plot.

I'm rather shocked that such a narrative hasn't gotten a foothold with the 'America Firsters'.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:29 AM on April 20, 2010


Soldier who rescued little girl in the attack gives his perspective.

Disturbing (to me, anyway) is the way in which his PTSD following the incident was handled, as well.
posted by misha at 8:22 PM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


American repentance
posted by kliuless at 11:11 AM on April 25, 2010




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