I'm an American. Today Wikileaks has released a video that is difficult to watch. It raises my blood pressure. Emotionally it's infuriating. I'm trying to hold a rational position to understand how this could happen and consequently what is wrong and how do we fix it. I'm not a soldier. I've never been a soldier. So my questions are clearly from ignorance, and that's part of why I want to discuss it. So if you are a soldier, or have been and can explain, please engage. For those whom would want to react, please allow the discussion to happen. I'm in shock myself, I'd just like to make sense of this.

The story can be found here along with a 17 minute video. The basics are Reuters has some journalists gathering and about to go out on assignment in "New Baghdad". They are assembled and the camera bags strike some attack helicopter pilots as AK-47's. They only see the shoulder straps and clearly no weapon, but identification is swift. The immediately request permission to engage and fire upon the group. As they are getting permission one photographer leans around a corner kneeling down and is snapping pictures. They identify it as an RPG. As they circle back around they unload killing everyone. The sole reason is the shoulder straps look like AK-47's. 

Again, not a soldier, I don't know how it is. But is this really the level of interaction that is needed for our Rules of Engagement to permit firing on a unknown group? Would we be better off with a stricter standard or would that endanger our soldiers? It strikes me that we are there to free the Iraqi's but if a shoulder strap is worthy of the death penalty, what have we freed them from? Can't we do better? 

There is much more to this story. I don't want to blather on while you can see it in the video. How can you reconcile this video with what you would have us doing over there? Who isn't bothered by this and why? I'm not looking to judge you. I'm asking in hopes of understanding and not over-reacting. It's been a while since I could feel my blood pressure raise due to a video. At minute 10, I was flush and angry, and saddened, and embarrassed. I need help to understand this..

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I think that you are right. That is the saddest commentary on our news that I have ever heard too. Reddit has a link to this picture that speaks volumes to me.

Yes, Adriana, but the important question is "does Tiger Woods have an iPad yet"?
You guys are just lucky he isn't moving into your area. All I've heard for the past week is about the completion of his new home. It's so damn annoying, as if anyone here cares about his house.
He's moving near you? What's his house like? ;-)
It's giant, and all the news stations were curious if it would still be built despite the sex scandal. Don't worry, people are working on it, we can expect it to be finished in the coming year I believe.
First thing I want to say is that I didn't get a chance to watch the full video yet. I saw about the first 3-4 minutes, I plan to watch the rest later. I just wanted to make that known as something later in the video could change my opinions.

For me, trying to look at this from the soldier's perspective I don't see that much wrong with what happened in the clip. This is the kind of thing that happens when you're facing an enemy that doesn't wear a uniform. It's a sad side effect of the type of urban, guerilla warfare that encompasses the majority of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The shoulder straps could legitimately be mistaken for gun straps if you can't clearly see the cameras they are attached to and one of my biggest reactions was "Holy shit! That really DOES look like a frickin' RPG" when I saw the guy with the super long lens. When you're in combat like that, the 30 seconds to a minute it takes to identify whether it's really a weapon or not could be the difference between life or death. Frankly, I probably would've reacted the same way if my life was on the line.

Where the problem arises is the US military's reaction to what happened. It's the same thing we always get - cover it up at all costs and if anything gets out then deny, deny, deny. This was a major, major fuck up. Period. Point blank. No other way to slice it. This is the reality of war. Mistakes happen and in war those mistakes can cost people their lives. This is the dark underbelly of warfare that the American military seeks to shield the public from at all costs. This type of thing isn't good for the PR machine. Stuff like this tends to turn the public off to the idea of war and that's not good for the military. So they lie and cover it up. THAT is the part that disgusts me. Not the group of 20-somethings in a life or death struggle that had to make a split-second decision and ended up making the wrong one. The disgusting part is the 40 and 50 something generals that made a conscious decision to try to hide this from the public eye and pretend nothing bad happened for the sake of keeping the public on their side and keeping the war machine rolling.

The sad thing is that now that this has gone public there will be consequences. But it won't be the generals that decided to cover everything up that'll face the media firing squad. It'll be those poor kids that were put in an impossible situation and reacted exactly the way they were trained to. That's the real travesty in all this (aside, of course, from the horrible loss of innocent life)
This is basically the exact reaction I had Sabre. Personally as someone who has a sister and a cousin in the marine corps, and another cousin who just got out of the marines, I see nothing wrong here. Baghdad is in the middle of a war zone. This war zone has people who look like they are talking on cell phones killing you because that cell phone was actually a detonator for the IED right next to your feet. These men saw people who, from up in a helicopter, appeared to present a threat to them and their comrades on the ground. This time they made a mistake, next time they might be dead because they second guessed themselves on the identification.

Personally I think this is why there needs to be a serious global effort on reporters side to figure out a way to still report but also not be capable of being mistaken for a possible soldier. If the insurgents aren't going to wear uniforms, how about the reporters? All reporters in a hot zone wear a bright pink uniform when out reporting, or something along those lines.
Sorry for my rant, but here goes...

Welcome to the new reality of warfare. Chivalry is a thing of the past. Knowing beyond a doubt who the combatants are is a thing of the past. Having access to the "whole story" may be difficult/impossible. Soldiers/Marines are aware that their decisions may very well be scrutinized by groups with their own agendas. I know that they are already taught about legal/illegal commands and consequences. Generally, I feel the more media coverage of our military actions the better. Only where it can put our troops in danger do I draw the line. I've always hated how a lot of Americans are buffered from the realities of war. It is a nasty/horrible business and nasty/horrible decisions will be made, with nasty/horrible consequences. Not showing the coffins of our dead returning was an INSULT to the families and to all Americans. Was Bush trying to hide something? (Sorry, as an ex-military officer this is a real hot button with me) We as Atheists pride ourselves with our reason and logic. We need to apply that to this as well.

I remember when my daughter was in college and one day she came home ranting about a story she had just read about a military atrocity in Afghanistan. The story ran something like this: An American Ranger unit was in charge of a group of Afghans that massacred 250 prisoners. The prisoners were machine-gunned until all were dead. They ended the story by demanding that the Rangers be tried as war criminals. A couple of things struck me odd and I asked my daughter to see if she could get more info. Ranger units are more advisors and are not put in charge. Who was really in charge of Afghans? Rangers generally work in small groups. Where did the story come from?

To make a long story short...the Ranger unit consisted of 5 people, the Afghan group consisted of ~100 that was commanded by a local Warlord. Evidently the Warlord had a beef the Taliban. The Rangers did not participate in the killings of the prisoners and there was no way that 5 Rangers could stop 100 Afghans from killing them. The story came from a local socialist newspaper (University of Minnesota) that admitted that they wanted to emphasize the atrocities that were occurring and had left out some details. I was surprised that they admitted this, but good for them.

My daughter learned a valuable lesson from this. Gather as much info as you can from many sources to get the facts, and even then be a little skeptical. BTW, I did tell my daughter that if the Rangers were involved in the killing then they should be strung up by their balls.
I feel the more media coverage of our military actions the better. Only where it can put our troops in danger do I draw the line. I've always hated how a lot of Americans are buffered from the realities of war. It is a nasty/horrible business and nasty/horrible decisions will be made, with nasty/horrible consequences. Not showing the coffins of our dead returning was an INSULT to the families and to all Americans.


It is our conflict, it should be in our faces everday. I don't say that in some naive, peacenik manner. I say that because I believe people should be aware of what is going on. From the brutality of a war their government and young people are involved to the slaughtering process that gets their meat to the market. American's are probably the most out of touch people in the world.

My daughter learned a valuable lesson from this. Gather as much info as you can from many sources to get the facts, and even then be a little skeptical.

Good advice. Only, I would tell her to be more than a little skeptical. :-)
Part of the problem I see with this, regardless of our impressions from watching the video. is that by covering it up, we are ensuring that no one corrects for these mistakes and that they will happen again.

My impression after watching the 17 minute video was that there was an eagerness to kill these men and an eagerness to jump to the conclusion that this was an RPG. The men were behind a building when the "RPG" was spotted. If the crew were in range and felt threatened, then that is one thing. But, if they were not, then this was not excusable. I don't wish to see those responsible serve prison terms for murder, but I would like to see this be used as a lesson to better train future troops.

And using the excuse that "war is hell" or "this is the reality of war" does not placate me. There was no reason for them to fire upon the vehicle that stopped to help a wounded and unarmed man. The gunner (I presume) was pleading out loud for the man to pick up a weapon so that he could finish him off. When the van arrived, they had their excuse and embellished (intentionally or unintentionally) enough to get permission to engage again. "War is hell" does not excuse this. If those were Americans on the ground and the gun crew were Iraqi, I gaurantee you that no one in the U.S. would dismiss this incident as being "the reality of war".
he Rules of Engagement and the Law of Armed Combat do not permit combatants to shoot at people who are surrendering or who no longer pose a threat because of their injuries.

Hence the pleading for them to pick up a weapon.

The understanding here is that such people are clearly designated as noncombatants—by wearing a prominently displayed red cross, or red crescent, on their persons, for instance—or who are obviously civilians. A “positively identified” combatant who provides medical aid to someone amid fighting does not automatically lose his status as a combatant, and may still be legally killed.

Nothing was positively identified, nor were they obviously civilians.


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