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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It seemed obvious to me that they were not an imminent threat. Maybe I need to watch it again. He said they were moving "bodies and weapons", but I don't recall seeing anyone moving weapons. Maybe I missed it, but this guy was obviously ramped up and ready to kill.

I realize that there is a dehumanization of "targets" and that this training allows people to override their aversion to killing other humans, but there needs to be better judgement on determining targets from non-threatening humans. This seems to be such a case.
Here is where it gets really nasty. The people coming to "collect and care" for the wounded could not be distinguished from combatants. Everyone was in civilian clothes. Even the van did not have any marking, like a red crescent or anything that could be interpreted as "ambulance". I am not trying to dismiss the tragedy of this. This goes to the point I was making about the new reality of warfare. The "fog of war" has gotten oh so much more dense in the last thirty years and it will get worse. I don't know what the answer is. I hope someone much smarter than I can figure this out soon.

As to Reggie's point of how callous the gunner/pilot were...I agree. Many soldiers get that way in combat. It is a self-preservation technique; something to help keep you half-way sane in an insane situation. Remember, everyone is committing mass murder all over the place. Sane people have to be able to cope with that. Many don't...suicide rates are high, PTSD rates are high. In this case, the people on the ground were combatants with AKs and RPGs. When the gunner was pleading; "just pick up a gun", he was was essentially saying "I am following my training on the rules of engagement, but if you pick up a gun you are showing me that you are a danger to my buddies on the ground and I will kill you before you can do the same to them". Nasty, horrible business this war stuff, isn't it?
I agree with that. That is why I think there should be better training (Americans receive some of the best), but also plenty of counseling and help for troops who see combat and allow them to readjust to civilian life when their tour is over. Everyone in America says they support the troops, but I disagree. There is no good reason why War Vets should have higher casualties at home than in war zones.
I see nothing wrong with their eagerness to finish off their enemy. The mentality is kill or be killed. For every person I do not kill, I risk the life of the man sitting next to me. I completely understand their actions as someone who has family over in Afghanistan now. If I found out that a soldier couldn't pull the trigger, I would want him to be removed from action and be replaced with someone who will.
And for every family they massacre, more join the ranks of resistance and that leads to more American (and Iraqi) deaths.

Really, you don't see that? For every person you don't kill, you may be SAVING American lives. This isn't a video game where we can kill everyone with no repercussions.
It is a war zone though, and if you are shooting at people who you think are enemy combatants then you want to kill them, it's simple as that. There is no "oh but they might have a family" going on there. The entire situation is that there are people with weapons and they are going to use them. If they survive this battle they will come after me again.

These soldiers saw a threat, this time it was a sad case of mistaken identity, next time it may not. There is nothing we can do to try and distinguish civilians from the insurgents and that is the sad part of this. There will be more civilian deaths in the future because we wont be able to identify the people as long as the insurgents choose to continue to pose as civilians.

Really, you don't see that? For every person you don't kill, you may be SAVING American lives. This isn't a video game where we can kill everyone with no repercussions

No I do not, and I can't see how you can see it like that. It's not a situation where the man I just failed to kill is just going to go skipping along and forget about the conflict. The man is going to be in some other battle someplace else trying to kill anyone else who is fighting against him. In this war it maybe that I just killed the guy holding the detonator for the IED that's planted along the road where many of us travel.

If we could identify everyone we saw in this particular war, you would never hear about anything like this. Sadly we can't, so there are going to be civilian deaths due to fearful soldiers seeing a situation and coming to the wrong conclusion.
These soldiers saw a threat, this time it was a sad case of mistaken identity, next time it may not. There is nothing we can do to try and distinguish civilians from the insurgents and that is the sad part of this. There will be more civilian deaths in the future because we wont be able to identify the people as long as the insurgents choose to continue to pose as civilians.

I don't dispute the realities of urban warfare. However, when steps are not taken to reduce civilian casualties, then you will have a bigger issue of native support for the insurgency. This is also a sad reality of urban warfare. To the credit of the United States armed forces and her allies, much is done to reduce civilian casualties. I don't think enough was done here, but again, I admit to not being familiar with any extenuating circumstances.

No I do not, and I can't see how you can see it like that. It's not a situation where the man I just failed to kill is just going to go skipping along and forget about the conflict. The man is going to be in some other battle someplace else trying to kill anyone else who is fighting against him. In this war it maybe that I just killed the guy holding the detonator for the IED that's planted along the road where many of us travel.

You can't assume that they are the enemy. They may be, but if they are not a threat, then you cannot just kill people because you think that they might be. With that attitude, you will assuredly increase civilian casualties, and that way you increase resentment in the native population. If the people in the van had weapons or operated in any way that suggested they were a threat, then I can understand. But shoot first and ask questions later is not a good policy when there is no threat.

Playing the "what if" game is stupid. If my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle.

I'll put reality and observation against a million "what if's", and I bet that I come out ahead by a large margin. If these guys were under some threat, then fine. But it doesn't appear that after the initial salvo, that they or any other friendly's in that area were under threat from these men.

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