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07 April 2010

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kao_hsien_chih

Col.,

I think your last observation that the blame for the deaths of these people ultimately lies with the Bush administration is spot on.

War is ultimately messy--as would any chaotic environment where good information is scarce and a lot of dangerous materials are flying about all over the place. Bad things will happen, no matter how careful the participants are. Attempting to pin the blame on those on the scene, whether intentionally or not, often winds becoming an exercise in shifting blame away from those who are ultimately responsible for the whole mess itself--the war, especially if it were a "mistake"--to those who may or may not be directly responsible for the messy execution--even if execution is almost certainly bound to be messy by nature of the enterprise.

Cato the Censor

In a very real sense the Bush Administration itself killed these people.


That would make the members of the Bush Administration war criminals, from the chief executive down to every level of involved decision maker. How many other incidents like this happened that weren't captured on videotape? Bush and his crew are probably the worst war criminals in this nation's history. Yet due to the current dysfunctional state of extreme moral and political rot in America, they will in all likelihood go scot free for their crimes with no judgment except that in history books written when they're either dead or elderly.

BillWade

I 100% agree with Colonel Lang. It's a damn shame and it should have never happened in the first place but I would also blame the Congress for letting Bush get away with murder.

Compared to Abu Graib (sp?), this is a relatively minor incident and no fault should be placed on the shoulders of the troops.

HJFJR

Before everyone jumps on the ship of the Bush administration condemnation let put this all in perspective (BTW there is plenty to condemn but I believe that is a separate and distinct discussion). When this incident occurred Congress was controlled by the Democrats and not the Republicans, so if they has chosen to they could have cut the money off and required our troops to pull out. Moreover this incident occurred four years after our invasion where I would argue we were no longer the invader but the occupier. Second, this was at the height of the surge period when the US was just beginning to commit five more Brigade Combat Teams, it was at the height of violence in Iraq. As someone who served in Iraq (albeit on the staff of MNFI) I can tell you that engagements like this are chaotic and people are having to make split second decisions without perfect information. Third I am suspicious of leaked material that is not verified as authentic and is perhaps missing important aspect which were not recorded. What was the transmissions between the Infantry on the ground and their higher headquarters, not just between the Apache Unit and the Infantry on the ground. What other helicopters were on the scene, were their Scout birds (OH58C or D) in support of the Apaches. What was the intelligence. Fourth, my guess is there was an exhaustive AR 15-6 investigation done of this incident which for reasons known only to the Appointing Authority the Army has chosen not to release. Those reasons could be from the mundane to protecting intelligence and intelligence sources.

I am with COL Lang on this, as Sherman said, "War is Terrible." It is shame this incident happen, but it awful easy for armchairs Generals to second guess those who are being shot at, particularly if they have an ax to grind.

Phil Giraldi

Exactly. The public tends to forget that you recruit and train soldiers so they can kill people. If they are enthusiastic about their jobs some might view that as a moral tragedy but it is nevertheless what the work is all about. The criminals in this case are the politicians and media types who put those soldiers there in the first place for no good reason and fighting the type of war that can only produce horrible incidents.

JohnH

Absolutely! The "conditions of the war made this sort of thing inevitable."

And part of those conditions was the embedding journalists to write an unending stream of favorable stories. Another part was to shield the American people from any images, including coffins of dead soldiers, that might provide a clue as to the reality of war or give a negative impression of what the "good guys" were doing in their fight against "the terrorists."

We really need more of these videos to give Americans an accurate picture of the true costs of war to counter the "bring it on" bravado of the Bushies, their neocon allies, and many Hollywood war films.

Only then can we be sure that America is fighting justified wars, not just a bunch of "cool, wars of choice."

Vicente

I can't believe nobody is talking about the timing of this video's disclosure - coming weeks after Allawi's slate cleans up in nat. elections and just as the US is all but pulling up the stakes on their combat presence in the country.

Combine this with the bombings of the last week, and I am forced to conclude that someone or several persons or groups are none too pleased that Iraq has not reignited into a internicine killing field. They are doing their damndest to throw some coleman fuel on those embers, and this video's release is a part of it.

Whistleblowers my foot. Someone wanted this out, knowing what it would engender in the public eye (in Iraq, that is). The motivations are self evident.

jr786

The naqsbandiyya tell the story of a thief who was entering a house through a window when the frame slipped. He fell to the ground and broke his leg, at the precise moment the police were passing by. Hauled before the qadi, the thief acknowledged his guilt but complained that he, too, had been wronged: What about my broken leg, he asked, don’t I deserve some consideration? The qadi conceded the point and summoned the owner of the house, who in turn complained that he hadn’t built the house, after all; they brought the builder. He said it wasn’t his fault that the frame slipped but rather that of the carpenter who cut and placed it in the wall. They summoned the carpenter. He defended his skills and asserted that any clumsy job was because he had been distracted by a beautiful woman who passed by when he was installing the window. The judge patiently had the woman found and summoned. But when she heard what was going on, she asked the judge to look at her; she was hardly a beauty. She claimed it wasn’t her features that distracted the carpenter but her clothes, which she was wearing. They summoned the tailor; who in turn pointed out that clothes were just clothes; it wasn’t the cut but the colors that had turned the head of the carpenter. And this the judge could see since the woman’s clothes were truly dazzling. Having finally arrived at the real culprit, they summoned the dyer.

Who turned out to be the woman’s husband.

Him they hanged.

jr786

Forgot to mention the the dyer was the thief.

somebody

1. It is a PR desaster above else. People at home are not supposed to know what war means.
US soldiers are supposed to protect the civilian population, remember?

2. How come sone simple relevant questions are not asked, even now? This is a Baghdad residential area. Were people there warned before it was turned into a battlefield?
Would anybody have moved so casually on the street if people had been warned? How come only the two reporters are known individuals among the dead? The others must have relatives, too.

3. Seems to me the soldiers were told to shoot at anybody carrying a weapon. I guess Iraquis felt they had to be able to defend their homes. Carrying a weapon is not the legal definition of being a combatant. Or are there strict gun laws in the US?

4. No colonel, you are not allowed to shoot at an unarmed person who is trying to help an unarmed wounded person.That would qualify as murder under any circumstances.

5. July 2007 was the surge month with the least US fatalities. It is absolutely understandable that people try to make it as safe as possible for themselves. I suppose those helicopters were meant to err on the side of civilian deaths.

6. Somehow I do not share your optimism, colonel, that Afghanistan is the better war.

7. This video has made both wars futile, the US is demonstrated as incapable and unwilling of granting security to the population.

Arun

Does the discussion of incidents like this help the President, Congress people and voters understand the consequences of their somewhat ignorant decisions to go to war?

Adam L Silverman

Sir,

I just wanted to make a couple of points, one reemphasizing something you said in a previous comment thread in regard to this.
1) From what passes for news reporting: The US unit the Apaches were supporting had actually come under fire the next block over.
2) All Iraqi males (and I'm sure Green Zone Cafe can attest to this as well and all other SST readers who've been or are deployed in Iraq too) over a set age are authorized to possess one AK-47 and a set amount of ammo each month. Many Iraqis have additional weapons; some with official permits, including the local variant of carry permits (I know a local judge, some sheikhs, some council members, and several SOI leaders that all had these or were trying to get them) and it is NOT uncommon to see Iraqis walking around armed (or it least it wasn't when I was there in 2008).
3) This incident took place in 2007, at the height of the Surge. Part of the reason the Surge was needed: the Iraqis, especially in the City of Baghdad and its immediate environs (ie areas where there were mixed Sunni/Shi'a neighborhoods, as well as Arab/Kurd neighborhoods, and Muslim/Chaldean neighborhoods) were communally cleaning themselves along ethno-sectarian, ethno-linguistic, and/or ethno-religious lines. So there was a lot of high tension, Iraqi on Iraqi violence, let alone Iraqi on Coalition or Coalition on Iraqi violence.
4) This brings me to a paraphrased, semi-reiteration, and expansion of COL (ret) Lang's point from a previous comment thread: these gunship units are combat units. They are there to protect the troops, provide fire support, and kill the enemy. What far to many never realize, because it never makes it through the sound bite, Red State/Blue State parametered media is that in COINOps there are three phases (in the COIN shorthand): Clear, Hold, and Build. A good chunk of what was going on in 2007, especially in the urban environs of Baghdad City and its environs (even those in the adjacent provinces) was Clearing and Holding. These are much more kinetic and lethal phases than late stage Holding, let alone Building. Moreover, a large number of the Army leadership, both in and out of Iraq, were still coming around to GEN Petraeus's COIN guidance. For all the smart commanders or officers or senior NCOs that got it even before it was pushed forward as official policy (the MEF CDR in Anbar in 2004 who tried to cut a deal with the Sunni tribal leadership, but was shut down by Wolfowitz, LTC Nagl and his Armor Battalion, LTC Kolasheweski and his Cavalry Battalion, and many others), a lot of people were still learning to do this; and they were learning the hard way. Moreover, they often had very, very kinetic problem sets to deal with: the cleansings, interdictions of IED materials and networks, what the media calls insurgents and terrorists, but who were all too often local thugs and organized criminals using terrorizing tactics to enrich themselves, and many more.

As COL (ret) Lang wrote to expect combat personnel to simply give up a career's worth of training on how to engage in an operational sense and suddenly embrace wandering around, asking about prices in the market, and drinking tea is simply naive. Its both a testament to the quality of US forces and their coalition allies that so many were able to make the mental leap and try a new way of operating and that more of these unfortunate incidents did not happen.

RJH

"In a very real sense the Bush Administration itself killed these people."

Precisely. And aided and abetted by that administration's alleluia chorus, which included Andrew Sullivan, who now is calling the Pentagon to account for this. I guess Sullivan really believed smart bombs would make it cleaner, and, therefore, it was okay to tell lies in furtherance of his greater good (heaven on earth).

The war was not justified. That's the crime here.

Cieran

And who elected the Bush administration?

par4

It's easy to blame Bush/Cheney,yes they should be prosecuted, but ultimately in a democracy ALL citizens are responsible because it is supposed to be OUR government.

Patrick Lang

somebody

"No colonel, you are not allowed to shoot at an unarmed person who is trying to help an unarmed wounded person.That would qualify as murder under any circumstances."

Is this a moral or a legal opinion?

I'll give you an example. Let's say you are engaged with an irregular force who are not uniformed. You have knocked down several of them, and others show up to carry off their wounded and/or dead. These people are not wearing red cross arm bands nor are they otherwise marked as medical personnel in the sense of the Geneva Conventions.

You maintain that they are not legitimate targets? If you do, what is your argument? pl

R Whitman

There is no crime here. Only GI's doing their job. It could have been me 55 years ago in the US Army.(for the record I never got within 5000 miles of any combat zone).

The real error by the US Military was supressing this tape for two years. Material this embarrassing will always be leaked. There are probably many other tapes in the same vein. They need to be made public now and get this nonsense over with, otherwise we may have an"Embarrassing Leaked Tape of the Month Club".

Nancy K

I have always felt that we should not go to war against another country unless it is so needed that we do so, that we are all willing for ourselves and our children and grandchild to fight and die if need be.
Too many arm chair warriors love war, banging their chests and declaring water boarding and blanket bombing is just fine ie Rush Limbaugh and William Kristol for example.
I think all should listen to the words of one of the greatest Generals, Robert E Lee when he declared "It is well that war is so terrible or we should grow too fond of it."
Young men with adrenaline flowing can pretend that it is all a video game, but someday they will return home, and view it all in perhaps a different context. As a nurse, over 20 years as a psychiatric nurse, I heard many stories and know that war can be very terrible, to those that died, but also the living.

kd2kd

Colonel,
You are exactly right. It was the decision to begin this travesty that led to this tragedy and thousands more like it. These young men and women were/are put in extraordinarily complex situations and they did/do their best.

But where is the justice? I believe that our culture requires, at least, the attempt at justice.

Is voting the guilty out of office the only remedy? I do not feel that it is enough. Would not a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as was done in South Africa be useful? If not to punish, at least as a means of public education. Do you think that this "remedy" would be of use in America?

JoeC

Agree 100% with Colonel Lang. Saw similar actions in RVN - not the fault of the marines I served with, but the fault of those who put them in the situations they were in - although dealing with main force NVA one day and VC and booby traps the next can be disorienting.

The initial NPR report on this had some important context info (if true) -

1. This occurred very close to Sadr City in a period of serious US forces conflict with Sadr's militia; and

2. One person was apparently determined after the fact to have been carrying an AK and another an RPG.

Clifford Kiracofe

Under our Constitution, Congress declares war. This was placed into the Constitution by the Founding Fathers as a restraint on arbitrary Executive action which would drag our nation into war without due consideration of the elected representatives.

Although war was not formally declared, Congress did "authorize" the use of force which the Bush Admin used.

About 3/4 of the House and 3/4 of the Senate voted for war (force) against Iraq. Many of those members are still in Congress and have the blood on THEIR hands.

The decision to go to war is the gravest decision a nation can make. Col. Lang's point is very well taken.

Jose

Sir, these were Warrant Officers not enlistees, so they have to be held to a higher standard.

The person authorizing the additional firing was probably a Commissioned Officer, so again he must be held to a higher standard.

If you want to blame the Commander-in-Chief, you also blame the whole chain of command.

Combined with the SF fiasco in Afghanistan, this being to show a lack of discipline in out forces.

Since you serve several tours in Vietnam, do you think the stress is beginning to break our forces?

joe brand

We've been deluged for years with prattle about American troops building schools and helping Iraqi neighborhoods. And now we're stunned: Oh my God, the military is killing people! What went wrong?

Generals McChrystal and Petraeus have helped to sell the fantasy. A few officers on active duty have pushed back -- Gian Gentile comes to mind. He's engaged in a running debate with John Nagl, centered on the theme that soldiers aren't really social workers and that military institutions exist to kill the nation's enemies. High heresy in the days of the colonial constabulary -- arms are for nurturing, apparently.

WP

Colonel,

For the sake of argument, consider your comment to somebody, "I'll give you an example. Let's say you are engaged with an irregular force who are not uniformed. You have knocked down several of them, and others show up to carry off their wounded and/or dead. These people are not wearing red cross arm bands nor are they otherwise marked as medical personnel in the sense of the Geneva Conventions."

Let's take it for what the truth may be. The invaders doing the shooding invaded without provocation and used a cloak of lies to the justify a criminal invasion. The invaded country posed no real threat to the invader.
The irregular troops are patriots defending their homeland against the invaders. The irregulars were just there and not holding any weapons or doing any hostile act against the shooters. They were just there to be "eliminated."

How can the shooters, soldiers of the criminal invaders, be justtifed for killing the irregulars? Doesn't it just compound the initial crime.

Does the obvious enthusiasm in killing on the part of the shooters make any difference at all?

This is the way a large part of the world sees US in Iraq.

Cloned Poster

Ok sorry Mr Pat Lang, next time we are invaded by the USA, when we Iraq are on our knees. We will get proper stickers on our ambulance fleet.

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