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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Collateral Damage.

Baghdad: Yesterday, leaked classified video of an American chopper gunning down what appeared to be armed soldiers was released to the general public via electronic news agent Wikileaks. According to this previously encrypted video, the viewer watches as several men walk by buildings carrying what appears to be AK47’s and 1 RPG based launcher. This is watched through a high magnification lens mounted upon an afloat Apache flying some 800 meters away. As several seconds go by, we hear communication being barked between the lead chopper “Bushmaster” and other identified companies both on ground and air.

Soon, to dismiss the threat of any potential RPG attack, the lead chopper opens fire upon approximately 9 men using the mounted 30mm gun cannon. After a barrage of gunfire and deaths we watch as the helicopter circles for several minutes until an unidentified van arrives with now known, 4 individuals, two of which were children under the age of 10. A man then exists the van and drags the injured body of a man towards the vehicle.

The Apache then fires again, annihilating the van and all its occupants.

As we now find out, the men shot and killed were not Iraqi insurgents but 2 Reuters reporters and their entourage trying to capture footage for journalistic purposes. This was assumed and confirmed by their press credentials and the long lensed camera, mistaken for the previously mentioned RPG. Thus we see unintentional friendly fire within a quarantined war-zone.

According to US military assessment policy, the killings were justified under the rules of engagement and the soldiers acted under accordance with these principles as seen by these guidelines:

‘If you can identify — positively identify — an Iraqi formation and it’s coming at you, you kill it. You take it out. You do not shoot to wound,’” Lt. Gen. James Conway,

Some say, a fair engagement protocol considering the level of threat issued against these men and women during the height of extremely violent urban warfare. These soldiers assumed and made split second decisions, under strong psychological duress, against to what they perceived to be enemy insurgents. Several men, crouched by the corner of a building with what LOOKED to be an RPG in hand staring at floating choppers.

A horrendous mistake perhaps, but still actions justified under the act of self-preservation.

However, my qualm lies within the actions addressed unto the van soon after. The members who existed the vehicle did not appear to have any weapons on their body and were engaged in humanitarian action; As seen by the dragging of wounded to safety.

Nevertheless, the members of the choppers still felt it necessary to release weapons unto these medics. Why they chose to do so still boggles my mind. Could not wait and follow the van so that ground troops could intercept them? Why open fire on a retreating party? There was NO volley of engagement on ANY troop, so why eliminate a non-immediate threat this way?

I realize that the Rules of Engagement are often broad and necessarily so considering the amount of variables existent in wars such as these. But can this gray matter survive? Look, stray bullets I can understand, as I can misfire and garbled misunderstood orders. But this? Levying a target scope upon a man dragging a wounded body to safety?

Perhaps it is just war I fail to grasp.

Who is to blame for this? Should there be anyone? Are these soldiers, who by duty have to follow orders, the ones who take the hit? What about the commanding officers who issued these orders? What about the lawyers and gov’t officials who drafted these engagement procedures? What about the training regime that every soldier in the military goes through?

Do we need a scapegoat? Or just simple accountability? What type of accountability then? Forget who, but WHAT IS TO BLAME?

And they said we were a generation who just didn’t care. Fuck you.

Among those believed to have been killed in that attack were Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his driver Saeed Chmagh, 40.

Peace and One.

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