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Okay first this is disturbing to watch. I kind of felt like crying at parts of it. This is the camera footage from an attack helicopter in Iraq. In the video use see the helicopter fire on a small group of people with some of them admittedly armed. Also in that group were a pair of reporters for Rueters. Flagging them as maybe hostile was not the part i object too.

Things happen in combat and I get that, but firing on a group who is not actively perusing combat, firing on people because they are trying to help the wounded, and kids getting hit in the exchange? These guys should have been court martialed. Things happen in combat, but that does not free you of responsibility for your behavior. The military should not have lied and said reporters and children getting caught in a clear exchange of fire. Not once did anybody return fire or even try and fire. This made me sick.

I have nothing but love for the guys serving over there. They were doing a hard job in a hard place but this….this is not the honorable behavior I expect from folks representing us over there.I want them to fight and protect themselves but I want them to be better than our enemies morally as well as militarily. This is not that and someone should be held to account for it.

Originally published at McCoy's Geeky Emporium of Thought. You can comment here or there.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 6th, 2010 12:07 am (UTC)
I can see why the initial engagement occured. While unfortunate, I could see them believing they were being targeted by an RPG. The part I am not sure on is why they then engaged the van for moving the bodies. While I suppose that it was possible that the van was a threat it certainly didn't seem such in the video.

Now are the pilots/gunners to blame? They relayed the information that they believed accurately to senior command and were cleared to engage. So while unfortunate they did follow the rules.
Apr. 6th, 2010 08:58 am (UTC)
The initial engagement was an easily avoidable mistake that happened because of well know psychological factors such as priming.

The pilots where looking for hostile forces. When they see a group of people they assume it is hostile. They see a couple of people are carrying things and assume it is people carrying weapons because a hostile group must be carrying weapons. Once the pilots believe that the group is armed, the tragedy is just inevitable.

The pilots had no awareness of their own decision making process or the 'group think' mechanics that lead them to confirm each other's mistaken analysis, escalating the situation.

What failed here was the pilots training in dealing with complexity of urban, low intensity warfare. It never occurred to them that people in a war zone could be doing something innocent.

These sort of mistakes are unavoidable but they can be reduced and the easiest way to do that is feedback. Let pilots learn from other pilots mistakes.

Covering up this video, denying the killing of innocents prevents this.

If the video was released and used as training material for other pilots, the next time a pilot sees a group on the streets, they may double check their assumptions.
Apr. 7th, 2010 08:06 pm (UTC)
Doesn't this just go back to the problems of the video game generation?

Killing can become so impersonal that they just start shooting at anyone who might appear to have "red bars" above their heads.

That's what it is, y'know, a fucking videogame...
Apr. 7th, 2010 08:11 pm (UTC)
I am pretty sure Genghis Khan did not have an Xbox. Not one of the Roman legionaries ever played modern warfare one or two. This is an old story, and it predates our obsession with video games.
Apr. 7th, 2010 09:21 pm (UTC)
That may be so... but the participants are playing a video game... assuming they have much the same view as the camera we're seeing.

It's been noted by many soldiers (and Sam Harris references a Russian soldier in The End of Faith saying much the same thing) that if you don't have to kill people face to face it can even be sort of fun to kill them. Viewing live human beings through video crosshairs makes killing a game with wonderful graphics; so yes, the story is old, but the emotional detachment that exists here is a development of the video game generation.
Apr. 7th, 2010 09:38 pm (UTC)
It really isn't. In world war two and one they had similar forms of detachment. Detachment is a safety mechanism in the human mind. People have been doing it for as long as there have been terrible things to do to other people. In Russia they referred to the mongol raiders who road across the plane as Tatars. This was reference to them being from Tartarus or in other words hell. The detachment came from viewing them as not human but monsters out of hell.

The problem comes in when the detachment interferes with judgement like in this case. The person on the other side is not a person, he is the enemy. Enemies are not people. Things like this happened in Vietnam long before there was the first pong machine.

Laying this at the feet of video games is like blaming the stars or the number five. You can draw a link if you want but it is the mind finding patterns where they really mean nothing.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )



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