The 12th of July. For many it is an insignificant date. For me, well it's a reminder that war is a confusing condition. That innocent and guilty are hard to tell in a shooting war. As the events of 12 July 2007 fade into the grey fog of history. The heat of the day has faded, as has some of the furor surrounding the events that occurred in a small district of New Baghdad.
I've talked at length as to what happened that day. I've written essays, and accounts. I've compiled eyewitness testimony and documentary evidence. Despite that people who were never involved in anything to do with what happened that day have lectured me, someone who was actually there, on what happened. They've told me what soldiers on the ground or soldiers pulling overwatch felt. People who never put on an IBA have told me all about my motivations, not realizing the person they're talking to was actually there.
At one point I had the distinctly odd experience of someone pointing to two pictures that actually had me in it to emphasize a point. It kind of took me out of the argument for a moment, and I looked at the person, and asked them if that was a joke. Needless to say I had him zoom in on the picture that actually showed my face and told him clearly he didn't know what he was talking about. That particular individual was somewhat shaken, but still stuck to his guns. So let us sit upon the ground and tell the sad tale of the death of soldiers.
In war, information is always chaotic. Those making decisions, or reacting to the situations presented rarely have the best view. A rifleman on the ground may see something suspicious, but be unable to make the company commander aware of it because he is busy trying to coordinate his company. But, say people, there's video. Yes. There's a video, but what the video doesn't show is at least as important as what it does. You won't see the soldiers on a rooftop firing a grenade launcher at the reporter. You won't see how utterly impossible it is to tell who is inside a van from a 5 inch screen while flying in a helicopter. You won't see the contacts that happened around the event, or the reason the TIC call was made prior to the gunships arrival.
What's most important, is that you con't tell what individuals did that day. You can't tell what was said or felt. You can't tell who is a medic, or an infantryman. You can't tell who is a FiSTer and who is an intel attachment. If you know what to look for you may be able to tell officers and NCOs, and even tell them apart, but rarely does anybody that hasn't lived that life be that perceptive. There is a video that offers a quick snapshot of a much larger fight. It's ugly. It's to look at. But ultimately the real tragic part of the video is that rather than people trying to understand what happened they they to use this video as justification for their world view.
Were the soldiers heartless? Is killing like a video game? Not in the slightest. This video didn't prove that soldiers are thugs anymore that it proved that we're saints. It proves that in war, sometimes "getting it right" is next to impossible. The Apache gunner keeps shooting even as one person flees, but what you miss are the hundreds of suicide vests, and the harsh reality that with insurgency, mercy is rarely a boon. You also see a judgement call. Was it a mistake to shoot the van? Not entirely. But again I've spoken on that to death.
I'd like to think that in the end everyone was able to move on. Truth is I think people are still dying because of this day. I know at least one has committed suicide, and I'm afraid to ask how many more have. I think for my part I'd like to put this day to bed. I don't want to talk about it anymore. I don't want to defend my actions that day to people who wouldn't understand the first thing about warfare. I don't need to justify myself or my beliefs to anyone. I was there. I saw what I saw. You can read exactly what I saw in the 2nd Bde 2 ID official 15-6 investigation. You can read it if you want.
Most of you that had your passions stirred will go on. Most of you have already forgotten it. I won't. I'll live with the memories of that day forever. Its just what happens, but I think it is time and past time to put this episode to rest.