I have delayed for a long time writing about this. I like to keep my blog off topics that are current, the reason is that I don't like getting dragged into debates that are going to turn into petty and really pointless mud slinging fights. The events surrounding 12 July 2007, are just one of those fights. One only needs to see the name of the gunship footage Wikileaks gave. "Collateral Murder" indeed. It pissed me off then, and it pisses me off now that so many people buy into this meme of American Service Members as thuggish brutes that love to slaughter innocents.
So I have a dog in this fight. Sue me. I also absolutely despise groups like IVAW, and World Can't Wait. Not because they're anti-war. To be honest I don't know anyone whose been to war and is pro-war. I despise them because they tell half-truths or outright lies to tug at the heart strings of people who are not in the know. Seeing as there are only 1.5 Million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in America (which is a little less than half a percent of the total US population) every time a jumped up yahoo pops up and talks about how "wrong" the war was or "360 degree fire" or "free fire zones" they're taking things that the public has no possible frame of referance for, so far out of context that the truth isn't just bent, its shattered.
"Truth is the first casualty of war" they say. Shouldn't it bother them that they are so willing to lie then? For my part my only interest is the truth. Washington Post writer David Finkle called us "The Good Soldiers". It is my firm belief that 2nd Battalion 16th Infantry Regiment were the very best of soldiers. Sliced off from our parent brigade (4th IBCT 1st ID) which itself had been treated like a red headed step child (light units in Mech Divisions don't mix) which had a pretty rough deployment themselves (2-32 FA commander lost both legs, 1-28 got hit pretty hard and Quarter Cav wasn't faring much better). We were given a sector of "New" Baghdad that had never had US or Coalition troops in it since the beginning of the war. The mission was simply put, get in their faces. Put as much pressure as we could on the militia, give the IA time to train up, and get confidance.
In one way this was very much like Vietnam, and the "Vietnamazation" program Nixon had started, but unlike Vietnam, there would be no raids into foreign countries to stop the flow of weapons, and there would be no large force on force battles. This was the fight that Gen Abrams had to fight, and this time we had all the tools he wished he had. Imagine what a flight of AH-64-D's might have done in Vietnam. Their command of the battlefield is such that they can pick out things like AK-47s from almost a half mile away. We had a ton of shitty missions. We executed like professionals.
Now the war is over and in a lot of ways we're still fighting it. It is my accretion that despite what may leaders of this very government said publicly or otherwise, we won. We won through the blood sweat and tears of the troops on the ground, that refused to give up. I am proud to have been a part of that history, to have been counted among their number.
As for July 12th 2007. There are a lot of issues present. So I'm going to take them one by one.
1). First of all, it doesn't matter if Noor-Eldeen, and Chmagh, were legitimate Press. There was nothing identifiable that they were at the time of the incident. They were not wearing distinctive vests, or have any kind of markings that could be clearly seen. That they were carrying cameras with telephoto lenses does not in itself give the Apaches reason to pause. JAM, and really nearly all militias would include their own press photographers, and more than once these individuals have been killed in the course of legitimate operations. Their overall familiarity with the insurgents shown and the close proximity, makes them a legitimate target.
2). Noor-Eldeen leaning around a corner to get pictures may not in and of itself represent a hostile act, but the fact that he was in a perfect firing position (as his pictures show) to destroy a HMMWV makes it clear that he was a threat. I know a lot of civilians can not wrap their minds around this one but if that had been the RPG tube (which its only really able to be seen after the fact with much enhancement) he could have had a catastrophic kill on that vehicle.
3). Noor-Eldeen's position was already receiving fire in the form of 40 MM grenades from an M-203. A number of soldiers were occupying rooftops while on Obj Silver and the only reason he was still alive when the Apaches fired is that these grenades detonated on the myriad of wires that constitute the Power System in Baghdad at the time. had the Apache not killed him, he would have died anyway when the Infantry assaulted through.
4). the Van that came on scene came a little too quickly, and to many observers that day seemed to come as if summoned. Two military aged males jumped out and started loading bodies. When Crazyhorse asked permission to fire again, they were questioned by the acting 1SG of Bravo Company, if they were loading Bodies or Bodies and Weapons. From their position the Apaches confirmed bodies and weapons. To be very clear, had it just been bodies the Bushmaster elements WOULD HAVE DENIED PERMISSION TO ENGAGE. The second one of those males picked up a weapon and put it in the van (not seen in the video) they became a legitimate target IAW to the standing ROE at the time.
5). Had Crazyhorse not engaged, then the eventual Infantry Assault would have undoubtedly caused secondary casualties. Even the best, most well trained troops can not prevent rounds going astray.
6). one of the most telling things about this whole incident is that there are three distinct engagements in the full 30 minuet video. The first the reporters and accompanying insurgents are killed, the second the van is disabled and the two military aged males in it are subsequently killed, the third, a bunch of clearly well armed, clearly militiamen are walking into a building and that building is engaged with Hellfire missiles. To my knowledge this is almost completely forgotten or left out of the "discussions" about what happened that day. It is rather telling that this engagement is COMPLETELY LEFT OUT by the people who wish to make the case that the Soldiers were hopped up on testosterone, getting their rocks off by killing kids.
7). The children were treated by one of the very best medics I have ever known, and transported to FOB Loyalty, where they went on to the 28th CSH. AMEDD may have some real screw balls at the top, but its Doctors Nurses and Medics are first rate. they were given better care that you would be if you had received a similar injury stateside (say hit by a drunk driver). I, as 2nd Platoons Medic, gave care to two men who perhaps 15 minuets earlier were trying to kill me and mine. Had I been killed, or any of my buddies been killed they STILL would have been treated to the best of the ability of whoever treated them. I have yet to see or hear of any of the Militias, or Terrorist forces doing the same.
8). Jaysh al-Mahdi were bad. As bad as they come. They had Iranian support in material, training, and even direct action support. The Quds, Iranian Special Operation forces from the Revolutionary Guard are the very worst, and were directly supporting and in some cases leading JAM militants against American forces. They were smart lethal and cruel. I treated a boy that had been drug out of his home kicking and screaming in full view of his mother, doused with gasoline and lit on fire. This boy was perhaps 8 or 9. What sin had this boy committed? None as far as the Terp who questioned the mother could ascertain. If Noor-Eldeen could be so easy in such company, is he really a loss? I personally think not.
Now I am going to state again, for all to hear, that my concern is the truth. I don not care for personal Glorification. I know one Blue Falcon has already received "Peace Awards" and been called all sorts of heroic things because he "spoke out" or broke the cone or cube or box or rhombus of silence. There is no institutional reason soldiers do not talk about such things, rather, for me personally I don't talk about it because it forces me to relive the worst month of my life. Craig died on the 25th of June, then this shit happened, then Harrelson died, and 4 others were injured 5 days after this event. So its totally cool when people bring it up and call me and mine all sorts of vile crap. By July 20th, I was ready to lay down and die (literally). It took one of the best NCOs I've ever had smoking the ever loving dog shit out of me to get my head back in the game. I do not deserve Glory, or to be called a Hero. Save that for a man who just turned 19, and lost his life. Save that for a man who only saw his baby daughter one time before he died.
Thank you for writing that. I've blogged a little about my time in Baghdad, but really only scratched the surface, and when I did, enough time had passed.
Very good piece!
I rarely comment, but I completely agree with what you have to say. Just pay attention to what Washington wants to do with the Military pay and benifits to realize just how far out of touch the general public is from us. I'm a SFC in Afghanistan, 19D, and although I wasn't there with you, I understand and empithize. My unit was in Baghadad, Kark District. Keep up the good fight, protect your brothers, don't give up. Your not alone.
I have seen the video. My layman impression was the weakest link from the mils are bad pov is the van engagement by a longshot. I think a fairly high number of civilians will view it as the wikileakers intended. The first and third engagements seemed pretty clear cut.
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