Thursday, March 1, 2012

An In Depth Investigation.

One of the charges I have heard in response to the 12 July incident was that it was not investigated, or that the investigations were a whitewash.  That there was a coverup or the investigators did not do due diligence.  That is simply not the case.  Thanks to Outlaw 1-3, I have two of the 15-6 investigations conducted involving the incident.  Both paint the same picture.  Both make it clear that when Noor-Eldeen leaned out he presented a clear and imminent threat form the facts the pilots had in the air.  They saw men with RPGs and they saw a guy peeking around a corner in a perfect firing position, thus they were very anxious to engage as soon as they could.  As I have stated again and again, there were no Press vests, or distinctive markings, and having a telephoto lens does not exclude you from being a target.  Why?  Because pretty much all militias by that point were filming their attacks. 

To be clear, had Noor-Eldeen and his driver been alone, they would probably still be alive.  Had he not leaned out around the corner, the Apache might've waited to fire.  Had Noor-Eldeen not been so close to the insurgents, he probably would still be alive.  Again and again I have hammered these points.  Again and again I get this "but he was a journalist" or "they shouldn't have. . . "  I am tired of people saying things they can not know.  Assange was almost gleeful about giving the US a black eye.  He's profited from this enormously, all the while doing his level best to cause as much harm as he can.  So why he is still treated like a saint is beyond me. 

What is abundantly clear from the 15-6 (referring to the regulation that covers this type of investigation) from both 1st Air Cav Brigade, and 2nd Brigade 2nd Infantry Division, is that they questioned everyone that played a major role.    They did not question Ryan Searls in the 2-2 investigation, they questioned me, but it was to ascertain treatment protocols and to see if any stone is left unturned.  Searles, would not doubt have been questioned as well, but it is my belief that the investigating officer at that point was satisfied we did our medical duty.  Had Ethan McCord played a critical role, or had he seen something that was vitally important to the investigation, some evidence that he as a non-NCO, and non-Officer, and really only a minor player in, he would have been grilled.  Had any evidence been found of actual War Crimes as defined by the Geneva Conventions  you can bet the investigating authority would have been a LOT higher.

As I have stated time and again, the Van was engaged because, for the time and place, it seemed like a threat.  This may seem strange to you, but you have to realize that Ambulances were being used as VBIEDs (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devises) Mosques were being used as torture houses and weapons Cashes.  To say the threats were fluid is a bit of an understatement.  Even kids coming up and asking for candy was (at one point) and extreme threat, because fathers would strap bombs to their kids (especially the retarded ones) and blow them up when they got near soldiers.

At the time it looked like they came as if summoned, and it looked as if they were removing evidence, or something along those lines.  They very well could have been doing just that.  We will never know, and the children have (thankfully) been left alone.  I think the last thing they need is to be pestered endlessly by Reporters or activists trying to get a scoop about wonton violence of the American Soldier, but I have no doubt that if this becomes enough of an issue some yahoo without scrupuls will track them down, force them to relive their story (tears and all), and then gleefully do a victory lap.  

I find no joy in this whole affair, there is nothing here that proves that US troops were anything but professionals under a lot of stress doing the best damn job they can.  Keep in mind that in WWII, despite claims that the Nordon Bomb-sight could drop bombs "right in the pickle barrel" in reality the accuracy was on the best days about 35%, but more often it was much lower.  The reason the bomber formations were so massive is that they required mass, an overall weight of bombs to accomplish their task.  Had this engagement happened say in 1944, you might be talking about a whole neighborhood disappearing, and in light of the threats of 1944, that would have been perfectly acceptable. 

The God-like view offered by the AH-64-D, gives a lot of people the idea that they can realistically put themselves in that seat and make the "right" decision.  This of course is absent the stress, and fear (for one's comrades on the ground) that would have been present.  Play Call of Duty again some time.  See if you can spot any civilians in the levels where you play as the AC-130.  I would be willing to bet two things 1). either they're not in the game at all or 2). even if they were you couldn't pick them out, without someone pointing it out to you.  Here's a thought try watching the video one time.  Watch it real time.  Bare in mind all the facts I've just laid out, and while your at it see if a friend has an Epi-pen, shoot yourself up with that wait 30 mins then watch it.  Chances are by that point you're feeling generally the same level of adrenalin the pilots that day were.  See if in that mindset you would make the same call.

I would be willing to bet, and I'd bet my beautiful Stang on this, that if half the people who call this a "war crime" were placed on the ground with that level of threat, they'd not only call for fire, but demand disproportionate amounts of fire.  The investigations if anything show how restrained the troops were.  When the Apaches saw Noor-Eldeen poking around the corner, they COULD HAVE ENGAGED RIGHT THEN.  They certainly felt the threat was extreme.  They waited to get a clear shot.  This is not the act of brutal thugs.  Keep in mind they could have killed Noor-Eldeen about three times before they got permission to fire.  Given the time, given the circumstances, I believe that the Soldiers on the Ground and in the Air did their duty to the best of their ability.  They did it in a professional manner, and I still can not fault Crazyhorse 1-8 or 1-9 for what they did that day. 


Anonymous said...

Mr Medic - My confusion over the incident are these:-

The first incident i.e. the camera man being shot very few describe as a war crime - it is a mistake but having listened to Mr McCord's account in which he pointed out RPG's and AK-47's within the crowd - under military law there was a justified right to engage. I do believe the shooter in the audio did believe the camera was a weapon at the moment he called it out.

The second incident with the van is what I find more disturbing. The van in the 15-6 report is cited as black when it is blue (after photo's/reuter's news article show this), the person (reuter's driver) lying on the ground is incapacitated and is identified from the helicopter as having no weapon in the audio. Under war law to hit a person twice is "double tapping" - i.e. if he does not pick up a weapon or pose a threat. My point is this - when the helicopter radio's in they say "they are picking up weapons and bodies". At that moment they were trying to help the injured guy but were not seen picking up weapons. Is this not a misleading statement to make to a commanding officer. If they picked up the injured party "only" is this a justified reason to engage under military law? If the answer is yes please explain the logic from a legal perspective so I might understand.

Leading on from this "Did the van have weapons when searched after?"

As for the children they have been interviewed by Al Jazeera English along with their mother and uncle. Their account is that their father was taking them to school and they stopped because they saw the injured man.

The family of the Reuter's driver and photographer were also interviewed by Al Jazeera and a Dutch documentary. When asked about the person carrying the RPG in the crowd they state it was to protect the mosque. Mr McCord states they were too far from the mosque for this to be logical and should not of had an RPG fullstop.

What no account has covered is who were those carrying weapons and for what purpose. It is not in the 15-6 report (that only seems to focus on the question of the children).

Anonymous said...

In the first engagement, there was a guy with an AK, potentially a defensive weapon, but under the circumstances, more likely an offensive weapon, and the RPG was definitely an offensive weapon. Occasionally, reporters and photographers go out with combat units although they are not present in a combat role, and they bear the risk of being targeted along with the rest of the combat unit, so when they got shot up with the rest of the group, that was unfortunate but legit. Same case for the unarmed people in the group.

The war crime didn't occur until the van showed up to pick up the wounded guy on the sidewalk. This second engagement violated Chapter I Art. 3. "In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:
(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including ... those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, ...
To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for."

The person being picked up by the van was obviously wounded, so the second engagement was a pretty obvious war crime under the part of the Geneva Convention cited above.

Anonymous said...

In addition, in the second firing incident in the first engagement, the helo crew was shooting wounded people although it's doubtful any of them was living at that point, so that's a potential violation as well.

The Mad Medic said...

Annon, I'm going to have to disagree with your Barracks Lawyer assessment. Here is why:

1) Ambulances must be MARKED, or they are still legitimate targets (and if they are used as weapons at any point that protection disappears in the Area of Operations [AO])

2) Even while removing wounded JAM and other insurgent forces have used similar tactics to reinforce positions, and also to remove key intel from the area. Again see above. When legitimate humanitarian actions are used as cover for military actions all protection disappears.

3) The term "war crime" is used so loosely that most people think simply firing your weapon in combat is a "war crime". The very nature of an insurgent enemy means that the normal "rules" of war will be altered greatly. Also you have to show a pattern of behavior, and that the intent was malicious (and that definition is actually very exacting in Wartime situations) that there was clear knowledge that the target was protected, or that there were children inside. Even if there had been knowledge of the children, they were still a legitimate target.

4) lastly rounds will go astray, civilians will be accidentally targeted. There will be friendly fire. War is chaos incarnate, and mistakes can be made while looking at a 3" TV screen while circling over dangerous areas, while your Brothers in Arms are under threat on the ground. They probably should have let the van go, but for the time and place they erred on the side of "caution". Being on the ground I'd rather they had done that then let an insurgent roll right up my ass with a VBIED (admittedly as we were in a Shi'a area that was less likely)