This is war also: U.S. bombing civilians in Iraq

My thanks once again to the comrades at RAIMD for attracting my attention to more footage from the U.S. war against Iraq — in particular, the aerial bombardment of a “group of individuals” (no arms mentioned or visible, and not engaged in anything other than running down a road), during that vast war crime known as the conquest of Fallujah in 2004. (Previous discussions around videos from Iraq appeared here and here.)

That is the violence of the imperial state. Contrast that now with the anarchist and other protesters’ violence in Greece — has there been any mention of them killing anyone? Has any policeman been killed in retaliation for a policeman’s senseless murder of a young boy, or the cruel beating of another in front of horrified onlookers?

Instead what we see is news of this kind: the giant Christmas tree outside parliament in Athens was torched; shops have been set on fire; trash bins and mailboxes were set alight; buildings were set ablaze. This is violence against property, against capital, against things, in response to state terror.

Pick your poison. I have.

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8 thoughts on “This is war also: U.S. bombing civilians in Iraq

  1. I would hope you realize that the youtube clip is an example of shoddy journalism. They present the engagement as unfolding in 32 seconds. That’s some selective editing there. They don’t discuss the initial check-in of the F-16 with the JTAC, the target description, location, the “line-up” call from the F-16 discussing his weapons and fuel status, the directions from the JTAC on best approach and egress, nearest friendly and neutral positions, hazards to flight and possible defenses in the area, and all the other items that ANY request for close air support involves. They terminate the tape before the damage assessment is given.

    One can argue in good faith the advisability of using close air support in an urban environment, but that isn’t what this clip is. This is a hit-job. I suspect that the Air Force Press officer’s email was not quoted in its entirety. And the fellow from Jane’s seems to have absolutely no comprehension of the control procedures used in directing air support. We are only seeing half the picture here.

  2. By the way, thanks for visiting and commenting.

    You seem to be someone who is quite knowledgeable of the procedures and tactics. So I will just go ahead and assume that everything you say about what was not shown is absolutely correct.

    What does not make sense is how…
    * the initial check-in of the F-16 with the JTAC
    * location
    * the “line-up” call from the F-16 discussing his weapons and fuel status
    * the directions from the JTAC on best approach and egress
    * nearest friendly and neutral positions
    * hazards to flight and possible defenses in the area
    …all amount to a “take them out” decision about people who are not firing, have no apparent weapons, and with what seems to be shoddy and rushed description at best. How does any of what you list amount to avoiding targeting civilians? Do you know the actual description that was given in detail, since you claim this was edited selectively? That’s what we would need to know.

    Having given you the benefit of the doubt on routine procedures, I am giving the footage shown the benefit of the doubt on the apparent lack of care taken in avoiding civilian fatalities at all costs, which is what military spokespersons routinely like to claim. In fact, most of what you outlined has nothing to do at all with avoiding civilian casualties, which is very interesting to me.

    We are seeing only half the picture here, agreed. The other half was left lying on the ground in pieces.

    I might have bought the implicit suggestion that the media had some axe to grind here. I might have bought that, but only if they had shown themselves as anything other than gung-ho about the war in the first place, and only if they had not chosen (as CNN, NBC, etc.) to hire the Barry McCaffreys of the world to do their “expert analysis.” (See http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/30/washington/30general.html)

  3. Max, my point is that the information would have been on the original gun camera footage. It would shed light on whether this was a valid engagement or not. Whether that footage ever was released by the AF is unknown. Without it, the propriety of the engagement is somewhat unknowable, but that didn’t stop the news from strongly implying that the engagement was against unarmed neutral noncombatants.

    I have my suspicions of how the engament went. Merely being unarmed doesn’t mean you aren’t a combatant. I suspect the group had engaged from one position and threw down their weapons and fled, either to displace to another fighting position, or to disperse to engage another day. That would still leave them valid targets under the law of war. I don’t know this, but I strongly suspect it.

    My point is that given the information provided in the news clip, we can’t know. And who has the control over what information was included in the clip? Well, the news broadcaster.

    As to the culpability of news organizations hiring retired officers as experts, where else are you going to find experts? There are few people that understand warfare that haven’t practiced warfare.

  4. Thanks again, I appreciate the commentary you are providing.

    The last point you made certainly seems valid. I think the concern was that such individuals have an agenda that goes beyond straightforward explanation of tactics, and so forth. But you’re right, it would be impossible to get any analysis of your side’s tactics without seeking the inputs of the people who have “been there” and “done that.”

    I think we diverge on the other points because of the amount of shaded areas in the information that was released. I also suspect that it will be many years before we ever really get to know what happened.

  5. Wait a moment…

    “I’ve got numerous individuals on the road. Do you want me to take them out.”

    “Take them out.”

    The narrator says the pilot was INSTANTLY told that. There is no assessment process going on here at all. We hear the pilot being told instantly to take them out…and there is no skip in the timer on the cockpit video itself, in the bottom right hand corner.

    Sorry, but I think there is less room for doubt that first seemed possible. And this is just one incident. The use of white phosphorous and cluster bombs in civilian areas must have been done knowing that, certainly, civilians would be killed.

  6. I would like to point out three things that are essential in proving this is not a video a the USAF targeting civilians.
    First, this news clip was done from a clearly biased anti-american sense, and as it is not illegal to lie on the news (shockingly its not) one can reasonably assume that the News station was just jumping on the Anti-war bandwagon and decided 2 distort a few facts.
    Second, the fact that the clip is so short and does not go over the pilot covering targeting procedures shows that it has something to hide. First, no US pilot would be caught dead disregarding these procedures because when constroversy arises,such as this, it is critical that all steps were taken properly. Also, by saying the statement, or suggesting it, that the pilot just seen a group of people 30 or so large moving through narrow city streets while flying hundreds of miles an hour with his camera zoomed in to just about 100 feet off the ground is almost completley impossibe. The fact that the camera was already zoomed to this location shows that some kind of air combat controler on the ground guided the pilot there. And by saying he bombed civilians that he just happened to spot with his camera ALREADY fixed on their location is completley stupid. This guy doesnt have time to scan the streets 100 feet or closer at a time, he goes in with a set of coordinates, types them in then locks the bombs. Honestly, does anyone actually believe the pilot spotted these himself and then automatically got clearance.. really think about it.
    Third, the way the group moves shows it is not all as innocent as it seems. First they hug walls and move in a constanct tight formation. If they were civilians why would they all be so close in the middle of a massive battle, wouldnt they be taking cover, scattering, or even ducking or laying on the ground. Come on, no group of civilians is going to run around in a warzone in a close formation like this. The ACC’s on the ground more than certainly told the pilot before this part of the film, that there is a large mass of people in this viciinty who have been firing at us and are now fleeing. Maybe if the biased media outlet that decided to accuse these pilots of murder had shown all of the cockpit recordings from that flight this wouldnt even be an issue.
    Honestly, the US isnt targeting civilians, and the fact that all the civilians were given prior notice to evacuate Fallujah before the attack, shows it. The US unintentionally gave a number of wanted terrorists their freedom from the seige before it happened because it granted these evacuations, in the name of saving civilians. Largley the US’s seige of Fallujah was a success in a military view, although all the objectives were not met, we decisivly engaged the enemy in a large scale battle, the kind at which we are good at. And the Marines made them meet their maker.
    Before anyone accuses this pilot of murder maybe they should watch then entire set of communications, and video of this strike run. Im sure it will prove them wrong.

  7. A civilian area is an area where civilians predominate, such as a city, such as Fallujah.

    Listen, this is very simple: you are accusing an independent media source of plainly lying. OK, you have to prove that now. Until now, all you can prove is that you have doubts. I personally take absolutely nothing at face value from a military source, which in cases such as these has a vested interest from the start in pushing any possible suggestion of a war crime as far as possible from the discussion.

    And of course what is well beyond dispute that is when you bomb civilian areas, you are in fact targeting civilians by definition, and quite knowingly. You can try to sound as antiseptic and clinical as you like, and we can also be sure that if your home town had been subjected to such bombing your tone would change drastically. If the police in your town had a practice of bombing homes to get a single suspect, I am sure you would riot. Or maybe not.

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