Tuesday, April 6, 2010

This is what happens when you pal around with terrorists...

Everyone has seen this video, I'm sure. Everyone has also heard a lot of the bullshit emanating out of people like James Fallows, who is a serious journalist and should know better. He should never compare the acts of troops under fire to the torture that occurred at Abu Ghraib.

This is what I see: Two journalists got a lead on a hot story - they were going to have the chance to hang out with a group of Mahdi Army guys. At that moment, these particular insurgents were involved in a battle with the 1-8th and 2-16th of the American 2nd Infantry Division. The ground pounders called in air support, which was delivered via an Apache helicopter, and the helicopter crew made a call - the best call they could possibly make given the information at their disposal - to engage a group of armed men operating in a region where the ground units were reporting fire. The insurgents were armed with AKs and RPGs, which can be clearly scene in the video. Later, a unmarked black van appears, several men pile out of the van and picked what appeared to be a wounded insurgent and also begin collecting weapons. The aircrew then requests, and is given, the green light to destroy the unmarked van.

I don't see anything in this video that violates any sort of Rules of Engagement or Rules of Land Warfare. The black van was not marked with a red cross or a red crescent. The journalists did not report their position  to the U.S. Army ahead of time. To the best knowledge of both the ground units and the aircrew, all of these men were insurgents setting up an ambush in the path on an American infantry unit.

Being a war correspondent is risky. I have a great deal of respect for the men who do the job, but correspondents know the risk. They know - especially in an insurgency where the combatants don't wear uniforms - that they could be mistaken for insurgents themselves. They know - or should - that air power, mortars and artillery are all inherently indiscriminate and if you are standing beside a target you might get killed. While its a tragedy that these two journalists were killed in combat, it is not a war crime, and the ultimate responsibility for their death rests, not with the U.S. military - which as the video demonstrates goes out of its way to confirm a target before engaging - but with the journalists themselves, who willingly put themselves in harms way in pursuit of a story. 

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