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The Apache Video

(Preface: I am neither an official Pentagon source nor an official spokesman for the Army. I am a US Army UH-60 pilot otherwise entirely dissociated from this event; these are my personal opinions.)

A video was posted recently by WikiLeaks. It’s gun camera footage from an Apache engagement on 12 July 2007.

The video begins with ground forces requesting support from Crazyhorse, the Apache flight. They mention a group of people, one of whom has a weapon.

It’s hard to see, because we’re looking at a low-resolution version of a low-resolution video looking at a distant target, but the guy does appear to be carrying an AK. It looks like the Apache’s found the group that the ground forces were talking about.

After identifying further members of the group, the Apaches requested and received permission to engage. Only after receiving permission did they first fire weapons. Once they had downed all targets, they stopped firing. They did not fire on the wounded. When a van arrived to evacuate the targets, they requested and received permission to engage. Only then did they disable the van.

Wikileaks is consistently referring to these men as ‘civilians.’ They may not have been uniformed military personnel, but they were definitely combatants; they may not have been currently actively engaged in a firefight, but there had been small arms fire from that area since before dawn that day. The mission of both the Apache element and the ground forces was to eliminate any insurgents and/or weapons caches from the area.

After the fact, it was discovered that two of the people killed were in fact Reuters employees, and that in the van were two children injured by the attack. Coverage of the video has focused on this. It’s tragic, but the newspeople were in the company of armed insurgents and appeared to be part of that group. As for the children, they were simply not detectable from the Apache.

It’s worth looking at the official report. (Local Cache) The results findings begin on page 11 of the PDF. The report contains necessary background information, such as the fact that the infantry less than 200 yards away had been receiving small-arms fire all morning.

There are plenty of people out there calling this a war crime, murder, and worse. That is simply not the case. There are people out there who recognize this (1, 2, 3), but they are too few.

War is a terrible thing, but this was not a crime. This was professional pilots reacting appropriately to a hostile situation. I feel sympathy for the noncombatants in the group, but they brought it upon themselves.

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