Friday, March 16, 2007

A Letter to National Public Radio

I don't know if they will read it on air or not, but I had to write it or my blood pressure would have gone off the charts:

To the Editor;

I am surprised, to say the least, that you chose to follow a report on the inquest into the friendly fire death of British Lance Corporal-of-Horse Matty Hull with a general exculpatory commentary by former US Navy pilot Ken Harbaugh on the fog of war as seen from the cockpit.

Harbaugh began his remarks by disclaiming any deep knowledge of the incident in question and then went on to offer a general "accidents do happen" explanation for the tragedies of airborne fracticide, implicity excusing the A-10 pilots who killed Hull in direct contradiction to the extensively argued conclusions of the British coroner.

Without a doubt, confusion in battle does arise, and it is not always easy to distinguish ground targets from a fast moving jet platform. However, unlike the senarios described by Harbaugh, the pilots who killed Hull were not under ground fire and were not operating at the extremes of their endurance (they circled the British convoy for many, many minutes before attacking). They did however decide to attack their allies despite instructions from their ground controller to check with him before engaging any targets and after amazingly misidentifying the large orange panels identifying an ally as rocket launchers.

The cockpit video, easily tracked down via a few seconds of web searching, makes all of this apparent and for the conspiracy-minded offers ample reasons for why the US military initially refused to release it and why the British military refused to acknowledge it existed. While it is obvious that the A-10 pilots did not maliciously attack an ally, they were at the very least reckless, and this fact needs to be acknowledged publicly. The public radio audience is hardly well served by "yes, but" pieces by commentators seeking to lessen the impact of the actions of their former compatriots.

Death by friendly fire is hardly a new phenomenon. No less a light than General Patton once threatened to turn his guns on the 8th Air Force unless they stopped mistakenly attacking his positions. However, in this time of official reasurances about the accuracy of our smart weapons and the professionalism of our armed forces, NPR should perhaps be asking questions about why we still kill our own troops and those of our allies with such depressing frequency rather than offering airtime for those inclined to blame anything and anyone but those who actually pull the trigger.

The cockpit video:

The story:
Friendly Fire Killing 'Unlawful'

The pilots who did this were promoted.


FlyingRodent said...

I've had an idea for posting an advert for a clay-British soldier shooting range for Yankee pilots, but the whole story is so pukingly horrible it's beyond me to raise a laugh.

Still, if I was a Yankee newspaperman, I'd put this story on page one. It might distract attention from that whole unpleasant Haditha incident.

msdee said...

This is so messed up

weasel said...

FR: Agreed. It also provides the MOD with a healthy distraction from RAF Harrier jockeys strafing 3 Para's compounds in Afghanistan, or duff 50 cal ammunition that renders an automatic weapon single shot.

Its all so annoying- whoever the mendacious bastard of the hour happens to be- given that our governments blow all this hot air about fighting for values not territory, all that rot. In my book, owning up when you have done something wrong is one of the core values.

Spineless, arse-covering, prevaricators, the lot of them.

Mike said...

I'm late here, but as a national of the country who can print a "...Canadian soldier in Afghanistan's Kandahar province is nearly six times more likely to die in hostilities than a U.S. soldier serving in Iraq" [] I've really begun to think everyone's just forgotten that a war isn't something you watch 30 second clips of while you're waiting for your flight at JFK and stick a mag-ribbon on the back of your car (tired, I know, but still...)

To quote the video, that should make you sick.

weasel said...

I was in Toronto for work for the funerals of those lads from the Princess Louise's killed by the USAF outside Kabul on a NATO training area. I was in the newsroom of a large Toronto TV station and I have never seen the like: about 100 journalists, all choked up at the footage of the coffins.

What makes me furious is the flag waving assumption that an American soldier's life (or even severed leg) is like gold dust, while those of their truest allies (who stand by them even in the most dubious of circumstances) don't even merit an honest appraisal- and if need be an admission of guilt- by the Pentagon. And its not just this administration, its institutional.

Such it is to be the modern Roman Auxillaries