War Crime or Combat Footage?posted by Jazz at 10/07/2004 10:37:00 AM
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This story has been around since the spring of this year, but apparently has now reached the attention of some mainstream media. There is video footage available of an American pilot in Iraq bombing a group of people in a Fallujah street, complete with cockpit audio. (Warning: This video, while not up close and graphic, shows an aerial bombing attack on a group of people and is disturbing.) You can see the video here. There is also some ink coverage of it here.
The implication via editing of this story is clear - you are intended to believe that you have just witnessed a war crime. The title of the print story is Pilots Toast Hit on Iraqi 'Civilians.' (Emphasis mine) Attaturk is fair minded and prefaces his post by saying:
"If these people were civilians, especially if there was no effort to confirm whether they were civilians..."
However the title of the print article and, more to the point, the audio from the film clip, don't give us much to go on in terms of identifying the people who were hit by the bomb. Clearly, by putting the word 'civilian' in quotes, the newspaper is indicating they don't know that conclusively. Also, for the short duration of the clip, the conversation going on between the pilot and some superior (presumably) who is not named, give us no context for the activity. In fact, they seem, in my opinion, to point against the possibility of this being some unprovoked war crime. Also, the word "toast" is a bit of a stretch. There is a person besides the pilot who, after the bomb strikes, says "Oh... dude" and I'll admit there is a hint of possible laughter in his voice. Or it could have just been shock. I couldn't say for sure.
There have been numerous battles in Fallujah this year. Some of them have been fairly large scale. This video shows a group of people - approximately two dozen - moving along a street. The camera appears to be, at a minimum, several hundred feet in the air. The figures are tiny, and distinguishing any detail is nearly impossible. They could be in civilian clothes, they could be in uniform. (Not that many insurgents run around in uniform.) They may be unarmed, but they may all be carrying guns slung over their shoulders. At that distance, I can not tell.
In short, from what little we can see in the film, this may have been a couple of dozen workers at a factory heading out on their lunch break, but it could also have been a sizable group of armed insurgents moving towards a target off screen. We can't see enough to say either way.
The audio is particularly compelling to me. The pilot who conducted the bombing clearly asked some other person for permission before releasing the bomb. Permission was given. Call me an optimist if you wish, but I prefer to think that our soldiers are not a group of wanton, random, high tech killers of innocent citizens in Iraq. By asking and receiving permission, without even time for debate, it sounds to me like this pilot was one of many people engaged in a battle in Fallujah. It's very possible that there were any number of groups of armed insurgents fighting various American units in the city. That could have been one of the armed groups of insurgents moving in on Americans and, having been spotted, the order to attack them was given.
Again, I can't prove my opinion on this any more than someone else could prove that it was an unprovoked war crime. I freely admit my opinion is biased because I don't want to think ill of our soldiers. But even putting bias aside, this looks highly suspicious to me and it does not look like the malicious act of one pilot committing a war crime. I think what we witnessed here was a tragic, but typical battle scene that will happen during any urban war.