For that matter, just put them on for a while before you condemn our soldiers. Twitter is all abuzz today about the killing of two journalists by pilots in 2007. The incident is not new. We’ve known about the death of those Reuters reporters since it happened. It was also mentioned in Finkel’s The Good Soldiers.
It is unfortunate that innocents are killed in war. It is tragic when our soldiers turn to rape and murder like in the Stephen Green case from Mahmoudiya.
This incident in July 2007 was not another Mahmoudiya. It was not another Haditha. This was combat pilots in the air, providing air support soldiers on the ground during the surge. They believed the men in their sites were a threat, if not to them, then to the soldiers they were defending.
I have not flown in the cockpit of an Apache. I have not walked the streets during the surge.
But I have deployed and I do know the suspicion, the stress and the judgment calls that are made in battle cannot be second guessed by Monday morning quarter backs who have never worn the boots, let alone walked a mile in combat in them.
I watched the video.
Yes, we dehumanize the enemy. Yes, we make crude jokes about the people around us. Yes, we use black humor to get through what is arguably the darkest situation you can put a human being in. Killing another human being is not easy and it is not nice and the men and women who have gone to war come back changed forever. How each soldier copes with what they have done during war is not for us to judge.
As an Army, we do our bests to fight within the laws of war. Most of our soldiers go out with the intention of coming back. What they have to do to accomplish that, to bring their buddies home is not for those who have never served to question.
Soldiers come home and question what they’ve done during war. When battle is over and you’re back in the States, you have time to really think about what you’ve done. You can not change it. As an Army, we train by putting our soldiers in these situations before they deploy. We train to try and avoid things like this where innocents were killed. We conduct AARs to learn what we can do better. But you don’t get a do over. Once you pull that trigger, it’s an irrevocable choice.
It is unfortunate that these reporters were mistaken for insurgents. Was it a reasonable mistake? Yes. Because insurgents had decoyed themselves as media, as medics, as women in order to get closer to our soldiers. We do our best not to violate the laws of war. The same cannot be said about the enemy, who blatantly use mosques, schools and hospitals as staging areas for their weapons caches. And yet, we condemn our soldiers when we put them in impossible situations.
Those pilots made the best decision they could. The fact that later reports were different does not surprise me. An initial assessment of what’s going on often changes when the fog clears and people have time to really sift through what happened. I’ve stood in the TOC and listened to initial reports only to read later that what originally came through was not, indeed what happened. Does that mean someone lied? No, it doesn’t.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again until I’m blue in the face. Don’t you dare condemn us as dishonorable until you have worn the uniform and gone through combat. Each individual is responsible for his or her actions, even in a time of war. But war means death and destruction and unfortunately, innocents are caught in that.
War is not pretty. It never has been. So don’t pretend to sit there and say how horrible these pilots were because they were making wise ass remarks and smarting off. They were in combat and they were mentally in a place that allowed them to take another human life in defense of their brothers, under the orders of a nation that sent them there.
If they are to be judged, let it be by their peers. Men and women who have sat in that cockpit, who have flown in combat and who have had to make the same decisions they have. Those are their peers. Not some media group leaking classified information in the name of transparency when all they want to do is find another excuse to complain about Iraq and in doing so, paint the actions of our soldiers as murderers and thugs.
True atrocities have taken place in the conduct of this war.
This is not one of them.