Avi :)

That WikiLeaks helicopter video

I've been pointed at this 'Collateral Murder' video on YouTube. It quite clearly sets out to portray the helicopter pilots as out to cause wanton destruction, with much inference to the effect that they just strafed a group of innocent civillians.

The video I watched is the short one here with some, presumably extraneous, commentary on the context. It also contains people dying, which you might well not want to see.

The video is a pretty good illustration of three things:

1. Why the Bad Guys hide in civillians

The title says it all, really. The rest of this is a rant I've been meaning to put somewhere for a while, and it sort-of fits here.

Much of the commentary on this (and the war in general, but we don't talk about that any more) appears to center around the idea that we're fighting this war in Iraq from, and without leaving, the moral high ground.

It would be nice if that was the case, or even possible, but war is two opposing sides killing as many of each other as they can. There is no way to be good at that and morally superior, certainly not in the short-term (there's an obvious Godwin reference here, mildly clouded by the fact we won WWII).

Founded on that idea is the principle that we should, at any and all costs, avoid the killing or maiming of civillians. The targeting of civillians is, after all, one of the things that makes terrorists Bad People. That is a lovely and commendable target, and one which the armies involved (at least on 'our' side) appear to be commited to, but it's not brilliantly practicable/

To go on to say that any failing in achievment of this target is down to some obvious, avoidable, perhaps malicious, failing on the part of 'our' armies or governments is embarrasingly arogant. Are we really to believe that The West is so militarily and technologically superior to any adversary that we will never be outwitted by their tactics? That we will never fall for a trap? That their strategies will never have an effect on us?

The involvement of civillians is mostly caused by our adversary being one who hides in civillians. This is rather a good strategy - I don't think they're any more at fault for picking it than we are for picking them as adversaries. But, the long and the short of it is that if you will insist on going to war with people who hide in civillians, civillians will die. And you can blame The Bad Guys for hiding in civillians, and they'll blame you for dropping the bombs.

So, in short, this is a brilliant example of the 'insurgents' being successful.

2. A helicopter crew doing their job

They are accurate and measured. They fire only once given authority to, and only when they believe they have legitimate targets. The fire is in short bursts, it is on-target and purposeful. There's no razing of surrounding buildings or crazy-long bouts of superfluous gunfire. They're a helicopter crew efficiently dispatching with what they believe to be the enemy.

Yes, they're happy about it. As far as they're concerned that's 12-15 people who would otherwise be firing on their friends now unable to. They're front-line soldiers, they can't get hung up about killing people.

3. Reporters not doing theirs

I can see no reason to presume any of that group of people were bona fide reporters. Apparently the US army had no knowledge of reporters in that area, there's a distinct lack of anything to identify them as press by, and they're hanging round with armed people. Removed from a battlefield I'd expect restraint. But they're in a battlefield, armed, and looking not unlike one of the warring sides. I don't think they've any reason to not expect the other warring side to shoot at them.

The reporters made at least two mistakes:

My specific quesitons

Firstly, how sure are you that's not a gun?

Secondly, why can't you see 'press' written on their flack jackets? If they are indeed wearing them, they're doing a damn good job of covering them up. Those flack jackets are almost designed specifically to be readable by helicopter crews, and the whole point of them is so that when a member of one of the warring sides decides to shoot at you, they can see that you're just an interested bystander and leave you be.

Guy just above the crosshair, what's he carrying? If you watch approximately 03:43 - 03:48, you can see that it's not a camera.

Now, even if that's a novelty umbrealla or something, it looks an awful lot like an RPG. And we've seen a couple of things that bear a striking resemblance to AK47s. So, from now at the very latest, we know they're watching a group of people armed as the enemy are, dressed as the enemy dress and doing nothing at all that makes it look like they're not the enemy. In general, this means they're probably the enemy. As I said above, and probably will do again below, there are recognised ways of looking like you're a neutral party, and they're not doing any of them despite actively looking like an involved party.

That's stupid. Seriously. If there's any way to look like you're one of the Bad Guys, it's to peer round a wall at a gunship.

Why aren't they still wantonly killing civilians? They appear to be being rather measured, and acting in accordance with legalised warfare.

Where's the red cross/crescent/star, press livery, or just white flag? It's not as if there's no standards for saying you're neutral, and it's hardly as if the heli crew are ignoring them.

And, seriously, could you see those as children? Also, why no wanton shooting?

The first two images, thats an rpg and its not a camera aren't mine. The former came from someone on the BF2S forum but I don't know who, and the latter was lurking on tinypic.

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