When Recounting Facts is “Monday-Quarterbacking”

Source: Army Times

The subject: Army Times article, “Commander defends Apache pilots in WikiLeaks video before ‘The Fifth Estate’ movie release”.

XB: The commander maintains his crew wasn’t “trigger happy” despite the fact that you can hear the pilot in the video anxiously waiting to shoot again after one of the wounded victims hit the ground.

PT: excited about doing his job, protecting himself and fellow soldiers

XB: How is a man crawling on the ground after fatal gunshot wounds from an Apache helicopter still a threat that a soldier must protect himself and his fellow soldiers from? In the video the pilot was begging the man to pick up a weapon so he could shoot him again.

JG: Do you think that an insurgent that’s devoted enough to die for his cause, i.e. a suicide bomber, doesn’t pose a legitimate threat when there are weapons within his reach?

XB: I do think that “an insurgent that’s devoted enough to die for his cause” is a “legitimate threat when there are weapons within his reach,” but not when they are crawling on the ground, bleeding to death and the person who shot them is high in the sky sitting in an attack helicopter. Go to the 6:25 mark in this video:

JG: One of the crewmen asks if the Iraqi had a weapon in his hand. The reply is that he doesn’t. No reference is made of the weapons in the vicinity that were mentioned at the onset of the engagement. Let me ask you something: Why didn’t the gunship immediately open fire when they confirmed that the Iraqi wasn’t armed?

Furthermore, the fact that the Iraqi was injured is irrelevant. Hopefully you don’t embrace the delusion that an RPG can’t take down a helicopter. Bleeding on the ground, believe it or not, doesn’t miraculously rob an insurgent of the ability to fire a rocket-propelled-grenade.

XB: The gunship didn’t open fire when they confirmed the Iraqi wasn’t armed because they recognized that opening fire would be a violation of the laws of war, this is why he wanted the guy to pick up a weapon. If the guy picked up a weapon the pilot felt it would be easier to justify shooting him as a lawful use of force.

I disagree here. My contention is that even if the guy on the ground had picked up a weapon, he was so incapacitated, he couldn’t possibly be considered a threat to the Apache helicopter pilot. There are rules of proportionality that should have stopped this.

Incidentally, if we are going to examine this from a strictly legal standpoint, I think an argument can be made that the US military presence in Iraq, as whole, is illegal. If we accept this all uses of force are illegal. This is even conceded in an establishment international law journal published by Yale University.

Michael Glennon wrote an essay called the Blank Prose Crime of Aggression where he describes the invasion and occupation of Iraq as illegal and an example of the ICC special working group’s definition of the crime of military aggression. I admit this argument is straying from the immediate topic at hand but from a purely legal perspective it’s not completely irrelevant.


By the way, there are precedents in customary international humanitarian law that treat the injuries to armed combatants as relevant. For example, the 1984 US soldier’s manual “forbids attacks against non-combatants, including soldiers who surrender or who are sick, wounded or captured.” I think a credible argument can be made that the man featured in the Collateral Murder video was “wounded” when the Apache pilot waited for him to pick up a weapon. I should say I don’t expect soldiers to adhere to this legal standard but this is no good reason to pretend no such standard exists.


TW: let’s all stand up and clap for the University of Yale law journal who I’m sure its journalist has never been to war. You even contradicted your own statement they broke the law in your first sentence. Further, if you have never been over there, and my gut is telling me you haven’t because you are so far clueless, STFU. How the hell would you know if he was “so incapacitated” he no longer posed a threat? You don’t leave these type of people to recover to come after you weeks later. Those of us that HAVE been, can tell you that “incapacitated” or not, they are still, and will be as long as they can be, a threat. This is why civilians should not be involved in war. It’s easy for you to sit at your computer and google all the monday qb reasons a man should not defend his life or others in the throes of war, while they are over there actually doing it. They had weapons. They fired. Fire was returned to eliminate the threat. Threat eliminated. End of story. Don’t like it, feel free to pick up a pen and sign the dotted line to go experience your decision-making skills yourself. Otherwise, GTFOH with your bullshit.

XB: @TW: What does having been to war have to do with understanding international law? It’s worth remembering that the chief justice who presided over the Nuremberg Tribunal which famously criminalized the act of military aggression also “never been to war.” Is his opinion also worth dismissing on these grounds?

I didn’t contradict my own statement in the first sentence. Though I recognize that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq as illegal I refrained from mentioning it from the outset because I understand that the odds of an American leader being charged with such a crime is very slim to non-existent despite the scholarship on the topic. It was an analytical decision which is why I prefaced my acknowledgement that the Iraq war was illegal by saying “if we are going to examine this from a strictly legal standpoint.”

I stated that the person shot was incapacitated because on the video it appeared that he was struggling to move and lacked the energy to pick up a weapon. This is my definition of being incapacitated. Also can you elaborate on what you mean by “these type of people”? Also has it ever occurred to you that “they are still, and will be as long as they can be, a threat” only insofar as the US military occupied Iraqi territory? It’s worth considering how the presence of US soldiers in the country accelerates the threat of terrorism.

You write “They had weapons. They fired.” Are you asserting that the people shot in the video fired? At what point in the video did they fire? Also it is very clear from the video that the gunfire was initiated by the Apache helicopter.

JG: X, I’m not going to debate the legality of the war itself. That would take hours. I’m also not going to fault gunship crews for lacking the omniscience needed to know that a wounded Iraqi was injured to the extent that he was utterly incapable of promptly picking up, aiming and firing an RPG. Anyone familiar with the range and capabilities of the weapon system will tell you that an RPG poses a threat to a helicopter.


2 thoughts on “When Recounting Facts is “Monday-Quarterbacking”

    1. I’m talking to Army Times readers. These are not people I know. The decision to put each speaker’s initials instead of their full name was deliberate. The aim is to put less emphasis on the identities of the speakers and more emphasis on the arguments being made.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s