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Sergei

Covering up a mass killing

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Those Apache jockey's IFF evaluation isn't much better then this guy's:

They saw what they wanted to see. The second attack in particular is indicative of an unsuitable mindset.

As per usual though, I'm more offended by the cover-up then the incident itself. This kinda stuff, though bad, happens. But lying about it, no, that just sends the wrong signals about what the organization condones.

Counter productive too. I bet anyone living near that location took note of what they know had happened, what was said by the US to have happened and drawn their conclusions from that.

what this guy said

they saw what they wanted to see

interested to know if it has been established whether the armed guys were insurgents or hired guards?

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By the way, is it not interesting that the gunner does not seem to have any problems shooting into a crowd of 90 % unarmed persons, but hesitates to shoot a lone crawling survivor, waiting for him to "pick up a weapon"? How does that make sense?

Best regards,

Thomm

weird thinking

recovering alive insurgent could be one reason i guess but the impression the guys give is thy want to kill them

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what this guy said

they saw what they wanted to see

interested to know if it has been established whether the armed guys were insurgents or hired guards?

343tb0j.jpg

Looks like an RPG to me. Hired guards or not, an RPG is a serious no go.

CLICK ME here is a copy of the findings of the 15-6. I'm sure the uncensored version will find it's way onto the net soon.

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Honestly it is only the coverup here that is really a problem - in war mistakes happen and quite frankly if you look like you're holding a weapon next to someone who is holding a weapon then you are fair game.

but the western world is, IMO, getting completely pissed off with those in authority trying to cover things up - whether it be the US military, the Catholic church, or Bankers....rhymes with jerks....;)

This local cartoon shows a common attitude - a local Catholic Bishop apologised for the abuse & loss of trust, compared to the Vatican complaining about the media.....I know it's not military, ....it's just the perception thing about a coverup......

3552221.jpg

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Was he actualy "embedded" with the front line units?

Lots of journalists before him had been close enough to the front line to be wounded - eg Charles Bean from Australia stayed in Gallipoli for most of that campaign.

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Honestly it is only the coverup here that is really a problem - in war mistakes happen

^What he said, along with my last post.

This whole thing would have blown over a long time ago, if, at the time the incident happened, the military had said "Oops!" and let the media make a day of it. The coverup makes the story bigger.

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Based on the latest evidence, there is not that much "Ooops" there, anyway.

Local newspapers keep calling it an "attack on innocent journalists"; I guess this version is going to stick in the mind of the public (not that it matters).

Best regards,

Thomm

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Actually, "embedded" journalists writing for mass publication started much earlier. One of the first was a guy named Russell during the Crimean War, his reports were responsible for an overhaul of British Army health and soldier welfare, because before there was a reporter in the ranks it was pretty much okay to let Tommy get sick and die, the people back home never found out. But that changed after Russell's reports on hospital conditions and food supply. The brass called him a traitor of course.

As to the Iraq vid, for what it's worth, here's my two cents':

- Two of the guys in the group are clearly carrying camera gear not AKs or anything like a weapon. I think I also saw a third guy snapping a little pocket camera, I assume he was just a guy who wanted to document this important delegation in his neighborhood.

The silhouette of a photographer carrying gear is distinctive, provided you know what it looks like. It appears the chopper pilots did not, their first reports of "enemy" carrying AKs seem to me to have been clearly based on seeing the camera bag straps, dangling camera bags, and concluding that was a weapon.

- At least one and probably two of the guys in the group almost for sure had AK-type weapons. There is no question in my mind that at least one person in that group was armed.

- It seems to me there were two different vans.

- The van stopping and its driver trying to help the wounded Reuters man, seems to me to be bog-standard behavior for the region. I would assume that what happened is that some one in one of the buildings where the shooting took place, flagged down the van and said "Injured people over there, a couple of them work for a foreign news organization, we've got to help them!"

- I do not think, as at least one of the helicopter crewmen seems to, that terrorists intentionally brought their children to a battle. Arab/Iraqi society is very kid-focused, children are protected and pampered if at all possible. All things being equal, if an Iraqi decided to go fight a jihad against the Christian invaders, the last thing he would do is take his children along with him. Jihad by its very nature requires separation from worldly ties, including family, to devote ones' self to the holy cause of fighting the infidel.

The presence of children in the (second) van to me makes pretty much certain the driver of that van was diverted from wherever he was going, to try and help out the people these two Apache helicopter crews had shot up.

- The pilot was wrong when he identified an RPG-man peeking around a corner. Maybe an excusable mistake, but a undoubtedly a mistake.

Since I had seen (i.e., identified in my own mind) photographers in the group a few seconds earlier, it was obvious to me that the dude peering around the corner was squatting and had a camera with a big-ass lens in his lap, 300mm - 400mm. If there was a lens hood attached - which there would be, it was sunny - then we're talking about a cylindrical object about as long, and thicker, than a human arm.

I can understand how the helicopter pilot could get a quick look at something like that and identify it as an RPG. As it happens I work with news photographers on a regular basis, so it certainly didn't look like an RPG to me.

- That said, there is another fellow with something that could well be an RPG. It might also just be a folded camera tripod, or even a rake, but if I had to guess based on the short glimpse I would say RPG. But it was a camera that guy had when he was looking around the corner.

- I saw no aggressive or threating behavior whatsoever. Of course, I don't consider carrying an AK in an Iraqi urban region in 2007 necessarily threatening. If I was there, under those circumstances, I would very much like to have a means of defending myself.

In any case, the way the group of men walked, and acted, was to my eyes pretty much stereotype for a what happens when a reporter or two goes somewhere with some armed people, and there are some armed people somewhere in the vicinity.

There is a fairly standard routine. The reporters want first and foremost to document the conflict. The escorts meanwhile are kind of taking it easy, and maybe showboating for the media just a little, as they've no intention of getting close to the actual fighting. Their job at the moment isn't fighting, it's being the armed guys escorting the media, and pretty much always the key part of the job is keeping the reporter from getting too close to the dangerous places. True, that places the escort in conflict with the reporter, but then the escort is armed and the reporter isn't. So as a general thing reporter escorting is fairly low stress for the armed guys that "guard" the reporters.

The body language of the guys with the AKs matches that to a "T". The sort of stand aside, shift their weapons, and do nothing except be present and armed. The message is "We're here, we're the guys with guns, and as long as we stand here with guns nothing is going to happen, and as far as that goes probably nothing would have happened even if we weren't here."

The photographer/reporter guys (By my count, two of them, which also fits the template, usually reporters even from competing organizations will try to pair up before they go on assignments like this) also appear to be doing their generic job: They show up, they look around, they eventually make their way to places where you have a good point of view.

Had the helicopter crews been trained to think about what they saw on the ground, and make intelligent conclusions, then maybe they would recognized what was going on.

Obviously, the guys on the ground did not believe that behavior could be seen by helicopter crews a kilometer away as threatening.

But just as obviously, the guys in the helicopters were not thinking in terms of "Who are those people, what are they doing?" The guys in the helicopters were thinking in terms of "Have I identified enough visual data to allow me to fire under our rules of engagement?"

The helicopter pilots were not, in any way that I could see, thinking "Ok, do I have this right, could I be mistaken? What else could this be?"

I think the standard pro-Army response "Well it's a war and the helicopter pilots don't have the time to recheck potential targets, their lives are at stake", is hogwash. Those helicopter pilots were by my estimate at least a half-kilometer, and probably a kilometer away, they were not taking fire, and they were sitting in an armored helicopter in a situation of absolute air supremacy. They were well-fed, well-paid, and odds are they got up in the morning and went to bed in the evening in a clean room. Their lives were not in danger. I see no reason for them to have been making split-second conclusions.

As to people who are saying "Well, if a reporter tries to report the terrorist side of the war, then tough luck if the good guys kill him", I think it's worth pointing out, that the reporter is not doing it to undermine the "good guys", but rather because it is the reporter's job.

If the rules of engagement an army chooses to employ, fail to distinguish between actual enemy, civilian bystanders, or reporters whose behavior may be misconstrued as threatening, then obviously the army is going to kill civilians and reporters by accident sometimes. And it's just "tough luck" for the army if it winds up with hostile civilians and the media; that's the army's fault and no one else's. You can't kill people when it suits you, and expect their friends and relatives to like you or think you behave responsibly.

The army doesn't like to admit it, but the conflicts we are talking about are not conventional fights against equal opponents, but rather a super-high-tech army able to concentrate massive firepower at dizzying speeds, against at best a couple of dozen dudes with AKs and RPGs. The personal risk of the soldiers on the high tech side is, relatively speaking, very low. They are, by historical standards of war, in very little danger. This argues against their "pressure of battle" line often used to justify military errors, usually the accidental killing of civilians. It also means the civilians are not going to be as forgiving of military errors as the military is; the civilians are the ones that suffer the consequences.

Take this incident. Even had that entire group of dudes on the ground been a bunch of guys trying to set up an ambush of the approaching Bradley unit, it does not follow that the only US option was to wipe them out with attack helicopters. What, a Bradley platoon can't defend itself? A Bradley platoon can't advance, against a rabble not even organized to call itself a militia, unless it has on-call massive air support?

US ground forces can take care of themselves. The soldiers were body armor, most of them had been through NTC, they were qualified on their weapons, there was tons of ammo, the first sergeant made sure they were well fed before they went out on patrol.

Bradleys, as CMSF teaches us, very often can sustain an RPG hit. The helicopters even if they didn't fire had fantastic observation, air supremacy remember, which made a successful ambush of the Bradley guys pretty much impossible.

Given that, how critical was it for the Apache crews to kill anything that even vaguely resembled a threat? So critical that it was worth not just accepting civilian casualties, but inflicting as many civilian casualties as were necessary, so as to kill the people on the ground that might have posed a threat to the US ground forces?

If I was one of the guys riding in one of those IFVs, then sure, I would have said "Hell yes, kill 'em all. Don't take any chances, my life is too precious."

Personally, I don't think the mindset of an 11B sitting in a Bradley fighting vehicle, is what we need driving our hearts and minds campaign for the Iraq population. Killing civilians and journalists for the sake of a little more force protection, is not a good strategy.

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As someone remarked to me today "those guys were NOT in a warzone. It's the US who are in their city." Civilians do not have to justify what they are doing, and why, and do it in such an obvious way* that even amped up helo pilots can recognise them as civilians.

Jon

* Which reminds me of the phrase "Any person that runs is a VC, anyone that stands still is a well disciplined VC." Yes, I know it's from a movie. But let's assume that there was some foolproof way that media pers could signal their status to helos and any other US yahoo who wants to lighten his ammo load. How long, do you think, before the same kind of video as above were to be leaked, except this time the pilots say something like "ya, well, them geehardists just use that media marking to disguise themselves - light 'em up"?

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343tb0j.jpg

Looks like an RPG to me. Hired guards or not, an RPG is a serious no go.

CLICK ME here is a copy of the findings of the 15-6. I'm sure the uncensored version will find it's way onto the net soon.

Don't stand near the guy with the RPG.

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If we have that much trouble sitting at home figuring out from the video what happened, imagine how confusing it must have been to the guys in the Apaches.

All the more reason to hold fire until you are positive of what you are looking at.

Sounds like more training and better supervision would help.

And 1/8 Cav is a First Cav battalion, am I correct? They seem to have a real gung-ho thing going on in that division. Too many reruns of Apocalypse Now? Not to mention that Crazyhorse is hardly a call sign that brings up the image of a sober, thinking war fighter.

New times, new roles. People - and leaders - need to learn that.

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That will happen every time a civilian gets killed, often even when the civilian wasn't innocent. But that's a bigger problem than what happens in a given firefight. Voters and politicians have got to get over the delusion that fighting a nice friendly war with no collateral damage is just a matter of discovering the right combination of tactics and technology, then decide policy accordingly.

In war, civilians WILL get killed, even by the "good guys." Why are we always shocked and saddened to discover that all over again? When will we ever learn?

Exactly my point: When will we ever learn?

This is the kind of warfare where the enemy racks up points with each civilian we kill, in greater percentage than we do for each bad guy we kill. It is in the enemy's interest to put civilians at risk.

So, I ask, why are we so dumb as to be playing the enemy's game?

If you are going to fight a war, do so to win. Winning is not always calculated by enemy body counts, but more by won minds and hearts.

Look, in Iraq, we went in, rightly or not, deposed a dictator and left a power vacuum of enormous scale through stupidity and arrogance of the "war planners" in DC. The people craved security and economic improvements. Instead they get sectarian warfare and a trigger happy occupier that does not care much who goes down as long as the shooting stops.

We did get smarter and did many things better over time, granted, but we seem to be having to learn the lessons all over again in Afghanistan, where a different culture and a different enemy seem to have got us all flummoxed because we are trying to use the tactics of the last war and not all of them translate over.

I don't for a minute envy the situation of our combat troops over there, but I envy the plight of the locals even less. And if we want to say we won, we have to win in the locals' eyes most of all. Or else it will all be for naught.

But finding smart, savvy, thinking people in DC, Foggy Bottom or the Pentagon and putting them to work on these issues, is where a solution starts. Then, someone has to lead the war fighters, not just manage them into a so-called verbal victory.

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All the more reason to hold fire until you are positive of what you are looking at.

Soldiers in a firefight do not always have that luxury. Think through what it would mean, in tactical terms, if soldiers were required to hold fire until positive no unintended harm would be done.

Sounds like more training and better supervision would help.

How would "better supervision" help, in a situation like this? Rear-echelon approval for every NCO's decision?

I know what you're saying, but you make it sound so easy, and it's not.

New times, new roles. People - and leaders - need to learn that.

And here is what I'm talking about - the illusion that we can get it right next time and not hurt any civilians, if only we could get the training and tactics right.

EDIT because our posts crossed: What you advocate in your above post conflicts with policy that results in firefights with air support, in an urban area.

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The helicopter pilots may not have had a very clear idea of what was going on down there. But it seems other people did.

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/04/20104782857326667.html

So if this report is to be believed, the reason that van stopped to help is, the driver thought helping an injured stranger was the right thing to do. The US air cav crewmen killed him for his troubles.

(It would, of course, be nice to have the air cav troopers on camera to get their side of the story. Unfortunately, their identity is a military secret. Fortunately, their behavior and personal opinions of their behavior is pretty well documented by the tape.)

The kids as it turned out survived - and guess what, now the kids are showing their scars on TV!

The boy, his name is Sajad Mutashar, has a nice leg scar. Any one want to estimate, is that 30mm or 7.62mm? I'm guessing the latter as had it been a cannon shell I can't see how he kept the leg.

Other relatives are on tape, calling the US helicopter crewmen "monsters", "murderers", and "inhuman". But perhaps the most damning is the daughter, this little girl named Duaa Salah, who tells the camera "The Americans wanted to kill us."

One of the most powerful images is just the result of editing. First you have images of the kids, then you have the tape bit of the Apache crew hammering the van with 30mm or his minigun or whatever it was, and more kids. Very simple editing, but I defy any parent in the world to watch that, and then not think "What could possibly justify putting little children through something like that?"

These are real people, readily identifiable as just like them by other Iraqis, who are not afraid to show their faces to a news camera, and be identified for the record. It's pretty obvious why, they are very angry US soldiers killed their close relatives, and it is no great leap to guess that the enthusiasm with which the Americans did the killing, made those Iraqis even madder.

People in places like Iraq do not readily agree to talk to reporters and go on camera. Now that they have, the US war effort has against these images - wait for it - Pentagon spokesmen. You know, some major or LTC parroting the same old useless story we've heard time and again: the US soldiery is extremely careful about rules of engagement, but the fog of war sometimes causes errors, and force protection remains a priority, blah blah blah.

It is just possible there are still some people in the US that buy that line of camel droppings. Heck, there may even be some people back at Fort Hood that the air cav troopers that shot up Sajad Mutashar and Duaa Salah, they are great American citizens who really did a great service the Republic, and deserve medals.

But the people that count - you know, the Iraqis - I am fairly confident they don't buy such tripe for a minute. This creates what might gently be described as a credibility problem.

All US military spokesmen can do is make excuses, and ask to be trusted not to repeat "the unfortunate error."

The inevitable human response by pretty much any one on Planet Earth hearing those excuses is going to be "You heartless scum, you actually are going to sit there and argue machine-gunning children can be excused, well that is a slam dunk - you are the bad guy in this conflict."

My guess, this is going to be a mess almost as bad as Abu Ghraib. The only reason it will not be worse, is that pretty much all US legitimacy in the region is already gone by now, what with Abu Ghraib already having happened.

The only silver lining is, there are for sure US service personnel, probably uniformed but possibly civilian, but anyway members of the military infrastructure, who got fed up with the military's lies and did something about it. It wasn't terrorists, it wasn't the Russians, it was some Americans who couldn't take the army lying through its teeth about the validity of killing civilians and children in Iraq, they saw it as immoral, they took a moral stand, and did what it took to get that tape out into the open.

That balances out the behavior of the Apache crews some - although now I expect there is a good chance we will learn the names of every one involved in the engagement, from that guy named Kyle firing the Apache miniguns, right up through the battalion commander. When you get a scandal like this it usually doesn't take long before the players start pointing fingers, to avoid getting made the scapegoat themselves.

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Soldiers in a firefight do not always have that luxury.

I think it's pretty clear that there were no US forces in even the remotest danger at any point during this engagement. Heck, I wonder how you can even dignify it with the term 'firefight'.

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Soldiers in a firefight do not always have that luxury. Think through what it would mean, in tactical terms, if soldiers were required to hold fire until positive no unintended harm would be done.

How would "better supervision" help, in a situation like this? Rear-echelon approval for every NCO's decision?

I know what you're saying, but you make it sound so easy, and it's not.

And here is what I'm talking about - the illusion that we can get it right next time and not hurt any civilians, if only we could get the training and tactics right.

EDIT because our posts crossed: What you advocate in your above post conflicts with policy that results in firefights with air support, in an urban area.

What incident are you discussing? Because we are talking about Apache pilots a kilometer away, not grunts on the ground ducking fire. Two entirely different things. And if the pilots had observed these "suspects" firing towards US troops, it would be another thing entirely. But they did not see that happening, and opened fire indiscriminately.

And my criticism relates to the quality of leadership, supervision and training that US forces receive prior to engaging the enemy - and the leadership and control they are under while they are in engagement range. Too many military leaders do not lead, they "manage" and scoot away crab-wise when there is something nasty that they might be blamed for.

And no, none of this is easy. War should not be easy. Killing civilians least of all. Whatever happened to accountability? Incidents like this lose the war for the population, not win it. And the people are who we are fighting for, right...or is it the oil? If the latter, then never mind, the end justifies the means I guess.

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To various posters:

1) Tactical air support is not limited to shooting at those on the very front who are actually engaged in a firefight. It includes interdiction. You all know that very well. Retraining helicopter crews not to shoot at enemy near a firefight, and only those actually shooting, would be a fundamental rethink of air support doctrine in place since tacair developed.

2) Bigduke, you mentioned that the helicopters shouldn't have been there because the Bradley's should have been able to handle the insurgents themselves, so air support wasn't needed. That is simply absurd. American doctrine has always been overwhelming firepower, and combined arms is ingrained practice.

3) So what if the helicopters weren't in danger? Aircraft attacking ground targets often aren't in danger. Aircraft should not be attacking ground targets unless they're personally in danger? Ridiculous. Gee, why even have tactical air support? Maybe the aircrews should land, advance with dueling pistols or swords, and challenge armed men to single combat?

Gunnergoz is right about one thing. Using conventional forces and tactics to win a hearts and minds campaign is an inherently bad policy decision. Blame the neocons who believe there's a military solution to every political problem.

You all are mistaking me if you think my not faulting the soldiers in this action is the same as defending them.

These incidents WILL happen in a war. Send a combined arms force into a city where they will inevitably encounter irregulars who don't want them there, and civilian casualties WILL happen. Sure, the helicopter pilots are aggressive and trigger happy, and will interdict targets of opportunity whether those targets are actively firing or not, whether they're even armed or not. On a battlefield with a clear enemy, that's exactly what they should do, that's how they're trained, that's what their equipment is designed for.

Your politicians are using a hammer to do delicate repair work, and you fault the hammer, not them. You still want to believe there's a way to train and equip soldiers to fight a war in which nobody gets hurt and that never brings out the worst in heavily armed men trained to kill, and you're shocked when it doesn't work that way. I'm under no such illusions, and I'm not shocked at any of this, because I never drank the koolaid.

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Did the Haditha incident (which involved the killing of twice as many Iraqi civilians) get as much press as this? Was there as much of an outcry and as much of a damning of US military personnel?

Oh, right, there's no video of that incident. And that incident involved men, women and children being shot by infantry at more or less point-blank range supposedly in retaliation for the killing-by-IED of a Marine rather than being blown away by 30mm cannon fire from a helicopter orbiting about a mile away in an instance of "indiscriminate slaying". Also, that incident happened back in November 2005, when US public opinion about the war in Iraq was not so clearly opposed.

I reckon that if WikiLeaks had obtained the video and decrypted it and released it in, say, Q4 2007, it would have had less of an impact, because public opinion regarding the war in Iraq (and, though to a somewhat lesser extent, the war in Afghanistan) was less clearly negative.

If I were driving through town in my minivan with my kids and I saw a dozen people lying splayed on the ground surrounded by small craters and debris, I wouldn't stop to help any wounded among them, even if I didn't see any weapons on the ground around them. Call me a "bad Samaritan", but I wouldn't endanger my kids that way. Besides, how would I know that whatever had killed these men wasn't still nearby and still ready to dish out more death?

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this wasn't exactly a firefight!

From the AR 15-6:

5. Bravo Company 2-16 Infantry had been under sporadic small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenade fire since OPERATION ILAAJ began at dawn on the morning of the 12th of July. The company had the mission of clearing their sector and looking for weapons caches. Two Apache helicopters from the 1st Cavalry Division (call signs “Crazyhorse 18” and “Crazyhorse 19”) were in direct support to the ground maneuver force and were monitoring the Bravo Company radio frequency.

6. The following sequence of events is derived from a review of the gun-camera film. The gun camera film was a video burned onto a compact disk which I received from my legal advisor. The video provided me an accurate timeline of events and allowed me to corroborate or deny other eye witness testimony received as evidence. However, it must be noted that details which are readily apparent when viewed on a large video monitor are not necessarily apparent to the Apache pilots during a live-fire engagement. First of all, the pilots are viewing the scene on a much smaller screen than I had for my review. Secondly, a pilot’s primary concern is with flying his helicopter and the safety of his aircraft. Third, the pilots are continuously tracking the movement of friendly forces in order to prevent fratricide. Fourth, since Bravo Company had been in continuous contact since dawn, the pilots were looking primarily for armed insurgents. Lastly, there was no information leading anyone to believe or even suspect that noncombatants were in the area. Although useful, an analysis of the engagement captured on the video is beyond the scope of my investigation and the subject of a collateral investigation. The digits appearing before the exhibit are the time derived from the Apache video footage, 0619:37 is 0600 hours, 19 minutes, and 37 seconds, Greenwich Mean or ZULU time. Baghdad local time is 4 hours later.

Continuous contact since dawn. The had been taking SAF and RPG fire since dawn, the operation was one huge movement to contact. How is that not a "fire fight"?

I do take issue with the statement "there was no information leading anyone to believe or even suspect that noncombatants were in the area." In any type of COIN scenario there are always going to be noncombatants in the area. Always.

@BigDuke:

Bradleys, as CMSF teaches us, very often can sustain an RPG hit. The helicopters even if they didn't fire had fantastic observation, air supremacy remember, which made a successful ambush of the Bradley guys pretty much impossible.

You didn't really just use CMSF as a point of reference on the BFVs survivability did you? It's a video game, guy. BF.C even said they were forced to guesstimate the armor values for the Abrams and the Bradley. In addition to that, it's a freckin' video game. I have a hard time believing that you would feel comfortable denying air support to TIC based on something like "oh, it's only RPGs, they should be fine."

Edited to add: Well, the sworn statements are finding their way onto the internet. CLICK ME. I would suggest we all take a look at them if we want to continue this discussion and formulate informed opinions rather than spewing conjecture. YMMV.

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... you would feel comfortable denying air support to TIC ...

This was not TIC.

There were undeniably TIC 'somewhere' in Bahgdad, or perhaps somewhere in Iraq, but it had not a lot to do wth the guys the Apaches killed.

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