A reader writes:

I was a member of a unit that killed one and wounded two Americans during Operation Desert Storm.  Nothing has awakened the feelings I had that night in 1991 ever, until I watched that video of the Apache attack on the journalists.  I had forgotten how sick one can feel at knowing you participated in the death of innocents, and I am deeply saddened today.

I have two things to say:  First, and most importantly, is that none of us is qualified to judge what that helicopter crew did that day.  I want to judge them.  But I don’t know what happened an hour before that, or six hours before, or six days before or six months.  We have no idea how close those men have come to dying in an ambush, or being unable to help someone who was.  The context of that aircrew matters as much as anything that happened on the ground that day.

But second, and what leads me to want to judge that aircraft crew so unfavorably, is that the ground targets are clearly uninterested in the presence of the aircraft. 

A camera CAN look like a heavy weapon.  A gathering is certainly something to observe and report on.  But no threatening act was ever commenced, and there was plenty of reason to get additional eyes on the target.  I find it difficult to understand why they did not do more to identify the threat, particularly in 2007, when rules of engagement were better codified (but maybe I’m wrong there).

As for the cover-up, there can be no forgiveness for such.  Clearly the air crew acted wrongly.  And the U.S. government owes its citizens and the citizens of Iraq an honest reckoning of what happened that day, and in as much as we can ever know, an honest reckoning of why it happened.

But I learned after my own friendly-fire incident how exactly that kind of justice works (hint: it involves rugs and brooms).  Lt. Col John Daly, my Squadron Commander, not only blamed a Captain under his command for firing the lethal shots, he not only accepted the Bronze Star for the attacking an airfield already firmly in the hands of the US Army, he accepted the Bronze Star V-Device for his actions that night. And since you and many of your readers probably don’t know:  One is only authorized for a V-Device if actions are taken under direct fire of the enemy.  There was no enemy on that field that night, with the exception, perhaps, of ego. Lt. Col Daly, it should be noted, resisted to the bitter end giving up his medal.

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