Are you confident that you know how our forces conduct themselves abroad?

A graphic and disturbing video released Monday shows an American helicopter attack in Iraq in which 12 adults were killed and two children wounded. The dead included two journalists. Today’s Question: Are you confident that you know how our forces conduct themselves abroad?

  • James

    Our brave men and women are working hard to keep us safe.

    We are a country at WAR, the lines of good-guy / bad guy are not always black and white.

    If our soldiers are hogtied with overly censored rules of engagement they will be KILLED by second guessing.

    This was a case of wrong place wrong time. Maybe the two journalists should have been more careful with the company they keep.

    God Bless our military.

    Thank you for your service!

    DTOM

  • Khatti

    Getting shot at does little to improve your disposition. Neither does losing friends in combat. The one thing we have going for us in this war is the age of the soldiers. They tend to be older (sometimes a lot older) than the troops in Vietnam were. There is going to be less testasterone in the blood stream mixing with the adreneline when things get heated.

  • Steven

    Whatever it is our troops are doing over there, they’re doing it in our name. It’s America that’s doing it. They are representing America, and people will judge America by their actions.

  • Tom

    The video is disgusting because it shows the troops enthusiasm for killing, even though it isn’t clear that those being shot are guilty of anything.

    Unfortunately, most people do not have the strength of character to resist the dehumanizing effects of military training and combat stress.

    This is why our nation should refuse to go to war unless it is clearly defensive – from Mai Lai in Viet Nam to this video, Abu Graib, in war people do horrible things to civilians, and you have to assume there will be many “war crimes” that are never reported or prosecuted.

  • Jake

    The fact that people are still surprised at stuff like this is, well, surprising. It shows ignorance.

    War is war.

  • EAL

    Son, we live in a world that has walls and those walls have to guarded by men with guns. Who’s going to do it? You? You Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death while tragic probably saved lives. And my existence while grotesques and incomprehensible to you saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punch line. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide and then questions the very manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said, “Thank you.” And went on your way. Otherwise I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand at post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

    A Few Good Men – 1992

  • Comments anonymously texted to MPR at 677-677:

    No, its foolish to assume that our troops act with respect and represent us well without seeing it with our eyes.

    War is always brutal — there’s no such thing as a clean war. That’s why we should think much harder and longer before we ever commit our beloved troops to going.

  • Tim

    War is a confusing business but I am confident that the majority of those serving in our armed forces conduct themselves admirably. Still, we are talking about fallible men and women. Since their failures can be amplified through media and world politics, and since they represent an entire nation, they bear a higher moral burden to conduct themselves with justice and honor. They signed up for this duty.

  • Glenn Farwell

    This brings on a question- who are “Our Forces”??

    Military we know about??

    “Private contractors” we may know about??

    Others we don’t know about??

  • Jamie

    This is an odd question in light of the available information/news, including a 43 page report about the incident released in 2008, and full access to ALL 39 minutes of video on youtube.

    The question seems to imply some wrong doing or cover-up, yet I can’t get that by watching the video or reading the initial news coverage from 2007.

    Watching the entire 38 minutes video, (not wikileaks 17 minutes) all soldiers involved knew about the mistake and civilian (2 children in van) injuries (i.e. casualties) within minutes. They had been under fire all morning-so there was a lot of shooting going on, including warning fire to disable the reporters’ van. In fact, at 4 minutes in, some is identified with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), leading to the initial killings and shots fired from the helicopter.

    I think what I am NOT confident of is the inferences and conclusions people tend to want me to believe without first getting the facts. The video is disturbing, in that it shows how troops have to make decisions on a war zone that is full of civilians-we ask our soldiers to be in the position of having to make these decisions, knowing that they will be second-guessed for years. At about 33 minutes, several men with Ak-47s walk into a building that is fired upon with three hellfire missiles within minutes-all part of the same 20 minutes of engagement from the U.S. helicopter.

  • howard

    This is always the main issue when we make people the other, an subtract the humanity in our so called enemies( our fellow human beings). We have the blood of so many innocent people on our hands, if these victims were our loved ones we would besides ourselves with tremendous grief. I can not stand the rational of those who can justify the countless loss of innocent lives during war with out imaging the victims were your loved ones.

    I do not know what it is like to fight in a war personally an the hard decisions that have to be made in a split second…no one wins a war ever…the overwhelming damage an pain created by war trumps any possible victory.

  • Steve

    This video provides a glimpse of a world that we know exists but don’t want to see. The question should not address our confidence (or lack thereof) in our knowledge of our troops’ conduct; of course we don’t know what’s going on in our name! It’s naive to think that we do, unless, of course, we have been a part of it. And those who are a part of it must believe that what they are doing is good, right, and even blessed by God; otherwise, they are mere murderers.

    We also know that we are very accepting of what happens on the fields of battle; if we weren’t, we would have to suck it up, deal with our collective guilt, and do the work of preparing for peace, justice, and the well-being of the world’s citizens. And that, people, would require even more strength and courage than preparing for, and fighting, wars. America doesn’t seem to be up to the task. We’re just too comfy.

  • Elizabeth

    Khatti- What is your point?

    Also, for those of you who are defending the military’s actions as being done “in our name”, and therefore admissible, did you actually watch the entire video? Or at least part of it? What are they doing in our name? Are they laughing at the sight of dead reporters and wounded children in our name? Is that what this is supposed to be about? What part of that whole scene was acceptable to you?

  • Sue de Nim
  • Stevie

    I don’t care how they conduct themselves. Just defeat the evil ones and get out!

  • John

    I, frankly, find the question posted here offensive because it clearly implies there is systemic wrong-doing on the part of the US Military. That is simply untrue.

    I am not going to comment on the video specifically, because the question really is not about the video. As a person who served in Iraq, I can tell you unequivocally that our soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen, take extraordinary personal risk to protect the lives of Iraqis and to avoid unfortunate incidents leading to civilian casualties. They may pay for decisions not to engage a perceived enemy in an effort to protect civilians with their lives. The personal courage and heroics of our service members on the battlefield, and just as importantly their professionalism and ethics, should be a source of pride for all Americans.

    There are, however, times when mistakes are made, intelligence is bad, or someone makes a necessary split second life or death decision that is regrettable in hindsight. Before criticizing a decision, try to imagine yourself in 120+ degree heat for perhaps 10-12 hours, being shot at from perhaps an unknown source, having witnessed IEDs exploding around your vehicle on multiple occasions, and then, often in the dark of night, being asked to respond to a perceived threat immediately, knowing if you respond incorrectly you, your friends, or some other person will likely die. Now remember you may be only 19 years old. In an environment where the enemy wears no uniforms, follows no rules, and deliberately blends into the population, knowing who is and is not a threat is exceedingly difficult. Despite the military’s best efforts, mistakes are inevitable.

    In very rare circumstances, a service member will commit a crime on the battlefield. Those crimes are prosecuted by the Military Courts. America takes it responsibility to protect local populations very seriously.

    I am extremely disappointed with MPR for posting this question. To build on Jamie’s comments, it is equally unfortunate that MPR is posting this broad based question without providing appropriate facts and perspective. I have come to expect more from this news service.

  • Sam

    As horrific as this incident is, I can not hold it against the soldiers. Our troops are stuck in a lousy situation where your chance of survival is better if you shoot first and ask questions later.

    What makes me worry is that this incident was buried. When asked, military officials just said they didn’t know anything. The soldiers involved will live the rest of their lives with this incident weighing heavily on their conscience. It’s a far greater punishment than they deserve, at least in my opinion.

    In other words, it’s not our field officers that worry me.

  • John
  • Greg

    I am most fearful of what our government and military leadership continue to think we cannot handle. War should be prosecuted under the rules of war and the US citizen should see it un-altered or filtered. We cannot be an informed citizenry if we are only allowed to see the positive spin.

  • Marc

    I cannot judge the broad question but the video is quite disturbing and not because they initially fired on the group.

    The disturbing part is that after neutralizing the group they went on, after a period of time, to shoot the wounded who posed no threat to anyone. The wounded could not stand and had no weapons.

    Then the van arrived and unarmed people got out and picked up wounded or dead. In the video, in the passenger window of the front door you can clearly see two figures side by side. Clearly they were not adults. Maybe midgets? The aircrews fired on them.

    Then later when ground troops arrived and found the wounded children they were refused permission to evacuate them to a military hospital.

    I do not see how the actions after the initial firing could possibly be within any rules of engagement.

    The ground troops who were directly in harms’ way performed admirably. It was the stand off combatants who seemed to have crossed the line.

  • Ken K.

    I don’t know where to begin. In general, the public knows nothing about what happens in a theater of war. Those of us who have been in combat know only the narrow piece of history we gleaned while trying to kill the bad guys who were trying to kill us.

    I can’t tell you about how the Marines in Sumfargone Town fought, how they reacted in a firefight, or how they utilized the resources available to them, because my own experience was in a different place and time. I can draw some parallels, though.

    The bad guys know how hard we work to prevent civilian casualties, and they use that knowledge to harm our troops while simultaneously neutralizing some of our weapons. We won’t use artillery against X number of enemy troops when they fire from inside of an orphanage, and the enemy troops know that. We won’t let an attack helicopter fire willy-nilly into a market when some duck butt in there drops a RPG in our laps, and the enemy knows that.

    Civilians living in a war zone are held hostage by those who use civilians as cover.

    Does that video tell the whole story? I don’t think so. Yes, it lets us share the moment. Yes, it shows people being killed by fire from a distant helicopter. Yes, it lets us hear the conversation. And yes, there is glee in the voices as the” targets” are brought under fire.

    However, when a warrior sees a threat across any battlefield, he or she knows death is only a few precious seconds away. The question is not one of whether someone will die, but rather which of us will die. Leaving a battle as the one not dead releases incredible emotions and, macabre or not, is reason for celebration. There can be no apology for having utilized resources that keep one alive in combat, just as there can be no condemnation of the warrior by those who believe war is something similar in nature to a video game in which only the monsters die.

    The rules of engagement dictate when and how America’s military can respond to an attack or the threat of an attack. Sometimes, though, it is necessary ro respond to that attack or threat before calling a staff officer on the other side of the world to ask for permission to fight.

    Leave them alone. The system works. It minimizes civilian casualties, minimizes casualties among our troops, and allows a person with an index finger curling around a trigger to make a life-or-death decision before being killed by someone whose primary motivation to kill Americans is jealousy of our culture and a serious misunderstanding of his or her own religion.

  • Alan

    Maybe I am the only one who saw the guys with the AK-47s. In case you missed it, it is at the 3:45 mark. Two men are clearly armed and were with the group. At about 4:08 a man is identified with an RPG. It sure as hell looks like one to me plus he appears to be taking a firing position (on one knee with cover provided by the building). Where they supposed to wait to have a bird taken down before they did anything?

    It is clear they were not going to shoot the wounded man unless he grabbed a weapon. They say it several times. The children being wounded was unfortunate, but could you tell in three seconds the first time you saw the video that their were kids? It wasn’t until they showed the zoomed in (which was obviously done later) clip with arrows that you could tell. How were the gunners supposed to know?

    People die in war. Innocent people. It is very unfortunate. But MPR should be ashamed of their insinuation! These soldiers were well within not only the ROE. I know this is an emotional video (and the propaganda intro doesn’t help), but try to be rational. These soldiers did not act in a disgraceful way.

  • Anwar

    I am sure that during War or a specific battle, mistakes are made. But the guys in the chopper showed no remorse when they found out they had wounded children and they thought it was funny to run over the bodies of dead people. Their behavior was reprehensible after the fact. War robs people of any humanity and it is obvious in our military men’s behavior.

  • kathie begich

    How many of you remember 9/11??? We had over 3,000 innocent people killed within seconds. The armed forces NEED to stop the talaban….and I would rather see them fight on their own soil than ours. The media does not report as clearly as we think. Get ALL the facts before you condemn our men in uniform. They too, are putting their lives on the line….they are proud to be serving the United States of America. That is more than some of you are doing. Put yourself in their place, then you you have the right to comdemn whoever you want.

  • Elizabeth

    To Kathy Begich:

    You’re right Kathy, I TOTALLY FORGOT about 9/11! Thanks for reminding me.

    Also, thanks for reminding me of the “facts” about the “Talaban.”

    I think you’re getting your countries and your organizations mixed up. So why don’t you brush up on the facts yourself. The real ones I mean, not the Fox-news brand of the truth. Iraq and the Taliban are not synonymous.