Update: I've written
two three follow-on articles with more analysis:
Many of you have probably seen the leaked footage of an air strike in Baghdad which claimed the lives of two Reuters employees. (Those that haven't can view the footage here. Warning, the video is extremely graphic)
Let's take a look at the actions on the part of the air crew. (Gun bunnies in particular, take note) The video appears damning, but I'm reserving the bulk of the judgement until I read the official AR 15-6 investigation.
- Despite the advances in thermal and optical sensors, it's still extremely difficult for an air crew to tell an insurgent from a civilian. The Apache pilots believed that they saw AK-47s and RPGs in the hands of the figures in the video. An examination of the video, however, is inconclusive. They could really be carrying anything. Some of the radio chatter from the infantry unit ("Bushmaster 26") indicates that there are insurgents walking about with AK-47s, and the cameras slung over the reporters shoulders might resemble some sort of rifle from a distance. (Edit: After watching the video a few times, I can see at least two figures with AK-47 style rifles as well as the RPG. Rewind was a luxury the pilots didn't have). It should be evident, based on this video, that although modern aerial platforms can collect a stunning amount of data, the most useful intelligence still comes from human networks, infantrymen on the ground, and the Mk-I eyeball.
- After engaging roughly eight people with the Apache's 30mm cannon, a van arrives on the scene, with figures seen carrying the wounded bodies towards the van. According to the pilots, the men in the van are "collecting weapons", and are also shot with the Apache's 30mm cannon. News flash: picking up wounded bodies is not a hostile act.
- Upon hearing that one of the victims is a young girl, the pilots laugh, "Well, it's their fault for bringing their kids to a battle". Wrong.
- The final engagement (the triangle-shaped building) allegedly houses six armed insurgents. However, (33:45-34:00) we see men walking into the building clearly without weapons in their hands (they are swinging their arms freely). The pilots fail to mention these two men walking into the building, nor do they mention another unarmed man (34:40) walking directly in front of the building as they shoot a Hellfire missile. Again, read FM 3-24, Appendix F. Another obvious COIN failure.
- The same thing happens as they fire a second missile into the building--as figures are seen walking into the burning structure. No weapons appear to be in their hands, yet the pilots don't seem to mention them as they launch yet another Hellfire into the building. Were the troops in contact even taking fire after the first Hellfire launch?
More at the Small Wars Journal Council.
Official AR 15-6 Investigation, which reveals that the pilots were from the 1-227th Aviation Regiment of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade. This might be a good read. (H/T Schmedlap)