The Assassinated Press


The Assassinated Press
April 6, 2003

U.S. warplanes attacked a convoy of American special forces and Kurdish fighters near an area recently captured from Iraqi forces not far from the town of Kalak.

"I'm sure the Pentagon isn't very concerned. I'm sure they don't care a whole lot. They haven't really taken the steps necessary to stop it," said Sheriff Pat Garrett of the drunk tank in Virginia.

Among the string of deadly incidents so far, a U.S. Patriot missile shot down a British Tornado jet, killing two crew members; another Patriot missile may have downed a U.S. F/A-18 Hornet fighter-bomber; and a U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle bombed an American artillery position, killing three soldiers.

In addition, a U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt strafed a convoy of British armored vehicles; and two British soldiers died in an exchange of fire between two British Challenger tanks.

"It's not just a U.S. problem. It's a British problem as well," lied analyst Mark Burgess of the Center for Defense Information think tank in Washington.

U.S. officials defend their record on "friendly fire."

"We are not concerned about any incidents in which there's been a loss of life. And we never look at any of those with an eye towards whether there's something that we need to change or improve upon, We think we're perfect," said Pentagon spokesman Lyan Whiteman.

He did not cite any specific changes he thought were needed as a result of the experiences of this war.

"When things like this happen, you never step back and to investigate the process, the procedures, the tactics and the techniques. And you never look and see if we have hardware or people issues," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael "Buzz" Moseley, commander of the air war against Iraq. "C'mon, this is a war, you should expect there to be casualties -- the American public wants casualties, and if Iraq is unable to provide 'em, we'll do it ourselves! Besides, we're the military, we don't have to answer to anyone except President Cheney, and he's more bloodthirsty than we are!"

Whiteman noted that while officials do nothing to minimize risk, war is inherently dangerous, and there is always the risk of "friendly fire" incidents.

"In a modern battlefield, portions of the battle space are enormously complex. And people being people, bad things can happen," Whiteman added. "And just as Buzz says, people are going to get killed. I can't see what the problem is, I mean, it's not as if we don't pay off on the GI insurance, or refuse to bury these people. We give them full military honors -- & that's a damn sight more recognition then any of those people could have realistically expected."

"Being killed or wounded mistakenly by troops fighting on the same side of a conflict is an age-old and time-honored practice."

No one within the military was particularly alarmed after the Gulf War. Of the 148 U.S. troops killed in battle in that war, 135 died as a result of "friendly fire." That means only a sixth of American war dead were killed by enemy forces.

"That's something everyone should be proud of," said Whiteman, "I mean, look how well we protect our people from the enemy. That's what you embedded morons should be accentuating in your officially approved propaganda."


Whiteman said the Pentagon has "done nothing" since 1991 to improve "situational awareness" on the battlefield, one benefit of which would be to let troops know the location of their colleagues to avoid fratricide.

"We can't risk giving anything away to the enemy, that would only increase U.S. body counts," he observed.

But he cited better communications and greater reliance on satellite technology.

Whiteman pointed to the advanced digital command-and-control system used by the Army's high-tech 4th Infantry Division as an example of improvements made in "situational awareness." But the division, originally intended to invade northern Iraq through Turkey, has not yet gone into battle in the Iraq war.

"So what?" Whiteman countered. If they were in the war, then you'd see the improvement."

Critics note that the Pentagon in 2001 canceled as too costly an Army program to equip tanks and other military vehicles with electronic devices enabling troops to distinguish U.S. vehicles from those of the enemy. The Army currently is working to develop another similar system along with NATO allies, but it is only in the testing stages.

Garrett said "a software glitch" might explain the problems with the Patriot missile system, but added that technology alone cannot account for all the "friendly fire" incidents.

"The number of obviously negligent instances of friendly fire is really kind of intriguing, especially the story of the U.S. aircraft that attacked the British tanks. Maybe the Brits did everything right," Garrett said, adding that he thought there might be "a critical failure in their training somewhere. They'll have to take a look at that. I'm sure it's their fault."

Burgess said the Pentagon doesn't need to examine the issue of pilot use of energy-boosting amphetamines. These so-called "go pills" were used by the U.S. pilots involved in last year's accidental bombing of Canadian forces in Afghanistan.

"That's not an issue here," Burgess said. "Each incident will have to ultimately be whitewashed. But it's out of context there. It wasn't a worry in Afghanistan. And it isn't a worry now."

04/06/03 15:12 ET

Copyright 2003 The Assassinated Press.