Friday, March 16, 2007

US rejects charge of unlawful killing

Oxford assistant deputy coroner Andrew Walker today determined a verdict of unlawful killing in the inquest into the death of Lance Corporal of Horse Matty Hull. He died near Basra on 28 March 2003 when a US pilot fired on his tank convoy. However the US State Department has rejected the coroner's decision that the accident amounted to a criminal act. A spokesperson called it a "tragedy" in a time of war.

And this is undoubtedly true. However, the US is wrong to suppose that an accident is devoid of blame or that a person at some level in the affair is not accountable. The tape of the discussion between the pilots and aircraft control details the whole event. It is believed that a lack of training led the pilots to conclude that the orange panels which marked the vehicles out as British were rockets. Had they been properly briefed they would have known that weapons matching that description were not known to the military. The pilots fired without proper authority.

Imagine person A lets person B take control of a forklift truck knowing full well that B doesn't have training in operating the controls. B, in the course of moving some heavy goods, then drops the shipment on the heads of some colleagues. It is later found that the incident was indeed an accident but that A was wrong to allow B to use the machine and B was not adequately trained. Both are still subject to law and the death of Matty Hull is no different.

The transcript in full:

Popov36: Hey, I got a four ship. Looks like we got orange panels on them though. Do we have any friendlies up in this area?

Manila hotel: I understand that was north 800 metres.

Manila hotel: Popov, understand that was north 800 metres?

Popov35: Confirm, north 800 metres.Confirm there are no friendlies this far north on the ground.

Manila hotel: That is an affirm. You are well clear of friendlies.

Popov35: Copy. I see multiple revetted vehicles. Some look like flatbed trucks and others are green vehicles. Can't quite make out the type. Look like may be Zil157s (Russian made trucks used by Iraqi army).


Popov 36: OK. Right underneath you. Right now, there's a canal that runs north/south. There's a small village, and there are vehicles that are spaced evenly there.

Popov 36: They look like they have orange panels on though.

Popov35: He told me, he told me there's nobody north of here, no friendlies.


Popov36: They've got something orange on top of them

Popov35: Popov for Manila 3, is Manila 34 in this area?

Manila Hotel: Say again?

Popov35: Manila hotel, is Manila 34 in this area?

Manila hotel: Negative. Understand they are well clear of that now.

Popov35: OK, copy. Like I said, multiple revetted vehicles. They look like flatbed trucks. Are those your targets?

Manila hotel: That's affirm

Popov35: OK


Popov36: I want to get that first one before he gets into town then.

Popov35: Get him - get him.


[Sound of gunfire]...

Lightning 34: Roger, Popov. Be advised that in the 3122 and 3222 group box you have friendly armour in the area. Yellow, small armoured tanks. Just be advised.

Popov35: Ahh shit.

Popv35: Got a - got a smoke.

Lightning 34: Hey, Popov34, abort your mission. You got a, looks we might have a blue on blue situation.

Popov35: Fuck. God, bless it.


Manila 34: We are getting an initial brief that there was one killed and one wounded, over.

Popov 35: Copy. RTB (return to base)

I'm going to be sick.


Popov35: Did you hear?

Popov36: Yeah, this sucks.

Popov35: We're in jail dude


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