The NYT has a good blog post up giving some of the reactions to the Wikileak video we talked about in class this week. A few key points I was not aware of:
• Anthony Martinez, an infantryman with around 4500hrs of aerial footage experience, points out at 3:39 there is a RPG and some kind of AK weapon;
• Schmedlap states that some of the journalists Reuters hired for information were insurgents – had not heard that before;
• Small Wars Journal raises a good point about the lack of Army response to the video.
This information makes the narrative different – at least for me. From how I understand it these were journalists embedded with an insurgent group who possibly were involved in ground conflict that the Apache was responding to. From this perspective the response from the Apache is different. It makes more sense that they would engage – initially. Obviously the Apache still failed to see that the two reporters were carrying cameras and not weapons, but this was not just a group of innocent civilians that they were walking around with.
Should the Apache have engaged though? Some of the blogs bring up the conversation of COIN doctrine for aviators. While there were insurgents in the group they were not engaging the Apache and the pilots request permission to open fire before the reporter positions with his camera towards the Apache (which they thought was an RPG). Another interesting caveat here – the official Army AR 15-6 Investigation points out insurgent groups are known to use camera equipment to photograph US forces for their own purposes. Apparently there is quite a bit of discussion over a lack of COIN training for aviators. This keeps the pilots removed from the situations on the ground and seems counterproductive to COIN. The FM 3-24 manual has an appendix devoted to the role of aviation in COIN and the Apache was operating within the framework given in the manual.
I am not going to say I think everything the pilots did was correct, especially when discussing the van and the Hellfire missiles they fired – which was not shown in the Wikileak video. But, with this additional information from professionals in the blogosphere, the extremely poor editing of the video by Wikileak is even more apparent. They do not point out the weapons, nor do they explain the context.
One place I will take a stand on this situation is the discussion over the Army response. They are in a completely reactive position. I am not saying they should have released the footage, but I think they could have controlled it better and that they are failing to direct the narrative influencing the interpretation of the video. Civil Affairs seems to have dropped the ball on this one. They have the personnel to make critical/intellectual interpretations of the footage that can counteract the Wikileak editing but it seems that the blogosphere has had to take up the reins on that.