May 05, 2006

Friendly Fire

While looking for more out-take video to analyze of Musab al-Zarqawi's shooting session for my Blooper Troopers post, I ran across a video report on the new Zarqawi footage by CNN's Jamie McIntyre.

It runs 3:07, and Ian has made it available as either a .WMV or .MP4 at Expose the Left.

As stated in my previous post, Zarqawi is shown to be less than impressive with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) he is shown firing in this video. He is unfamiliar with the weapon's operation, bracing for heavy recoil before firing, and then...

Pop... pop... pop.

Zarqawi can't get the machine gun to fire as a machine gun, in fully-automatic mode. It then seems to seize completely, and Zarqawi looks befuddled. While the footage is too grainy to tell for certain, it appears that the gun suffers a probable "stovepipe" malfunction, where a cartridge casing fails to eject completely and is caught by the bolt, resulting in a weapon stoppage. An associate happens to be nearby who has at least rudimentary experience with firearms, and he grabs the bolt handle and cycles the action to release the stovepiped round.

And as you watch the terrorist and his henchmen wrestle with the malfunctioning M249, the damnedest thing happens: CNN's Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre starts making excuses for al-Zarqawi's performance.

From 0:48-1:07 to on the clip:

"This weapon is an American weapon. It's called a SAW, or Squad Automatic Weapon, a very heavy machine gun which has a very heavy trigger; it's not easy to fire, and in fact it might be quite understandable that anyone--even somebody with weapon's experience, wasn't familiar with this particular weapon might have trouble firing off more than a single shot at a time...

It is bad enough that a U.S. journalist is seemingly making excuses for an al Qaeda terrorist, but not only is McIntyre making excuses, he is making demonstrably false excuses.

The M249 is light machine gun, the lightest dedicated machine gun in the U.S. Military. It fires the lightweight 5.56 NATO round, a cartridge developed from the .223 Remington, a cartridge designed to kill woodchucks and other small game. Most states will not allow hunters to use such a lightweight cartridge for medium and large game because it is so underpowered.

Nor is the M249 plausibly a "heavy" machine gun as far as weight goes. The M249 in the configuration shown weighs approximately 15 lbs, with the 200-round box magazine adding another 7 lbs when full. By way of comparison, the M2 .50 Caliber Browning, a real heavy machine gun, weighs 84 lbs without its 44 lbs tripod and ammunition.

McIntyre also claims that Zarqawi was having problems because of the M249's trigger. It would be interesting for Mr. McIntyre to reveal his source for his claim that the M249 "has a very heavy trigger." I have been unable to find so much as a single source that describes the standard trigger pull of the M249 as being "heavy." It is such a minor factor in the weapon's operation that I cannot find it mentioned at all.

Even the fact that the M249 is a fully-automatic weapon doesn't keep McIntyre from trying to float the excuse that some who, "wasn't familiar with this particular weapon might have trouble firing off more than a single shot at a time." Even General Lynch notes at 2:06 that "it's supposed to be automatic fire, he's shooting single shots, one at a time...something's wrong with his machine gun."

But it isn't just that Jamie McIntyre floated one lame excuse for the ineptitude of a terrorist that was so astounding, it is that he did so more than once.

After General Lynch makes his comments on Zarqawi's problems with his machine gun, McIntyre states from 2:50-3:50 into the clip:'s not clear at all that it really shows much about Zarqawi's military abilities with the weapon, because as I said, the Squad Automatic Weapon, a very heavy trigger, hard to fire unless you've had specific training on it, and one would imagine he hasn't had a lot of specific training on American weapons."

I can understand that as CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent for well over a decade McIntyre might have developed a certain degree of respect for this nation's enemies, but that doesn't mean he should go out of his way to fabricate excuses for them.

Update: I've now talked to several SAW gunners, including one who was a trainer, and the consensus viewpoint among them is that the terrorists have not cleaned this particular weapon, which caused cycling problems leading to the embarrassing jam. Jason at milblog Countercolumn has a post that compliments this one any goes into further details about the M249.

Sadly,as pathetic as McIntyre's video segment was, that bastion of liberalism, the NY Times is always ready to go that extra mile:

An effort by the American military to discredit the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi by showing video outtakes of him fumbling with a machine gun — suggesting that he lacks real fighting skill — was questioned yesterday by retired and active American military officers.

The video clips, released on Thursday to news organizations in Baghdad, show the terrorist leader confused about how to handle an M-249 squad automatic weapon, known as an S.A.W., which is part of the American inventory of infantry weapons.


The weapon in question is complicated to master, and American soldiers and marines undergo many days of training to achieve the most basic competence with it. Moreover, the weapon in Mr. Zarqawi's hands was an older variant, which makes its malfunctioning unsurprising. The veterans said Mr. Zarqawi, who had spent his years as a terrorist surrounded by simpler weapons of Soviet design, could hardly have been expected to know how to handle it.

Now, who do you chose to believe?

In one corner, we have the New York Times, who cites two officers and a couple of professors (one of whom is a veteran) in their article, without stating if any of these four men have any knowledge of the M249. They do not profess any specific knowledge of the weapon in question at all, and the Times does not provide one fact in this story. It's all opinion. Also in this corner, CNN's Jamie McIntyre who cites completely erroneous information to make excuses for a terrorist.

In the other corner, you have a couple of bloggers who did what the professionals should have, and "Googled" facts about the M249 and similar weapons. The bloggers were in contact with and verified facts through current and former SAW gunners from two countries (United States and Canada).

One side has facts, the other opinion. You choose who you want to believe.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at May 5, 2006 12:05 AM | TrackBack

Doesn't making excuses for a terrorist failure to properly fire a simple weapon shoot down the left wings description of our soldiers as uneducated red necks. If an uneducated red neck can use a weapon then shouldn't anyone with an IQ larger than their shoe size should be able to operate it. Actually all any of the left wing news (sic) reporters ever prove is that they are the most stupid group of anti-americans in the country, and that's saying a lot when you look at the left wing politicians. It's hard to be more stupid than a left wing politician but the reporters have reached the pinacle of stupidity.

Posted by: Scrapiron at May 5, 2006 12:23 AM

I was a saw gunner for over a year. And spent 7 months training Iraqis. One thing's for sure. They don't like to clean weapons. Someone please get that man a bottle of CLP, and a wire brush.

Posted by: ">brando at May 5, 2006 01:45 AM

Wow. These news people have lost their minds. I like how they all mention that the release of this tape is American propaganda. I hope these folks pay dearly for rooting so hard for our enemies.

Posted by: Stankleberry at May 5, 2006 05:33 AM

I guess we should have provided at least rudimentary training to al-Zarqawi. Poor terrorist can't even handle an automatic weapon. Wonder what he would do with a short fused grenade? I'd like to watch.

Posted by: Old Soldier at May 5, 2006 06:43 AM

More sympathy for Zarqawi and none for Cheney. Cheney must have used the "light" trigger.

The obsequiousness of the Clinton News Network is astonishing.

Posted by: drjohn at May 5, 2006 07:09 AM

What a pantload!

Heavy trigger pull? Once you've pulled the trigger far enough to fire the first round, you just have to hold it where it is to fire multiple rounds. That's the whole point of an AUTOMATIC weapon, isn't it?

I suppose that if you are a nimrod terrorist who does his best work sending other people to die while you run away like a p***y, then you might be surprised when the weapon made the big boom sound and you might have released the trigger prematurely.

Posted by: Steve L. at May 5, 2006 07:12 AM

Sorry, but how is suggesting his unfamiliarity with the weapon is the reason why he is having trouble operating it worse than suggesting the weapon itself was the problem ?

Did I miss the point of this blog post or was the idea to come up with more people to come up with more excuses for Zarqawi instead of less ?

Posted by: Tank at May 5, 2006 08:17 AM

Yes, Tank, you did miss the point of the post.

Zarqawi is a poser. CNN made baseless apologies for Zarqawi's feckless attempts to appear tough.

Posted by: Yojimbo at May 5, 2006 09:18 AM
Did I miss the point of this blog post...

Apparently so, Tank. CNN's McIntyre is caught on tape making excuses - FALSE excuses - for Zarqawi's poor performance. I called him on his excuses, and pointed out they were bogus.

Zarqawi has fewer excuses than CNN was trying to give him credit for. Somehow, you seem to have the intent of this post almost 180-degrees backward.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at May 5, 2006 09:21 AM

Asking journalists to be anything other than clueless in matters weapon-related is optimistic to say the least, but this takes the cake. Years ago I saw shots of a very attractive, but petite Asian woman (Singapore Defence Forces Sgt, if I recall) firing an M249, from the hip, slung, going rock and roll, with her left hand. Yeah, heavy machine gun, all right.

Posted by: David Gillies at May 5, 2006 10:18 AM
Yes, Tank, you did miss the point of the post. Zarqawi is a poser. CNN made baseless apologies for Zarqawi's feckless attempts to appear tough. Posted by: Yojimbo at May 5, 2006 09:18 AM

Apart from the "tough on sand" crowd you can assume everyone else on the planet didn't need the poser angle explained to them kid.

The point you've missed is when it comes to terrorists those making baseless apologies for them and those making other apologies for them are sharing the same stage.

Posted by: Tank at May 5, 2006 10:27 AM

I swear sometimes that CNN must have a policy of not allowing reporters to check stories with anyone who has had even one minute of actual military experience.

Posted by: ArrMatey at May 5, 2006 10:45 AM
Apparently so, Tank. CNN's McIntyre is caught on tape making excuses - FALSE excuses - for Zarqawi's poor performance. I called him on his excuses, and pointed out they were bogus.

Yeah I spotted that. You made an excellent case for broadcasters covering a war that's not going anywhere getting a military consultant on staff.
Problem started when you decided to assign motive.

Zarqawi has fewer excuses than CNN was trying to give him credit for. Somehow, you seem to have the intent of this post almost 180-degrees backward.Posted by: Confederate Yankee at May 5, 2006 09:21 AM

That's not my take on it, that's just the way it is. You called CNN out for making poor excuses for Zarqawi and offered a better excuse instead.

Seriously, it's propaganda, it's not supposed to be taken this seriously. The only substance of the content for each tape was to cause embaressment to the other side.
By involving yourself and by deciding to call someone a terrorist apologist you embaressed yourself by doing the same thing.

Not to stick the boots in too hard here, but is it still technically "friendly fire" when you shoot yourself in the foot ?

Posted by: Tank at May 5, 2006 10:54 AM

So in your world, you are a terrorist apologist for catching someone in the act of apologizing for terrorists?


Posted by: Confederate Yankee at May 5, 2006 11:10 AM

Tank... What color is the sky in your world?

Posted by: Sanjuro at May 5, 2006 11:17 AM

My favorite part of the tape is when he turns with the weapon and points it in the face of the guy next to him.

Wouldn't inspire confidence considering he apparently has no clue how to operate the thing.

They also dropped the part of the tape where the other AQ boob grabs it by the barrel and jerks his burned hand back.

Posted by: Dwilkers at May 5, 2006 11:26 AM

Dwilkers, you would be talking about this scene?

Eddie Eagle would not be happy.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at May 5, 2006 12:10 PM

This tape is "American Propoganda?"

It was filmed by al-Qaeda!

Let's see if I can find that film clip where CNN said the account of Cheney mishandling a gun was "Democratic Propoganda."

Posted by: Steve O at May 5, 2006 08:55 PM
So in your world, you are a terrorist apologist for catching someone in the act of apologizing for terrorists? Confederate Yankee at May 5, 2006 11:10 AM

We aren't talking about my definition of a terrorist apologist, we are talking about yours. You've said that's someone who makes excuses for them shortly before you did the same thing.

In my world this ridiculously simple concept doesn't need explaining 4 times. Keep playing dumb though, we both know it's not like your readers aren't smart enough to join those two dots themselves.

Posted by: Tank at May 6, 2006 06:32 AM

you've go to be kidding me, unbelievable

Posted by: ray robison at May 6, 2006 07:41 AM

Tank, it is quite apparent from the other comments on this thread that you're to one with... issues.

I analyzed the film clip and McIntyre's performance, explaining how Zarqawi couldn't clear one of the most common of failures, and that McIntyre bent over backwards to make the problem seem far more complex than it was--even to the point he was making things up.

Somehow, in your tortured logic, it is wrong to explain why something is false by showing what the truth is. That's just sad.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at May 6, 2006 08:10 AM

Tank, bro...quit while youre behind.

this CNN segment is nothing more or less than Jamie McInQaeda failing to do the most basic fundamental research and fact checking...

M249 NOT a heavy weapon
M249 trigger NOT hard to operate

...because to do so would have wiped out the entire premise of his story, which is that we should not be so hard on Zarqawi if somehow he doesnt know how to fire a machine gun.

Posted by: CWB at May 6, 2006 01:06 PM

I can't believe that this is even a debatable issue - I learned to fire that gun (actually its Canadian brother, the C-9) as a skinny 18 year old punk, and spent a good part of the next 10 years teaching others. Sure, doing a detail-strip is somewhat complicated, but just firing? Come on - I had 98lb female recruits on basic courses who could handle this thing better than Zarko. And how is racking the bolt on a SAW any different from doing the same thing on an RPK or whatever Sovietesque gun the Muj normally use?

Last year I went to the Gun Store in Vegas with some friends - it was the first time they'sd fired ANY guns and we had them checked out on multiple weapons in just a morning - including IAs on the SAW. Zarko is just an ass-clown and Jamie McIntyre is his butt-plug.

Posted by: holdfast at May 6, 2006 03:21 PM

Tank, you included a phrase about 'a war going nowhere' in your comments. As that phrase has nothing to do with the video and Mr. McIntyre's reporting, it seems to be an editorial comment on your part about the war. Of course you have every right to hold perspectives disparaging the US war in Iraq, but they do indicate your bias.

Zarqawi clearly demonstrated on that tape that he is inept in handling of firearms. Experienced eyes watching that tape see the issues brought out in this aritcle and the ensuing comments, but also see body language that screams inexperience with firearms.

Mr. McIntyre is either a tacit supporter of Zarqawi; someone who wants to denigrate the US in time of war; a woefully incompetent reporter; or all of the above. An unbiased journalist watching that tape with little or no knowledge or experience in the proper handling of firearms would have either sought out experts to provide their opinion and reported it as such, or just commented solely on what was visible in the tape without resorting to biased conjecture clearly designed to invoke his desired political interpretation of what was shown in the video.

BTW I wrote CNN a polite nasty-gram about Mr. McIntyre and how he was able to miss the obvious news in the story: Zarqawi is a political leader who can't even really handle a firearm properly. He was too busy giving Zarqawi a journalistic blowjob.

Posted by: F15C at May 6, 2006 06:46 PM

I find it very funny that the SAW is regarded as a "heavy" weapon at 15 lbs. The SAW replaced the M60 machine gun, which weighed about 33 lbs. Having fired the M60 in Basic Training (I loved firing it), I don't remember the trigger on that as being "heavy," and I imagine that the SAW is as easy to fire as the M60 was.

As for the "barrel grabbing" scene, it is fairly obvious that these guys have been watching way too many reruns of "Rat Patrol."

Posted by: RLD at May 6, 2006 08:08 PM

Actually, RLD, the SAW did not replace the M60 so much as fill a gap left by the old BAR. The M60 successor is the M240, another 7.62mm weapon.

When the M14 replaced the M1 Garand, a select fire version was produced as a squad automatic weapon, but it was unsatisfactory - too difficult to control in full auto. The M60 was assigned to squads to fill that gap, but was always acknowledged to be too heavy. Eventually the Belgian MiniMi was adopted as the M249 SAW.

And the rest of you guys, quit picking on tank just because he can't tell the difference between being a terrorist apologist and criticizing one.

Posted by: Steve Skubinna at May 6, 2006 08:34 PM

Just poking my nose in from LGF...

"Update: I've now talked to several SAW gunners, including one who was a trainer, and the consensus viewpoint among them is that the terrorists have not cleaned this particular weapon, which caused cycling problems leading to the embarrassing jam.

Probably a mechanical malfunction - broken extractor spring to be precise.

I had a lot of dirt and shit in my SAW, never a problem, except for that time I had the feed tray open and and an empty casing from the guy next to me landed inside the receiver - it would still rattle of several rounds before getting jammed.

see linky for partially disassembled SAW going full auto without trigger assembly

Posted by: PETN Sandwich at May 6, 2006 09:10 PM

It really doesn't matter whether the CNN reporter was accurate, or even nominally responsible in doing fact-checking. The fundamental problem is that his orientation is sympathetic to the stinking terrorist, regardless of whether he follows the journalists' standard manual of tidiness.

CNN's Eason Jordan made it clear after the U.S. military entered Iraq that CNN had for most of the preceding decade deliberately suppressed its reporting on the barbarities Saddam was daily inflicting on his own people, rather than risk losing their privileged front row seat for the spectacle of American cruise missiles that from time to time detonated in Downtown Baghdad.

It really is sickening to see how the NYTimes, the Washington Post, Time, CNN, all dance around the truth like a bunch of stockbrokers trying not to step in dog poop on the sidewalk, then proceed to tell us how ethical they are. What a bunch of fatuous quarterwits.

Posted by: David March at May 7, 2006 02:28 AM

The fundamental problem is that his orientation is sympathetic to the stinking terrorist...


Posted by: Dwilkers at May 7, 2006 07:03 AM

Zarkhawi is alive & free & using captured American weapons. As long as he's alive & free & using captured American weapons, he's winning & we're losing. Any other way you tell it is just spin until you actually capture him.

Posted by: Tom at May 7, 2006 01:40 PM

That's brilliant, Tom.

By your logic, we we'ren't winning World War II until Hitler shot himself as we were closing in on Berlin.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at May 7, 2006 02:06 PM

Does anyone here care to make a monetary wager on whether this POS will live out his days in freedom, dying eventually of old age? Bear in mind that he has Seal Team 6 and the Delta boys closing in on his ass....

C'mon, Tom....any takers?

Posted by: freddfish at May 8, 2006 10:16 AM

I totally agree with everything you're saying -- the SAW isn't really that hard to fire, it doesn't require "days of training" to "master", and it's not heavy.

Zarqawi might now know how to handle a SAW (and has very poor range safety - did you see him flag that guy??), but he's shown time and time again that he can lead, organize, and carry out acts of of the most vicious terrorism around. Opening up a debate about his "weapons prowess" seems childish, and no better than showing clips of George Bush falling off his bike. Why Paint Zarqawi as some sort of an inept buffoon or write him off as some kinda pussy? His track record speaks for itself. He shouldn't be underestimated by anyone in the American public. Why even open the door for trivilizing how influential/dangerous he is?

Posted by: paully at May 9, 2006 08:00 PM

Paul, because laughing at the enemy when they trip and fall is fun. The reason of the post was to point out that CNN considers Zarky more of a friend than an enemy.

The edited tape is pure propaganda.

The captured tape isn't American propaganda, it's simply unedited.

Posted by: brando at May 9, 2006 09:57 PM

Tank, you need to explain things four times, because you are so verbally challenged. I had to READ several of your posts several times, and still could find no discernable meaning.

My read on the original article was that our hero had the thing set on semi-auto. It did, after all, say that he was only able to fire single shots. That's not jammed; that's having semi-auto selected. An experienced fighter would know this. Maybe not how to select Auto on this particular weapon, but ANYone who has ever fired a selectable fire weapon knows the difference.

There are some mistakes you only make once. These two each made one. NO ONE would ever point a loaded weapon in someone's face twice. At least not until after his broken jaw had healed.

The second one is, no one would ever grab the barrel of a just fired weapon a second time. Which means that this scum is anything but experienced.

Let's get real here. If a CAR starts going backward instead of forward, anyone who has ever merely RIDDEN in a car knows what is wrong. It doesn't take days of training.

Paully, we are not fighting this war on mountain bikes. If you need help figuring that out.....well... I can't help you.

Yes, we all know that he's roach turd who's good at leading, and organizing, but it's the carrying out part that's being called into question.

The intent of our display of the whole video is to let it speak for itself, to take him down off his high horse, and there's nothing petty, or childish about that.

You don't seem to grasp that this is a war of PERCEPTION as well as hot lead.

Any time we can pull back the curtain and show Oz as he is is a good thing.

Posted by: Bill at May 10, 2006 06:08 PM