November 20, 2008

Friendly Fire Coverup Comes to Light

Read this article and watch the 12 minutes of edited video. There is some circumstantial evidence here that two U.S. soldiers in an apparent overwatch position were mistaken for insurgents in Ramadi in 2006, and were then killed by a single shot from the main gun of a U.S Abrams tank. Audio in the clip also seems to indicate that the coaxial 7.62 machine gun on the tank also opened up on the position following the discharge of the main gun.

Friendly fire occurs in every war, even though our soldiers try very hard to minimize the risk.

Here, though, it seems that a coverup began to form within 30 minutes of the incident, before the second soldier who died was even evacuated. As his sergeant blamed the incoming fire on a tank in a radio call, he was immediately told by a superior who was not on the scene that the deaths were the result of enemy mortar fire.

That someone then ordered the rushed shredding all documentation related to the men further reeks of a coverup. I suspect we have some Captains, Majors, and perhaps even a Colonel or higher who are involved.

The Army needs to get to the bottom of this, and fast.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at November 20, 2008 01:05 PM

I think you are falling for a selective telling of the incidents of this action. Nothing in the video comfirms the accusation of friendly fire, only that the unit think the fire came from the tank. There was more action going on then just what this unit's view of what was happening. The video starts with a discussion if it was "incoming or outgoing fire".

If you read through the Army's report, there were incoming motar rounds. The report indicates the US responded quickly to the identified motar position and that there is video of that reponse. It also states that the tanks were not just firing at just any targets they saw. The tanks had their maingun fire directed and cleared 4 times. The tank commanders knew that there were Friendlies in the surrounding buildings.

I wasn't there, but there is no evidence presented in the article that it was a friendly fire incident.

Another thing that causes me to go "HMMM?"
How does providing documents prove that someone was ordered to destroy those documents? The documents that Salon were provided aren't related to the incident. These documents are meaningless to the incident in question.

I have three nephews that have just returned 2 from Iraq and 1 from Afghanistan. One of them was a forward observer. It was his responsiblity to direct supporting fire. I'm quite sure that there would have been a similar position involved in this action. In close house to house fighting the big guns have their fire directed.

I know that friendly fire incident occur but there is no evidence that it happened here and/or there was an attempt of a coverup.

Please don't pull a Murtha here and accuse our men without proof.

Posted by: Alan at November 20, 2008 05:30 PM

Boy, there's a lot of heat, but very little light in that salon article.

So we have a couple of soldiers on extra duty (punishment) being detailed to do an unpleasant chore. That's what extra duty is all about.

Every battalion or company maintains a rather extensive local working/training file on each soldier. That file does not follow you when you leave that unit or the Army. It is destroyed.

The default assumption here by Salon is that a 15-6 is proof of a coverup. That isn't so. Let's say LTC McFarland started an investigation. He would know which company's tank has supposedly fired on US forces. The investigating officer would NOT be from that company. There is a separation between the investigator and the subject of the investigation.

Salon is in the business of generating traffic, not finding the truth.

Posted by: XBradTC at November 20, 2008 09:31 PM

While I applaud your curiosity and desire to know the truth, CY, to be perfectly honest, I'd need more than a single Salon story to really consider this worthy of a lot of digging. It's not like Salon has really been in the same class a BlackFive when it comes to supporting the troops, after all.

Posted by: ConservativeWanderer (formerly C-C-G) at November 20, 2008 10:28 PM

Guys, I got my start blogging because of Salon's loons, so trust me, it wasn't the text that influenced me as much as the soldiers in the vid, particularly within the first four minutes. At least one soldier called the shots on their position from the tank, saying he spotted muzzle flashes and then heard the impact hit the building. I think he was referring to the coaxial machine gun and not the 120 smoothbore, but as they are aligned on the same axis, it would make sense that if the 7.62 was hitting their building just split seconds after the 120 went off, then odds are the 120 fired the shot that hit the building and killed their soldiers.

Further, that the senior officer's voice on the radio immediately called a mortar strike, even though he was remote. Granted, he may have access to counter mortar radar in his position, but my gut is that the heard radio chatter from the M1 and figured it out , and perhaps had some sort of culpability in clearing the fire.

That;s my gut, folks, and I am on occasionally wrong on this sort of stuff, but my track record is that I'm more often than not right.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at November 20, 2008 10:46 PM

Like I said, CY, I wasn't there so I can only relay my impressions from the video and the US Army's report. I need more then your gut (I read emotional reaction to the video) to convince me that it was friendly fire and a cover up. In the first four minutes, there was a question of, if the nearby explosions were incoming or outgoing fire? The report states that this area was, indeed, receiving hostile mortar fire at this time. The unit seems to assume all explosions were caused the fire from the tank.

Both KIA soldiers, were on the roof top. While I don't have a layout of the building or streets, the tanks seemed to have been too close for a high angle a shot to the top of the roof.

You seem to jump "Murtha style" to assume the worst of the US Army officer who relayed the info that this unit was under hostile mortar fire, of which they seemed to be unaware.

Posted by: Alan at November 21, 2008 03:55 PM

"Further, that the senior officer's voice on the radio immediately called a mortar strike, even though he was remote. Granted, he may have access to counter mortar radar in his position, but my gut is that the heard radio chatter from the M1 and figured it out , and perhaps had some sort of culpability in clearing the fire."

Or perhaps he was looking at predator video. Who knows? You can't judge this on the basis of what a couple of soldiers think they saw. Wait and see is a good policy on things like this.

Posted by: douglas at November 22, 2008 03:09 AM


A 'CYA' isn't a good thing, because pointing outmistakes allows corrective action to take place, such as new doctrine or pointing out why procedures are to be done.

And at the best, it can just point out that a mistake was made in the heat of combat, which can happen at anytime and anyplace.

Posted by: Mikey NTH at November 23, 2008 01:54 PM

I'd like to point out two facts from the video that that go a long way to prove that this was not a friendly fire incident. First, at one point early in the video, the camera is pointed out the window and you can clearly see the tanks in question. They are maybe 100 or so yard away. Second, listen carefully to the audio right before the explosions occured. You can hear the tanks firing their main guns and hear the soldiers react. Then about 5 seconds before the explosions occur, you hear the tanks fire one last time. This lag in the time you hear the weapons fire to the time of the round impact is called FLASH TO BANG and is a quick way judge distance. There's no way that there would me so much of a time difference between hearing the tanks fire to the time the rounds impacted.

This wasn't discussed in the investigators report, but COL McFarland mentions it in his review.

As for the shredding, its doubtful that records of a Brigade investigation would be held at the Battalion record. From the two pieces of paper saved from the shredding, they appear to be simple training or personnel records. As for the date of the shredding, probably coincidence.

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at November 24, 2008 10:18 AM