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March 13, 2005

Hard Decisions 

In order to help to understand the context of the Sgrena Incident, and other instances of friendly fire and civilians killed at checkpoints or during military operations, here's a piece from Major K., a soldier in Iraq (with the 3rd Infantry Division, I gather). He describes this VBIED attack on an American convoy:

This is what had happened: A short distance from our FOB, A US convoy
was driving down the road. As they headed to their destination a civilian
vehicle pulled on from a side alley and attempted to get into the convoy.
Apparently, the convoy gunners were too green or some how did not perceive the car to be a threat. They did not wave the car off, throw anything at him,
cut him off, or shoot to try and stop him. A nearby IP (Iraqi Police) SUV
witnessed the intruding vehicle and immediately intervened. It pulled up
to the rear of the convoy and tried to force the intruding vehicle off the
road. The IP’s had successfully put themselves between the vehicle and the
US convoy. Unable to deter the vehicle from approaching the US convoy or
make it pull over, the IP’s fired at the engine of the encroaching
vehicle. At this point, the driver detonated the IED inside his
vehicle. Yes, this was a classic VBIED.

This suicide bomber killed himself and the four IP’s in the vehicle holding him at bay. The device was so powerful that the bomber’s vehicle was literally obliterated. The engine block was thrown over 25 meters. The IP’s vehicle was nothing but a burned out shell. All four IP’s inside perished in the blast, but not a scratch was inflicted on the vehicles or personnel of the US convoy. Had it not been for the exceptional bravery, valor and situational awareness of these four Iraqi Patriots, that day would have been bloodier, and we probably would have had another communications blackout at the FOB

Read it carefully: in this case the soldiers hesitated before firing, and such hesitation caused (indirectly) the death of four fine and brave men. The truth about situations like these is that you cannot have it both ways: if the standing procedures are designed to optimize the safety of the soldiers, the civilians will be at more risk. If the focus is on civilian safety, soldiers will be in a more dangerous position. The decision window is extremely short, a few seconds at best, and in this time the soldiers manning checkpoints and vehicle guns have to take decisions that will mean life and death, for themselves, their comrades and the civilians who are nearby. It's not an easy job, and I cannot cast condemnations if mistakes are made.

Comments:


Hi there :)

I found your blog via your post on Biased BBC. It's a pleasure to read a voice of reason in all this chaos!

I noted your comment on the bullets matter, and I'm glad to see that someone else besides me noted that recently fired rounds would be too hot to handle!

So now we're on... what? Version 3.5? Yes, it's too early to tell what was happening. But it's starting to look as if the US military was informed about the hostage rescue almost simultaneously with the shooting. I found an article that mentioned some of the timing, and I'll post it to you when I locate it again.

 

Here we are: This article says:

IOL

"Italian media have speculated that the reason for not telling the Americans was due to US opposition to Italy's policy of negotiating with kidnappers.

However, Marioli also said that he finally told an American officer with him at the Baghdad airport - a certain "Captain Green" - after getting a call that the mission had been a success and that the two agents and freed journalist Giuliana Sgrena were on their way back, according to dailies Corriere della Sera, Il Messaggero and La Stampa.


The one thing that's been consistent in all of Sgrena's various versions is the fumbling with the cell phones minutes before the shooting. I recall in the most recent one, she said that they turned on the dome light in the car for that reason, and the light was still on when they approached the checkpoint (and now the checkpoint that wasn't there is back!).

So if we can get the timing of the call to Marioli nailed down, I bet it would place him as telling this "Captain Green" about the hostage rescue virtually at the moment the shooting started, or so soon before that he didn't have time to call the checkpoint.

A terribly sad incident :(.

 

Thanks for the tip, I'll try to put the pieces together in a near future - now, trying to follow Sgrena's narrative convulsions gives me seasickness...
 

LOL! Please take your time. Her stories are so convoluted I can fully understand your seasickness! :)
 
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