Archive for the ‘Opinions’ Category

A day with the Kindle Fire

After a few reviews were out in the wild, I decided it wasn’t too much of a risk to pull the trigger on my own Kindle Fire. This should be prefaced with the fact that I see no point in tablets. I have computing ADD – if I’m using something that purports to be a computer it’d better be able to multitask its face off. Fortunately, the Kindle Fire seems to be marketed more as an eReader with some mobile entertainment features and not as a laptop replacing tablet. My intentions with this device are simple: reduce the weight of my backpack by purchasing engineering textbooks digitally. As an Amazon Prime member, the free content offerings from Amazon are a nice benefit. The question is, will this device do what I want it to do well enough that I feel like I didn’t blow $200 on something I won’t use?

A solid day of use may have provided some insight into my last question. Books that are published as print reproductions, which as far as I can tell is marketing speak for low-resolution image exports of page layouts, may not be of any use at all on the Kindle Fire. Magazines published this way are certainly not worth a second glance – full zoom fails to yield text that is in any way a joy to read. Viewing PDFs of lecture slides is not a problem, and for the last several semesters that’s how most of my required material has been delivered, so at least there’s that. Publications that actually take the time to format their content for mobile devices are excellent. While I’ve never used an original Kindle, and can’t comment on the differences, I will say that using Kindle-specific content is very enjoyable. Two such publications are Science News, and The New Yorker. The latter is delivered through a standalone application, rather than the Newsstand, but offers several features that make content consumption more dynamic for the user – namely the inclusion of links to multimedia content which the Kindle Fire happily plays. The former populates the Newsstand, and reads much like a Kindle eBook.

Kindle Fire

As far as the other features are concerned, the Kindle Fire seems plenty capable of handling most light tasks pretty well. Silk, the browser Amazon spent so much time talking about, is kind of a dud in my opinion. It’s certainly not the fastest browser I’ve ever experienced. It loads pages though, and renders most things pretty well. The browser does seem to report as computer rather than a mobile device, leading to some pages coming up in a less-than-ideal format. The Amazon Appstore leaves a lot to be desired, for instance Dropbox is not available. Fortunately, you can get the apk directly from Dropox and it functions just fine. Anyway, it’s not going to replace my desktop by any means. My laptop will still be coming with me in the event I need MATLAB or any of the other major software suites I have installed on it. For light browsing, chatting, video, audio (through headphones, the speakers aren’t that great), and the obvious Kindle features I think this device will work just fine for me. Your mileage may vary.

… against all enemies, foreign and domestic …

I’ve used the words in my title before. They’re in the oath of enlistment, and even before I left the military I started to wonder if that oath has any actual meaning. My conclusion? No.

I never met an enemy to our constitution in Iraq. I’m not even sure what a foreign enemy to the constitution really entails beyond perhaps an invading force seeking, explicitly, to impose their rule over the United States. No such enemy existed in Iraq. One could make a very weak, and logically unstable, argument that such an enemy existed in Afghanistan but poking such an argument full of factual holes would be easier than lighting a half-empty barrel of gasoline on fire with a blowtorch. I was, however, ordered by the President of the United States and the officers appointed over me to deploy to Iraq (twice) based entirely on fiction. That fiction was supported by a majority of Americans. There is no room to point fingers at any individual party regardless of how Congress voted. The majority of the allegedly empowered people in the United States supported our invasion of Iraq. Period.

That leads to the second key part of the oath of enlistment. It says there must be defense, by those who swear into the armed services, against domestic enemies. Domestic enemies? I’m going to take that to mean groups within the United State who wish to circumvent the constitution or otherwise dilute its position in our government. Those groups have certainly been encountered. The most prolific happen to bear the titles of United States Senate and United States House of Representative. The senators and representatives within those two bodies were elected by the people to act as their representation in government. Instead, they act with no regard for their stated powers or limitations as defined by Article I of the Constitution of the United States of America, or the subsequent amendments. They act with no regard for the often vocal will of their constituents. Instead of acting as a representative body, they meet alone to decide what they will do and what they will not do. There is no room for individuality; the party line is rarely crossed regardless of the very clear will of the people. They act, as our founders feared, as if they are better than the public and are alone in their unique ability to determine any appropriate course for the nation.

Ah, but we have checks and balances right? On paper perhaps, but the Supreme Court does nothing to check the abuse of powers by Congress nor does the President. For as long as I’ve been alive, and indeed for the entire history of this nation, it tends to be the President requesting that Congress circumvent the constitution. So, my question is this: why are there thousands of troops deployed around the globe fighting a non-existent foreign enemy to the constitution but none in the halls of Congress fighting the very real domestic enemies who are busy bickering about who gets to assault the constitution more this year?

There is no easy answer to that question, and frankly deploying an entire division to D.C. won’t change anything. The real problem is the people in this country do nothing to exercise their powers. Oh, sure, people vote. People vote for the same establishment that mocks them every two years. People do not hold their representatives accountable. Most people don’t even bother to educate themselves on what it is their representatives are supposed to be doing. The vast majority of the voting population in this country has never even attempted to read Article I. As such, the people have given up their power entirely – and that is why the out-of-control government is shutting down. Congress failed because the people allowed it to fail. My oath had no meaning because the domestic enemy destroyed the constitution while it ordered its defenders off to fight fictional beasts for decades – and nobody noticed.

What gives?

It’s no secret that I generally despise social media. Far too much credit is given to these various outlets of information, and forms of piecewise communication. Never before, it is said, has there been so much information so easily accessible to the public. That much is true. It is also true that never before has the general public had so much access to poorly formed opinions, misrepresented data, or outright lies packaged as wholesome truths. The consequence to such “information overload” seems to have been a near collective loss of the ability to think for ourselves.

Nearly every single day I hear someone cite Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook as the source, or foundation, for some claim they’ve just made. Are you really going to read something one of your contacts, who you probably really know little to nothing about, and then base a decision off of that bit of information? What’s worse is this tendency to jump in with both feet as soon as you read something appealing has swept what was once at least somewhat respectable media outlets. The New York Times has trouble running with accurate information for no other apparent reason than something was retweeted 85,000 times so it must be true.

So, why is it that we’re so interested in giving up our own thoughts for a quick shot of what everyone else thinks? What makes the social media engine run when its fuel is 99% pure BS?

Yes, I realize I just ranted about social media from a form of social media that I’ve been using for longer than anyone’s called it social media.

Gallup Poll Proves Majority Consistently Naive

In reference to this Gallup poll, I can only conclude that in the long running history of our involvement in various armed conflicts the American people are consistently both gullible and naive.

These conflicts are most often paraded as actions required in order to support fledgling democracies around the globe, or to protect human rights. The premise is generally that our “unique capabilities” will enable the rapid removal of a brutal tyrant* in order to allow the greater international community to engage in their nation-building attempts with relative safety. Prolonged US involvement will surely be out of the question. Worry not, dear people, we won’t squander hundreds of billions of dollars in a futile attempt to improve the social and economic conditions abroad. In no way will this action prove to waste both money we do not have and the lives of our service members. Unthinkable.

Unthinkable? More like incapable of thought. The general condition of most voting Americans: incapable of rational thought or scrutiny. The poll I linked includes data going back nearly twenty years, and shows a majority of support for each of a number of completely senseless conflicts. The story is the same every time, and Americans go for the bait every single time. Are you naive enough to believe there’s a functional difference between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to supporting war? There isn’t one. It’s entirely possible that Republicans support the war because they know it’s good for Lockheed, and Democrats report the war because they’d never dream of opposing their party leaders – but that is probably more limited to the halls of Congress than the general public. No, the general population of both Democrats and Republicans likely support the war because they’re unable to process complex thoughts and notice that we have a trend of getting into entanglements from which there are no benefits for any of the involved parties.

Should someone stop the Libyan government from slaughtering its people? Probably. How about Darfur? Or $AnyOfADozenMoreAfricanNations? Also, yes. Does that mean that the US must be involved in all of them? No, not really. There are plenty of capable Western powers right next to Africa, and considering they’re the ones who asked for the NFZ they ought to handle their own mess. Our involvement should have gone no further than the security council vote from which we frankly should have abstained. Either way, what’s done is done. As usual, the public blindly supports the action.

* Ignore for the moment that the tyrants in need of toppling were generally installed, funded, and trained by the US.

Nothing particular

Right now there’s much I could say, but I don’t have a whole lot of time for that. I took Abbey to be spayed and microchipped yesterday. She’s still just as happy and playful as ever. I swear that dog has endless energy. A roll of Velvia 50, which I got when I bought my Pentax 67, also made its way to AZ Photo Lab for developing. Later today, I’ll make a trip down there to pick the roll up and see how it looks. The film is super expired, but it’s been in the freezer, so this could be very interesting.

Last night I allowed some partial fraction decomposition to kick my ass. The various rules for special integration are quite hard to remember a full year after taking Calculus 2. This is especially true when you’ve had no reason to use any of them since finishing that class. At some point I’ll move on to dynamics. That should happen sooner than later, because I’ve got an exam coming up next week and am in no way prepared.

The whole amazement at the situation in Egypt is entertaining. There’s a movement without a plan, and people think that’s going to result in some Utopian peace and freedom. In all likelihood, the end result will be roughly the same as the previous condition. We can hope it will not be worse, but there’s little historical reason to believe that will be the case.

Repeal DADT

It should go without saying that a government supposedly based on freedom and equal rights has no business making discrimination an official policy. Yet here it must still be said repeatedly. It’s possible that this is because nobody in the government actually listens to those they are meant to represent. It’s equally possible that this is because nobody in the government actually believes the document they swear to uphold has any value or meaning. Neither of those possibilities make it right to continue discriminatory policy.

So long as a soldier does what a soldier is meant to do, namely live up to the oath of enlistment, matters of sexual orientation ought not matter at all. Nor should matters of religious preference, political affiliation, or any other matter of personal opinion be of any concern.

Supporters of keeping DADT alive like to claim that unit cohesion will be damaged by allowing the openly homosexual to serve. That might be the single most baseless claim I’ve ever heard in my life. Unit cohesion is probably damaged more by the current deployment cycle, in support of wars in which few can identify a single tangible goal, than it could ever be by even a full squad of homosexuals with neatly accessory-adorned body armor.

I knew homosexual soldiers, both male and female – support and combat arms, when I was in the Army. They conducted themselves like professionals. They followed orders, and often exceeded the standards set forth for the completion of their tasks and missions. On the other side of things I pushed for UCMJ action against more than a few completely useless heterosexual soldiers. Why on Earth is there a policy wherein a good soldier can be rapidly shown the door out of a service he or she both wants and deserves to be a part of based only on sexual orientation yet it’s nearly impossible to get rid of so much of the trash that makes its way into the ranks?

To invoke a bit of pop-culture, Lady Gaga probably said it best here, ““If you are not committed to perform with excellence as a U.S. soldier because you do not believe in full equality, then go home.” I really could not agree with her more. The one thing I’d say is that she needs to urge more than just three Republican senators to support the repeal of an insane policy – she needs to urge every single member of Congress to abolish the nonsensical policy once and for all.

Transparency and ignorance

Given the response to my last entry about the journalistic failures of WikiLeaks, I did my best to ignore this topic. With the level of insanity around the topic today, I can no longer ignore it. If the striking through of my first statements in response to “Collateral Murder” confuses you, allow me to be clear. In no way do I support WikiLeaks. On the surface they appear as a beacon of transparency in a sea of opacity that is the flow of information. If one even chips that surface something far less noble is found. Their continuous claim that as an organization they have attained true objectivity and responsibility in reporting is utterly ridiculous. Cherry picking raw data and packaging it for release as a sensationalized editorial piece is neither objective nor responsible.

In this latest leak, tens of thousands of classified documents from Afghanistan were leaked. From what I have read, and I did admittedly get quite bored somewhere around the 10,000th report, these are almost entirely SIGACT reports. A SIGACT is any report of “significant activity” in an area of operations (AO). What exactly constitutes a SIGACT varies from commander to commander. If Private Joe Snuffy is in an outpost and a traffic officer fires 3 rounds from his AK47 into the sky instead of using a whistle (a practice common in Baqubah during my first tour in Iraq) chances are that action constitutes a SIGACT to his commander. It means absolutely nothing but it will be reported anyway.

The above example is exactly the sort of SIGACT found in the vast majority of the Afghanistan leaks. Several of the reports are of such little relevance that I can assure you, having recorded tens of thousands of SIGACTS myself, the next higher echelon wondered why anyone even wasted the breath to relay the message. This is not to say the entirety of the leaked information is irrelevant but that the majority of it is completely useless drivel. That is, if you understand it. A key problem surrounding the discussion of this leak is that very few people outside the military actually understand these reports. Unfortunately, that does not stop the ignorant masses from opining loudly about the content they’ve read and failed to comprehend.

One of the largest areas to have been discussed in the wake of these leaks is that of civilian casualty reports. Again, without knowing what generates such a report the discussion is rooted in ignorance. Any dead civilian seen by any friendly forces generates such a report. Reading that some unit’s callsign reports four dead and seven wounded civilians near some location in no way indicates by itself that the reporting unit had anything to do with the death or injury of those civilians. Nobody is denying that US-led forces have in fact killed civilians, whether justifiable by ROE or not, but few pay any attention to the very significant number of civilians killed intentionally by other Afghans. Regardless of who does the killing, dead civilians result in CIVCAS (Civilian Casualty) reports.

Perhaps the single most ridiculous claim to come from Julian Assange is “this material was available to every soldier and contractor.” While it is certainly true that each soldier is quite likely granted a provisional secret clearance while deployed in support of combat operations it is patently false to state that each of them is given access to the SIPRnet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network). In a given infantry company the number of soldiers with digital access to classified information past the moment they report it is very small. Not all contractors have unfettered SIPRnet access either. You get SIPRnet access only if you need it. That need is not determined by you, but by strict policy enforced by the unit’s intelligence and network sections. It follows quite logically then that those in the best position to exploit the SIPRnet have access to such by means of their position inside the intelligence section.

Furthermore, everyone with a real secret (or higher) clearance and access to the SIPRnet is briefed on what is and what is not authorized. There is nobody with a clearance who is unaware of the nature of their access and the consequences of violating the laws under which that access is covered. This gives rise to the baseless nature of another Assange claim wherein he asserts that because everyone can access the information (which is either a gross misunderstanding on his part, or a bold-faced lie) the US military failed to give due diligence to its informers.

Assange, as the face of a secretive organization, ought to know full well that security is an illusion. Many of the people with whom he is associated know this all too well, and work actively to break security mechanisms so that they might be made more secure as a result.

The US military did not release the names of Afghans with whom they had worked to the public. Those names were classified, and their secrecy bound by rules and regulations the violations of which carry strict punishment. Someone broke those rules and regulations and provided the information to WikiLeaks who in turn released the names to the public. WikiLeaks released those names. The US military did not. There is no way to mistake who is explicitly at fault for releasing those names to the public: the individual leaker (possibly Bradley Manning), and the publishing organization (WikiLeaks). These leaks quite literally endangered the lives of Afghans trying to do what they believed to be right. Is it hypocrisy for Secretary Gates to say Assange has blood on his hands? Probably. I know I have blood on my hands, and have dealt with that. Assange needs to come to terms with it himself now. A HUMINT (Human Intelligence) source has a very limited lifespan once exposed, and he has exposed many.

Transparency is important. Make no mistake about my feelings in that regard. The public, to whom our government is legally accountable, deserves to know what is going on in the name of their protection (and at the great expense of their tax dollars). This means both our government, its agencies, and the public have a lot of work to do. Uncle Sam needs to own up to its mistakes and release information in a clear and direct method the public can understand. The public needs to educate themselves on how to go about understanding, as best they can without the frame of reference gained by experience, that information.

Save Private Manning!

I’ll cut right to the chase with this one. From what? If Manning is guilty as charged, he deserves the full punishment he gets. It’s simply impossible to believe Manning did not know his actions violated at least one punitive article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

There’s a fairly decent chance if you’re reading this you’ve also read my analysis of the sensationalized editorial Wikileaks ran as news. The video that caused most of the stir captures an engagement between an Apache and a group of armed and unarmed men in a posture perceived as hostile to nearby troops. The subsequent 15-6 investigation, which is not just a dog-and-pony show, found no intentional violation of the ROE.

What could Manning possibly have hoped to change by leaking that video? Was he trying to send a message to journalists and photographers that being embedded with men carrying RPGs near a patrol of coalition forces is probably going to get you killed? Perhaps his goal was to urge persons of all professions to exercise personal responsibility and fully realize the dangers of their actions. Somehow I doubt that is the case. Manning has been compared to Ellsberg, but that’s a faulty comparison at best. Ellsberg had a point to make; it would seem Manning does not.

It seems Wikileaks is upset that the Crazyhorse crew hasn’t been charged with the deaths of the Reuters personnel they killed in the leaked video. The argument seems to be that because the identification of the photographer as a man armed with an RPG was made in error that the engagement amounted to cold-blooded murder – something clearly against both military and civilian law. If that is the metric being used – that the clear violation of a well-known law ought to result in the filing of criminal charges – Wikileaks ought to then fully support the charges brought against Manning. It’s very clear that one is only authorized to operate within his or her official capacity on the SIPRnet, and that failing to do so is a violation of the law. It is equally clear that the possession, and/or release, of materials inconsistent with their official markings is a violation of the law.

So, again, from what exactly is it Wikileaks wants to save Manning?

Deepwater Horizon

There’s so much to say about the whole ordeal, but sadly much of what has been said has come from a position of sheer ignorance. The ability, and seemingly the desire, of the media to use catastrophe as a means for increased revenue (which is generally understandable given their sinking-ship status) is astounding. If anything, this event (which certainly is a catastrophe) has produced the single largest surge the planet has ever seen in ocean/petroleum engineers. Who knew there were so many subject-matter experts!

Since there’s already been a good amount of discussion I’ll only rehash a few points that irk me to no end:

#1 – The conspiracy theory I keep hearing that BP is intentionally keeping the well gushing into the ocean, as a means of remaining relevant and not having to pay fines or face lawsuits yet, is absolutely the single most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my entire life. Consider, for a moment, that I spent five years in a brigade level Tactical Operations Center. You’d be correct to assume that I’ve heard quite a lot of very ridiculous things. This theory takes the cake. The operation costs for the equipment involved in drilling an offshore well that hasn’t exploded are astronomical, and are a daily expense. I can’t fathom it being any cheaper to run the equipment needed in response to a blown well. Couple that expense with the lost revenue from the source of profits being largely lost as it spews out of the well, and it become even more impossible to think any organization remotely concerned with profit (we call those businesses – the primary motivation of which is generally profit) would do anything to prolong the agony.

#2 – GO GREEN! Green is completely dependent on oil. No matter how you slice it. Wind? What do you think lubricates the turbines? How much petroleum is used in the manufacturing process of not only the major components but the tooling required to make those components? Solar? Same story. Riding a bicycle takes oil too. When people tout that they’ve “gone green”, stopped eating meat, etc., in an effort to “stick it to Big Oil” they do little more than prove how little they understand about the reality of life and the way the world works. Chances are the tax revenue from Big Oil and its employees happen to fund the subsidies used to start these green movements anyway. I’m all for eliminating the use of petrochemical fuels as go-juice for transportation, and even energy, but in order to make the components I suspect will be required to do that we will still need oil.

#3 – The government should have done something, and the MMS should not employ “the friends of Big Oil!” Is there a magical reason that the government knows how to drill oil better than oil companies? Would a mistake made by a government employee have been less catastrophic than the mistake of an employ of an oil company? Is it somehow believed that government employees have a record of failing to properly do their jobs less often than those of an oil company? People are not perfect. That fact does not change based on their place of employment.

#4 – We don’t plan for the worst! That’s a bit deceptive. It’s entirely possible that we recognize that in many cases the worst is something the likes of which we cannot possibly contain. There are safety features on an airliner but if the worst happens nobody will survive. It’s a known risk but we all board planes anyway. I won’t pretend to know all the variables present in several thousand feet of water, but I suspect someone associated with that particular project has a fair idea. It may well be that the answer to “what do we do if it blows up”, in face of those variables, is “I have no idea.”

Don’t take this as a lack of compassion or care. The loss of life on the rig, in the ocean, and on the shores is beyond tragic. I was born on the Gulf of Mexico. I love seafood. I want to see this well capped and cleaned as quickly as possible. BP, Transocean, et al certainly need to be held fully accountable for any negligence on their parts. That said, running around throwing stones does not help engineer a solution in any way.

WikiLeaks – “Collateral Murder”

Critical note: I am not, nor have I ever claimed to be, a helicopter pilot. Thousands of you viewers have come here via click-through on a widely disseminated, and poorly researched, article found here.

Warning: The video content contained within this post is likely to greatly disturb those who have not seen these things many times before. People die. It is real. War, as they say, is hell. Updates below.

To start things off, I will come right out and say I support WikiLeaks in their endeavors to bring about transparency in government. The government promises to do such things and fails time and time again. That said, I have several problems with their presentation of “Collateral Murder,” the video immediately below this paragraph. These errors do nothing to lend to the credibility of this organization, and if there is any desire to promote anything but transparency and truth I will cease any inkling of support immediately.

Critical Update: In the time since I wrote this post, it has become abundantly clear that WikiLeaks is undeserving of my support. They continue, time and time again, to editorialize information and then present it as hard fact. My analysis remains, but my support for the organization does not. Their stated charter is noble; the methods they use are not.

For those unaware of my background, I have spent quite a lot of time (a conservative estimate would be around 4500 hours) viewing aerial footage of Iraq (note: this time was not in viewing TADS video, but footage from Raven, Shadow, and Predator feeds). I am certain my voice can be heard on several transmissions with several different Crazyhorse aircraft, as I have called them to assist troops on the ground more times in my 26-months in Iraq than I could even attempt to guess. I need no reassurances to determine the presence of an RPG7 or an AK-variant rifle, especially not from a craft flying as low as Apache (even after the video has been reduced in dimensions to a point at which it is nearly useless).

Several commenters on Twitter and YouTube have expressed a great deal of anger towards the United States and members of its military. Many of them, unsurprisingly, have wished death on us all. Part of the problem, which is far more complex than I have the time or desire to fully discuss, lies in the presentation of above video.

What could have been the case is identified for the viewer quite readily. What certainly is true, in several key moments, is not. When presenting source media as the core of your argument, it is grossly irresponsible to fail to make known variables not shown within that media. If you are going to take the time to highlight certain things in said media, you should make certain all key elements are brought to the attention of your viewer.

WikiLeaks failed to do these things in this video, happily highlighting the positions and movements of the slain reporter and photographer while ignoring those of their company. It is also, until their arrival on scene, never clear where exactly the ground forces are in reference to Crazyhorse 18 and flight. I can make a pretty good guess, given my background. I would guess the same cannot be said by the vast majority of WikiLeaks’ target audience.

Between 3:13 and 3:30 it is quite clear to me, as both a former infantry sergeant and a photographer, that the two men central to the gun-camera’s frame are carrying photographic equipment. This much is noted by WikiLeaks, and misidentified by the crew of Crazyhorse 18. At 3:39, the men central to the frame are armed, the one on the far left with some AK variant, and the one in the center with an RPG. The RPG is crystal clear even in the downsized, very low-resolution, video between 3:40 and 3:45 when the man carrying it turns counter-clockwise and then back to the direction of the Apache. This all goes by without any mention whatsoever from WikiLeaks, and that is unacceptable.

At 4:08 to 4:18 another misidentification is made by Crazyhorse 18, where what appears to clearly be a man with a telephoto lens (edit to add: one of the Canon EF 70-200mm offerings) on an SLR is identified as wielding an RPG. The actual case is not threatening at all, though the misidentified case presents a major perceived threat to the aircraft and any coalition forces in the direction of its orientation. This moment is when the decision to engage is made, in error.

(note: It has to be taken into consideration that there is no way that the Crazyhorse crew had the knowledge, as everyone who has viewed this had, that the man on the corner of that wall was a photographer. The actions of shouldering an RPG (bringing a long cylindrical object in line with one’s face) and framing a photo with a long telephoto lens quite probably look identical to an aircrew in those conditions.)

I have made the call to engage targets from the sky several times, and know (especially during the surge) that such calls are not taken lightly. Had I been personally involved with this mission, and had access to real-time footage, I would have recommended against granting permission. Any of the officers with whom I served are well aware that I would continue voicing that recommendation until ordered to do otherwise. A few of them threatened me with action under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for doing so. Better officers than they, fortunately, were always ready to go to bat for me and keep that from happening. That said, if either of the clearly visible weapons been oriented towards aircraft, vehicles, troops, or civilians I would have cleared Crazyhorse 18 hot in a heartbeat and defended my actions to the battle staff if needed.

(note: The above is based on the number of times footage from a UAV under my unit’s control produced visual evidence that showed a lesser threat level than that reported as possible by either attack aviation or troops on the ground. Such footage may not have been available during this incident, and as such if the camera was thought to be an RPG the engagement of the personnel was well within any ROE I have ever seen. By making the call, I mean that I have quite literally been the voice heard over the radio clearing an engagement. It is important to note that while I was a position to influence the decision, the actual decision was not mine to make – that falls to the officer-in-charge, not the non-commissioned officer-in-charge.)

The point at which I cannot support the actions of Crazyhorse 18, at all, comes when the van arrives somewhere around 9:45 and is engaged. Unless someone had jumped out with an RPG ready to fire on the aircraft, there was no threat warranting a hail of 30mm from above. Might it have been prudent to follow the vehicle (perhaps with a UAV), or at least put out a BOLO (Be On the Look Out) for the vehicle? Absolutely without question. Was this portion of the engagement even remotely understandable, to me? No, it was not.

All in all, the engagement clearly went bad. I would have objected when I was a private first-class pulling triple duty as an RTO, driver, and vehicle gunner. I would have objected when I was a sergeant working well above my pay-grade as the Brigade Battle NCO. My assessment is based on my experiences in that very theater of operations. I did not see a threat that warranted an engagement at any point. I did, however, see the elements indicating such a threat could develop at any moment. (note: As I did, in fact, already know several things about the situation when I viewed this footage I cannot say with any certainty that had I viewed the exact same footage at the time of the incident that I would not have concluded the camera was an RPG as well.) People can make their judgements however they wish, but what is clearly visible is not the entire picture. I’ll also say that I’ve seen Crazyhorse elements do some pretty drastic maneuvers to protect troops and civilians alike. Those pilots have saved the lives of my friends many times, and a bad shoot is not going to ruin them as far as I’m concerned.

Update: I have seen several mentions of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle running over a body off in the rubble. This is highlighted at some point in the video. Crazyhorse 18 misidentifies a Canon zoom lens as an RPG7, but WikiLeaks has managed to identify a HMMWV as a BFV. I’m not even sure how that’s possible. The transcript also has the ground commander calling on the BFV crew to “drop rap” – there should be an ‘m’ between the ‘a’ and the ‘p’ – ramp is what it should read.

WikiLeaks claims to seek to shed the light on the truth, yet continues to allow such gross errors in reporting stand unchanged. There are many veterans with thousands of hours experience in both analyzing aerial video and understanding the often-garbled radio transmissions between units. It is not unreasonable to think any number of us would be willing to make sure everything is identified correctly, and all jargon is translated appropriately, before things go to the presses. Promoting truth with gross errors is just as shameful as an unnecessary engagement.

Technical issues have prompted the temporary disabling of comments on this post. As soon as I fix the problem, I will turn them back on. The exchange of dialogue is important, and will be restored as soon as possible.

Comments are back up, seems my theme did not know what to do with that many comments.

Comments are down again. If anything is unclear, I’m sure there’s an explanation somewhere in my responses to various comments.

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