FEBRUARY 6th 2007
The coroner in this case was allowed to see the cockpit video, so in arriving at a decision on the cause of this accident was never going to be deprived of this evidence. The issue for the US authorities is the publication of cockpit transcripts and video in a case where there has been a fatality. It is obviously this which caused them to deny the existence of any recordings as, if such a precedent were established - i.e. publication of videos or audio records in any case of fatality - this would be perfectly absurd from the point of view of military operations security and put intolerable pressure on individuals operating in extreme circumstances when their own lives are are already on the line.

The anger of the coroner would appear to have been caused by his frustration at not being able to share the source of his knowledge, putting him in what he considered an intolerable position - similar however to that endured by military personnel on a regular daily basis, including those who decided for obvious reasons their operational videos are not for publication on demand.

It is important that the full facts are known to the coroner and to those on all sides who can learn from any mistakes and procedures. The problem here seems to have arisen due to a failure to satisfy the relatives and friends of the fatally injured that every correct step was taken subsequent to the event. The impression was made of 'a cover-up'.This in turn probably came about due to the compartmentalisation of responsibility and information in the military and civil justice bureaucracy, a compartmentalisation designed with the best intentions to ensure security while allowing all to carry out their respective responsibilities to the full. Of course this will never satisfy those who believe themselves to be entitled to know all about everything at all times and in all places, such as the modern media encourages the public in 'our great democracies' to believe they all are.

The truth is that our whole existence, from agriculture to art, from economics to philosophy, from sex to science, is dependent on selective or enforced ignorance as much as it is on knowledge. Knowledge confers responsibility. If we demand the former, we had better be prepared to exercise the latter. [A little biology parable written maybe 5,000 or more years ago made the point - unfortunately later generations either mistake the parable for current science and/or miss the point]. That preparation requires education. My advice to a great many in the media and in the public is to get some before they demand responsibility for matters in which they have neither experience or training.

I have no doubt we the public shall now get the full facts. This will be a good thing, and add to our understanding. It will also face us with a more advanced responsibility and will give the military an even bigger headache than they have now, and the media and the general public a little more responsibilty for the future of our civilization. Never has so much been given to so many with so little. But never mind, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

I enjoy watching Channel 4 TV News but this evening after listening to Jon Snow arguing with a spokeman for the US military, I came to the conclusion there is something seriously wrong with Jon Snow's brain. I got the impression I was not the only one. The h in his name is not all that's missing. Nice guy though, even if he admits to extreme vanity.

FEBRUARY 7th 2007
The usual unbalaced information in today's press (e.g. Daily Mail) ignoring the full and immediate release of all information revealed by the investigation of this accident by the US military to the MOD.  What went wrong? Two things. The forward air controller was not ready with the full data required to stop the two aircraft from misidentifying their target. In the absence of that data they were given positive information that there were no alliance firces in that area.  They acted just before the mistake could be corrected. There is no doubt lessons can be learned and have been, both abut the.briefing of pilots on recognition of allied vehicles and on procedures at forward air control. There is, however, a limit to the amount of information that can be communicated, absorbed and held at readiness by every member of a fighting force acting at speed and under pressure.
It is very unfortunate that the family of the soldier who was killed could not be told all the details, but when an army is at war many soldiers do get killed and families may not expect to be told how or why. In the case of WWII, many families waited decades to know. Today's UK public is mentally divorced from such realities. Another difference in this case is the UK public is schizophrenic in its relationship with its US ally. There have been quite a few UK soldiers killed by friendly UK fire, but because some people think we have been dragged into this conflict by the US, they hold the US responsible for all errors and somehow liable for them.

MARCH 16th 2007
The coroner has now given his verdict - that this was an unlawful killing and a criminal act.
He added:
"I don't think this was a case of honest mistake."
That is where it is impossible to agree with him. It was negligence, possibly criminal negligence in hindsight. But it was a mistake and at the time honesty was not an issue.

Three points are the crux:

The truth is that no nation on earth keeps, in peacetime, a massive military that is all fully trained and combat ready. The US was usuing reserves. As the only nation capable of realistically backing by enforcement any UN resolution, at huge cost in its own lives and wealth, to demand perfection of the US forces is all very well but they have killed many more of their own men and women than they have UK personnel.

'Friendly fire' killing unlawful

Mrs Hull said she was ready to move on
Susan Hull reaction    <-- Video

The death of a UK soldier when a US pilot fired on his convoy in Iraq was unlawful, a coroner has ruled.

The "friendly fire" incident near Basra in March 2003 which killed Lance Corporal Matty Hull, 25, amounted to a criminal act, Andrew Walker said.

The coroner said the death was "entirely avoidable" and L/Cpl Hull's widow said the verdict was "right".

The Ministry of Defence apologised for a delay in releasing video footage from the cockpit of the US A-10 plane.

'Painful time'

In delivering his verdict, Mr Walker said: "The attack on the convoy amounted to an assault.

"It was unlawful because there was no lawful reason for it and in that respect it was criminal."

No American witnesses gave evidence at the inquest and the coroner was critical of the failure of the US authorities to co-operate.

"I believe that the full facts have not yet come to light," said the Oxford assistant deputy coroner.

The US pilots should have flown lower to confirm identities before opening fire, he added.

"I don't think this was a case of honest mistake."

Speaking after the verdict, widow Susan Hull said she felt a great sense of relief that it was over and it had confirmed that her husband's death was "entirely avoidable".

"I think all of our family feel it was the right verdict. It was what we'd waited four years to hear."

She said she was now prepared to "draw the line" on the event.

"It's been a long and painful time and we need to move forward."

But she said the lack of co-operation from the US was "very disappointing".

Afterwards, lawyer Geraldine McCool said the verdict did not suggest there would be a prosecution of the US pilot and the Hull family would not be calling for one.

The Ministry of Defence said it was "very sorry for confusion and upset" caused by the handling of the US cockpit tape.

The recording was not initially shown to the inquest, but the US authorities only agreed for it to be released after the footage was leaked to the Sun newspaper.

An MoD spokesman said: "This inquest has highlighted the need for a more coherent approach to the management of documentation and evidence."

He said a team has been set up to liaise with coroners and bereaved families and to ensure documents are made available quickly to inquests.

The Hull family believes key information was blacked out of a US Friendly Fire Investigation Board Report given to the coroner investigating his death.

Mrs Hull had directly appealed to US President George W Bush to give the coroner the information.

L/Cpl Hull, who was from the Household Cavalry, died from multiple injuries inside his blazing Scimitar tank despite efforts by colleagues to save him.

Four other soldiers travelling in the convoy of light armoured vehicles were also injured in the incident on 28 March 2003 near Basra.