THE FRIENDLY FIRE CASE
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who decided for obvious reasons their operational videos are not for
publication on demand.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
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
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
years ago made the point - unfortunately later generations either
parable for current science and/or miss the point]. That preparation
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
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
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 pilots
were inadequately trained and briefed.
- They took
as solid fact the information they were given that there were no
friendly forces in the area.
- They did
not believe they had more airborne time to spare, which is why they did
not take more time to verify at lower altitude.
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
'Friendly fire' killing unlawful
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
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.
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
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
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