Calling it friendly fire is so out of character with what actually occurs that it has been given a name - amicicide - murder of a friend or friends.
Amicicide happens in combat. It is a particularly amplified problem when the shooter cannot see the target. Air attacks on friendly troops, however, are particularly devastating since air ordnance is usually more destructive, concentrated and delivered with such speed the friendly troops have no means of finding adequate cover. That situation is exacerbated by the fact that troops on the ground, unless they are fully aware of the attack profile of aircraft, believe the air asset to be friendly and do not expect an attack. It comes as a total surprize and, where an enemy might have an opportunity to evade the effects of air-delivered ordnance, friendly troops do not.
This latest attack on Canadian troops by a US aircraft is the third since 2002 and the second which has resulted in a fatality. It establishes a pattern: reckless disregard for the consequences of error on the part of either the pilot or his controller.
One thing seems to be clear: the Canadian unit that was attacked was not in action and had not called in close air support. The troops were in desert camouflage and bivouaced next to a light armoured vehicle. They did not look like Taliban and the Taliban has no light armoured vehicles.
I will give the pilot of a ground support aircraft some due. Identifying targets isn't easy. It isn't supposed to be. It is warfare and everyone engaged in it should be clear with the fact that putting ordnance on the proper target is difficult, vital and requires every ounce of concentration the shooter can muster with complete confidence. Laissez-faire has no place on the battlefield whether it's a rifleman or the pilot of a multi-million dollar aircraft.
I'm certain somebody made a mistake. I'm just as certain there will be fingers pointed in five different directions looking to assign blame. The truth is however, the responsibility for the shot taken rests with the person whose finger was on the firing key. The final decision whether to close the firing key is made by the pilot with all due consideration to all the factors surrounding his/her particular sortie. That includes, if at all possible, visually identifying the target.
That quite clearly did not happen. Further, US air seems to dispense with any lessons learned from previous errors.
I will now be harangued by those who make claims that we have to "suck it up" or words to that effect.
Some will tell me that we so desperately need US close air support that we will just have to pay the price in troops killed by allied air.
So, how many Canadian troops killed is the price of US air support? Give me a fucking number. Because once you do it's a simple matter to hustle up some pseudo-CADPAT uniforms and send some untrained civvies to Afghanistan as cannon fodder. Wasting trained troops is unacceptable.
Some will whine that if Canada had better equipment we wouldn't need US air.
Now, you suck it up. We contributed to a mission in a particular category of troops and equipment - mechanized infantry. The agreement is that others would provide close air support and that agreement did not include subjecting our clearly identifiable mechanized infantry to allied air attack.
Beggars can't be choosers.
Take a flying fuck! I can goddamned well demand that allied air fly missions with all the competence and responsibility as they would expect from me. Canada did not beg to become involved in this fight. We were begged by the Bush administration to be there. And when US air commits manslaughter, Shrub shrugs his shoulders.
Since the hypothetical seems to get tossed about let's look at this:
If it were Canadian close air support bombing and strafing US troops, THREE TIMES, do you think for a minute that there wouldn't be blanket condemnation of Canadian competency by the US Department of Defense? Do you think they wouldn't be screaming?
There seems to be a lack of appreciation for the consequence of error. The acceptance of an error here and there is entirely misplaced. The US claims to be able to fight and deliver ordnance with absolute precision. Yet they don't always do it and suddenly we hear "fog of war".
Consider that the captain of a ship passes thousands of unseen underwater hazards and rocks every day and is expected to miss every single one of them. Even in the fog and even during action.
I'm calling US air in Afghanistan incompetent. And I'm screaming about it.