After much political and media grandstanding, the British Army decided
not to court martial a British army sergeant who gave an American F-15E the
wrong GPS coordinates, causing a smart bomb to land too close to a group of
British soldiers in Afghanistan, killing three of them. Political activists,
egged on by the media, wanted the sergeant punished for his error. This despite
the fact that many of the kin of the victims were against such punishment.
to this story than what gets reported in the mass media. Friendly fire
incidents in past wars were routinely misreported, usually at the lowest levels
(friends of those who got shot, or did the shooting.) Any attempts to get to
the bottom of friendly fire statistics from old wars, would open too may
psychological wounds. Same with the misreporting of dead soldiers as
"missing in Action" during World War II. This was often done by the
dead soldiers friends, so the widow could collect the soldiers pay (which was
higher than widows benefits) for a while longer.
problem is that, for as long as there have been wars, there have been
"friendly fire" losses. This only increased with the appearance of
gunpowder weapons a few centuries back, and all the smoke these new instruments
of destruction generated. What has changed recently, at least in the American
military, has been the appearance of a historically low casualty rate, and
increasing monitoring of the battlefield. All those surveillance cameras you
encounter downtown or at the mall, are all over the battlefield as well. A lot
more radios and other electronic gear as well. There's much more evidence to
work with, if you want to find out what really happened.
thing that has not changed is the psychological shock to soldiers who are involved,
as the shooters, or just bystanders, in a friendly fire incident. There's still
the urge to pretend it didn't happen. The troops are thinking of the
next-of-kin as well, for it's common for a dead soldiers friends to visit the
family of the deceased, or at least get in touch. Coming by and saying, "I
killed your son by accident," is a message few troops are capable of
fire stuff makes such great headlines. It attracts eyeballs, and that's how the
mass media says in business. That won't change either. Neither will activists
out to punish their political rivals.