Last April, an F-16 fighter jet cruising over Fallujah, the stronghold of the Iraqi insurgency, zeroed in on a crowd of people mulling about on a street corner in the heart of the city. The American pilot of the fighter radioed back to his mission commander asking for permission to “take them out.”
The commander doesn’t ask whether the street people are armed or pose any kind of threat to the plane or US troops. He simply instructs the pilot to fire away.
Soon thereafter the pilot releases his bomb and watches as it explodes on the street corner, killing dozens of unarmed civilians. An excited voice exclaims, “Oh, dude!” The pilots toast the bombing raid and triumphantly return to their base.
All of this was recorded on a 50-second videotape shot from from the cockpit of the F-16. The jocular banter between the pilots and the mission controller was also recorded on audiotapes. Those tapes, which constitute evidence of a war crime, have been in the possession of the Pentagon for several months, but they had not been publicly revealed until yesterday when a copy was leaked to a London television station. The videotape has not yet aired on US television.
When questioned about the tapes, a Pentagon spokesman murmured that the incident was “under investigation.” It’s an every-expanding list. Perhaps, accountants at the GAO are keeping track of them all.
None of this comes as a shock to the residents of Fallujah, Najaf and Samarra, who have witnessed first hand again and again over the course of the last few months not just the indescriminate killing of bystanders or the bloody collateral damage from errant smart bombs, but the deliberate targeting of unarmed civilians by US pilots and their commanding officers. The maimed and the dead of Fallujah and Samarra have been largely non-combatants, including hundreds of women and children. Yet, the bombing has intensified as the US elections loom.
Each of these massacres-from-above backfires on the Pentagon, fueling, not obliterating, the Iraqi resistance.