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TRIGGER UNHAPPY

07-02-2007

The killing of a British soldier by "friendly fire" in Iraq revaled that modern warfare is still as shambolic as ever. So why, asks Andy Goff, are the generals so keen to hide the truth?

On June 7, 1944 my dad noted in his diary, on board HMS Scylla off the Normandy coast, “0530 Have just fired a few rounds at our own Spitfires.”

The day before , he had written, “2345 Our own close range weapons have shot down an allied Dakota Parachutist Transport Plane. Bloody rotten show guns!”

I doubt too much thought was given to the events. Friendly fire casualties are not uncommon during conflict. The chaos of war tramples on the pleasantries of exactitude however much it is striven for.

The dreadful cases of death by friendly fire coming out of Iraq show that modern warfare is no better than that of the 20th Century in spite of talk of smart-bombs, pinpoint accuracy and "friend or foe" electronic identification systems.

War is still a mess.

Lance Corporal of Horse Matty Hull, 25, was killed and four other soldiers from the Household Cavalry Regiment were injured on March 28, 2003, when a US jet launched two attacks on a British armoured convoy

This case has caused controversy because the British Ministry of Defence at first denied they had film evidence and then said that they had it but couldn't release it as it was classified US military material.

The Sun newspaper shone where others didn't and has obtained a copy. (sadly no longer available)

It makes fascinating listening and, if genuine and unedited, shows the lengths to which the USAF pilots went to establish friend or foe status of the convoy. You can also hear the genuine disbelief and sorrow in the pilots' voices when it is reported to them what had happened. Expletives have not been deleted.

This wasn't about, as I first thought of this tragedy, a bunch of pilots brought up on films like Top Gun and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure being gung-ho and trigger happy.

These were men - ok, maybe dudes - who, when they were unsure of the target they had in their sights, went to as great a length as possible to establish there were no “friends” in the area. They were assured there were not and so did the job they are paid to do.

Apart from the fact there is a war at all, what makes me angry is the attitude of both the Pentagon and our Ministry of Defence- which has a pathological addiction toautomatic denial.

If this film had been available at the onset of the Oxford inquest it would surely have garnered a more sympathetic reaction to the plight of both those in the air and on the ground.

So what happens?

We are left with the nasty smell of cover-up and really it's just that, in war, shit happens and then, if you're unlucky, you die.
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