This story about a journalist killed by American troops in Iraq prompts me to rise to defend the Americans, largely because of the spin I can already see developing on this incident in the press:

“Mazen Dana, 41, was shot and killed by U.S. soldiers Sunday while videotaping near a U.S.-run prison on the outskirts of Baghdad. The U.S. Army said its soldiers mistook his camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

The film Dana shot showed a tank driving toward him. Six shots were heard, and the camera appeared to tilt forward and drop to the ground after the first shot.”

Naturally there are accusations flying back and forth that the Americans knew the journalists were in the area, and knew the guy was a cameraman and shot him anyway. Why? Have no idea. Because they’re evil Americans I guess.

But I ask you to consider their point of view. If you’re in a war zone, and you see a guy with what looks like an RPG get out of a car suddenly and point it at you, what are you going to think? That you’re being filmed? Of course not. You’re going to think you’re about to be blown up by some lunatic Iraqi militant.

Consider how news cameras are held, and compare that to how an RPG is held. The article says that the camera was filming the shooters at the time, so the lens was pointed right at them. These pictures below give you an idea how remarkably similar these two acts look at a glance:

Camera Journalist, side view

RPG, side view

Mazen Dana With His Camera (photo credit: Reuters)

RPG, front View

Frankly, the accusation that American troops would deliberately kill journalists is just ludicrous and doesn’t deserve any discussion.

War is dangerous. Journalists have always known that going into war zones to do their jobs might result in them getting killed, perhaps accidentally such as in this case. This is a known risk, and it is not immediately obvious to me that the Americans acted negligently or with malice.

15 Responses to “Video Camera vs. Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher”
  1. Conrad Davis says:

    I wish ever United States news reporter had to qualify to be a reporter by spending two years in the United States military service.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You made a nice responce. The reality is however that the US troops are trigger happy because they are terified and not very brave at all.

  3. Lt. Jason Hawkins Canadian 37 armour division says:

    The Us is a power hungry nation and should be stoped at all costs. I realize that the video camera may look like an rpg but, if the military training program is anything like the ourswe are taught how to deal with an enemy not by shooting, but by checking throught a pair of banoculers to see how big a threat this person is. Many solders have a tough time hadling the rpg, so there really was not threat.

  4. Anne Haight says:

    It really depends how much time you have to assess the threat, now doesn’t it?

    That aside, if the US were a power hungry nation, we’d have conquered half the world by now. Don’t kid yourself.

  5. Tom Feric says:

    But, dont forget, tghis is the same country who took credit for winning world war 1. Mind you, there help was a great asset, but they claimed there entry really one it, the fact was, the war was already won. The germans had run out of supplies and the only reason they were where they were at the time was because of a slow and time consuming plan being made by the allies. And yes, the us would have had controle over half the worl by now but for them to go into afganistan, blow it up for no reason looking for a guy that probubly isn’t there, then leaving to go to another country to get weapons of mass destruction, that they found (but they were from the us), i makes you wonder. They have to much power and they should be stopped.

  6. Brooks Schandelmeier says:

    If it wern’t for the US military all of Europe would be speaking German right now, also nearly all of the Jewish population would be slaughtered. Also the United States military is braver than all other military’s in the wholl damn world. They are not trigger happy even if our government is. Also the RPG is one of the most dangerous weapons in the world, its a long range gernade!!! Also your damned Canadian military is no match for ours. Its easy to say what you would have done from looking at the event in the past but in the heat of the moment your mind doesnt work as clearly and the kill or be kill thing takes over.

  7. PM says:

    I’m surprised with the comment from the Canadian Liuetenant.

    Obviously, you’ve never served in combat, or have had an RPG go off near you. You have either never have been in the military, or is actually a desk procurement officer in charge of toilette paper, and supplies.

    An RPG-7, with an anti-tank round has a maximum effective range of 500, or so meters, in straight flight. One with an anti-personnel grenade can reach out over 1100 meters, and all RPG self-destruct after a 4-5 second flight.

    Lets see, you see an RPG grenadier, bring out your binoculars, identify the target, confirm its an RPG, order any NCO to fire upon the target. Do you think you can do that in 4-5 seconds, in a combat zone?

    With your “combat expertise”, by the time you did identify with your “binoculars”, you’d have seen the unmistakeable flash of the RPG, and the grey smoke trail of an RPG rocket slamming into your position, and if its an anti-personnel rocket, 900 steel balls flying in every direction at over 2000 fps to a 15 meter radius.

    In combat, there is no second guessing, that’s what gets you killed.
    Give me a break….

  8. Hans says:

    I would like to make a few statements.

    1) U.S. servicemembers may be terrified. Some may be trigger-happy. Some may not be brave. Nonetheless, do not generalize and attribute those traits to all U.S. servicemembers.

    2) The U.S., as a nation, is not power-hungry. The motivations of the current administration are up for debate (to put it mildly!), but do not let the fact that they won the 2000 election trick you into believing that the American electorate has sinister intentions. An accurate description of the nation is probably a lot more complicated and a lot less exciting.

    3) Nothing should be achieved at all costs. That mindset has led humanity down some very dark paths. Let’s not repeat it.

    4) U.S. military doctrine places great emphasis on properly identifiying contacts, to the extent that charges can be (and are) brought against servicemembers who negligently shoot “civilians” during laser-fire field exercises. Thus, I am not yet convinced that the reporter’s death was the result of a poor training program.

    5) Regarding the U.S. involvement in WWI, it was significant in bringing about the defeat of Germany by November 1918. The Alliance and the Entente were both drained of manpower by 1917. Thus, the arrival of American troops did give an edge to the Entente. As for supplies, the U.S. lent significant material support to the Entente throughout the war. Had that not occured, who knows which side would have lost?

    6) It is reckless to say that the U.S. had no reason to invade Afghanistan. Al Qaeda operated from that country. Al Qaeda was responsible for carrying out the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban was, at best, incapable of policing them. At worst, the Taliban was complicit. Furthermore, to put things in perspective, the American entry into Afghanistan has been a lot less destructive than the prvious decades of conflict in that country. Engineers were clearing Soviet mines every day of my deployment to that country. Clearing continues today, over a year later. Mine-clearing operations are more extensive now than before the invasion, which is good, since Soviet mines still create the most war-related casualties in Afghanistan.

    7) Do not use the United States’ past contributions (e.g. WWII) to justify current activities. The people who planned and fought WWII are not planning or operating in Iraq today and it takes only one generation (if that) to screw up.

    8) Don’t discount the bravery of non-U.S. militaries. To do so is rude and ignorant. In particular, don’t mock the Canadian military. Sure, Canada does not have the industrial base necessary to win a full-scale war with the U.S., but who does?! Having served alongside the Canadian military, I know that it deserves Americans’ respect.

    9) Please try to use proper grammar and spelling! Having said that, I offer my apologies for any errors in my posting.

  9. Andrew says:

    I sincerely doubt the ‘Lieutenant’ was a member of the Canadian armed forces, because there is no 37 Canadian Armoured Division. There is a Canadian Brigade Group under that designation. Also, I doubt a Lieutenant would pass muster with such terrible spelling, especially as a desk clerk.

  10. Nick says:

    I think anyone who thought they where stareing at the end of a RPG would fire without thought.

  11. Nick says:

    Espeacially if you where in the middel of combat. dont you think?

  12. Vietnamese says:

    Mother fucking yanks getting killed everyday, that why troops underpressure, angered. They kill whenever they can.
    Those fucking dumb american people are being cheated by Bush. he made the war to save his own political life.Just the fucking Yanks pay tax to cover the war. I totally agree with the decission to go to afghan. But Iraq, what the fuck!! Once any of you here been to the war, holding the gun, shooting, killing then you will never go to war ever again. Fuck those marines overthere.

  13. Anonymous says:

    i rember vietnam and those gookks with there rpgs so tis is a yank saying fuck you

  14. Yeliad says:

    My dad said when he was in nam they saw a guy carrying what they thought was a gun over his shoulder so they shot him, turned out to be a villager carrying a pitchfork, i’d say a camera would be just as easy to mistaken..

  15. jack says:

    All well and good, but if you look at statistics, you’ll see that the American military is very suspicious – over 140 FREELANCE journalists have been killed in Iraq. The message: we don’t want anyone taking pictures or seeing things we don’t control.
    That’s why they have the so-called “embeded” jouranlists travelling WITH units. So they can control the propaganda.
    Cameras and RPGs DON’T look the same, especially if you have all the technology the American Army does.

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