Embedded Journalists - AP Reporter Shooting Rehash

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In summary, the AP reporter shooting incident raised the issue of a double-standard of responsibility that often falls on the US in conflicts. The incident involved two Iraqi reporters who were embedded with insurgents and were mistakenly identified as hostile by a US helicopter gunship. The gunners correctly identified insurgent weapons, but mistook the reporters' cameras for weapons. This incident has been used for propaganda purposes, but it also highlights the occupational hazard of being an embedded journalist. It is noted that more embedded journalists have been killed by Iraqis than by US forces. The US is often held to a higher standard in conflicts, and while this may be reasonable, it is important to recognize the significant effort the US puts into being "good" compared to its enemies
  • #1
russ_watters
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I'd like to do a quick rehash of the AP reporter shooting incident, pointing out an issue I don't think was adequately covered in previous discussions: the double-standard of responsibility that always hits the US hard.

Previous thread here: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?p=2658357
Note: the first thread on the subject quickly spiraled out of control due to counterfactual characterization of the events and was locked. The above linked thread was the second thread on the subject.

The relevant facts of the incident are:
1. Two Iraqi national, AP acredited reporters were killed by a US helicopter gunship.
2. These reporters had embedded themselves with insurgents.
3. The helicopter pilots/gunners correctly identified insurgent weapons (which were later recovered at the site) and incorrectly identified the AP reporters' cameras as weapons.
4. After the initial shooting, a van carrying children drove up to assist the injured and was fired upon, injuring several children.

From the standpoint of a gunner in a helicpoter, the situation that presented itself was crystal clear: armed insurgents = legitimate targets. The mistaken ID element muddies the water for some, but it does not change the tactical equation. What it does is add the element of propaganda, which is how this incident has been used. So if the AP reporters had been properly ID'd, it may have been prudent to disregard their mandate as soldiers and allow these insurgents to go unattacked. However, these insurgents were apparently trying to position themselves to attack a group of infantry nearby, so even if the AP reporters had been properly identified, there is a good chance the group still would have been fired upon.

The AP reporters were embedded journalists. Embedded journalists sometimes die - that's an occupational hazard that they choose to accept. In this case, the reporters imprudently chose to embed themselves with the side of the conflict with the most risk. That was their choice and their deaths are therefore their own fault.

Well over 100 embedded reporters have died in Iraq, most killed by the Iraqis (16 by American forces), probably because most are embedded with coalition troops: http://cpj.org/reports/2008/07/journalists-killed-in-iraq.php

I have heard no outrage against the Iraqis/insurgents for these deaths, nor should there be any for legitimate combat killings, and the idea that the US bears culpability is a wrongful double-standard.

There is also an inappropriate criticism of the US regarding general civilian casualties: there were probably civilian adults injured/killed in this incident and there were certainly civilian children. The US is routinely criticized for shooting at the van. But the injuries/deaths in the van are not the fault of the US, they are the fault of the driver of the van and the insurgents. Some of the more important laws of war are regarding protection of civilians and critical to those protections is separating and clearly identifying soldiers vs civilians. For the insurgents to hide among/mingle with civilians is a war crime and for the civilians to come to their aid is at best a mistake and at worst active participation in the insurgents' war effort.

An extension of this issue is the general double-standard that follows the US around. The US is held to an extrordinary high standard, and reasonably so. When people perceive it falling short, it gets hit hard in world public opinion. That's improper, imo, because it ignores the enormous disparity between how we operate vs how our enemies operate. If people recognized just how wide the gap was and recognized that we put serious effort into being "good", then occasional shortfalls wouldn't be met with such vitrol from the international community as we saw in the last few years.

Case-in-point: Abu Graib. This was a huge PR problem for the US and rightfully so - there were dozens of crimes up through murder there. But the incident can still be contrasted with the actions of our enemies: what happened there was not the policy and most of those involved were punished. Our enemies do such things as pretty much standard operating procedure. Perhaps we are desensitized to it, but being "normal" doesn't make it right and while the US should be condemned for allowing this to happen, it should also be praised for making an effort to correct it.
 
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  • #2
russ_watters said:
Well over 100 embedded reporters have died in Iraq, most killed by the Iraqis (16 by American forces), probably because most are embedded with coalition troops: http://cpj.org/reports/2008/07/journalists-killed-in-iraq.php

I have heard no outrage against the Iraqis/insurgents for these deaths, nor should there be any for legitimate combat killings, and the idea that the US bears culpability is a wrongful double-standard.
Some people might deem it fair that a modern military superpower with far better intelligence, funding, and technology be held to a higher standard than a bunch of semi-organized insurgents from a third world country, operating on a shoe-string budget, and often led by radical terrorists. I don't think that is necessarily an unreasonable position to hold.

So, yes, there is a double-standard, but the important question is whether or not it is reasonable to hold such a double-standard. And in your own words, it is reasonable to not only hold the US to a higher standard than the Iraqi insurgents, it is reasonable to hold them to an extraordinarily high standard... so I don't quite see what your objection is. If someone deserves to be held to a high standard, then they also deserve criticism when they fail to uphold such standards.
russ said:
An extension of this issue is the general double-standard that follows the US around. The US is held to an extrordinary high standard, and reasonably so.
Another issue of possible relevance is that there are exceedingly more debaters here that are from the US (or the "West") than there are members from Iraq (or the Middle East). And many people tend to hold their own country to a higher standard (than the other side) out of some manifestation of national/communal pride.

Also, for those that are US citizens/residents, there is good reason to give more of a damn about how your tax money is being used than how someone else's is.
 
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  • #3
Gokul - Let me try to clarify a little. The issue here gets complicated by the fact that there are two different "courts" - two different lenses through which to analyze the situation (and a third, if you mix them together).

First is the court of public opinion. I have to at least partly agree with you that if someone wants to be considered "better", they have to accept being held to a higher standard and have to constantly prove they are meeting a higher standard. That's not what I have a problem with. My problem is with the lack of recognition by the international community that that's what's going on. A google yields no shortage of criticism that Americans are no better than her enemies in combat, when the factual reality is that even when we fail to meet our high standard, we're still a class above.

The second lens is the legal lens and that lens must be unbiased for a legal system to have credibility. While the law can take into account capabilities, it can't ignore/permit crimes by one side just because they are losing. The law doesn't say 'don't use human shields unless you are losing', it just says 'don't use human shields', and it has to be that way if protection of civilians really matters.

Now when you mix these two lenses together, what happens is the lack of recognition in the first results in a simply false conclusion in the second, and that's what happened here. The US got the blame for the AP reporters' deaths and the childrens' injuries: on PF and through a google, there is no shortage of calls for prosecution for war crimes for this incident. But the fact of the matter is that lack of recognition of the fact that the US is being held to a standard beyond the law causes people to think they violated the law, when it just isn't the case. Mabye, being held to a higher standard in the court of public opinion means we should let some insurgents kill some American soldiers in order to save some AP reporters embedded with the insurgents. Not that I believe it should, but that's the way it does work. But it doesn't mean that this public opinion black-eye is actually murder that should be prosecuted.


I'm willing to accept reasonable disagreement about whether we should let Americal soldiers die to protect journalists and civilians for the sake of avoiding negative propaganda, but only if it comes with the understanding that that standard is beyond the law. I'm not willing to accept a mischaracterization of the law. That isn't reasonable.


I'm not sure about Americans being more citical of themselves - it has been my perception that foreign opinion has been more critical of the US than domestic opinion. I do realize, though, that a lot of both focuses on Bush himself. Bush was arrogant in international relations, which causes people to be reflexively objectionable to us.

I'm also not sure what taxes and general opposition to the war have to do with anything. I suppose people sometimes improperly mix opposition to the war with opposition to specific incidents, but if so, that's just another manifestation of the judgemental error I discussed from the first "lens".
 
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  • #4
russ_watters said:
I'm willing to accept reasonable disagreement about whether we should let Americal soldiers die to protect journalists and civilians for the sake of avoiding negative propaganda, but only if it comes with the understanding that that standard is beyond the law. I'm not willing to accept a mischaracterization of the law. That isn't reasonable.

Some consideration should also be given to the fact that negative propaganda about the US likely helps the insurgents recruit, therefore potentially costing more lives in the long run.

I don't have any numbers on this, and I doubt anyone has studied it in detail, but it may be the case that making a sacrifice on temporary safety to maintain a clean image as the "good guys" is the safer course in the long run.
 
  • #5
NeoDevin said:
Some consideration should also be given to the fact that negative propaganda about the US likely helps the insurgents recruit, therefore potentially costing more lives in the long run.

I don't have any numbers on this, and I doubt anyone has studied it in detail, but it may be the case that making a sacrifice on temporary safety to maintain a clean image as the "good guys" is the safer course in the long run.
The problem here is how would you ever know that one of a group of weapon carrying insurgents is a reporter?
 
  • #6
russ_watters said:
In this case, the reporters imprudently chose to embed themselves with the side of the conflict with the most risk. That was their choice and their deaths are therefore their own fault.
Were they really 'embedded' with the insurgents? Does Al-Queda hand out press passes?
Or is this just spin to refer to any independant (ie non US embedded) journalists as enemy.
A similar language used to be used for people like the Red Cross and Medicin-san-Frontiere, basically - if you aren't for us you are against us.

When the spanish TV reporter was killed a couple of years ago there were allegations that independent journalists were being deliberately targeted - according to CNN's news division boss Eason Jordan.

In the specific attack in the helicopter video, one of the US troops did say they had received orders to target all civilian vehicles since taxis were being used by insurgents.
That seems like an unreasonable rules of engagement - it was when the British courts found soldiers in Northern Ireland guilty of shooting a stolen car that ran a checkpoint.
 
  • #7
mgb_phys said:
Were they really 'embedded' with the insurgents? Does Al-Queda hand out press passes?
The reporters decided to join the insurgents, so I don't see what your point is.
 
  • #8
Evo said:
The problem here is how would you ever know that one of a group of weapon carrying insurgents is a reporter?

Interestingly, there was an effective solution to this in the dim prehistory of mankind: pre cell-phone. The idea was that each group of combatants would wear uniform attire - we could even call it a "uniform", so that the other side would be able to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants.

Hard to imagine, I know.
 
  • #9
Vanadium 50 said:
Interestingly, there was an effective solution to this in the dim prehistory of mankind: pre cell-phone. The idea was that each group of combatants would wear uniform attire - we could even call it a "uniform", so that the other side would be able to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants.

Hard to imagine, I know.

I guess the insurgents missed that memo.
 
  • #10
Vanadium 50 said:
Interestingly, there was an effective solution to this in the dim prehistory of mankind: pre cell-phone. The idea was that each group of combatants would wear uniform attire - we could even call it a "uniform", so that the other side would be able to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants.

Hard to imagine, I know.
But if the insurgents started wearing uniforms, they could no longer hide behind innocent civilians.
 
  • #11
Ah, but the ancients figured this one out too.

They invented something called the Geneva Convention, which provided an incentive to wear a uniform. The idea was that if you were ever captured, if you had been wearing a uniform and not putting civilians at risk (by, for example, trying to blend in with them), you would receive better treatment if captured. Clever, no?

At some point, people decided it wasn't fair to treat different captured combatants differently and so removed this incentive.
 
  • #12
Vanadium 50 said:
At some point, people decided it wasn't fair to treat different captured combatants differently and so removed this incentive.

America treats differently captured combatants differently right now, as we speak. I'm not sure what your point is here.

What's your point here? Are you criticizing America because its enemies don't wear uniforms? Evo said that American soldiers can't determine that one person out of a group is a reporter. Obviously that's because the insurgents aren't wearing uniforms. Why bother mentioning that uniforms exist as a concept? It's not like we didn't know that. Stop trying to be clever and just say what you mean to say
 
  • #13
Vanadium 50 said:
Ah, but the ancients figured this one out too.

They invented something called the Geneva Convention, which provided an incentive to wear a uniform. The idea was that if you were ever captured, if you had been wearing a uniform and not putting civilians at risk (by, for example, trying to blend in with them), you would receive better treatment if captured. Clever, no?

At some point, people decided it wasn't fair to treat different captured combatants differently and so removed this incentive.

Many of these people ARE civilians defending their home country against a foreign invading force. You can't expect them to run to the tailor and have uniforms made up in the middle of an invasion.

If Iraq had invaded the United States, I'd be out fighting in my street clothes too.
 
  • #14
Office_Shredder said:
America treats differently captured combatants differently right now, as we speak. I'm not sure what your point is here.

What's your point here? Are you criticizing America because its enemies don't wear uniforms? Evo said that American soldiers can't determine that one person out of a group is a reporter. Obviously that's because the insurgents aren't wearing uniforms. Why bother mentioning that uniforms exist as a concept? It's not like we didn't know that. Stop trying to be clever and just say what you mean to say
I think he made his point quite clear, and quite cleverly.

Jack21222 said:
Many of these people ARE civilians defending their home country against a foreign invading force. You can't expect them to run to the tailor and have uniforms made up in the middle of an invasion.

If Iraq had invaded the United States, I'd be out fighting in my street clothes too.
How difficult is it to tie a colored band around an arm to show you are an insurgent so that you stand out from non-combatants?
 
  • #15
Evo said:
How difficult is it to tie a colored band around an arm to show you are an insurgent so that you stand out from non-combatants?

What governing body would decide that "band around the arm" is a uniform?

In many cases, these "enemies" aren't organized. They aren't part of a group. Maybe they're mad that their brother or best friend was killed. Maybe they're angry that the water supply has been cut.

I think it's ridiculous to expect civilians to get into uniform in order to resist an invader.
 
  • #16
Evo said:
The reporters decided to join the insurgents, so I don't see what your point is.
My point is - did the journalists decide to join the insurgents, or were the journalists simply there independantly?

To take a less contentious example. At a protest rally in the US/Eu - some photographers will be from the BBC/CNN/Fox etc, they will know the police and have a relationship with them (especially Fox) and be able to pass through the police lines.

There will also be independent or unaccredited journalists photographing both the demonstrators and the police, these are regarded by the police as on the protester's side and are targeted for arrests and confiscations.

Would democracy be improved if only government approved journalists were allowed to report on domestic demonstrations?
 
  • #17
Jack21222 said:
What governing body would decide that "band around the arm" is a uniform?

In many cases, these "enemies" aren't organized. They aren't part of a group. Maybe they're mad that their brother or best friend was killed. Maybe they're angry that the water supply has been cut.

I think it's ridiculous to expect civilians to get into uniform in order to resist an invader.
If combatants refuse to identify themselves as such and they fight and hide among civilians, then they are solely to blame for any civilian casualties.
 
  • #18
mgb_phys said:
My point is - did the journalists decide to join the insurgents, or were the journalists simply there independantly?

To take a less contentious example. At a protest rally in the US/Eu - some photographers will be from the BBC/CNN/Fox etc, they will know the police and have a relationship with them (especially Fox) and be able to pass through the police lines.

There will also be independent or unaccredited journalists photographing both the demonstrators and the police, these are regarded by the police as on the protester's side and are targeted for arrests and confiscations.

Would democracy be improved if only government approved journalists were allowed to report on domestic demonstrations?
I still do not see what difference that makes in the case of unidentified reporters mingling with a group that is planning to attack a group of soldiers.

In your "protester rally" scenario, if someone not affiliated is mingling with the protestors, then they are just part of the throng. And no, police would have no way of knowing what their intentions are.

So I still do not see what point you are trying to make. Reporters in dangerous areas risk their lives the same as the group with which they travel.
 
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  • #19
Evo said:
So I still do not see what point you are trying to make. Reporters in dangerous areas risk their lives the same as the group with which they travel.
My point is that the US military are attempting to paint any journalists that aren't under their control as effectively enemy agents.
Whether this extends to actively targeting independent journalists is the question.
 
  • #20
mgb_phys said:
My point is that the US military are attempting to paint any journalists that aren't under their control as effectively enemy agents.
I don't know where you are getting this idea.

Whether this extends to actively targeting independent journalists is the question.
The journalists that were with the group of insurgents that were planning an attack were Reuters journalists. So, sorry, not trying to be difficult, I don't see your point. Is there some instance not related to the subject of this thread that you are referring to?
 
  • #21
Evo said:
If combatants refuse to identify themselves as such and they fight and hide among civilians, then they are solely to blame for any civilian casualties.
Solely? Does the party that undertook an unprovoked invasion share no part of the responsibility?
 
  • #22
Gokul43201 said:
Solely? Does the party that undertook an unprovoked invasion share no part of the responsibility?
The invasion of IRAQ was made on trumped up charges, IMO, so civilian casualties during the invasion, we are responsible for.

Right now, what is happening is that there are disparate factions all wanting control. Circumstances have changed, we are now trying to keep some semblance of peace until we can get out without the government collapsing. To put it in a nutshell. My understanding is that if the troops picked up and left right now, all hell would break loose and many more civilains would die. We got ourselves into a bad situation there.

In the specific case of the apache firing on the insurgents, I'd have to lay the blame on the insurgents.
 
  • #23
Evo said:
The invasion of IRAQ was made on trumped up charges, IMO, so civilian casualties during the invasion, we are responsible for.

Right now, what is happening is that there are disparate factions all wanting control.
Having created the situation where this (power struggle) has become a reality, I would think the US deserves some share - diminishing as it may be, as events evolve from the initial action - of the blame for things that result directly from this situation (more specifically, things that could have been reasonably expected to result from the created situation).

If the present power struggle, insurgency, lack of security, and bloodshed were a completely unexpected and bizarrely unpredictable outcome of the invasion, then it would be unfair to lay any blame on the US for its effects (Russ will probably disagree with me on this), but this situation is really not completely off the charts from State Department projections (citation upon request). So I don't think the US can absolve itself of all responsibility.

To quote Colin Powell: you broke it, you own it.
 
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  • #24
Gokul43201 said:
So I don't think the US can absolve itself of all responsibility.

To quote Colin Powell: you broke it, you own it.
I'd have to agree to that.
 
  • #25
russ_watters said:
I'm also not sure what taxes and general opposition to the war have to do with anything. I suppose people sometimes improperly mix opposition to the war with opposition to specific incidents, but if so, that's just another manifestation of the judgemental error I discussed from the first "lens".
Actually, there is another aspect to that that I missed: *If* the conduct of the war is bad enough, it could undermine/render moot even a legitimate justification for starting the war. But if the premise of the objection is flawed, then the conclusion that our conduct is bad enough to override the justification is also flawed.
 
  • #26
NeoDevin said:
Some consideration should also be given to the fact that negative propaganda about the US likely helps the insurgents recruit, therefore potentially costing more lives in the long run.

I don't have any numbers on this, and I doubt anyone has studied it in detail, but it may be the case that making a sacrifice on temporary safety to maintain a clean image as the "good guys" is the safer course in the long run.
Granted, though it would be very difficult to incorporate that into the decision-making process in an on-the-spot fire/no fire decision. I am sure that that is considered when drawing-up pre-planned airstrikes, though.
 
  • #27
2. These reporters had embedded themselves with insurgents.
I looked into this matter. I do not believe that the US presented evidence that the group with the AP reporters were insurgents. There was some circumstantial evidence that insurgents were in the neighborhood, and US forces had taken fire in the area. Even Gates did not indicated that they group were insurgents. Rather the helicopter declared these guys insurgents/hostiles and opened fire. Gates et al simply determined that the guy went by the book.

The man in the van just happened to be driving his kids to school when he stopped to offer assistance. He has been identified. He was not an insurgent.

The action violated the Iraqi constitution, and deprived those invidual of their constitutional rights - rights guaranteed by the Iraqi Constitution, which apparently was authored with US assistance.

When I looked at the video, two armed individuals, one with an AK-47 and the other with an RPG, left the group before the group and two reporters went to the corner where they were shot.

Whether or not the group were insurgents was not determined. It is possible that some armed individuals in the area are simply defending their neighborhood. That was a hot area in Baghdad. It is not unusual for individuals in that area to be armed for protection.

Is it conceivable that the investigation of the incident by the US is flawed. Certainly. It is the same organization that covered up the killing of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, as well as some recent deaths.

As for insurgents, it is expected that they target civilians. It is not expected that the 'good guys' target civilians, and most don't. Unfortunately, US military personnel have in some cases retaliated against civilians, e.g., the 14 year old Iraqi girl who was raped and murdered.

I'm on the road for a while, so I don't have access to my files, but I would be pleased to provide more evidence next week.
 
  • #28
mgb_phys said:
Were they really 'embedded' with the insurgents? Does Al-Queda hand out press passes?
Or is this just spin to refer to any independant (ie non US embedded) journalists as enemy.
It is certainly not intended as spin and I didn't say nor did I mean journalists are enemies: they are noncombatants and the scenario I drew up is completely symmetrical with respect to who the reporters are following around. There is no double standard coming from me here. So I don't see what your point is. Why does it matter if Al Qaeda hands out press passes? How would you label their status? How should we handle situations where journalists are identified following enemy soliders?

Maybe you must misread...
A similar language used to be used for people like the Red Cross and Medicin-san-Frontiere, basically - if you aren't for us you are against us.
Again, not following your point: medics get killed in war on all sides. Its an occupational hazard and it isn't murder unless you purposely target them, regardless of who is doing the shooting and which side they are on.
When the spanish TV reporter was killed a couple of years ago there were allegations that independent journalists were being deliberately targeted - according to CNN's news division boss Eason Jordan.
I don't know what incident you are referring to, but if you are claiming that the journalists in either of these cases were specifically targeted, you'll need evidence to support it.

Frankly, this just seems to me like more of the double-standards that this thread was intended to point out! No evidence for it, but let's assume the US are murderers!
In the specific attack in the helicopter video, one of the US troops did say they had received orders to target all civilian vehicles since taxis were being used by insurgents.
Yes - the van was targeted because it was entering a battle on the side of the insurgents. But you misunderstand why:
That seems like an unreasonable rules of engagement...
It's not. The insurgents are purposely mingling with and using civilians for cover and making it a rule to not target any vehicle or person not clearly identified as military that is participating in a battle would make it impossible to fight the war and and reward the usage of human shields. When there's a battle going on, you'd have to be a complete idiot to enter it (and bring kids!) if you're not a soldier. The conclusion that all the occupants in the van were noncombatants - even today - is far less reasonable than the conclusion that they were insurgents.
...it was when the British courts found soldiers in Northern Ireland guilty of shooting a stolen car that ran a checkpoint.
Is this the incident you are referring to?: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Clegg

Could you explain what relevance in improper shooting in essentially a police situation has to a battle in a war?
 
  • #29
Astronuc said:
I looked into this matter. I do not believe that the US presented evidence that the group with the AP reporters were insurgents.
I've seen the video many times and I have exactly the opposite opinion. Given the information they had, they made a correct decision. I know two people that served in Iraq, one did two tours. When you hear what they went through you realize how a moment's hesitation can mean all of your friends are dead.

The men in the helicopter were in contact with the base, waited for orders, and acted appropriately.
 
  • #30
Astronuc said:
I looked into this matter. I do not believe that the US presented evidence that the group with the AP reporters were insurgents.

Evo said:
I've seen the video many times and I have exactly the opposite opinion.
Whether or not the US presented evidence about the people being insurgents is not a matter of opinion. It is a fact - either they did, or they did not. Not being personally familiar with the details, I have no idea which it is.

Evo said:
When you hear what they went through you realize how a moment's hesitation can mean all of your friends are dead.
This is a military operation. Sometimes, you have to make a decision (determined by operational intel and the RoE) to not shoot everything in sight with the knowledge that such inaction may mean that all your friends will be dead. Tough, but that's war - it cuts both ways.
 
  • #31
Vanadium 50 said:
Interestingly, there was an effective solution to this in the dim prehistory of mankind: pre cell-phone. The idea was that each group of combatants would wear uniform attire - we could even call it a "uniform", so that the other side would be able to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants.

Hard to imagine, I know.
I get all of the dripping sarcasm at the obviousness of this, but it still boggles my mind that many people don't get it. Let's make it clearer, though:

The Fourth Geneva Convention, 1949, laid out the rules for protection of civilians. Going in the order I'm finding them, first is the issue of attacking civilian hospitals - but they really have to be civilian hospitals, not fronts for military compounds:
Art. 18. Civilian hospitals organized to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict.

States which are Parties to a conflict shall provide all civilian hospitals with certificates showing that they are civilian hospitals and that the buildings which they occupy are not used for any purpose which would deprive these hospitals of protection in accordance with Article 19.

Civilian hospitals shall be marked by means of the emblem provided for in Article 38 of the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field of 12 August 1949, but only if so authorized by the State.

The Parties to the conflict shall, in so far as military considerations permit, take the necessary steps to make the distinctive emblems indicating civilian hospitals clearly visible to the enemy land, air and naval forces in order to obviate the possibility of any hostile action.

In view of the dangers to which hospitals may be exposed by being close to military objectives, it is recommended that such hospitals be situated as far as possible from such objectives.

Art. 19. The protection to which civilian hospitals are entitled shall not cease unless they are used to commit, outside their humanitarian duties, acts harmful to the enemy. Protection may, however, cease only after due warning has been given, naming, in all appropriate cases, a reasonable time limit and after such warning has remained unheeded.
Here's where it says that the side holding or operating among civilians is responsible for their safety and that they may not be used as human shields:
Art. 28. The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.

Art. 29. The Party to the conflict in whose hands protected persons may be, is responsible for the treatment accorded to them by its agents, irrespective of any individual responsibility which may be incurred.
Those are the most relevant to this situation. Journalists are civilians and they are afforded protection when not intermixed with combatants. Legally, their presence does not alter the equation: It does not force an attacker to avoid shooting at a group of soldiers with civilians among them.

http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/full/380?opendocument

The important thing about uniforms, ID and hiding amongst civilians is that it is that soldiers are required to wear uniforms and carry ID or they lose their rights as POWs: hence the "unlawful combatants" at Gitmo:
But State practice95 and jurisprudence96 indicate clearly that combatants
who do not distinguish themselves from the civilian population while
engaged in an attack or in a military operation prior to an attack shall forfeit
their rights as prisoners of war. During the First and Second World Wars,
armed persons who were captured not wearing uniforms, were often executed
on the spot as they were not considered to be combatants, but outlaws.97...

The failure of a combatant to distinguish himself from the civilian population
is certainly a breach of the law of war, but may even constitute perfidy.
99 In particular, the wearing of civilian clothes as a disguise to kill, wound
or capture the enemy is considered perfidious.100 Acts of perfidy may moreover
be punished as war crimes.101
http://www.icrc.org/Web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/htmlall/5ZBE5X/$File/IRRC_853_Pfanner.pdf
Vanadium said:
At some point, people decided it wasn't fair to treat different captured combatants differently and so removed this incentive.
Note, while people today seem to have forgotten what wars are like, that incentive has not actually been removed from the law, it has only been adjusted in public opinion, for modern sensibilities.
 
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  • #32
Office_Shredder said:
What's your point here? Are you criticizing America because its enemies don't wear uniforms?...
Sarcasm - You missed it.
 
  • #33
Jack21222 said:
Many of these people ARE civilians defending their home country against a foreign invading force.
That's a contradiction in terms and a big part of the point of this thread is informing people that that double-edged sword is theirs to carry, not the US's.
 
  • #34
Gokul43201 said:
This is a military operation. Sometimes, you have to make a decision (determined by operational intel and the RoE) to not shoot everything in sight with the knowledge that such inaction may mean that all your friends will be dead. Tough, but that's war - it cuts both ways.
That goes with my next sentence.
Evo said:
The men in the helicopter were in contact with the base, waited for orders, and acted appropriately.
 
  • #35
mgb_phys said:
My point is - did the journalists decide to join the insurgents, or were the journalists simply there independantly?
How are "join the insurgents" and "there independently" different from each other? It isn't like the journalists happened to be walking past the insurgents when they got shot. They were walking together.
To take a less contentious example. At a protest rally in the US/Eu - some photographers will be from the BBC/CNN/Fox etc, they will know the police and have a relationship with them (especially Fox) and be able to pass through the police lines.

There will also be independent or unaccredited journalists photographing both the demonstrators and the police, these are regarded by the police as on the protester's side and are targeted for arrests and confiscations.
If reporters are wearing ID, I don't see how it could be legal to arrest them. Regardless, this has nothing to do with how reporters are dealt with in a war. You're drawing false comparisons.
Would democracy be improved if only government approved journalists were allowed to report on domestic demonstrations?
No, as long as journalists are identifiable, they should be protected. But again, this has nothing to do with the issue at hand. Accredatation doesn't have any bearing on their status in war whatsoever. They are civilians either way and if they are in a battle, they can get themselves shot.
mgb_phys said:
My point is that the US military are attempting to paint any journalists that aren't under their control as effectively enemy agents.
No, they are not!
 

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