`UK blundered` over video of friendly fire killing
The American military last night claimed that if the British government had requested that the US declassify a controversial cockpit video of a British soldier being shot by "friendly fire" before yesterday, it had asked the wrong people.
Major David Small, from the US Central Command, said the US would not have had a problem declassifying the tape which shows the moment Lance Corporal of Horse Matty Hull`s convoy was hit by an American A-10 tankbuster.
The video, which was leaked to the Sun newspaper, had previously been unavailable to the soldier`s inquest. Major Small said: "We are the owners of the video and no request to provide an unclassified version was made to us."
Although he did not know whether the British government had asked for the tape to be declassified previously, he suggested that if it had, the military would have agreed.
"We have no problem declassifying something like this for a request when necessary. We do it for the media so I can`t imagine we wouldn`t do it for the British government."
He said it was information like the numbers that appear on tape that raised the security problem, not its actual contents.
The soldier`s widow, Susan Hull, said the video was the "one and only chance" to hear how and why her husband was killed.
On it, one of the US pilots is heard saying: "We`re in jail dude," after realising the mistake. "God dammit," said the other pilot, who opened fire.
Mrs Hull said she "felt sick" when she finally watched the video and heard the American pilots apparently joking about hitting the convoy.
She said L/Cpl Hull`s life had been wiped out by "people who don`t seem to know what they were doing or seem to care".
After realising they had made a terrible mistake, the pilots were "more concerned for themselves than their victims", she added.
Mrs Hull told the Sun: "I always knew there was a cover-up - and this proves it. All I ever wanted was the truth about what happened to Matty, but no one was prepared to be honest with me.
"I`ve waited four long years to see this footage. Finally here I am seeing my husband die at the hands of two imbeciles."
L/Cpl Hull`s father, Richard, 50, of West Knoyles, near Warminster, Wiltshire, said the video proved that his son "died for nothing". He told the Sun: "He was the bravest lad in the world - but his death was at the hands of idiots.
"The last four years have been a real battle and the MoD, who repeatedly told us this recording didn`t exist, just lied and lied to us. My Matty had more honour in his little finger."
The emergence of the footage yesterday sparked demands, led by Mrs Hull and politicians including Constitutional Affairs Minister Harriet Harman, for the recording to be shown at L/Cpl Hull`s inquest.
And last night the US relented, following high-level negotiations and gave permission for the classified tape to be shown at the inquest, but only to the victim`s family and not to the public or the media.
Defence Secretary Des Browne said showing the video to the inquest was "the right thing to do". His department had initially told L/Cpl Hull`s family the recording did not exist.
But it found its way into the hands of Oxford coroner Andrew Walker, who is hearing the inquest into the 25-year-old soldier`s death.
Last week he was forced to adjourn the inquest in frustration at the MoD`s failure to get the permission of the US authorities to use the recording in evidence.
Mrs Hull said she was glad she had waited for the truth about her husband`s death, in a blazing armoured vehicle in the southern Iraqi desert in 2003, to emerge.
"The inquest is my one and only chance to hear how and why Matty died. I would have preferred to hear the evidence from the US pilots themselves. However they cannot be compelled to come and they have not come voluntarily. The video is therefore vital evidence and must be shown. "
A source at L/Cpl Hull`s former regiment, the Windsor-based Household Cavalry Regiment, criticised the US pilots as "cowboys" and said he and his colleagues were "happy" the tape had emerged.
The transcript reveals as many as six errors immediately before the attack near Basra in southern Iraq on March 28, 2003.
On several occasions the pilots, a Major and a Lieutenant Colonel of the 190th Fighter Squadron, the Idaho Air National Guard, say they can see orange panels used to identify coalition forces, but convince themselves that they are enemy rocket launchers.
The pilots were not sure what red smoke released on the ground to show them they had hit friendly forces meant, and had switched off communications with the ground so they did not hear instructions to stop firing.
L/Cpl Hull, from Windsor, Berkshire, died in the incident and four other members of the Household Cavalry Regiment were injured.
Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox said: "We need to know what arrangements are in place for the proper sharing of information with the US authorities relating to these unfortunate events, to enable us to learn all the facts of the situation.
"The way in which the coroner`s system deals with military deaths is inadequate.
"Many families have been waiting years which is completely unacceptable. "
A pre-inquest hearing is now scheduled to be held on February 16 and the full inquest will resume on March 12. - yorkshiretoday.co.uk
Neither pilot from the Boise, Idaho-based 190th Fighter Squadron was disciplined in the U.S. military`s own investigation, which concluded the pilots "followed the procedures and processes for engaging targets," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Tuesday.
The Sun reported Wednesday that one of the pilots was promoted to colonel with the Air National Guard`s A10 tankbuster training wing at a top U.S. base, teaching "novices how to dive and strafe targets."
Paul Smyth, a navigator and wing commander with the Royal Air Force who flew combat missions to Iraq in 1991, said the pilots should not be blamed.
"I had a lot of empathy with the pilots and how awful it must have felt," he said, noting that units are provided with only a limited number of radios and have limited ability to communicate between forces. - chron.com