You're right the court may not believe you but let's not confuse the rules of engagement for soldiers in a war zone versus civilian law. Unlike the civilian world, where you can only legally kill in self defense, in a war zone it is possible to have rules of engagement that allow soldiers to kill the enemy even if they themselves are not personally threatened at that moment. I think the pilot truly believed that those men on the ground were insurgents and the pilot superiors agreed with the pilot's assessment at the time and as a consequence didn't court martial or reprimand the pilot. You can argue that the military is not stringent enough in avoiding casualties but I don't see anything in that video that gives me the impression that the pilot did not follow the rules of engagement a the time. If you look at the current military air strike policy in Afghanistan under General MacChrystal you notice that he has greatly limited the use of air strikes in Afghanistan which to me hints that military has learned from it's Iraq War experiences and recognizes the older rules of engagement are counterproductive in a counter-insurgency campaign.
If the pilot had no doubt that the van was an insurgent van then your point is still moot. The area was a hot zone, troops on the ground reported a group of men with guns; the pilot believed he saw an rpg; pilot believed the men were insurgents; pilot believed the van was an insurgent van. End of story. It doesn't matter if you had doubt whether that van was full of civilians; it only matters if the pilot had doubt. On a side note it also doesn't help that the insurgents take full advantage of our rules of engagement at the expense of civilians by deliberately blending in and trying to pose as civilians. As a result of this it's not surprising that many troops over time would come to err on the side of presumed guilty before innocent rather then the other way around when it comes to their survival.
In hindsight we know that the person in the van was a civilian but at the time this event occurred the pilot thought the guy in the van was an insurgent. Don't you get it? Your legal definition of a civilian becomes a moot point as a consequence. In regards to surviving such an incident the only thing that matters is what the person with the gun thinks as he is the one who must decide whether to label you a civilian or insurgent based on the actions he perceives you doing. The wounded man would most likely have survived if the guy in the van did not come to help him; the U.S. soldiers on the ground would have captured him and he would have received medical treatment.
Tragic events like this stir up a lot of emotions and you can really see how different people can view the world entirely You sound like a great candidate for the Darwin awards; helping some guy you don't know in a war zone after just hearing lots of explosions with your children in tow. I wouldn't want you as a neighbor either; you'd probably get me killed. In fact if I was that wounded man I would have preferred for you NOT to have helped me because you just made me a legitimate target under rules of engagement. You did notice in the video that the pilot did not fire on the wounded man until it looked as if he was helped by suspected insurgents. Don't forget that all this took place in a dangerous part of town in a war zone where there was an ongoing military operation. The question becomes do you put the safety and well being and lives of strangers before family, friends, and in the case of military, brothers in arms? I can tell you that if I am in a war zone I would rather make a mistake that causes the death of a civilian then to make a mistake that causes the death of my brothers in arms. This is the sort of dilemma soldiers and police officers face; if they second guess what they believe to be a threat that delay may result in their own and fellow soldiers death. It's appropriate to question what should be the rules of engagement and the United States foreign policy but from what I saw in the video looks like the pilot was following rules of engagement and perceived those men to be a threat.
I did watch the video. The van was unmarked and it was perceived as an insurgent vehicle. It's fair game and it's much harder to observe a moving vehicle so it's understandable why the pilot wanted to take out the vehicle. It's tragic that the van driver was not an insurgent but I also can't help but think how stupid it would be to drive a van with your children in it and help some guy you don't know in a war zone where the enemy are insurgents dressed like civilians. This isn't to say I wouldn't help a stranger in a peace time setting but I would not put my kids in that sort of risk during a war to attempt to help a stranger. As far as the coverup part is concerned; yes it looks like someone higher up the chain chose to lie about what they knew and that's not good. Honesty is always the best policy.
Let me ask, if you were in a war zone and you saw a bunch of guys milling about with ak 47's do you seriously think they weren't up to something? If I walk down the street in the US during peace time with an ak 47 I may not get shot but you better believe that cops would quickly surround me with guns drawn; now imagine you are in a war zone and I do the same thing, you're just asking to get shot. I don't know the specifics about the rules of engagement in this situation but it's my understanding that in a war zone if you spot guys carrying weapons they become fair game to engaged.
If you are driving slower than most traffic behind you than you should do the courteous think and either move to the right lane or if there is only one lane pull over and allow the other cars to pass.
From what facts do you draw the conclusion that there is "widespread dumbing down of course material and grade inflation, " and that "A lot of students who 20 years ago would have been considered middling (but would have gone on to get graduate-level jobs) are now clustered around the top of the class."? I can tell you that at least in my field, (classical music), the level of playing has risen to an very high level, e.x. The Nielsen Clarinet concerto was once considered unplayable and only a handful of clarinetists could play it back in the mid 20th century; currently it's now part of the standard repertoire that college level clarinetists are expected to learn and play. I do agree that times have changed in regards to the value of a college degree; it doesn't mean as much as it used to; not because the degree has been dumbed down but because the talent pool is much greater then it was in the past while the number of job openings haven't kept up. Personally I think this woman who is suing is an idiot and didn't do her homework about the reality of the workplace but that doesn't exonerate colleges who have perpetuated the myth that a degree will be a ticket to a good job. The Millenium generation is inheriting an America that offers less then what was offered to the Baby Boomer generation. Social Security, Health Insurance, housing prices, job opportunities; All worse now then in the Baby Boomer generation's prime time. I say this because you, RogueyWon, sound like some older guy who is assuming that the playing field is the same as when you were back in school; big mistake.