Unfriendly Fire:

The Killing of ITN journalist Terry Lloyd was not an isolated incident–

The public inquiry into the death of ITN journalist Terry Lloyd in Iraq in March 2003 has concluded that fire by US forces unlawfully killed him after a firefight between US and Iraqi forces had ended.

From reports of the inquiry by the UKs Channel 4 there were at least four different groups of witnesses – Iraqi combatants ; western journalists, cameramen and Iraqi interpreters ; a British special forces member ; and the American unit involved.

The western journalists and the Iraqis say there was fire exchanged between an Iraqi pick up truck with a heavy machine gun mounted on it and an American tank. The pick up truck was destroyed. Then the Iraqis commandeered a journalist's van to use as a makeshift ambulance and put the Iraqi casualties and Terry Lloyd who was badly wounded by US fire , into it.

The US tank continued firing on this vehicle and killed Lloyd.

The British special forces member who says he witnessed it too and the US unit claim they didn’t keep firing after the heavy machine gun truck was taken out.

I tend to believe the journalists given that all the other witnesses were combatants on one side or the other and so bound to be biased.

The British and US military story is also undermined by BBC reports that expert analysis of a video of the incident provided by the US unit showed 15 minutes had been cut from the film .

Lloyd’s killing was not an isolated incident but one of many incidents of coalition forces firing on reporters who weren't embedded in a unit according to the International Federation of Journalists .

This may well be another tacit Bush administration policy like the torture policy revealed by the testimony of many US soldiers recorded by Human Rights Watch.

This tacit policy seems to be to fire on non-embedded reporters to scare the others into being embedded and make sure the majority of media coverage is what our militaries and governments want it to be . Though in Lloyd’s case there may have been confusion over which vehicles contained Iraqi fighters and which contained media – particularly as the vehicle he was in was commandeered by fleeing Iraqi fighters as a makeshift ambulance – it is also clear that firing on enemies who were not attacking but fleeing with their wounded might well constitute a war crime in itself. For anyone who would defend such action consider whether you would think Iraqi forces would be justified on firing on fleeing British or American troops who weren’t firing on them any more and were trying to get their wounded and wounded journalists to hospital.

The ambulance was not marked as an ambulance – it was just a commandeered media van - but its fairly clear the second burst of fire from the tank wasn't part of a fire fight but at the least an attempt to kill off any survivors and wounded after the Iraqis were beaten and trying to get away. That on its own would be arguably a war crime. If they knew some of the wounded were media it would definitely be a war crime - whether they knew or not i don’t know - but they do seem to have cut 15 minutes from the tape and the coalition accounts don't fit with the western journalists’ and camera-mens’ accounts and those are the only independent eye-witness accounts and so the most reliable.

Of course insurgents and Al Qaeda in Iraq have also targeted journalists - and the Iraqi gunmen who exchanged fire with the US tank in the Lloyd incident may have been guilty of a war crime if they fired from a civilian convoy - but if this in some way makes it right for coalition forces to target them or make little attempt to avoid killing them if they aren't embedded with coalition units i can't see how. Freedom and democracy if they mean anything have to include a free press - not one limited in where it can go , what it can see and what it can report by militaries and governments any more than by terrorist organisations, militias or 'insurgent' or 'resistance' groups.