War Games

by James Glaser
July 1, 2002

Four Canadians were killed and it was from an American bomb dropped by an American Pilot. Those are the facts, but who was to blame?

Having "war games" in a war zone is kind of like having a stick ball game on the freeway. Who ever planned these night training maneuvers in the middle of a war, in territory that was open to dispute, that didn't give enough notice to all combatants, bears some or most of the blame.

Stupid is such a harsh word, but in this case, with four deaths it is a fine term to use. War Zones are just that and any time you fire your weapon, you not only give away your position, but open yourself to both friendly and enemy fire. This loss of four Canadians is very tragic, but it could and should have been avoided. Lack of common sense at the top and lack of war time experience were the major contributing factors in this tragedy.

Major Harry Schmidt of the Illinois Air National Guard will suffer with this mistake for the rest of his life. Charges have been brought that he was told twice not to fire. I can only imagine that those bringing these charges have never been under fire and have never had the loss of clear thinking due extreme fatigue caused by long hours and constant adrenaline rushes.

Combat is a line of work like no other and to expect a man to jump in and out of "Combat Thinking" is really asking more than is possible. Either you are in a war or your not. Having your life on the line tends to change the way that you think. Those giving the orders not to fire could not see what Major Schmidt was looking at and they never said "those are Canadians down there.

They said "wait," "hold fire." If you have never waited in combat, you have never seen time crawl. What Major Schmidt did was wrong, but to place a training exercise in a combat zone was equally wrong and an invite for disaster.

Retired Canadian General Maurice Baril said "I said very clearly, there was one cause of the accident here. The decision of the pilot to engage at that time was his sole responsibility and he was the cause of the accident."

Nobody wants to stand up and take responsibility for any tragedy, but here there is room for many. Who ever moved untrained troops into a combat zone for training, the pilot that dropped the bomb, the US Commanders that sent air man with too long of hours in the air, into combat, and whoever was coordinating that nights operations and forgot to tell those in the air that training was going on.

You can bet Major Schmidt is the lowest ranking member of that club.

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