Mistaking a camera for a gun
Chapter 4 endnote 48, from Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:
In July 2007, an American gunner aboard an Apache helicopter in Iraq mistakenly killed a group of eleven unarmed people, including several Reuters photojournalists. The soldier had misjudged a journalist’s camera to be a gun. [...] Reuters journalist Namir Noor-Eldeen, driver Saeed Chmagh, and several others were killed.
In July 2007, in a public square in Eastern Bagdad, a Reuters journalist named Namir Noor-Eldeen was carrying a large camera. His driver, Saeed Chmagh, was nearby talking on the phone. Flying above them was a U.S. Apache helicopter. The helicopter’s gunner shot and killed both the journalist and the driver. The gunner then shot nine more civilians who arrived in a minivan to transport the wounded. The official statement on this incident initially listed all adults as insurgents.
What happened here? The soldiers, in the heat of the moment, actually saw a rifle instead of a camera. (If you read the transcript of their conversation in the Apache helicopter, you can hear that they were really worked up and believed they were seeing a gun.) In situations like these, quick judgments are often necessary and are extremely difficult to negotiate. The stakes are high and errors, when made, usually occur at the expense of someone’s life.