The friendly fire incident that claimed the lives of four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan was one of the leading stories of 2002. Now, thanks to the nature of Canadians and Americans, the story will remain in the limelight for another year, or two, or three...
Major Harry Schmidt and Major William Umbach are the targets of a potential lawsuit because rules that forbid American families from suing in friendly fire incidents do not apply in this case. The casualties were Canadian, therefore, there is no mechanism to prevent the grieving families from suing the pilots. But just because something can be done does not make it right.
The four Canadian soldiers who died in Afghanistan died at war. They were in a hostile environment, they were well aware of the risks involved, and they died serving their country. The American pilots who killed them made a terrible mistake, but this is war. The Americans thought they were being fired upon, and they fired back. They should have checked; they should have known; things should have happened differently. But they didn't. The pilots made a mistake that embarrassed the U.S., and more importantly, a mistake that will haunt them for as long as they live.
But is this manslaughter? Can civilian morals and civilian definitions apply to war?
Of course not. This is simply a product of the times, where war, for some reason, isn't supposed to have any casualties at all. Gone are the days of massive death tolls, civilians at risk or Dresden and Rotterdam. Accidental loss of life is gone from the North American conscience, because North American civilians have never experienced war. People do not understand that Al Qaeda cannot be defeated without major loss of life by civilians. People do not understand friendly fire casualties will take place every time you put a lot of men with guns in the same area.
On July 9-10, 1943, 23 U.S. troop transports were shot down by American forces in Sicily who mistook the planes for German bombers. The death toll was 410. Thirty five of the 146 Americans who died in the 1991 Gulf War died from friendly fire.
The only way to honour the memory of the Canadian soldiers is to make sure mistakes like this never happen again. However, a lawsuit for manslaughter does not solve this problem. Mistakes like this will happen as long as wars are fought and suing two unfortunate American pilots is simply placing the blame on two scapegoats. If we don't want casualties, we shouldn't go to war. The only wars without friendly casualties take place on Sony Playstation.