Short rant here (and I know I’m not the first to write or speak of this, but I’m going to rant anyway)
On the news today, a report of a British service-man killed in Afghanistan – “Early reports suggest he might have been killed by friendly fire”.
I’ve always been struck by the ludicrous and, frankly, demeaning use of this term to sanitize what, to me at least, can only be described as wrongful killing.
I’m sure the term comes from radar tracking, where blips corresponding to your own side are classified as ‘friendly’ – or at least that’s what my hollywood-fed knowledge-base suggests – so it may be correct militarily to describe someone as being hit by ‘friendly fire’. What I object to is the use of the term by media and politicians when discussing the situation, particularly with the families of injured, or wrongfully killed, service personnel.
It demeans the honour of the deceased and the dignity of their loved ones to describe such wrongful killing with a saccharine, PC homily or badly misplaced, military technical term. The fact that media and politicians use the term to somehow delay liability that would be inferred by use of the term ‘wrongful killing’ just amplifies the lack of respect for both the deceased and their loved ones.
And on a more holistic level, the term in itself is just plain incorrect.
A bullet, shell or shrapnel pierces the body of a living human being, doing sufficient damage to injure or kill.
What about that can be considered ‘friendly’?
It doesn’t matter whether the human being is one of ‘ours’ or one of ‘theirs’ – it is not, nor can it ever be, a friendly act to pull a trigger that launches a projectile at another person.
‘Friendly fire’ lends an air of directed morality to the act of shooting – that it was somehow an accident. The truth is, at the point when the trigger is pulled, the shooter does NOT consider whether it is ‘friendly’ or ‘non-friendly‘ – by definition, every shot fired on the battlefield is made with the intention of being ‘non-friendly’.
It is not, nor can it ever be, a friendly act to pull a trigger that launches a projectile at another person.
Again, I suspect that the potential claims for liability drive a desire to delay blame until formal investigation. That’s understandable, but still does not excuse using the term ‘friendly‘. Call it ‘own-side’, ‘our own’, or even ‘home-team’ fire by all means – just don’t suggest that somehow the shooting would have been all right if it had just hit somebody else.