On the night of April 17th, 2002, two hotshot American pilots detected small arms fire as they flew over Tarnak Farms, Afghanistan. Maybe it was the speed they were taking to improve their reflexes, or plain machoism, but despite being told by AWACS to “hold fire” twice and that friendlies may be in the area, wingman Major Harry Schmidt dropped a 500kg laser-guided bomb. A bomb that killed four Canadians and injured eight others. The Canadians were undergoing a training exercise in a designated zone.
His punishment? A reprimand and a $5,600 US fine. That comes out to $1,400 a head, literally. Maj. William Umbach, who flew with him, was given a reprimand and voluntary early retirement.
We give worse sentences to hockey players who whack other players.
Well, the guy did get a tongue-lashing from the judge. A real flame of Internet proportions. In the verdict transcribed by CBC News, the judge charged Schmidt with “arrogance” and “poor airmanship”, and felt no “heartfelt remorse” over the deaths.
The judge also had these bon mots to say:
“…You used your self-defense declaration as a pretext to strike a target, which you rashly decided was an enemy firing position, and about which you had exhausted your patience in waiting for clearance…to engage. You used the inherent right of self-defense as an excuse to wage your own war.”
“…You lied about the reasons why you engaged the target after you were directed to hold fire and then you sought to blame others.”