Terry Lloyd

A UK coroner has ruled that ITN journalist Terry Lloyd was unlawfully killed by US forces in the opening days of the Iraq War.  Not content with the ruling, and clearly with the authority to make such statements, National Union of Journalists’ broadcasting organiser Paul McLaughlin has ruled thusly:

“Terry Lloyd was the victim not just of an unlawful killing, but also of a war crime.”

Odd, then, that the coroner failed to mention it.

I recall the death of Terry Lloyd well, as it was in my mind the result of an act of wartime stupidity surpassed only by that of the UN observers in Lebanon.  As CNN reported things at the time:

London-based ITN said Lloyd, 51, and his team apparently were fired on by forces from the U.S.-led coalition while driving toward coalition lines, accompanied by vehicles driven by Iraqis, including a truck filled with soldiers. ITN said the Iraqis might have been intending to surrender.

From what I could gather from the initial reports which came out at the time, Lloyd and his crew had disappeared into the battlefield area well ahead of coalition lines, unescorted and without telling the coalition soldiers of their plans.  They came across a small convoy of Iraqi soldiers, most of whom were bearing arms, and decided in their wisdom to join them as they headed towards American lines.  There is speculation as to whether the Iraqis were planning to surrender, but it seems that no white flag was raised or armaments abandoned to indicate such intentions.  Nevertheless, Lloyd and his hapless crew stuck with the Iraqi column as it sped towards American lines.  Unsurprisingly, the Americans believed the armed Iraqi soldiers to be attacking and opened fire, and somehow Lloyd was hit by either an American or Iraqi bullet.  Lloyd was then transferred to an unmarked minibus which was being used as an ambulance, along with four Iraqi soldiers.  The Americans then opened fire on the vehicle, killing Lloyd and the other passengers.

Far from being a deliberate murder of a journalist on the part of the Americans, those responsible for the killing were more likely dumbstruck at the stupidity of a civilian press crew accompanying an Iraqi military convoy which was, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, carrying out an attack.

So rather than making baseless accusations of war crimes, perhaps Paul McLaughlin should further his members’ interests in the future by providing courses in basic common sense.   Indeed, there is a case to argue that the journalists themselves were criminally negligent resulting in the deaths of some of their number.  The principal witness to the attack, and the only survivor from the group, was cameraman Daniel Demoustier.  As the BBC reported at the time of the incident:

Two Iraqi vehicles followed them, the occupants making “thumbs up” signs, which Mr Demoustier took to mean they wanted to surrender using them as cover.

Firstly, on what grounds and with what authority did Mr Demoustier interpret a “thumbs up” sign from Iraqi soldiers to unescorted reporters as an intention to surrender?  And secondly, whose decision was it that the reporters should be used as cover for surrendering Iraqis?  Indeed, do the rules of war allow journalists to act as cover for soldiers under any circumstances? 

Were these questions asked in the inquest and the answers considered by the coroner in his ruling?  Or are the media protecting one of their own by not telling us, hoping to deflect such questions by making accusations of deliberate murder?

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9 Responses to Terry Lloyd

  1. W. Shedd says:

    It does make you wonder what the reporters thought would happen.

    My understanding of surrender is to stand still and put your hands up. Maybe one person waves a white flag.

    Technology and competition for stories has immersed reporters deeper and deeper into the trenches of warfare – ill equipped and untrained for the possible consequences.

  2. George Hargraves says:

    Lloyd’s arrogance invited tragedy. Now, the episode is being transformed from a tragedy for his family into a self-righteous media circus and a gold mine for the lawyers.

    At least the US is refusing to provide a scapegoat.

    BTW, I seem to remember that the UN observation post in Lebanon was also actually housing Hezballah.

  3. Tim Newman says:

    George, I had some sympathy for his family until I read this statement from his widow:

    US forces appear to have allowed their soldiers to behave like trigger happy cowboys in an area where civilians were moving around.

    I look forward to the response from the US Marine Corps along the lines of:

    Journalists appear to have been allowed to behave like irresponsible idiots, endangering their lives and others in an area where there are combat operations underway.

    The notion of personal responsibility seems to have left British shores completely.

  4. George Hargraves says:

    I’d not seen that Tim.

    One thing not touched on is that, like Belgian magistrates, coroners in the UK are a law unto themselves. Some time ago, in Chesterfield we had a senile one and it was all but impossible to force him into retirement, even on medical grounds.

  5. George Hargraves says:

    Just an update on coroners from the Guardian

  6. Steven Wood says:

    I notice you skim this bit :
    “Lloyd was then transferred to an unmarked minibus which was being used as an ambulance, along with four Iraqi soldiers. The Americans then opened fire on the vehicle, killing Lloyd and the other passengers.”

    When the NUJ claim that a “war crime” has been comitted it’s beacause the US army fired at clearly marked civilan vehicle (driven by a non-combatant) on its way to hosiptal. So it’s alledged anyway. The camera man was not the only survivor anyway, the driver of the bus is still alive. Do a google on Hamid Aglan and see what he had to say…

  7. Tim Newman says:

    Steven,

    You are deliberately adopting the same woolly language that the NUJ are using. When you say they were in a “clearly marked” civilian vehicle, what you mean is they were simply in a civilian vehicle. There is nothing clearly marked about it. And when you say they were on their way to the hospital, what you hope to conjure up is a picture of a minibus waiting patiently for the barrier to go up at the entrance to the local A&E. In actual fact, assuming they were on the way to the hospital and not to a place where the 4 Iraqi soldiers could rejoin the fight elsewhere, the minibus was still in the middle of a battle when it got hit, rendering the fact that it was all of twenty feet along a journey to the hospital irrelevant to the case.

    As far as I am aware, it is perfectly legitimate to fire on enemy soldiers who, having taken part in a failed attack on ones position, attempt to flee the scene in an unmarked civilian vehicle. The fact that the vehicle is unmarked and civilian, and allegedly being driven by a civilian, and rather irresponsibly carrying a wounded civilian along with uniformed enemy soldiers, does not make the firing upon that vehicle a war crime.

  8. Steven Wood says:

    Tim,
    Most civilian buses are easily indentifiable as such. Assuming though that the US soldiers couldn’t tell that a Mitsubishi minibus was not an Iraqi troop carrier, it still remains a war crime to fire upon a vehicle known to be taking casualties away from an engagement. It also is a war crime to deliberately target journalists and when Lloyd picked up his first injury he had been in an ITN jeep with “TV” on the side. The Iraqi troops along side him had apparantley been sitting in the road for some time before they were picked up, it seems it was when they tried to leave they were attacked.

    I’m sure many journalists act irresponsibly in war zones and it is difficult to be too sympathetic when they end up taking a bullet for their troubles. However, there is plenty evidence to support the claims of Lloyds family that the US troops who killed him were also being irresponsible, or worse, that they deliberately targetted a vehicle they must have known was taking casualties away from an engagement.

  9. Tim Newman says:

    Steven,

    I don’t know if you have ever taken part in a desert battle, but I strongly suspect not. Indeed, nor have I. But I have spent an awful lot of time stood round in the middle of the desert. Visibility, even when you are not wearing a helmet, goggles, and perspiring heavily, is pretty poor at the best of times. Add in those factors plus the dust and confusion of a battle, and it is downright awful. I know a couple of guys who fought in Iraq. They described the battles as being at best “organised chaos”.

    Hence your suggestion that a contingent of US marines could fire on an identified group of Iraqi soldiers, determine that a wounded journalist is being loaded into a civilian minibus along with 4 Iraqi soldiers such that the minibus has now turned into an ambulance and is on its way to hospital, then open fire on it quite deliberately and with the intent of murdering the civilian on board points to a mindset which is already convinced that US soldiers deliberately go out of their way to commit war crimes.

    As I said in my original post, I bet the marines were absolutely gobsmacked to learn that a civilian film crew was amongst the group they’d attacked. I bet they thought they’d run across some kind of Care In The Community project whereby folk from the local asylum play at being journalists for the day.

    Clearly you think that the US deliberately opened fire on a marked journlist, and not being happy with him escaping in an “ambulance” opened fire again, killing him. That’s your opinion and you are entitled to it.

    Mine is that the US marines engaged a group of armed Iraqi soldiers, some of whom attempted to escape in a civilian vehicle, and the US marines fired upon that vehicle as they were entitled to do under the rules of war (contrary to your assertion that it is a war crime to do so). It turns out that a group of reckless, foolhardy, and downright irresponsible journalists were accompanying the Iraqi soldiers at the time and got themselves killed. IMO, they have only themselves to blame.

    I guess I’ll let my readers judge whose version they prefer.

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