David Philipps

David Philipps (born 1977) is an American journalist and author whose work has largely focused on the human impact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a national correspondent for The New York Times and is the author of three non-fiction books.

There are people in the military that really want there to be accountability... it was reported again and again. And the system was unable to respond in any logical way. I mean, if the system can’t handle something as obvious as that, what can it handle?

QuotesEdit

(Most recent first)

 
Without warning, an American F-15E attack jet streaked across the drone’s high-definition field of vision and dropped a 500-pound bomb on the crowd... Reports were delayed, sanitized and classified. American-led coalition forces bulldozed the blast site. Civilian observers who came to the area of the strike the next day described finding piles of dead women and children
  • The story starts March 18, 2019, in a big Air Force combat operations center in Al Udeid in Qatar. And there we have, it almost looks like mission command for NASA. You have banks of computers, big screens, all of them watching the air war against the Islamic State... on this day, a lot of people in the command center are watching a drone that was flying up overhead. Now, what they saw was a field that was just littered with a tangle of cars and makeshift tents of debris of the leftovers from weeks of combat. But also within there was a lot of people. And the drone hovered over and focused in on a group of women and children who had found refuge down by the river against a steep sand bank. The drone, it lingered for several minutes, slowly circling with its cameras focused on these folks, either sleeping or just laying down low to take cover from whatever combat might be coming. And the people in the operation center were calmly watching this when, suddenly... an American F-15 attack jet came right through and dropped a large bomb dead center into this group of women and children]]... killing nearly all of them.
  • There are rules for when you can hit a target. And a lot of times, the people that decide whether those rules are being followed are in some command center somewhere. And they’re going to go through it, and they’re going to give you a thumbs up or a thumbs down. But there is a way that you can skip all of that oversight very quickly by saying that you’re under imminent threat, and you need to defend yourself. Under the law of war, that is always allowed. And that allowed the task force to skip all of the officers, all of the oversight, all of the lawyers that had rule books, and talk directly to the aircraft that were going to hit their target. And so, they could hit what they wanted to, essentially, with no one second guessing them....But what people in the operation center started seeing was that Task Force 9 seemed to be using this justification almost all of the time.
  • I think that there are people in the military that really want there to be accountability and have worked hard to try and ensure that there’s accountability. But the system that they’ve created is still so flawed that it doesn’t really tell us anything meaningful about how many civilians were actually killed. I mean, think about it. Here was a case where 70 people were killed. And they were killed in front of a high definition color drone camera that lots of military people saw. It was immediately reported, and then it was reported again and again. And the system was unable to respond in any logical way. I mean, if the system can’t handle something as obvious as that, what can it handle?
  • In the last days of the battle against the Islamic State in Syria, when members of the once-fierce caliphate were cornered in a dirt field next to a town called Baghuz, a U.S. military drone circled high overhead, hunting for military targets. But it saw only a large crowd of women and children]] huddled against a river bank. Without warning, an American F-15E attack jet streaked across the drone’s high-definition field of vision and dropped a 500-pound bomb on the crowd, swallowing it in a shuddering blast. As the smoke cleared, a few people stumbled away in search of cover. Then a jet tracking them dropped one 2,000-pound bomb, then another, killing most of the survivors.... a legal officer flagged the strike as a possible war crime that required an investigation. But at nearly every step, the military made moves that concealed the catastrophic strike. The death toll was downplayed...Reports were delayed, sanitized and classified. The Defense Department’s independent inspector general began an inquiry, but the report containing its findings was stalled and stripped of any mention of the strike. American-led coalition forces bulldozed the blast site. Civilian observers who came to the area of the strike the next day described finding piles of dead women and children
  • Dille quickly learned that his chief had no interest in taking the time to establish who was who. The first morning the snipers arrived at the Towers, the chief climbed up the curving stairway to the top floor of the north building and set up a tripod and a small folding chair in the middle of a room with a blown-out wall. He almost immediately started shooting one round after another. Boom. Boom. Boom. Dille scrambled to his own rifle and checked the chief ’s angle to try to line up his scope so he could see what Eddie was shooting at. He spotted a sandbank along the river where a narrow alley came down to the water. About fifty people had gathered to wash in the water. Dille saw the crowd scatter amid the shooting and sprint back into the city. Dille’s angle didn’t give him a full view of ground level on the riverbank, so he wasn’t sure if Eddie had hit anyone, but about one thing he had no doubt: These people weren’t legit targets.
  • At the same spot a few days later, Dille saw three women making their way along a path through deep reeds. He heard Eddie start firing and saw the women turn and disappear into the reeds. Had they been wounded or killed?... Dille realized his mission in Mosul would have to shift. He had come to the Towers to kill ISIS. Instead he was going to have to keep Eddie from killing civilians. He would do it by firing warning shots to scare people away before Eddie could spot them....The SEALs’ rules of engagement didn’t require a target to be armed. If snipers saw someone they reasonably thought was aiding ISIS in any way, they could shoot.
  • So this jury was all military, of course, because it's a court-martial. But more striking than that, it was all men, and nearly all of them had ground combat experience. So it was a little bit like having a bunch of cops on a jury trying to decide the fate of a cop who is accused of an illegal killing. They certainly share a worldview, to a certain extent, with Eddie Gallagher. They did not take very long at all. This was a two-week trial. They essentially deliberated for one full day and then came back first thing in the morning and had a cup of coffee and gave their verdict. And the verdict was essentially that Eddie Gallagher was found not guilty of all of the serious charges - murder, attempted murder. And the only thing that he was convicted of was small charges that were related to taking a picture with a dead body.
  • You know, what was striking about this case is it's not only did they never find out who the captive was or what his name was, they never even acknowledged in the Navy that he had a name. In the case, he was never referred to as John Doe or anything else. He was just the terrorist, the fighter, the captive, the victim. And that really sort of, I thought when I was watching it, denied a humanity to him that made it easier for the jury to find Eddie Gallagher not guilty because there was no consequence. There was no mother and father who are sitting in the courtroom.
    I think that within the military, that was the great tragedy that they saw in this trial. It wasn't so much who the victims were because the victims never even had names in this trial. It was, how will this affect the culture? How can - you know, if someone decides to be a rogue operator and go out and kill people beyond the rules and then essentially go to the president, make the entire issue political and get off and get around the rules that way, that is so damaging to the good order and discipline of the ranks because it lets everyone else who's serving know that they might be able to do the same thing

Quotes about PhillipsEdit

  • In recent years we’ve had a raft load of fanboy books by and about Navy SEALs and other special operators at war. But in Alpha, David Philipps, a reporter for The New York Times, has produced a serious study of a SEAL unit in crisis... in Mosul, Iraq, in 2017. By Philipps’s credible account, the unit’s leader, Eddie Gallagher... murdered a teenage captive by plunging a knife into the helpless prisoner’s neck. He entertained himself by repeatedly firing his sniper rifle at people who clearly were civilians, such as old men, schoolgirls, and people doing their laundry in the Tigris River. He frequently disobeyed orders from his superiors and hid information about his unit’s whereabouts on the battlefield. He had a drug abuse problem.... But Philipps’s book isn’t just about Gallagher. It’s about a system that enables evil because it doesn’t want to look bad. After the Mosul deployment, Gallagher was assigned to teach special operations urban warfare in the United States, and the compliant lieutenant was promoted to teach the art of command in such fights. Despite his justified fears of death, Gallagher’s concerned deputy went on to report the murder three times—only to have the Navy fail to act on each occasion.... Philipps reports that one of the jurors previously had visited Gallagher’s house five times for Bible study, and had told comrades that he had donated $1,000 to Gallagher’s defense fund. But when asked in the courtroom about his connections to Gallagher, the juror responded that they barely knew one another.
  • Throughout the contentious trial of Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL chief accused of killing a prisoner in Iraq in 2017, Navy prosecutors never mentioned the name of the Islamic State fighter he had actually been charged with murdering. He was just “the kid” or “the victim,” sometimes “the dirtbag” — not even “John Doe.” In “Alpha: Eddie Gallagher and the War for the Soul of the Navy SEALs,” the New York Times reporter David Philipps names and writes a chapter about the captive, a 17-year-old whose father had desperately tried to stop him from running away to join ISIS. The teenager’s name is Moataz, and his father did not know he was dead until he saw his son’s photo in media coverage of the trial...
    In May 2020, Eddie Gallagher filed a lawsuit accusing the Navy of illegally leaking information to Mr. Philipps and alleging that his articles were defamatory. A judge dismissed most of the lawsuit’s claims against Mr. Philipps last month.
  • Philipps' new book is a gripping account of the experiences of [[W:Eddie Gallagher|Gallagher's] unit in Iraq, as well as the investigation and trial of Gallagher and the aftermath of the verdict. Dave Philipps is a national correspondent for The New York Times who writes about the military and veterans from the ground up. He's the author of two previous books and winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. His new book is "Alpha: Eddie Gallagher And The War For The Soul Of The Navy SEALS." I should note that Eddie Gallagher has filed a lawsuit against Dave Philipps and two former secretaries of the Navy, accusing the officials of illegally leaking information and Philipps of defaming him in the articles. That suit is ongoing.

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