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War-making and sense-making: some technical reflections on an instance of ‘friendly fire’




In this paper we analyse a ‘friendly fire’ incident from the second Gulf War and the controversy which came to envelop it during a coroner's inquest in 2007. Focusing on the cockpit video of the incident that was leaked to the media during that inquest, we examine what the military and civilian investigators were involved in reconstructing: the incident as it unfolded in real time. Our analysis is grounded in a praxeological perspective that draws on and links ethnomethodological studies of work, research into ‘normal’ accidents, disasters and risks, and recent ethnographies of the military. Based on our analysis, we suggest that the accounts offered after the event by the military and civilian inquiries should be treated less as competing descriptions than different ways of problematizing particular aspects of the military–political ‘machineries’ the pilots' actions were enmeshed within.