LONDON --- The so-called "special relationship" between Britain and the United States has been called into question by British commentators, after the US reluctantly released the cockpit video showing a friendly-fire killing following its leak to the media.
The video showed two American pilots repeatedly cursing, and one of them weeping, after being told they had attacked a British patrol near the start of the 2003 Iraq war, killing British Lance Corporal Matty Hull.
It was first released by The Sun daily, which obtained a copy of it, in Britain early on Tuesday. The United States had until late on Tuesday refused to declassify it, eventually releasing the video hours after it was obtained by British media.
"They wouldn't help when it mattered, and that tells us a great deal about the special relationship and how our closest ally really sees us," wrote Stephen Glover, a commentator for the Daily Mail.
The Daily Telegraph's editorial, meanwhile, lamented: "As the United States' most loyal ally, frankly we deserve better."
All this was despite the fact the British government hailed the American decision to release the video, with Defence Secretary Des Browne saying it was the "right thing to do".
A British coroner had demanded the video be played in court as part of an inquest into Hull's death on March 28, 2003, eight days after US-led forces invaded Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein.
The US decision will allow the inquest to go ahead.
Hull was killed and four other British troops were seriously wounded when US jets attacked them at the end of what The Sun said was a mission to strike artillery and rocket launchers from Iraq's 6th Armour Division near the city of Basra.
"I'm going to be sick," one of the pilots says, according to the video aired by British television channels Sky News and the British Broadcasting Corp. "Yeah, this sucks," replies his colleague, the one The Sun said opened fire, while the second pilot says: "We're in jail dude."
The Sun, which also posted the video on its website, said a key error made by the pilots was to mistake orange markings on the British armour -- designed to identify them to allies as friendly forces -- for enemy rockets.
Hull's widow Susan, meanwhile, told The Sun in an interview published on Wednesday that she "felt sick" when she watched the video for the first time, saying: "I always knew there was a cover-up -- and this proves it."
"All I ever wanted was the truth about what happened to Matty, but no one was prepared to be honest with me," she told the daily. She had initially been told that such a video did not even exist, before British officials said they had no right to release it without American permission.
According to The Guardian, however, British military officials took part in a US military inquiry into the friendly-fire killing, with US air force spokeswoman Lieutenant-Colonel Catherine Reardon saying: "There was a complete investigation back in 2003 carried out by central command in co-operation with the UK."
"There were UK air and army LNOs (liaison officers) there. All the information was shared."
US officials defended the pilots' actions, with Lieutenant Colonel Daniel King, a spokesman for the US Central Command, saying that the pair "did everything that was at their disposal to do, to include confirming the positions of other forces on the ground before engaging."
"Given that, they were not found culpable, meaning that there was no disciplinary action taken," he said.
The pilots were members of the Idaho Air National Guard. Pentagon officials said they did not know whether they were still flying. (ends)
Click here to read the transcript of pilot/ground control audio on the Daily Telegraph website.
Click here to view the cockpit recorder footage (video and audio) on the Sun website