One Day in Baghdad
This video is unpleasant to watch; unless you have reason to, we suggest that you don’t.
What it shows is a group of civilians being massacred from an Apache helicopter in Baghdad on July 12, 2007. Among those killed was a Reuters photographer and his driver; two children were injured during additional fire, after a van pulled up to help the wounded.
The video, background materials, and additional research was posted Monday by WikiLeaks:
Unveiling the video at the National Press Club on Monday morning, [editor Julian] Assange said the helicopter crew approached its job as if it were a video game, not something involving human lives. “Their desire was simply to kill,” he said. “Their desire was to get high scores on that computer game.”
Honestly, we’re not so sure. And really, we don’t think that’s the issue. Consider instead the New York Times report from the next day:
The American military said in a statement late Thursday that 11 people had been killed: nine insurgents and two civilians. According to the statement, American troops were conducting a raid when they were hit by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. The American troops called in reinforcements and attack helicopters. In the ensuing fight, the statement said, the two Reuters employees and nine insurgents were killed.
“There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force,” said Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a spokesman for the multinational forces in Baghdad.
That is verifiably not true. Whatever the Apache crew thought they saw — and reported over the radio — they didn’t see insurgents. The attitude of at least one crew member is far from commendable, but we weren’t there, we’ve never faced combat, and we’re not going to sit in judgment. (We will sit in judgment over being in Iraq in the first place, but that’s another matter.)
Instead, we ask: Why did it take almost three years for the truth to emerge? Why did the Pentagon stonewall FOIA requests? Shit happens during war. We understand. But covering up fatal mistakes only compounds the injustice. Whether or not what happened that day was criminal, what followed leaves no doubt.
The Pentagon’s “murder-coverup” in Iraq [The Majlis]
WikiLeaks releases video of slaughter in Iraq [Greenwald]
Update: Anthony Martinez, who estimates he has spent “around 4500 hours” viewing aerial footage of Iraq, weighs in with an informed judgment:
Between 3:13 and 3:30 it is quite clear to me, as both a former infantry sergeant and a photographer, that the two men central to the gun-camera’s frame are carrying photographic equipment. This much is noted by WikiLeaks, and misidentified by the crew of Crazyhorse 18. At 3:39, the men central to the frame are armed, the one on the far left with some AK variant, and the one in the center with an RPG. The RPG is crystal clear even in the downsized, very low-resolution, video between 3:40 and 3:45 when the man carrying it turns counter-clockwise and then back to the direction of the Apache. This all goes by without any mention whatsoever from WikiLeaks, and that is unacceptable.
The entire post is worth reading for its critique of the action that day, as well as criticism of this week’s news.