Calling it a case of “collateral murder,” the WikiLeaks website has released a video of a US Army Apache helicopter in Baghdad in 2007 repeatedly opening fire on a group of men that included a Reuters photographer and his driver—and then on a van that stopped to rescue one of the wounded men.
None of the members of the group appear to be have been taking hostile action, contrary to the Pentagon’s initial story; they were seemingly milling about on a street corner. One man was evidently carrying a gun, though that was (and is) hardly an uncommon occurrence in Baghdad. The WikiLeaks posters assert that the driver of the van was on his way to take his small children to a tutoring session. He was killed and his two children were badly injured.
In the video, which Reuters has been asking to see since 2007, crew members can be heard celebrating their kills. “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,” says one crewman after multiple rounds of fire left nearly a dozen bodies littering the street.
The shooting, which killed Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and driver Saeed Chmagh, 40, took place on July 12, 2007, in a southeastern neighborhood of Baghdad. The next day, the New York Times reported the military’s official story:
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.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has rejected calls for a probe into the incident, and staunchly defended the servicemembers involved. Asserting they were involved in “combat” and a “split-second” situation, he criticized WikiLeaks for releasing the video, saying: “These people can put out anything they want, and they’re never held accountable for it. There’s no before, and there’s no after.” (Democracy Now, April 14)