WikiLeaks video on Iraq killings sparks furor

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.

The video seems to show otherwise. Washington Post reporter David Finkel describes the incident—and the video—in great detail in his 2009 book, The Good Soldiers. (Huffington Post, April 5)

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)

See our last posts on Iraq, US atrocities and attacks on the press.

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  1. Iraq and Insurgents.
    It is war. Many of the insurgents set IEDS at night. We took them out as we found them. As the Israelis are found of saying the Arabs will quit killing us when they learn to love their children more than use them as bomb platforms.

    1. War?
      It is massacre, my friend. They have nor had a tank, a ship, a plane, an army, a navy, a marine, a chance. You call that a war? A bunch of lilly livered cowards fighting an indigenous population who are fighting to save their country is NOT a war. It is a shame, a charade, a massacre and a sin, but it is most certainly NOT… a war.

        1. Massacre
          It is a massacre. Everyone is arguing the minutia of this video, but the service-members themselves have written a letter of apology and seem to regret their actions and that the US is even there.

          No one is denying that this is a daily event where civilians die. It’s wrong and they need to leave.

      1. I don’t see what the fuss is
        I don’t see what the fuss is about. They killed a group standing around with weapons. An ak-47 and a RPG. Common folk don’t take their RPG to the market…..

      2. standard idiot cliche
        > A bunch of lilly livered cowards fighting an indigenous population who are fighting to save their country

        So Afghanistan is that simple huh? You’re an idiot. NATO should get out but calling the foot soldiers lilly livered cowards in an anonymous post is ironic at best. Calling the Taliban et al an indigenous population … fighting to save their country is simplistic and ignorant. You’re either some right wing troll trying to make the left look like idiots or a cartoon lefty. Either way, grow up.

    2. War, huh?
      It is war? When our opponents never had one tank? Not one plane, let alone one jet? Not one single helicopter, ship, submarine, one helmet? Not one pair of government issued boots on the ground? Not one chance? How can anyone possibly call this a war? It is an atrocity, a massacre, a slaughter, a shame, but it is most assuredly not a “war.” The Iraqis are defending their “homeland” (forgive the Nazi terminology, now innately part of the US dialect without a second thought) from the invaders and the Empire who is stealing their natural resources, fucking period. The Empire who is killing their children, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and their will. War? I beg your pardon. We, America, are the terrorists in this conflict. And if you don’t believe me, look up the definition of “terrorism.” It is the American military defined.

      1. You share Bush’s ideology, it seems
        Rather ironic. The Bush administration mustered identical arguments to justify its stance that the Geneva Conventions don’t apply in Iraq (or Afghanistan) because it isn’t a conventional war. Think about whose hands you are playing into with this bogus argument.

        And if you look at the recent statistics (since the end of “major combat operations” in May 2003), it is your “insurgent” pals who have killed far more children, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, etc. Not that this lets the US off the hook for any atrocities, but it does show that your perspective is as one-sided and propagandistic as that of the Empire you obviously love to hate. Read this.

        As for your “indigenous” insurgents defending their “homeland”–well, we hate to tell you, but the “insurgency” really has gone into abeyance over the past two years or so, largely because the Saudi and Egyptian cadre of al-Qaeda tried to impose their leadership, driving the traditional tribal chieftains into the arms of the US! Congratulations, al-Qaeda!

        The genuine progressive forces in Iraq recognize that the country is caught between two poles of terrorism: that of the Empire and that of the Jihad.

  2. Wikileaks harassment
    In the wake of this affair, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has apparently been followed, spied on and generally harassed. Justin Raimondo on comes to his defense April 14, while Politifi disses him as getting what he asked for…