We Did This. We All Did This.

Via Digby, Dan Froomkin’s description of

Calling it a case of “collateral murder,” the WikiLeaks Web site today released harrowing until-now secret video of a U.S. 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 were taking hostile action, contrary to the Pentagon’s initial cover story; they were milling about on a street corner. One man was evidently carrying a gun, though that was and is hardly an uncommon occurrence in Baghdad.

Reporters working for WikiLeaks determined that the driver of the van was a good Samaritan 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 30mm cannon fire left nearly a dozen bodies littering the street.

A crewman begs for permission to open fire on the van and its occupants, even though it has done nothing but stop to help the wounded: “Come on, let us shoot!”

Two crewmen share a laugh when a Bradley fighting vehicle runs over one of the corpses.

And after soldiers on the ground find two small children shot and bleeding in the van, one crewman can be heard saying: “Well, it’s their fault bringing their kids to a battle.”

I watched enough of the video to see for myself what was in it. It is a hard thing to watch. In short, a few men milling around in the sunlight in the middle of a plaza were assumed to be insurgents, and the camera equipment carried by a couple of them were assumed to be weapons, and the passer-by with his children in a van who stopped to help was assumed to be carrying weapons. And the troops in the helicopter — who were in no danger at the time — opened fire.

From the New York Times:

Late Monday, the United States Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, released the redacted report on the case, which provided some more detail.

The report showed pictures of what it said were machine guns and grenades found near the bodies of those killed. It also stated that the Reuters employees “made no effort to visibly display their status as press or media representatives and their familiar behavior with, and close proximity to, the armed insurgents and their furtive attempts to photograph the coalition ground forces made them appear as hostile combatants to the Apaches that engaged them.”

If you watch the video, you see what a crock that statement is. Clearly, the troops in the Apaches were too far away to tell camera equipment from Ak-47s; exactly to whom were the cameramen supposed to “visibily display their status as press”? What “furtive attempts to photograph coalition ground forces”? It was a small group of men hanging around an open area; what were they doing that made them appear as “hostile combatants”? Nothing that appears in the video. Yes, the video is edited down, but it goes on for a while before the shooting started, and there was nothing shown in the video that warranted shooting.

At least one other man appears to be carrying a rifle, but (a) it could be something else, and (b) maybe he’s carrying a rifle to protect himself form insurgents.

There are various ways to view this. One is knee-jerk, blindfolded apology. But I also agree with Oliver Willis that knee-jerk denigration of the troops isn’t called for, either.

The truth is, we’re all responsible for this. We’re responsible as a nation, because as a nation we put toops into this situation. We’re responsible even if we opposed the war from the beginning and marched against it and wrote out congress critters about it. We did this.

We send soldiers into situations in which they are under horrific stress and become desensitized to killing. And people who are desensitized to killing are very dangerous people. But we made them that way. We did this.

20 thoughts on “We Did This. We All Did This.

  1. I first saw this on the Dylan Ratigan show and was horrified. However later I saw it one youtube and cried. The auditory on the latter has to be simply offensive to all human beings. I have family who are in the military and what I hate most about it is what normal healthy people become in combat. Combat is an evil thing and the evil invades darn near everyone it touches. I hate it with all my soul.
    If nothing else requires us to leave, this should. There is no way we can do any good there. They all have to hate us and will do anything to get rid of us and anyone that cooperates with us. WHAT HELL WE CREATED!!!!

  2. I think this comment sent to Sully is pretty succinct.

    Condemn the policy makers that put the Apaches and APCs in that neighborhood.

  3. I can’t help but think that in a cave somewhere, Osama Bin Laden is laughing hysterically.

  4. Maha,

    That is tough to watch. I agree when we send troops into this situation these things are going to happen. They are trained to kill and that is how they measure success in the military, how many kills. I think however a legal case could certainly be made against the apache crew who exaggerated the threat. They see one guy with a rifle and in the next sentence they announce that all 15 are equipped with AK’s. The people who ok’d the engagement can’t see the video so they have to rely that the crew in the airship is relaying accurate information, they obviously did not..

    I saw some pundit on the TeeVee who made a great comment, he said why wasn’t this released three years ago, bad news don’t get better with age.

  5. Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever . . . .”
    — Notes on the State of Virginia
    I think the justice ‘god’ will give is inherent in the act of war itself. We American’s are going to be responsible for the mentally damaged soldiers that come home. We will have to take care of them and protect ourselves from them in many cases for 50-75 years. That will be our ‘justice’ and the price/pain we suffer will be great.

  6. @ uncledad

    TV Pundits – they so funny. Why wasn’t this released 3 years ago? Three years ago the Chimp in Chief was? Anyone? Anyone? Buehler? Remember when Dubya apologized for invading Iraq because there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction? Neither do I. There’s a legacy to build a liberry on. Make sure to put “My Pet Goat” in there, Georgie Boy.

  7. From when we lied in Mei Li, to here, where we just lied (again), we are not on the side of the angels. We’re on the side of money and power. Always have been, always will be…
    If you look at our history since we decided to stick our noses outwwards, first in our drive towards the West in Manifest Destiny, next to our affairs in Central and South America, again, in our drive towards Manifest Destiny, to our own Civil War, and finally, to actions in the past century all around the globe, we have a glorious track record of attrocities.
    Now, we ain’t Nazi Germany!
    BUT, WE LIED! WE LIE. AND WE WILL CONTINUE TO LIE! Unless we take the reigns and stop the madness. And how we do that with the morons that compromise a good chunk of our population, I have no idea. The video of this, is, and this is going to be gross, a masturbatory snuff film to a portion of our population.

  8. Eric Ericson of CNN and redstate.hate has said he will shoot census workers if they come on his property. I left CNN a message here. I suggest more do the same.

  9. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Mahablog » We Did This. We All Did This. -- Topsy.com

  10. Have you ever been so angry that you wanted to punch someone in the face with all your might?
    Don’t even think about it, the risk/reward ratio is way too bad, assault is a felony in most if not all states, plus you’d have to fix the person and pay restitution plus lawyer’s fees. We are taught that violence is bad and solves nothing……
    unless if you happen to be “The State”.
    Ever since I can remember, my country has been at war with someone.
    War means sending deranged psychopaths to do harm to others, and if an innocent party gets in the way, sorry about your luck.
    I’m not “happy” about the situation, there is a person I’d like to launch a predator drone strike on, but damn it, they won’t let me.
    I’m afraid that about 25 percent of our population is bug-fuck crazy, and that ain’t gonna change.
    Obama has taken ownership of Bush’s wars, the atrocities continue, and the bullshit still flows. We simply don’t care enough to stop the madness, it might ruin our day.
    The “State” loves violence, they can send bullies to your home to intimidate you, and if you don’t comply, they will beat you to death, if it serves their purpose.
    The thought of Osama laughing in a cave proves the brain washing has worked.
    Bush invaded 2 countries and lied about the reasons.
    Rummy, Cheney, Chimpy, Condi, and Powell should be swinging on the gallows, but they have retired in luxury. This speaks volumes about our “values”.

  11. While there is no doubt that there is a collective responsibility and it would also be reasonable to assume that the event shown is not an exception to what happens on a regular basis, now that this particular matter is exposed for all the world to see, it is absolutely necessary that the Apache crew be prosecuted.
    1)You do not want these guys to get away scot free and join civilian law enforcement.
    2) Let their defense implicate command and rules of engagement. (so they can join law enforcement later)
    3) Absence of prosecution is license to commit further crimes.
    4) Every effort should be made to not create seeds for blow-back.
    5) Maybe prove to selves that we have not become totally desensitized to bad behavior.

  12. I’ll pass on the responsibility, either individual or collective. From the moment I was able to understand the truth about the invasion of Iraq I did everything in my power to denounce it as a crime against humanity. My hands are clean, my morality is upheld and safeguarded, and I know to myself I have no part of any of the atrocity committed against Iraq. All guilt belongs firmly at the feet of George W. Bush and any ‘fine’ Americans who morally supported his crimes.

    Don’t expect to see me in attendance at the Iraqi victory parade either.

  13. Conservatives think everyone should carry a gun — as long as it’s in America. If you’re carrying a gun in Iraq, or even look like you have a gun, then you’re probably a terrorist and should be killed immediately. Fuck the right to bear arms! In Iraq, I mean!

  14. Sully’s comment by the soldier basically defending it the other way was pretty interesting too.

  15. I was born in the year 1945, not too long after we bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I am ashamed of those acts and always have been.

    My father was a 30 year retired submarine officer and was in the service several years before the war started. He came home a psychologically damaged man and my childhood was stolen from me. As my four uncles also served, no one actually came back sane. There was a lot of drinking, wife-beating, child abuse and neglect and divorces.

    I remember wearing dog tags during the Korean War, which my father also served in. We constantly had air raid drills that made us get under our desks in elementary school…I lived in the Pacific Northwest.

    As a young woman, my male cohorts were off fighting in Viet Nam, a war we got to watch on television every night..including body counts. The men who came home from that war have suffered greatly.

    I have a cousin whose father never came back from the war and her life was also a hard one, with a series of stepfathers and a mother who never got over losing the love of her life.

    I hate war. All the money spent and all the lives lost or damaged due to the current wars could have been put to use by securing our ports, borders, etc. All the wingnuts thought any of us who protested the wars were anti American. Now look at them. Could we have several generations grow up without a war?

    Peace, why is keeping peace so hard for our country? I miss the days when I was so proud to be an American.

    And, on another topic briefly, I am on social security and medicare as I became disabled several years ago. I am tired of people talking as if my medical care doesn’t cost me anything and that others are paying for it. I worked hard and plenty of money was taken out of my pay checks. What is it going to take to stop all the nonsence?

    I may not comment much, but I certainly enjoy everyones intake daily. Peace, Kathleen, aka ‘stuck in Baton Rouge without a paddle’

    (And don’t get me started on our stupid governor down here, Mr. Jindal has lost his way and his mind, but that’s another story.)

  16. A brutal illustration of what happens when we unleash the dogs of war — and an object lesson about collective, not individual, responsibility for its consequences.

  17. I dont think the people in Iraq, and afganistan are ever going to forget any of this either. When the childeren over there survive this brutal invasion, and grow up hating us with a passion, we will recieve our come uppence. count on it.

  18. I recall many saying the we “lost” the Vietnam war because the public turned away from it as a result of seeing it on their televisions every night. Well, duh. This is what war is. The only way you can prevent the public from turning away from it is preventing them from seeing it. The only way we can continue to do it is to hide it from the people, who will not permit it.

    I cannot, for the life of me, understand why we as a nation are so determined to pursue this insanity. None of the explanations that have been proffered are even sensible, let alone reasonable. But it seems we are, and so we must hide what is happening from the people in whose name we are supposedly doing it. Otherwise they will rise up and cry, “Stop, in the name of God stop.”

    I’m not sure which agency is worse, the one pursuing these wars in the face of such futility, or all of those complicit in hiding it from the people whould stop it if they were confronted with what is being done.

  19. Towards the end of the Vietnam war it was incidents like these which were held up as proof that Generals, Congressman, Senators and the President all had blood on their hands but that was back when we had the tradition of holding people responsible. But this war’s different because it runs from the truth by keeping the press less free and accessible than they once were.

    While we cling to the little talking points we’ve been given like “Winning hearts and minds” and “war is messy” the truth is something altogether different.

  20. dyedinthewoolliberal – Soldiers are TRAINED to have personality disorders – “mean, green killing machines.” Besides that horror, our ‘wars’ are primarily fought surgically, numbing us to the real agony of war.

    We are responsible for what our country has become. We elected Reagan and George Bush who turned the world’s freest country into a decaying, plutocratic, militarized rogue state. And they couldn’t have done it alone.

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