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 â€œmade 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.â€
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.
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.