Wikileaks: More background material on Iraq massacre leak

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Update, 9pm PT: The US military has issued a statement on the massacre investigation (6.52MB PDF).

An update on that video released earlier today by Wikileaks, which shows US occupying forces shooting and killing civilians—including two Reuters journalists—in Baghdad. Wikileaks has released additional photographs and video that provide more background. These include interviews with survivors of the attack: a widow and her two children (left). And, above, one of the last two photos taken by war photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen before he was shot by American airmen during the 2007 incident.

NYT item here. "Lots of people are avoiding talking about the murderous attack on the van and the wounded; and strawmanning camera/RPG confusion as the issue," Wikileaks tweets. The materials released just now address this issue.

Video after the jump.

Video: New background material from Iraq (YouTube / Sunshine Press)

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  1. God, that’s a heavy photo and video. Thank you guys for publishing this all today.

      1. Nope.. All I get is a time out
        “The server at www2.centcom.mil is taking too long to respond.”

        Can someone get that hosted else-where?

  2. Soldiers are mentally destroyed individuals rebuilt from the ground up to slaughter. Apparantly sending mentally sound individuals into a killing field produces too many bad reactions, so the solution from an efficiency standpoint is to desensitize and dehumanize your troops before they ever see action.

    If not for that fact, the men responsible this event, laughing and sneering as they destroyed lives wholesale, would seem to me purely perverse and arguably evil. As it stands, I believe instead that they are only the psychopathic victims of a culture which has forgotten what compassion, empathy, and humanity are.

    ~D. Walker

    1. They are also soldiers who have been trained by “higher ups” to do as they are told, and have been placed in a situation that is clearly a neo-Vietnam situation that has no sign of ending.

      You know what really makes soldiers crack? Endless tours of duty without any real chance to cycle back home.

      None of this excuses this behavior, but push folks already under pressure to the limit you never know what will happen.

      Sick and sad.

  3. I’d ask for a unicorn chaser but it would probably get shot for waving around that sharp pointy horn.

  4. Dude I am sick of war. Is there some place to go donate to this woman and her family? If not, I want to start an internet fund if I can find out how to get the money to her…

  5. A commenter on Wired.com pointed out the aircraft was probably an AC-130: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_AC-130

    What that does add to the story is an explanation for why the people on the ground don’t appear to be taking cover AND why the person in the van may have not realised the danger of trying to help the wounded. AC-130s circle around targets from kilometres away and can engage at extremely long range. If you are a dude on the street and you look up and see a cargo plane far off in the distance (and its not like lots of planes aren’t flying around in Iraq), you aren’t likely to know or imagine it has gatling guns and howitzers on it. Shit the only reason I know what an AC-130 is is from playing Modern Warfare (not sure if I’ll be able to do that again…)

    All this likely fact does is change some of the context though. And no amount of context excuses the firing on the van.

      1. I’ve been having the same thougth about Modern Warfare, recently I’ve been playing at least an hour a day. I nearly uninstalled it last night. I haven’t touched it since watching that video.

  6. Ahem. As a Marine myself, and an enlisted veteran, I’d like to point out a few things to all the knee-jerk anti-military types floating about.

    First of all, you are correct in saying that war requires a certain type of desensitization. It is, in many respects, a terrible thing. Killing has an awful effect on the human psyche, as does any program designed to reduce or delay this effect.

    But war– killing other real people with real guns– is a necessary evil if good people or (is such a thing possible?) good nation-states are to survive. There will always be someone, barring a truly effective world government, that can and will decide to take what is not rightfully theirs through military means.

    Either they can be stopped, or you and what you love can die. And often to be stopped, they must be killed. Someone has to do it. It’s an awful job. But there is honor in doing it. Killing is evil, but that does not mean that all people that do it are evil. (There’s a philosophical point to be made here about evil acts, evil people, and necessary evils– but I’ve not the time.)

    I don’t defend the people portrayed in this video. I don’t know anything about the situation, and neither do you. I don’t know enough to prosecute or defend them in the moral sense; nor do I have an idea how much bravado is sadism and how much is something much sadder and maybe necessary to do what they do.

    Tangentially, military people don’t choose their own wars, nor often their own targets. (In the sense of those who actually pull the trigger.) Your democratic government does. Both political parties do. Your Congress does.

    And that is a fundamental fact and blessing of democracy. Military dictatorships– without the serious divide between military and political authority– tend to be…well, you know what they tend to be.

    But to protect against it, you remove from your military men and women the freedom of choice. They enlist under a contract, which is negated only if they object to all wars, to defend their nation as their President and Congress see fit. So if you’re going to hate and lament, do it for the political types who don’t have to bleed or watch those they love do so. They’re the ones who get you in these messes, these wars of agression.

    The rest of us are just down on the ground trying to do the right thing. Be patriots. Be good to all those we can be– that includes foreign nationals like Iraqis. But we have a hard job and it’s not always clear what’s right and what’s wrong.

    1. Good on ya, JSMill. Having been down range myself, I think there is a bit of perspective missing from people who are not connected. I hate to play into the stereotype of the crazy old veteran shouting “You weren’t there!”, but…

    2. Funny, though, how even when corrected for man hours in the field, US armed forces account for more friendly fire incidents than any other military organization in the Free World. They’re also known for the amount of collateral damage they manage to inflict. A lot of this stays under the radar, especially in the United States, because the so-called “free press” there frequently won’t talk about it. For example, there’s that other little problem that’s emerging concerning US Special Forces who apparently faked a crime scene to avoid responsibility for murdering civilians in Afghanistan.

      This isn’t a recent phenomenon, either. My father served in the RAF during World War Two, and they had a saying:

      When England flies, Germany ducks.
      When Germany flies, England ducks.
      When America flies, EVERYBODY ducks.

      The major qualities that distinguish a professional soldier from a murderous, armed thug are honour and discipline. The lack of fire discipline for which the US forces are well-known (but seldom called to account) sometimes make that a “distinction without a difference”.

    3. It boggles my mind as to why in the 21st century people, outside of countries with national conscription, would decide to join the armed forces. Didn’t we flush the concept of “military service=honour” down the toilet with Vietnam?

      I am gonna judge these guys, cos they were the fools who decided to put themselves in this situation. I know I am never going to have to condition myself to deal with such fucked up situations because I wouldn’t be stupid enough to join up in the first place. If it came down to mandatory consription, I would rather kill my country’s politicians than innocent civilians and journalists, thanks.

      Don’t be an apologist for the military – they have catagorically denied the truth of this story and tried their hardest to suppress it. They should eat all the shit they have coming.

      1. If they were uneducated and living in certain areas of the US, they may be de-facto conscripts: maybe it was sign up or start mugging people to feed themselves?

        Doesn’t excuse their actions, does explain what they’re doing there.

        Of course, two many action movies + sanitised war reporting is a more likely reason.

    4. “But war– killing other real people with real guns– is a necessary evil if good people or (is such a thing possible?) good nation-states are to survive.”

      The US (and the UK and Australia, my nation state who also helped invade Iraq) are not “good”. Not in any definable way. We are predators on ourselves and the rest of the world. The killing is only necessary to preserve the power of those who profit from it.

      Our soldiers “do their duty”, not for anything of value (like honest caring leaders, or a nation that deserves protection) but to allow people like those who run Goldman Sachs to rip the heart out of our communities and sh*t on the corpse.

      Like this little gem: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/32906678/looting_main_street

      Every soldier fighting in places like Iraq and Afghanistan needs to know about this betrayal of their sacrifice and all the thousands of others like it. They need to go home to their families and hold their politicians and their “business leaders” to account.

      jsmill, I can appreciated your sincerity, but tell me, did you really enlist as a marine to protect the rights of Goldman Sachs to bankrupt entire counties, if not countries?

      This whole f*cking human tragedy brings me to tears of rage.

    5. Violence ought to be the last resort, do we agree?

      and we’re using violence there because we got to the last resort with Saddam who wouldn’t admit his complicity with 9/11 or show us his WMD… right?

      so why is this justified, AT ALL?

    6. I’m sick of the “support the troops, protest the war” that plays on the guilt of servicemen “dying for our freedom.”

      If it wasn’t clear at the time, it’s perfectly clear now why we are there, and it is illegitimate and unjustified.

      Counterglow @ #18 explores the nature of the US at war – in this war – and what an ineffective, sloppy, miserable job y’all are doing over there. It’s enraging to see that there is very little accountability and almost no reporting of these events, and where the buck actually stop it’s hard to tell, but the fact it it has to stop somewhere.

    7. You hide behind the usual platitudes of ‘its a difficult job’ and ‘be patriotic’, but this video speaks for itself.

      Ask yourself how you would feel if it was your brother down there on that street with his camera, being mistaken for an RPG? (and how in holy hell do you make that mistake, unless you WANT to make that mistake).

      Lets be honest here – these guys looked for any excuse to let their itchy trigger fingers have some action. Its patently obvious from the way they talk (‘cmon buddy… all you gotta do is pick up a weapon’).

      Is it any wonder America is hated the world over?

    8. Blah blah blah WRONG! These assholes are /begging/ their commander to shoot at a civilian van. Thats just wrong period.

    9. “But war– killing other real people with real guns– is a necessary evil if good people or (is such a thing possible?) good nation-states are to survive. There will always be someone, barring a truly effective world government, that can and will decide to take what is not rightfully theirs through military means.”

      Dead right, jsmill.
      But who is going to save us from the USA?

    10. I agree with you almost completely. The only part I don’t agree with is that we don’t know anything about what happened. I think it is very clear from the video that the second part of the attack was unjustified. There were no “hostiles” in the van and there was no claim by the pilots/gunners that there were any weapons. The same rules of engagement apply to the second attack that applied to the first, and I don’t think the standards were met.

      The first part of the attack is less clear. There may or may not have been weapons, but regardless I think it’s clear from the video that the pilots believe that there were weapons – I can hear the fear in their voice when they talk about the RPG. And that belief, as I understand it, is all that is needed to justify the attack, horrific though it may have been.

      We may not have been there, and many of us may never know the difficulty of having to make the judgment calls that these pilots made, or how hard that may have been under the circumstances given the tools these soldiers had at the time. But that does not mean that we do not have a right to an opinion; just the opposite. It is actually our responsibility as citizens to question the actions of the military and the government and to press for inquiries and enforcement of the laws of this country and international law. And that is exactly what everyone here is doing; judging, defending, calling for action – all of it is a necessary part of our democracy and it’s what helps keep things in check.

    11. jsmill, while I normally hate joining one of these online lynch mobs, and I think your books on liberal philosophy and the refinement of utilitarianism were first rate, I have a serious problem with this passage:

      “killing other real people with real guns– is a necessary evil if good people or (is such a thing possible?) good nation-states are to survive. There will always be someone, barring a truly effective world government, that can and will decide to take what is not rightfully theirs through military means.”

      Don’t you realise you are describing the US and the violent consequences of its oil-lust? No nation is a greater obstacle to “truly effective world government” because the US not only violates the central tenet of international law (the prohibition of force unless self-defence urgently requires it), it won’t allow the War Crimes Tribunals, International Court of Justice or International Criminal Court to have any jurisdiction over its citizens.
      There was once a time when the American public shared an overwhelming outrage towards the killings of civilians by soldiers. It was called the American War of Independence.

    12. So killing those who showed no signs of attacking your country or even hodling WMDs makes you a good guy. This is the kind of mentality that sets the US back several ages, while others progress themselves further to improve themselves as a nation not to be hated amongst the world.

      Dispicable if you ask me. Show us proof NOT the lying words of the government.

    13. War is a racket. Those with wealth convince those without to kill and be killed defending interests that are not their own. I am sure the folks in this video thought they were justified when they killed a dozen civilians, children and reporters. I’m sure they thought they were justified when they lied about it, too. After all, if you don’t kill civilians who are no threat and who are acting within the law, and then if you don’t lie about it, then the terrorists win. Right?

      War is a racket.

    14. @jsmill You say: “There will always be someone, barring a truly effective world government, that can and will decide to take what is not rightfully theirs through military means. Either they can be stopped, or you and what you love can die.”

      In this case, who is that exactly? Who are you speaking for in this case? The problem with your thesis is that we are the occupiers, we are the takers. If anything, we are the someones you are referring to. Nine years of occupation and what do we have to show for this necessity? What have we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan except to increase the suffering of all involved?

      War is not necessary, no matter how how much we need to believe that it is in order to live with it’s effects.

    15. I agree wholeheartedly. As a Navy vet myself, I get a little concerned when I observe individuals lumping any group together under the umbrella of a generalization, military or otherwise.

      I don’t believe those responsible for this ugly situation represent the vast majority of the professional, human men and women who serve our country by defending its Constitution.

    16. @jsmill
      There is a fundamental problem with your argument-
      If we accept that soldiers choose to endure war as an act of sacrifice, in order to protect what they believe in, then by that same logic they should violate their government contract in cases where they are forced to go against those very same beliefs.
      This should not fly in any context.

  7. I don’t mean to support these guys at all. To me from looking at the video it appears that they made some serious mistakes. They jumped the gun on the assault, in addition that it is possible that they did so in malice, and possibly fabricated what they were observing, particularly in the case of the van. I don’t know why they ever got approval to attack the van. This is sheer brutality.

    Now I know what I observed in that video. I would like to know what they observed in the video, eg what they were looking at. How large/small or grainy the screen that they were utilizing was. It will not relieve us of this insane situation but it is an honest assessment here.

  8. @jsmill

    The argument that war is necesarry, even if it is true, does not excuse the vast majority of modern conflicts.

    WWII? A massively complex issue, but arguably the Allies were justified in defending from, and retaliating against, the Axis.

    UN intervention in Kosovo? Botched and bungled, but it slowly brought an unlawful slaughter to a cease.

    The Korean War? Not at all justified. American political bravado gone horribly wrong. Hell, it might even have been a minor event if McArthur had taken China seriously and not openly defied their ultimatums about crossing boundaries.

    The Iraq / Second Gulf / Third Gulf War? Not at all justified. We invaded a foreign power on false grounds without evidence and destabilized the region, creating a power vacuum. We’re still there out of shame and unwillingness to suffer further international lashings.

    If the military is full of good people “trying to do the right thing”, they would refuse to fire on innocents, they would refuse to torture, they would defy any orders they knew to be wrong. Congress can declare war, but if the military doesn’t mobilize, it doesn’t happen.

    This is clearly not the case. Soldiers take no responsibility for their actions. Their commanding officers take no responsibility. We have a war machine without morals or accountability and we’re throwing people in the meat grinder to save our own asses. “I was just following orders” is the excuse of every sick bastard without a spine in history.

    ~D. Walker

  9. @ jsmill:

    You make some compelling points, though your thesis is lost in the haze of seemingly nationalist twaddle.

    “I don’t defend the people portrayed in this video. I don’t know anything about the situation, and neither do you.”

    What I do know is that a few of these soldiers vocally express joy, repeatedly, at watching other human beings die. I’m not talking about bravado. What I’m addressing here is state-assisted psychopathy.

    And, make no mistake, you do “defend the people in this video.” You begin your rant by calling out “knee-jerk anti-military types,” and go on to talk about how no one can judge them. I’m not anti-military, but I am anti-war. Anyone with ears can hear for themselves how contemptuously these “men” revel in their bloody conquests. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I can judge these men as easily and fairly as I could if I were joining them in battle.

    I still have no idea what these people are like IRL, but they sound like a bunch of bloodthirsty hayseeds. And even if they’re the most kindhearted people on planet Earth, it wouldn’t excuse the Department of Defense for their negligence and outright dishonesty.

    Being a soldier doesn’t make you an expert on matters of war. I do not doubt that it has given you another perspective, but so would being an anti-war activist. You defend these soldiers by saying things like, “[t]he rest of us are just down on the ground trying to do the right thing. Be patriots.” Show me a patriot, and I’ll show you a war criminal.

    You claim that part of a soldier’s job is to “be good to all those we can be.” These soldiers could have been better to the unarmed civilians they slaughtered. They could have done so without such depraved merriment, at the very least.

    I have read too much about war. Even without experiencing war firsthand, I can appreciate how difficult it is to be a soldier. I wonder how many of those serving in today’s military know the expression whispered to victorious Roman generals returning from battle: Respice post te! Hominem te memento!

  10. Rewatched “The Russia House” this weekend (Sean Connery, Michelle Pfeiffer). That movie’s theme seemed to be the necessity for a Wikileaks.

  11. I think this may have been avoided by releasing the video some time ago.

    Frankly, walking around Baghdad with equipment which might be mistaken for firearms with a group of people would make someone a legitimate target.

    At minute 10, however, I fail to see the reasoning behind taking out the van. So, I’m driving around, see some guy badly hurt, decide to render aid, and get blasted for it?

    That being said, I don’t fault the cavalry for their attitude. I’m not a fan of the war, but calling our men in uniform hayseeds is dismissive.

    1. Yeah I think that far from being hayseeds. these soldiers and their Civilian commanders know exactly what they are doing.

      Eating up US taxpayers $$ that could otherwise be going to improve the lives of Americans in the USA.

  12. Watched it through. Watched some of the commentary (the MSNBC video on the Wikileaks page is remarkably good journalism). It includes a Lt. Col. (not sure of which force) explaining how rules of engagement were not followed.

    And there’s plenty which disturbs and deeply saddens me. They shot people picking up the wounded. They were itching to shoot the wounded photographer, while he was crawling around in a pool of his own blood. They laughed when the Bradley drove over a body. They (the aircrew, not the soldiers on the ground), were visibly unaffected by the fact that they had shot up young kids. “Well it’s their fault for bringing kids to a battle.”

    You can argue about other aspects of the situation, but there is no ambiguity in those.

    *sigh*.

    Here’s a video of an axolotl dancing to ridiculous music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0XtYcGNPPo

  13. Thanks takeshi, you took the words right out of my mouth.

    All of this is so disturbing. My heart goes out to everyone affected, even the soldiers who did the murdering.

  14. I respect soldiers who have risked their lives to defend me against foreign aggressors – WWII was terrible but necessary, and fighting it was just. I also believe that no soldier enlists to become a cold blooded murderer.

    In the case of the Iraq war, the actions the military take on our behalf are unjust!

    Our soldiers will clearly be judged as standing on the wrong side of history in this conflict. Iraqi families will justly hate the west because of this war. As an Iraqi, I would fight the American oppressors having seen this video.

    We are failing our soldiers who’ve enlisted to protect us, by letting our politicians put them into this conflict where they are degraded and dehumanised to the point that they kill foreign civilians for sport.

  15. What do you think those guys at the corner were doing there? Waiting for the Americans to put a Starbucks in so they could order a latte? They had not one but two RPGs and an AKM. These are serious weapons, which can do grave damage to even armored vehicles. And photos recovered from the cameras taken from that corner showed American HUMMWVs only 100 yards out.

    When a journalist embeds with an armed force, there’s a certain amount of risk involved. A press card is not a magic force field.

    1. Can anyone provide documentation of what kind of weapons were found? Ernunnos says 2 RPGs, but in the video it was pretty clear that what the people in the aircraft were calling RPGs were actually the photographers’ cameras…is there another source indicating they were armed to that degree?

    2. 2 RPGs? I counted 5 and I’m pretty sure I recognised one of those guys from the infamous ‘deck of cards’. Man, those guys in the Apache were lucky to escape with their lives.

    3. What do you think those guys at the corner were doing there? … They had not one but two RPGs and an AKM.

      I dunno; exercising their right to bear arms? Resisting the invasion of their country? Preparing to defend their children from trigger-happy foreigners? Attempting to violently overthrow their corrupt Vichy government?

      1. I’m pretty sure that the commenters who are using the excuse that the victims were armed to justify these murders are the same commenters who are demanding the right to carry assault weapons to the grocery store because it’s the American Way.

  16. I’m sure that many soldiers are honest and good people who want (or started off wanting) to do the right thing. The guys in the helicopter may even have started out that way. But this gloating over the painful death of people who were obviously not combatants shows that they have somehow lost their way. Shooting people giving aid to the injured is not ok. Shooting kids is not ok. Shooting people who look and move like unarmed civilians (no threatening move is performed at any point) is definitely not ok.

    Most of the US military is known internationally for their unprofessionalism mostly due to low levels of training, which often results in friendly fire incidents. The more specialized people such as pilots have no such excuse, as their training is excellent (although they tend to be overly cocky which makes watching them lose international training exercises all the more funny).

    However, keeping your well trained air crews up for days on ends using amphetamines also produces this slide in morals. This is something which the US airborne militaries do as a rule. They have also been experimenting with ProVigil (less side effects) but amphetamines are the standard.
    If you’ve seen habitual amphetamine users after a few days awake you’ll know that their decision making abilities are completely ruined. They can easily carry out their bad decisions, but the decisions don’t approach anything we non-amphetamine users would call common sense.

    Isn’t that a comforting thought? Knowing that the normal duty roster for pilots carrying heavy machine guns, rockets and (in the case of the jets) clusterbombs is so insane that they need amphetamines to keep themselves awake and alert. Can anyone say “itchy trigger finger” or “questionable moral choices”?

    And on that note I end.

  17. maybe it was sign up or start mugging people to feed themselves?

    I’d respect them more if they were mugging or dealing crack.

    I remember in the week before the invasion the GWB came on television telling Iraqi soldiers that “just following orders” wasn’t a valid excuse. Apparently it is when you’re in the US army.

  18. I was appalled at what I saw on TV tonight. Nothing but animals. I don’t really care what the politics are or how those involved justify there beliefs. I just don’t like American uniforms any more. Animals the lot of you.

  19. dmh: donate? the only effective change will come through political dissent. Get involved or be a part of the problem.

    jsmill: why are you talking about good nation-states in this context? None such is involved in this case. You are wrong to think that “I just followed order” can excuse being a part of atrocities. Given the US torture and murder of innocents the only right choice is to desert from the army. When your organization is mass murdering civilians then it is time to get out. Those who stay should be blamed and charged as contributors to murders and to crimes against humanity in an international war tribunal.

  20. Read the Army’s disclosure. They even say they were Apache helicopters. AC-130s could never orbit an area that quickly.

  21. Am I missing something here? There is a ton of “OH MY GOD THEY ARE MONSTERS” talk, but that’s a video of a burned up car and some sad looking kids. Where am I supposed to get outraged?

    That video is as heavy as a three dollar bill.

  22. i see the propaganda machine is focusing on the van and children now not the journalist whom was murdered while collecting video evidence of murder by the USA and coalition forces.

    “political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, & to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

    George Orwell

  23. Did anybody else watching the guncam video see obvious weapons? I saw the guncam zoomed in on the guy carrying the camera (it looked more like a slung backpack to me, but it was obvious no barrel was coming up over the shoulder), and the telephoto lens around the corner (the pilot thought was an RPG, but that would have been obviously the WRONG END of the RPG sticking around the corner).

    Planted evidence? What other evidence that the other men were insurgents? I would think a group of 6 insurgents would have more than one weapon between them.

  24. @jsmill (& the rest of bb)

    ” There will always be someone, barring a truly effective world government, that can and will decide to take what is not rightfully theirs through military means.

    Either they can be stopped, or you and what you love can die.”

    that’s the comment i feel the (hypocrisy?, self-blindness?) of your whole comment hinges on (& that i’m surprised no one else picked up on).

    hello, the US is who you are describing here, that can & will take was is not rightfully theirs through military means. things we love, like a peaceful world/the dignity of the US as a world actor, are dying in the process.

  25. It looks like some of the big news networks are starting to pick this up. Finally.

    Let me just say that I agree this is a horrific tragedy and clearly something went wrong to allow it to happen. That said, I think people are reading too much into, “the soldiers enjoyed doing it” angle.

    War is immoral. It is, by its very definition, killing people till you get your way. However, we are at war, and those soldiers are trained to be able to handle that reality. Part of that is dehumanizing the enemy, and in our current war, the enemy looks like anyone. This is a terrible crime, both against the soldiers and against the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan, but it does not make the soldiers monsters. They thought they were killing armed insurgents. People who they believed could and would ruthlessly kill their fellow soldiers. You can hear the fear in the soldier’s voice when he spots the “RPG.” I don’t think what we’re hearing is entertainment so much as relief. Relief from an imagined threat, but relief nonetheless.

    If this gets much higher we’re already going to hear the government calling them “bad apples.” The soldiers do have some fault here, don’t get me wrong, but calling them psychopaths and putting all the blame on them lets those truly responsible shrug all responsibility for what they’ve done.

  26. after all of this and many other like it… U Still wonder Y we all hate the US. I don’t talk about normal people but those in the military and the government.

  27. One of the most disturbing qualities of the video to me is how closely it resembles a video game (I know this is a bit of a cliched perspective these days, but still…)

    The reason the soldiers in the helicopter make such desensitized comments is because the victims are anonymous black blips on a screen — mere pixels. They have no faces, no names, nothing.

  28. I feel a lot less ugly this morning…thank you jean chretien and all those who worked to keep Canada as far away as possible from these crimes, from this religious war the USA is intent on starting.

  29. Pray tell, Lobster, remind us please who started this “regrettable” war? Who started this particular war?

  30. In the last two days, there have been a series of bombs detonated by the enemy in Iraq. They do not attempt to identify soldiers, they actually are targeting civilians, in order to spread terror. Are they not “terrorists”?

    Do you imagine the Al-Qaeda and Baathists being in real time communication with their superiors, asking whether they can engage that group of people out shopping in the market? No, because they are seeking to kill and injure as many civilians as possible, it is their strategy.

    When you see the decision making process unfold in that video, it should make you feel that there is judgment and consideration going into each decision to attack a target. I can’t fault the people doing the shooting for feeling a little elated if they thought that they had killed a group of insurgents and prevented an attack on the ground.

    The tactics of the insurgents in Iraq have been unbelievably sadistic, seeking out one by one the educated civilians, and kidnapping, torturing and murdering them and their families. Yet there is strangely
    no criticism or blame leveled on them. It is as if those bombs in market places, or in groups of schoolchildren, just set themselves.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_bombings_in_Iraq_since_2003. There were 442 suicide bombings in 2007, and the AL-Qaeda strategy has shifted from attacking soldiers to attacking civilians.
    “By increasing the number of suicide bombings against civilians and accepting their targeting in retribution, the insurgents sought to expose the weakness of the coalition-Iraqi security and reconstruction apparatus, threaten those who collaborated with the government, generate funds and propaganda, and increasingly enact sectarian revenge. ”

    The enemy we are fighting is so heartless and savage, it is unbelievable. To equate the US soldiers with the insurgents and their strategy of all out terror and mayhem is insane.

    1. I think it’s “insane” to distinguish between civilian casualties (eg: “innocent terror victims” or “tragic collateral damage”? Why not let the American Armed Forces or Al-Qaeda decide? Those are far far from being the only choices as to who ought to judge this…How about somebody not involved, instead? Like in Courts of Justice?), based upon the nationality, or religion, or self-professed excuses and justifications, of those who happened to be their killers.

      In any case.

    2. There was NO insurgency in Iraq prior to the American invasion….nor war,for that matter.

      Americans started this.

      And please, what does history show to be the usual fate of those who work with foreign occupation or invasion forces? Are those people “civilians”? Really?
      “Collaborators”, such were called after WW 2, IIRC.

      But since this isn’t Europe, those quaint Geneva Conventions do not apply, eh?
      Oh right, that argument is no longer heard.

      And did not the Democrats in Congress promise to end this war, if they got elected in 2006?

      How many more years? How much further will the American body politic and general public need to be de-sensitized to violence, for the sake of some politicians’ careers? Or corporate arms suppliers’ balance sheets?

    3. re: “The tactics of the insurgents in Iraq have been unbelievably sadistic, seeking out one by one the educated civilians, and kidnapping, torturing and murdering them and their families. Yet there is strangely
      no criticism or blame leveled on them.”

      Oh, come on. Just because people don’t CHANGE THE TOPIC to discuss different murders, that doesn’t mean they APPROVE of any murders they don’t explicitly condemn. Cripes.

      With that said, I suppose I’ll weigh in with my two cents. I think the primary responsibility lies up the chain of command, certainly all the way up to the group who re-purposed the US citizens’ reaction to 9/11 (and the world’s, to some extent) into momentum for invading Iraq.

      I think soldiers do have to be desensitized to survive the trauma of war. I think it’s horrible that people are put into a position where they gloat over the dead bodies of their (presumed) enemies, but I don’t really fault the soldiers for that. Put into the same situation, I probably would, too. I also agree that it is a *relatively* good thing that the US military is using technology to try to make intelligent decisions about strikes.

      But this whole “the enemy is a demon” thing is just BS. When people engage in mortal combat against each other they will do terrible things. To us in the states, the 9/11 hijackers are soulless monsters, and our soldiers are heroes who are willing to risk their lives to protect us. To someone immersed in the al-qaeda ideology the 9/11 hijackers are like Luke Skywalker when he took out the Death Star, and US soldiers are brother-murdering, sister-raping…well, soulless monsters. In the service of an evil empire.

      And you know what? I think the US approaches to governance, to human rights, to religious freedom, etc. etc. are superior to the approach taken by, say, the Taliban. But that doesn’t make Abu Ghraib go away, or CIA torture programs, or incidents like this.

      We’re the good guys…relatively…by an uncomfortably small margin. And we didn’t need to invade Iraq, that was fucked up IMO. So there’s what I think.

    4. “The tactics of the insurgents in Iraq have been unbelievably sadistic, seeking out one by one the educated civilians, and kidnapping, torturing and murdering them and their families. Yet there is strangely no criticism or blame leveled on them.”

      Yeah…I can’t remember ANY criticism in the media against the “freedom-fighters” as Fox and CNN always call them. *dripping with sarcasm*

      Don’t make us laugh g007. We know you’re a plant.

  31. Somebody remind me again: why ought not Iraqis violently resist this kind of brazen and cruel attack by foreign troops against their fellow citizens?

  32. A commenter on Wired.com pointed out the aircraft was probably an AC-130: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_AC-130

    What that does add to the story is an explanation for why the people on the ground don’t appear to be taking cover AND why the person in the van may have not realised the danger of trying to help the wounded. AC-130s circle around targets from kilometres away and can engage at extremely long range. If you are a dude on the street and you look up and see a cargo plane far off in the distance (and its not like lots of planes aren’t flying around in Iraq), you aren’t likely to know or imagine it has gatling guns and howitzers on it. Shit the only reason I know what an AC-130 is is from playing Modern Warfare (not sure if I’ll be able to do that again…)

    All this likely fact does is change some of the context though. And no amount of context excuses the firing on the van.

    That commenter on Wired.com plays too much Call of Duty. The video unquestionably comes from an AH-64 Apache. This is clear from both the symbology on the HUD in the video and frankly the sound of the M230 cannon firing.

  33. This is a fantastic thread, real kudos to everyone involved. Anon #16? Fantastic post.

    I just want to say…since there is so much intelligence in this thread…vote with it.

    If they’re not ending the war, they’re not getting my vote. Not anymore.

    We can talk about health reform and immigration reform, and the scraps that fall from the master’s table until we’re blue in the face…but this evil we see perpetrated in our names will continue, clearly will continue under President Obama or anyone anywhere near like him…anyone standing next to him in Washington.

    Let’s stop voting for these war-monkeys, this evil supersedes any tiny, arguable good that can worm it’s way out of the U.S. Capitol with a Dem President. Until we stop voting for people we disagree with, we’re still going to get this heinous crap.

    Vote for Kucinich, or Nader or freakin’ boycott the election, but let’s stop sanctifying this war with our signatures. Obama has no reason to come left if our votes are assured no matter how many people are murdered with our tax dollars in Indonesia, in Palestine, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen or wherever the hell we’re going tomorrow.

    I don’t know, I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t write my signature on that ballot again with votes on it for people who continue to not use the power of the purse, for people who, whatever they say, continue to vote every way they can to keep the war machine rolling.

  34. Looks like the guys in the helicopter were having fun.

    I love the “well it’s their fault” part :P

  35. “What I do know is that a few of these soldiers vocally express joy, repeatedly, at watching other human beings die. I’m not talking about bravado. What I’m addressing here is state-assisted psychopathy.”

    I’m not a soldier and have no combat experience. I am however very close friends with a number of former marines and soldiers that did extended tours of Iraq. As a group, they are generally very smart, extremely driven and loyal almost to a fault. They are also empathetic.

    With that said, I know some of them behaved in ways that would be considered “monstrous” in a civilian context. They all operated under the assumption that if they didn’t kill the “enemy” when given the chance today, the enemy would kill them and thier fellow soldiers tomorrow. That sort of fear will make you quick on the trigger and make you act and think in ways it’s hard for most of us to imagine.

  36. First, this took place in 2007. Look at the context of July 2007. http://www.mapreport.com/cmonth/July-2007-iraq.html

    Second, we have the advantage of knowing that the people on the ground were carrying cameras for innocent purposes.

    I’m upset at the cover-up of the SNAFU that ended with several dead civilians, including one who was trying to help. Im sorry this kind of crap happens in any armed conflict. Im sure the people on the triggers would not have fired if they knew the people on the ground were innocent. Contrast that with the guy who drives his car into a marketplace and detonates a bomb that kills and maims only civilians.

    But, I have to ask; What was the situation around the area? Where had these troops come from? Were they fresh in the field that day or had they been working for some time? Had they just lost comrades in another incident?

    In the end we are responsible for the actions of our armed forces and our government. We demanded that our government make us safe after 9-11. We allowed the politicians to play on our fear to stay in office. We demanded that someone pay with their lives for the 3000 Americans killed by terrorists in our own country.

    What you seem to lose track of is the fact that the people on the ground in Iraq seem to have gone to some lengths to cover this up. -That is what is wrong here-

    We should recognize the tragedy. We should recognize the mistakes made by the troops in the air and their command in allowing the attack. It is sad and tragic. We should help the victim’s families as much as we can. But we should never lose track of the fact that someone tried to cover it up because if they succeed then the next time it gets easier.

    1. First, this took place in 2007. Look at the context of July 2007.

      I’m pretty sure killing unarmed civilians and covering it up afterward was already illegal by then.

    2. In the end we are responsible for the actions of our armed forces and our government. We demanded that our government make us safe after 9-11. We allowed the politicians to play on our fear to stay in office. We demanded that someone pay with their lives for the 3000 Americans killed by terrorists in our own country.

      To hell with your “we.” You don’t speak for me.

  37. ..anti-military echo chambers.

    Is that a euphemism for the rest of the world?

    1. that is a scary account. they spot a man with what they assess to be an ak-47 (possibly an ak-47) enter a 3-story building and gain authorization to blast the building, one missile per floor, with 8-11 bodies later removed. there seems to be a lack of concern for civilians here. they don’t know who is in the building, families maybe, workers, yet assume justification based on mere assumptions. even with that, it is wanton destruction of property to get one guy who may have an ak-47. this is more preemptive killing without solid confirmation.

    2. @daten said: “the sweeping condemnation and blanket statements are pretty disappointing”

      So is machine gunning children.

      Actually, it’s more than disappointing. It’s barbaric. The aircrew can spot a weapon, but not a child? Or perhaps they didn’t care, or bother to look.

      This war wasn’t and isn’t justified. This video demonstrates its utter brutality.

  38. The American people are shocked, shocked, I tell you, to learn that going to war involves the summary killing and mutilation of thousands of people just going about their business who are mistaken for combatants or who are hit by stray bombs and bullets. Why did no one explain this to us?

  39. Soldiers are not obligated to allow enemy forces to retreat with as much personnel and equipment as they can recover. That justifies the attack on the van.

    Nothing in these videos is against the Geneva Conventions. It’s clear that the soldiers in question believed that they were firing on valid targets at the time. If you want to argue about being at war in the first place that’s fine. But there’s nothing controversial in the videos themselves.

  40. Ah, man.

    If we leave, it gets worse. If we stay, it stays bad. There is no good way out of this, other than not getting into the situation in the first place. Maybe we’ll remember it this time, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Took most of the European countries centuries to figure it out, and that mostly happened because colonialism was no longer profitable.

  41. Ever since the US Gov decided over the vocal protests of hundreds of thousands of Americans to invade, the obvious benefits and correctness of that embrace of violence as a means of resolving international disputes keeps on piling up: that is, the hits just keep on comin’ out of Iraq.

    Some Americans even care to thoroughly report on this:

    http://warnewstoday.blogspot.com/

    Interesting that that site I just linked to is often spam attacked, etc.
    It seems that for many in the US news media, some news is more important than other news, that some immorality is more “immoral” than other kinds.

    (OT PS: Hiya, Tiger! Ignore the “morals” BS and remind us why yer famous in the first place!

    OT PS PS: I hope you sort things out with your family, but that is none of my business, is it not?)

    1. “Simple rules” are an excuse not to think. Avoid them and judge all situations in the moment.

      A simple rule for warriors is Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius. Don’t oversimplify.

  42. So… more war-crimes by the US military. Shameful. They did not have any reason whatsoever to “engage” that van. That was murder, and I will *NOT* accept any excuses.

  43. I don’t know what’s more pathetic, watching those video game drones chuckle with glee as they shoot a mortally wounded unarmed man and the people trying to rescue him or the rationalizations of some jarhead that “shit happens.”

    Here’s a fact – soldiers are killers, and Marines are killers non-par. They are trained to glorify violence and murder, because it’s all done in the name of some fucking fairy-tale called democracy and freedom. All you hired killers should read “War Is a Racket” by General Smedley Butler for a little truth about who you REALLY work for.

  44. And, in fact, I think there is a particular brand of military echo chamber that happens too.

  45. These men have to kill, it is their job..

    How is this still an excuse? I thought Nuremberg settled it. In a “moral” war you have a point. But in Iraq? No.

  46. Something that some you folks commenting should be aware of. You are commenting on an incident that occurred during the tactical implementation of a state strategy.

    This is just one small incident that happened to be recorded on video and directly involved the military, who incidentally, are just doing their job. A nasty difficult job to be sure, but there should be no surprise that the military is doing what they have been trained to do. Their job is to kill people. The ROE is there to try and ensure that it is not completely indiscriminate. But there should also be no surprise that some people really enjoy doing their job, and execute it with enthusiasm

    I have seen very little here that indicates an overall comprehension of the state strategy or the reason for it. Here is a clue in one word. Energy.

    If the people here commenting, have issues with the tactics employed by the architects of a very important state strategy, then I have a couple of questions:

    1). Do you really have the strength of will, and the courage of your convictions, to go after the people responsible?

    2). Are you really prepared to to send people like Rove and Kissinger to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for crimes against humanity?

    Just asking.

    Full Disclosure: The default position here in Canada is that we are morally superior to Americans.

  47. I think, What would you do if your country were invaded by a foreign army?¿wouldn’t you defend it?.

  48. when my daughter was born in 2004 a friend of mine bought every major daily newspaper to mark her birth. on each one was headlines about this war. when my son was born 4 years later he did the same. same headlines.

    when their children’s children are born, this “war” will still be being fought.

  49. Why didn’t the aircrew just finish off the wounded man instead of hoping out loud that he he would go for a weapon so they could shoot him? Shouldn’t these “murderers” have just finished the job of ruthlessly killing those nice innocent people? Why the sudden case of conscience with that guy or once kids were discovered to be hurt.

    Or maybe they should’ve waited until the armed men actually attacked the convoy. I mean, coalition personnel might’ve died, but what’s that compared to feeling good about yourself? I mean, the commander on the ground was convinced it was the right thing to do, the air mission commander did as well, but hey – you’ve watched an edited section of one gun tape, never mind the other six sets of eyeballs out there assessing the situation. You already know it all thanks to a completely nuetral and informed video editor with no axe to grind, right?

    Better yet, maybe they could’ve somehow killed JUST the armed men (with their 30mm “area weapon” chain gun) and asked the others to please halt and explain why they were hanging out with un-uniformed armed men while coalition forces were being attacked nearby.

    Fianlly, if you’re a photo stringer who is chummy with the Jaysh al Mahdi and you make your living selling Reuters money-shots you took of coalition forces being attacked by insurgents, then I consider you neither a “journalist” nor an innocent bystander. At best you’re an utter dirtbag who puts himslef in harms way, but most likely you’re a collaborator. Photo stringers in Iraq being connected to insurgents is NOT a new development.

  50. http://www.warhw.com/2010/04/05/american-apache-crew-kills-a-dozen-civilians-in-iraq/

    Even if the Apache pilot did everything exactly according to the rule of war, an evil thing was still done. Innocent people were killed.

    War is evil and good people can go to war and still be good only if going to war is the lesser evil compared to NOT going to war.

    This video shows the cost of going to war. Innocent people will be killed in a war by our side. Friendly fire will occur on our side. These evils must be outweighed by a greater evil that will occur if we do NOT go to war to make the war morally justified.

    But the cost of NOT going to war has been shown to be a lie. No WMD’s, no Iraq/Al queda connection, no Iraq/911 connection, no Iraq/Anthrax connection. There would have been no evil that would have befallen America had we NOT invaded.

    Compare this with the very real evil of a dozen innocent people getting gunned down by US troops, and the evil fo going to war start tilting the scales as it outweighs the evil of NOT goign to war.

    Even if the pilot did everything exactly right, this still shows the evil of war.

    The hawks won’t want you to weigh the evils and so will instead try to twist all of this into nothing more than someone saying US troops are bloodthirsty baby killers, and why do you hate america, and that sort of nonsense.

    That has nothing to do with why this video is important. This video is important because it shows the evils of war as teh greater evil than the evil of not going to war. It shows this war as a moral failure on teh part of America.

  51. Hmm. I never quite supposed my little comment would provoke so much response– once removed, of course, as the article is the real provocation. Probably helped I did it early and blathered on far too long.

    The people in this thread have had a lot of good things to say. Maybe I should speak a little personally first.

    As I said before, I am an enlisted Marine veteran. I am also young. I didn’t know very much about the wars before I enlisted– having read much more since my enlistment, and experienced much more, I feel like the war in Iraq is certainly unjust, at least as regards ours aims, and that we invaded under a pretext.

    And I thought this as I was gearing to go to war.

    Now, there are high costs to refusing to train or deploy in wartime. I don’t know that I can afford those costs, either in money, legal time, or loss of job potential. You call me a coward, you tell me I ought to be brave against the government; tell me how you yourself are being brave and acting at a high cost to yourself. Your armchair is a fine place to fight anything from, whether it’s the Iraq war or your own government.

    But beyond that, I realized this while I was over there. The macrocosm– the whole invasion, the puppet governments, the loss of national sovereignty– that is completely outside of my control…whether I am in this war or out of it. Even my power to vote says little, as any likely political candidate will be committed to staying the course.

    So what does my resignation, my fight, change for anyone but me personally? What does it do for anyone but myself? A great big pat on the back. Good job taking a stand.

    But in the microcosm, things are a little simpler. There really are bad guys– people, for example, that blow themselves up and kill innocent civilians in the process. The people that finance and equip those people. I could help them.

    The ordinary Iraqis? I could help protect them. Ensure they had some justice. Listen and pass up their complaints about utilities, clean water, and murderers. (I was an infantryman living and working out of an Iraqi police station. I lived with them, worked with them, fought with them.)

    In other words, the big issues were out of my control. But the little issues were easy to be moral in. And, in my experience, fire discipline is the norm in the Marines and not the exception. (Mind you, Marines pioneered counterinsurgency. Look up CAP plattons in Vietnam or the surge in Iraq.)

    Lastly, at least in the personal sphere, the situation is very difficult to judge when you are in it. The reason for this is strictly biological– as you become afraid of dying and geared to fight, whether you are a chopper pilot or an infantryman, blood is shunted into your extremities and away from your brain. An evolutionary relic, to be sure– but relevant. You actually become stupider in every way that is dependent on biology…that is, in every way. This makes decisions, particularly split second ones, much…much…harder. Watching a few split seconds of video on your screen, calmly, free to rewind, is a little different from being there.

    Sorry, but no matter how many times it has been said, it’s true. Until you have been there it is difficult to judge. I can say that even about myself, contrasting my thoughts and imaginations about what it would be like to what actually happened.

    Now, away from the personal and on to the general.

    Some posters have pointed out that while, indeed, war might be a necessary thing, this specific war, by a specific nation, is indefensible. I agree with you. If you would like more fodder for your unease with America, read “A Legacy of Ashes”…a reputable history of what the CIA has been up to since its inception.

    When I pointed out in the beginning of my last post that I was writing for knee-jerk anti-military types, I meant that. Militaries are necessary for civil society. I can’t necessarily defend this particular war of this particular military by this particular nation– my nation. But to hate the military generally, or to speak generally of the military with malice, is, I think, not only indefensible but ignorant.

    I think I have more to say, but I have rambled long enough already. Let’s see where the thread heads from here. Probably devolve into tl;dr.

    Also, on a side note, I’m sorry for the hubris of calling myself jsmill. I admire the man and wish I were half as brilliant or humane.

  52. “But in the microcosm, things are a little simpler. There really are bad guys– people, for example, that blow themselves up and kill innocent civilians in the process. The people that finance and equip those people. I could help them.”

    Ok, I wrote a sentence with a very unclear antecedent. I meant help the innocent people, not those who blow themselves up or those who finance or equip those people.

    In before those who are going to make jokes anyway, lol.

  53. The question of whether this is an “abberation” seems to be getting a lot of air time. This isn’t an abberation. But the hawks take that and twist it into “So, you’re saying US troops go around looking for civilians to murder?”

    No.

    Troops killing civilians in a war is not an abberation the same way car crashes and driver deaths are not an abberation in the Indy500. You cannot plan to put on a race like the Indy500 and expect there to be no crashes, no injuries, no deaths of innocents. You have to plan for it.

    You cannot send your troops to war and not expect them to be involved in friendly fire incidents or incidents involving the killing of civilians.

  54. Wow. I read the comments while the video was downloading. The video itself is hardly an indictment of the soldiers involved. If you believe your enemy has weapons that will kill you (or your compatriots) you will use all available force. Any soldier would look at this video and see a successful operation. They did not hesitate to confirm that what they were seeing was an RPG or a camera – and you wouldn’t have either. It’s a combat zone. If you see someone with something that appears to be a weapon, you take them out. This is the essential nature of combat as it always has been and always will be. Do people think something else is going on . . . ?

  55. ” If you see someone with something that appears to be a weapon, you take them out. This is the essential nature of combat as it always has been and always will be. Do people think something else is going on . . . ?”

    So, is it a *good* thing these innocent civlians were killed?

    And if it is a bad thing that they were killed, what greater evil do you compare it to to justify continuing the war in Iraq?

    There were no WMD’s. There was no Iraq/Al Queda connection. There was no Iraq/911 connection. There was no Iraq/Anthrax connection.

    Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed since we invaded. What evil is so great that it outweighs that massive deathtoll?

    1. It’s a military operation in a combat zone. I was commenting only on the actions of the soldiers shown in the video. Obviously it’s an unjust war and clearly it’s a tragedy whenever innocent people are killed. However, I stand by my original statement: The video itself is hardly an indictment of their behavior. They believed there may have been a threat – in combat, in a war zone – that’s good enough. By the ROE they acted appropriately. The ROE clearly puts the safety of the force first.

      I think this happens whenever people see combat in any detail. It’s a good thing for people to be outraged by this – but there’s nothing extraordinary about it. That’s the real horror of it. The soldiers acted according to the ROE and their training. If people have a problem with what is in the video they should take it up with the politicians who sent them there.

      Personally I can’t make out precisely what each person is carrying (or doing) in the video. And I have the luxury of time, safety and repeated viewings. In a split second, with lives on the line, the safest thing to do is shoot first and ask questions later. It’s terribly unfortunate that this is the case, but it doesn’t change it.

      1. In a split second, with lives on the line, the safest thing to do is shoot first and ask questions later.

        If your first consideration is personal safety, at the expense of the lives of innocent civilians, stay out of the military. That is cowardice.

        1. “If your first consideration is personal safety, at the expense of the lives of innocent civilians, stay out of the military. That is cowardice.”

          No, that’s combat. Dead soldiers become ‘combat ineffective’ really quickly. It’s not just
          personal safety, it’s the ability of you (and
          your unit) to continue to do your job.

  56. “In a split second, with lives on the line, the safest thing to do is shoot first and ask questions later.”

    Except lives were NOT on the line. There was a group of American soldiers on the ground some blocks away who may have come under sniper fire recently.

    These people standing around were NOT threatening anyone. Even if they DID have RPG’s and sniper rifles, the were NOT threatening American lives.

    No lives were on the line.

    Had the pilot not engaged, no American troops were in immediate danger of getting killed.

    You’re making the ticking time bomb argument, but there is no ticking bomb.

    We’re talking about American troops operating in a major city population. If every time American troops came under fire any civilian anywhere within a 20 block radius was suddenly fair game because “lives were on the line”, then Iraq would be a smoldering ruin.

    Oh, wait.

    1. “Except lives were NOT on the line. There was a group of American soldiers on the ground some blocks away who may have come under sniper fire recently.

      These people standing around were NOT threatening anyone. Even if they DID have RPG’s and sniper rifles, the were NOT threatening American lives.

      No lives were on the line.”

      Wow you can see all that in the video? I can hear genuine fear in the voices of the air crew when they
      identify the RPG on the ground. It’s impossible to tell the intentions of those on the ground from the video. The ROE in place at the time only required them to have weapons in their possession – for obvious reasons. Someone carrying a RPG around in a combat zone isn’t intending to use it for gardening. The weapon could bring down the helo in seconds . . .

      Again, we may now know that the threat was minimal. But the pilots did not have the luxury of time and safety that we do.

      “You’re making the ticking time bomb argument, but there is no ticking bomb.”

      I’m not ‘making the ticking time bomb argument’. The threat the pilots were reacting to was much more immediate than that! That argument refers to an entirely different non-combat scenario.

      Again, this is what I find the most interesting about the release of the video. These guys did what they were trained to do. Combat is ugly, and maybe Americans would be less supportive of it if they could see it. Of course, this lesson was learned by the military after Vietnam. Which is why organizations like wikileaks are doing something really important.

      “We’re talking about American troops operating in a major city population. If every time American troops came under fire any civilian anywhere within a 20 block radius was suddenly fair game because “lives were on the line”, then Iraq would be a smoldering ruin.”

      Every time American troops come under fire anyone within a 20 block radius is fair game. These are the ROE. You can hear them discussing this on the audio . . . they do not open fire on ‘every civilian within a 20 block radius’ – just the ones carrying weapons. Do you see the difference? If they wait until the RPG is launched, they’re dead. Which is why the ROE threshold is set where it is.

      Look, I’m not arguing that America is not imperialistic (it is) or that it’s a just war (it’s not) or that soldiers don’t screw up (they do). I just think that the soldiers in the video acted appropriately in the context of their training and the urban combat environment. I also find it disingenuous to suggest that anyone else under the stress of combat would react any differently.

      Ask any soldier: Sure it’s important to protect innocent lives – but your number one priority is force protection. This has nothing to do with modern warfare or ROE – it’s the sad human reality of combat and it always has been. This is one of the most horrible and dehumanizing things about the military. It takes the noblest of human virtues: courage, protectiveness, caring, etc. and twists them into horrible actions.

  57. I think duncano makes a very, very good point.

    Organizations like Wikileaks are doing a hard, and amazing jobs. There SHOULD be people asking questions, investigating, bringing things to light. I can in no condemn their release of this video.

    More particularly, duncano is right in saying that the American people ought to learn what a fucked up business war is. We’re so quick to go to war– particularly with an all-volunteer military that is largely insulated from the general populace– without people REALLY knowing what war is. Knee-jerk patriotism is disgusting.

    You know that Toby Keith song? “We’ll put a boot in their ass, it’s the American way.” Every time I thought about that song in Iraq, I wanted to go put a boot in his ass. He probably thinks I’m a hero. I think beliefs like that make him slime. (Even more so because it’s possible he just capitalized on popular sentiment for money.)

  58. Thanks jsmill. I have another point I think is relevant here. There’s always a distinction made between insurgents (or terrorists) and regulars in war. It is crucial that people, especially Americans make a real attempt to understand what’s going on here. American foreign policy-wise.

    Take a moment and look around your neighborhood, your community, your home. I know it’s difficult and unpleasant but now imagine your neighborhood has just been bombed. Perhaps the building you are in as you read this post has been destroyed or partially destroyed. Members of your family have been killed or injured, maybe that someone you love who is sitting across from you now. Friends, people who you may have known for years are screaming and bleeding and dying. Your whole world has been turned upside down.

    Through a stroke of luck you are unharmed. What will you do now? Really think about it . . . I don’t know what I would do in this scenario – none of us do, until we’re in it – but I can pretty much guarantee that it wouldn’t be pretty. It wouldn’t involve fairies or unicorns. And I don’t think I’d be alone in feeling like doing some pretty terrible things to whoever or whatever did this . . .

    Guerrilla tactics in war are used by entities who lack the resources to wage war the old fashioned way. All I know is this: If you use a 767 it’s terrorism. If you use an F16 it’s war. But the people are just as dead in both scenarios.

  59. ” they do not open fire on ‘every civilian within a 20 block radius’ – just the ones carrying weapons. Do you see the difference?”

    They did not have RPG’s. Do YOU see the difference?

    “The threat the pilots were reacting to was much more immediate than that!”

    I can just imagine you defending the captain of the USS Vincennes when it shot down Iran Air Flight 655.

    Hey, our troops don’t have time to discern military targets from civilians. A moment’s hesitation and they could be dead. Give the captain a medal.

    Oh, wait, they did.

    1. Umm, please do a bit more research prior to responding. The stills from the video that are floating around are quite helpful in this regard. The report from centcom linked to at the top of this page has the stills in it.

      The group contained two men carrying RPGs and two men carrying cameras with large telephoto lenses. Additionally, there was another man armed with an AK47. No one (except you) is disputing that there were armed men involved.

  60. hey, now the report loads.

    And you’re right, those black and white blotches of pixels could only be an RPG.

    Or a backpack.

    Or a hat.

    Or a smiling cheshire cat.

    Or anything you possibly want to imagine exists on the other side of the looking glass.

    And spare me the “but the military knows” response. I’m sure the military knows exactly where the RPG’s are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.

    They’re everywhere, man. You just gotta look for them.

  61. It is true that the U.S. military and its agents have destroyed Iraq and see if the Iraqi citizens that evokes pity but in return there is the Iraqi resistance strong terrorized the U.S. military, especially the resistance Naqshbandi army, which so-called army men Naqshbandi by what I heard from the news that the army constitutes the greatest threat to the U.S. military and Iraqi Muslims do not accept humiliation and ignoring their right to freedom Almtabp

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