Thursday, April 08, 2010

Confusion over the July 12, 2007 assault continues

Namir made his name with harrowing photos of the insurgency in the northern city of Mosul in 2006, when it was among the most dangerous places in Iraq. His photo of a masked insurgent carrying a looted bulletproof vest marked "Police" in large letters, was one of the seminal images of the war -- a single photo that captured Iraq's descent into chaos and the inability of the Iraqi and American governments to protect resources, or pretty much anything else at that point.
Namir repeatedly got to the scene of attacks while vehicles and buildings still billowed flames and bodies lay in the street. The danger in such coverage is hard to express in words: firefights broke out spontaneously, unseen snipers fired on civilians at will, insurgents killed journalists who they accused of working for the "Western invaders." And the American forces -- sometimes invisible a mile or more away -- fired through thermal sights at individuals they believed to be insurgents as they gathered around damaged coalition vehicles in the midst of a combat zone.
Namir was 21 years old when he did his groundbreaking work in Mosul. By the age of 22, he had seen as much death as many hardened combat veterans. As threats against his life mounted -- from Iraqi insurgents unhappy with the truths his photos revealed -- Reuters moved him to Baghdad for his own security. There, he quickly became one of the most beloved members of the Reuters staff, a cheerful, funny, smart young man who loved motorcycles, staff members recall.
On July 12, 2007, Namir set out with Saeed, his driver, to do a story on weightlifting. Hearing of nearby violence, he changed routes and went to the neighborhood of New Baghdad, where fighting was taking place.

The above is from Michael Kamber's "Remembering Namir Noor-Eldeen" (Lens Blog, New York Times) and Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh were two journalists for Reuters killed by US troops July 12, 2007. Monday WikiLeaks released US military video of the assault. A few e-mails are noting a claim Rick Rowley makes on Democracy Now! today. We're not covering it as is. Show us the video, Rick. He has a real pattern of cutting corners. He did interview people. He did so with David Enders. They interviewed on camera. If a claim was made by people they interviewed, then footage should exist of someone making that claim. Amy Goodman was happy to roll video today -- or re-roll it. But where on the video was the claim Rowley tosses off as an aside to Goodman today?

It's a sensational claim. Why didn't he make it in 2007?

Why wasn't it on the video we were shown?

If it's true, he has footage of it and, presumably, Amy Goodman will want to show that footage tomorrow. (And possibly explain why she didn't include it during Democracy Now!'s 2007 report? ADDED: She didn't show it in 2007. She wasn't interested in the story in 2007. She 'debuted' the footage today but she turned it down in 2007 when it was originally offered to her -- any footage of the Iraqis speaking to Enders and Rowley. A friend with DN called to clarify that the footage aired today was first aired today and that Goodman had turned it down as a "non-story" in 2007 when it was first offered to her.) Until the footage is shown -- of an Iraqi making the claim Rowley drops in as an aside today -- we're not noting the assertion. Rowley has a tendency to shave corners and rewrite. Ava and I have called out his 'facts' before at Third. If his claim is accurate, his footage will certainly show up everywhere. If it's false, we'll most likely not hear a great deal more about it. But Rowley has a history of dropping these little 'morsels' to enrage people and never backing them up. There's more than enough known to be enraged about without resorting to gossip.

BBC News quotes Reuters' David Schlesinger stating, "I would welcome a thorough new investigation. Reuters from the start has called for transparency and an objective inquiry so that all can learn lessons from this tragedy." Last night, Adam Entous (Reuters) reported that CentCom was stating there were no "plans to reopen an investigation into" the assault. Michael Sheridan (New York Daily News) quotes CentCom spokersperson Jack Hanzlik stating on television yesterday, "The video only tells you a portion of the activity that was happening that day." Deutsche Welle offers a roundup of some press reactions:

The Berliner Zeitung says it is hard to support the US military view that the 2007 attack was a fight between insurgents and soldiers. "The leaked WikiLeaks material shows bloodthirsty soldiers coldly pursuing their business." The paper also said this video was a victory for free speech and showed the value of the WikiLeaks site. "It demonstrates the power of a new medium that is beyond the reach of the state. Over and over WikiLeaks fights for its existence and requests donations. We now have a clear demonstration of its impressive merit."
"There is only one word to describe what happened that day: murder," writes the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The newspaper criticized the soldiers "casual" use of "excessive force". "Nothing in the images suggests the victims were terrorists or insurgents," it writes. "The pilots were not fired on, there were no comrades on the ground, it was broad daylight and visibility was good -- all the usual excuses which the military usually uses for civilian deaths. Instead, it shows trigger-happy American soldiers, talking into the camera, calmly killing a dozen people."

Amnesty International issued the following today:

The 39-minute video released on Monday by WikiLeaks, appears to show a helicopter gunsight video with an audio track of conversation among the crew opening fire on a group of men, two of whom appear to be armed, moving about a square in eastern Baghdad. It also shows further firing on a van which arrives, apparently to evacuate the wounded and the dead. Two children were wounded in the incident.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Malcolm Smart said:
"This highly disturbing video appears to show that after the initial attack, US troops opened fire on people seeking to assist a wounded man, injuring two children, and killing several more people.
"These troubling images can not be viewed or judged in isolation and must be put into the context of what else was happening in the vicinity. The US authorities must disclose any further information or footage that will shed light on this and they must conduct a proper investigation to determine whether US forces adhered to the rules of international humanitarian law and took necessary precautions to spare civilians."
Amnesty is calling for the incidents depicted in the video to be independently investigated and for reparation, including compensation, to be made available to victims of violations of international humanitarian law.
A US military investigation into the attack concluded that correct rules of engagement were followed, although those killed and injured included civilians.
WikiLeaks said the men in the square included Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his assistant and driver Saeed Chmagh, 40, who were both killed in the incident.

The only thing that will provide clarity to the confusion between what is shown on the video and the military's initial report is a new investigation. Benedict Carey (New York Times) notes some of the intercom comments made by US service members during the assault and reactions to it:

In recent days, many veterans have made the point that fighters cannot do their jobs without creating psychological distance from the enemy. One reason that the soldiers seemed as if they were playing a video game is that, in a morbid but necessary sense, they were.
"You don't want combat soldiers to be foolish or to jump the gun, but their job is to destroy the enemy, and one way they're able to do that is to see it as a game, so that the people don't seem real," said Bret A. Moore, a former Army psychologist and co-author of the forthcoming book "Wheels Down: Adjusting to Life After Deployment."
Military training is fundamentally an exercise in overcoming a fear of killing another human, said Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author of the book "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society," who is a former Army Ranger.

Meanwhile Mark Milian disgraces himself at the Los Angeles Times -- rather curious since everyone knows hows fragile things are at LAT currently. Offering a round up of . . . Of what? Of miltiary sites. How nice of Milian to copy the New York Times and Timothy Hsai. Hsai did a blog post yesterday on the military blogs (we noted it in yesterday's snapshot). All Milian knows how to do is follow? To copy? Is that it?

The idiot writes, "Likewise, ____ notes that the reporters who were killed knew the dangers when they signed up for the job: 'War correspondents take huge risks to bring news of a war to readers far away. What this shows is just how risky it is to embed with terrorists, especially when their enemy controls the air.'"

I think the term "blood libel" isn't too harsh for what Milian just stunk up LAT with. Now that conservative website he's quoting can write whatever they want (and we're not linking to them or naming them). But for a news outlet to repeat it and not question it? It's not only false, it's a blood libel.

There is no proof that civilians killed were "terrorists" but, most importantly, the Reuters news team didn't embed with anyone. Shame on Milian for that smear. A s**t list is being compiled should LAT be taken over shortly (and it looks like it will be). Milian should consider himself on it now for that blood libel. And LAT should ask themselves how they justify that post? There's no posting of Amnesty International by LAT, nothing from journalists who knew the two reporters slain, nothing from what other press outlets are reporting. But they're comfortable repeating a blood libel about two reporters who died trying to get the story, who died trying to live up to the best of their profession?

I remember Barbara Boxer's freak-fest when LAT announced no more deliveries in DC (they backed off) but these days, maybe the reality is that LAT needs to fold tent? Not be saved again, just fold up. Milian's 'writing' does little to make a case for the paper's continued existence.

Lauren Crothers (Toronto Star) notes this of the video:

In it, a group of men wander about the dusty streets below. Two of them are Reuters staff: a photographer and driver, both carrying cameras. In a few minutes, the blood of both men will be seeping out into the rubble under them, their bodies riddled with bullets.
You see, they are about to be murdered by U.S. forces circling above in an Apache, making the aggressors essentially removed from the situation. There is no intimacy in killing from afar, no having to look your victim in the eye as you slay him. Maybe that's why so many of the airmen are able to laugh and joke.
War has become nothing more than a video game.

At World Can't Wait, Elaine Brower offers:

People who have been anti-war advocates argued in real time as to the horror of this attack, the atrocity that was committed and were in total "shock" over the fact that these soldiers could possibly do something like this. WikiLeaks posted the military "Rules of Engagement" supposedly used in battle. Phrases were uttered such as "we are dismayed" "this shouldn't happen" "what did these guys think they were doing" and just overall outrage and disbelief surfaced everywhere.
There was also lots of chatter about the "coverup of a botched raid" in Gardez, Afghanistan, where soldiers killed two pregnant women, dug the bullets out of their bodies and claimed that they found them that way before their night raid. Again, shockwaves went through the internet community of left wing spots questioning this "atrocity."
So I ask - do we have short term memory loss? Why are these occurrences such a "shock" to those who are paying attention? Does anyone really think that these are unusual circumstances? I read one email that said this is similar to the "Mai Li Massacre" in Viet Nam. Of course the US military is going to "confirm the authenticity of the video killing journalists" they are proud of it, and support it. Why would they deny it? Those guys are trained killers, and we paid a lot of money to make them that way.

Iraq's refugee crisis includes what's been dubbed as "the brain drain." That term largely refers to Iraq's technocrats, doctors, academics, etc. The educated were among the first to flee as violence increased and as, no surprise, they found themselves increasingly targeted. No surprise? Prior to the start of the war, Iraq was a secular state. The US government decided that the people would fall into line most quickly if they were terrorized by thugs which meant turning the country over to the fundamentalists. It's no surprise, in any country, that the fundamentalist would target secular forces. Karim Altaaii contributes an essay entitled "Send In the Professors" to today's New York Times:

"Yes, folks, it's true," writes NOW on PBS executive producer John Siceloff, "NOW on PBS has come to the end of its broadcast run. The last episode will air on April 30, 2010. PBS announced last fall it was canceling NOW and providing funding for a new public affairs show called Need to Know." Click here for the rest of his essay. The program begins airing each week on Fridays on most PBS stations (check local listings) and this week they look at the economy:

The national economic disaster hit the city of Braddock Pennsylvania
like a wrecking ball. But Braddock Mayor John Fetterman -- dubbed
"America's Coolest Mayor" by The New York Times -- is taking very
unconventional approaches to reinventing the town and re-inspiring its
residents. Home to the nation's first A&P supermarket and Andrew
Carnegie's first steel mill, Braddock is being revitalized with new
youth and art programs, renovations of abandoned real estate, and bold
plans to attract artists and green industries.

On Friday, April 9 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW sits down with
Mayor Fetterman to learn how the 6'8" 370-pound political novice is
trying to turn his town around, and if other devastated communities can
and should follow his large footsteps.

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