FOR TWO years, Reuters sought to obtain the video of the shootings in Iraq through Freedom of Information Act requests--in order to learn the circumstances that led to the killing of reporters Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. But the Pentagon claims that it can't find its own copy of the video.
"There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force," Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a U.S. military spokesperson, told the New York Times about the incident at the time.
But the video clearly shows that until the Apache opened fire, there was no combat--at all. At most, the military could assert that two of the men present (but not the Reuters reporters) do appear to be carrying weapons. But that's hardly unusual in occupied Iraq. Practically every Iraqi household has a weapon as a matter of basic security.
The video shows U.S. troops circling in a helicopter and focusing on a group of about 10 men, certain that the cameras slung over the reporters' shoulders are AK-47s and a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher. "Fucking prick," one soldier says of the men with the camera.
After obtaining permission from commanding officers, one of the soldiers exclaims, "Light 'em all up," and the men are cut to pieces with a burst from the helicopter's 30mm machine gun. On the video, they disappear in a cloud of dust and smoke. "Look at those dead bastards," one pilot says. "Nice," responds another.
The helicopter continues to circle, watching as a van arrives, and a man jumps out to help the injured Chmagh to safety. One soldier remarks that the man from the van looks to be "picking up the wounded." But a few moments later, the troops again request--and receive--permission to open fire.
The above is from Eric Ruder's "A massacre caught on video" (US Socialist Worker). He's writing (wrote last Friday) about WikiLeaks releasing US military video of the July 12, 2007 assault in Baghdad. Also writing of the assault is Dahr Jamail in "Reflecting the reality of war:"
As disturbing as the video is, this type of behavior by U.S. soldiers in Iraq is not uncommon. Truthout has spoken with several soldiers who shared equally horrific stories of the slaughtering of innocent Iraqis by U.S. occupation forces.
"I remember one woman walking by," said Jason Washburn, a corporal in the U.S. Marines who served three tours in Iraq.
He told the audience at the Winter Soldier hearings that took place March 13-16, 2008, in Silver Spring, Md., "She was carrying a huge bag, and she looked like she was heading toward us, so we lit her up with the Mark 19, which is an automatic grenade launcher, and when the dust settled, we realized that the bag was full of groceries. She had been trying to bring us food, and we blew her to pieces."
The hearings provided a platform for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan to share the reality of their occupation experiences with the media in the U.S.
Washburn testified on a panel that discussed the rules of engagement (ROE) in Iraq, and how lax they were, to the point of being virtually nonexistent.
Jason Washburn was among those testifying March 14th:
Hart Viges spoke of his time serving in Iraq and how he would go on round-ups and think the guilty and innocent were sorted quickly. Only later did he find out that "people being detained are being detained for years -- their parents don't even know where they are." Jason Washburn discussed how you could shoot an Iraqi civilian and get away with it -- by his third tour he noticed that they were unofficially (wink-nod) allowed by the command to have shovels and "if we accidentally did kill a civilian we could just drop a shovel" which would indicate -- under the US military command's screwed up understanding -- that the person shot must have been digging a hole to plant a roadside bomb, in which case, the killing was a-okay. John Michael Turner began his testimony by tossing his dog tags to the audience (IVAW members were in the front rows, so they caught them and can return to them to him if he wants them back) declaring, "F.U. I don't work for you no more." He spoke of the damage done in Iraq and spoke so clearly that the damage the illegal war had done to him was audible. He declared, "I am sorry for the hate and destruction that I have inflicted on innocent people" and noted that "until people hear the truth about what is going on in this war, people will continue to die." That really is the point of the hearings and various witnesses made it very clear that they were not attacking those they had served with, that this was not about finger-pointing at US service members, this was about the policies in place and the orders being given by higher ups through the chain of command.
The Boston Globe takes the assault seriously, at least on the letters page where Nan Levinsonnan weighs in. Now I don't expect to see the press rushing forward with statements of guilt or whatever. Their attitude is wait and see. And that may be the attitude to have regarding the legalities of what's on that tape. However, do we really believe that, for example, the Boston Globe's editorial board confines itself to the legalities?
No. It has come out (strongly) against many things that are legal.
There's no reason that it can't come out against the killings of innocent people. No reason other than they don't want to. Why? Who knows? Working it for the clampdown? Maybe.
But civilians are slaughtered on that tape.
You do not need to condemn the actions of those in the Apache helicopter in order to express dismay and grief over the loss of lives.
There's a cowardice sweeping the editorial boards of the nation's newspapers. The Los Angeles Times wrote a lengthy editorial for Monday's paper, for example, and it was the weakest and could never convey what needed to be said. Others, like the Kansas City Star, want you to accept various things that, so sorry, are not acceptable. Perpetual war is not acceptable. Wars of aggression are not acceptable.
And it's not acceptable that 12 people died. It may be understandable and people may wax philosophically but the reality is it is unacceptable. Completely unacceptable.
Robert Gates, US Secretary of Defense, says this was normal -- in his words and his actions. Okay then, that's all the more reason for an investigation. If this is normal behavior then something is seriously wrong.
There is nothing normal or acceptable about the assault. And you don't have to say, "F___ those soldiers!" or "Put 'em to death!" in order to grasp that. (I'm not stating that anyone has said that. I'm referring to the fact that some editorial boards feel that's the alternative to the current silence. Or that that's the perceived alternative.)
I have stated that, my opinion, they got permission for everything they did. I firmly believe there is fault but I believe that fault is above those in the Apache helicopters. They got permission. They were in constant radio contact. They followed their training. They aren't the ones that need to be answering. It's those trusted with command, those trusted with leadership that need to be answering. And that's why an investigation is needed.
And you damn well better believe that if this could be put off on 'a few bad apples,' the miltiary would have already launched that investigation.
It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)
Last Thursday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4390. Tonight? 4390.
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i hate the war