I think you can see why the US military wanted to cover this one up:
Heroic. Hope they won a medal.
Now, obviously we don’t know the context. There’s possibly some magical context that makes this all perfectly understandable and okay. Maybe some insurgents in Baghdad had shot at a helicopter, and therefore people standing around in a group were undoubtedly insurgents who needed to be disintegrated from the air (rather than apprehended). How was the military to know that the people they were massacring were just ordinary people not doing anything, apart from the fact that they were standing there not doing anything? How could they be sure – other than by actually going over on the ground where, say through binoculars, they could tell the difference between a camera and an AK47?
Also, were the rules of engagement seriously such that simply holding a gun – not pointing it at anyone, just holding it – gave them grounds to shoot someone? (I know that no-one had a gun, but even if they had.) Seems a bit hypocritical from a country so adamant about the “right to bear arms”.
It’s good to know that absolutely no-one was punished or reprimanded for this, and that there were no consequences whatsoever for the killing. Yet.
ELSEWHERE: Waiting for the triumphant Daily Telegraph post on this.
UPDATE: It must be pretty disturbing for those professional soldiers in Iraq who are there to maintain order and oversee the establishment of a stable “democratic” state to find that the military command would run “rules of engagement” that are so clearly unjust and indefensible and would rather protect the provocative and brutal actions of sociopathic yahoos than call them to account. Because you can’t keep this sort of thing secret, and when it eventually outs – it undermines every single Coalition member in Iraq.
UPDATE #2: The lead stories of our two major news sites:
News.com.au: US teen smashes own ipad:
The Age: more Tiger Woods crap.
UPDATE 11.15am: The Age now features it as its lead story, but makes some odd claims:
A gritty war video circulating on the Internet that shows U.S. troops firing repeatedly on a group of men — some of whom were unarmed — walking down a Baghdad street is authentic, a senior U.S. military official confirmed Monday.
“Some of whom” were unarmed? Weren’t they all unarmed?
In this particular incident, soldiers flying attack helicopters were called in to assist ground troops who had been pinned down by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.
According to U.S. officials, the pilots arrived at the scene to find a group of men approaching the fight with what looked to be AK-47s slung over their shoulders and at least one rocket-propelled grenade.
They were told there were no Coalition forces in the area. If they were called in to assist ground troops “pinned down” then surely they should be shooting at where the ground troops are being attacked from. These guys were not in a battle at all.
As for the last line-
The video is “graphic evidence of the dangers involved in war journalism and the tragedies that can result,” said David Schlesinger, editor-in-chief of Reuters news.
It’s graphic evidence of a lot more than that, David.
ALSO: Now on ABC News. Still nothing on news.com.au.
UPDATE #3: News.com.au has now covered it, repeating the AP line regarding the group – “some of whom were unarmed”. Well, the military says they were. But it said that when it was assuming no-one would be watching the video.
In any case, even if some members of the group were armed, so what? This is bloody Baghdad. Carrying a gun doesn’t make someone an “insurgent” unless they’re pointing it at Coalition troops. Which these men certainly weren’t when the Apache opened fire.
UPDATE #4: Wikileaks releases more details.
And check out this photo from Saeed’s funeral:
Seriously, how oppressive would it be having those things hovering above, never knowing when they were going to decide you were some kind of a “threat” that needed to be eliminated? How much confidence could an Iraqi have walking down the street with an Apache overhead? And we wonder why the insurgents might have so many willing volunteers wanting to try to fight back.
UPDATE #5: Slacktivist attempts to remind the apologists of the central principle that they seem to be missing – You’re Not Allowed To Kill Civilians.
And Stilgherrian points out how this incident highlights the importance of the sorts of civil liberties the internet filter (which tried to block Wikileaks) would take away.
UPDATE #6 (9/4): News Ltd’s two most prolific defenders of the Iraq adventure finally end their four day silences on the subject, finding the courage to mention it now that ideological allies have attempted to “rebut” the concerns raised by the video.
The rebuttals are as flimsy as you’d expect, relying on the fact that the main Wikileaks version does not include everything shot from the helicopter, and there’s a longer version out there. On Wikileaks, but they don’t mention that. The longer version doesn’t in any way justify the shooting, but you’ll only realise that if you take the time to watch it, which they’re relying on you not doing. The Fox News “report” on which both Australians rely presents its watchers with a cynically edited and censored version, leaving out the most damning parts, and with a commentator working hard to muddy the waters. (Apparently if the military – the same military that tried to hide the video – gave its soldiers permission the slaughter the group, then that makes it fine!) The whole thing is handily packaged for those pro-war chickenhawks who just want to convince themselves that it’s all lefty propaganda that can be ignored.
ELSEWHERE: Now that its secret is out, the US military decides to release some of its documents. Check the date each was uploaded. Thank God for Wikileaks, eh?
UPDATE #7 (10/4): A veteran of the company involved in the incident, has spoken out (thanks to LGWS for the link):
Josh Stieber, who is a former soldier of the “Collateral Murder” Company, says that the acts of brutality caught on film and recently released via Wikileaks are not isolated instances, but were commonplace during his tour of duty.
“A lot of my friends are in that video,” says Stieber. “After watching the video, I would definitely say that that is, nine times out of ten, the way things ended up. Killing was following military protocol. It was going along with the rules as they are… If these videos shock and revolt you, they show the reality of what war is like. If you don’t like what you see in them, it means we should be working harder towards alternatives to war.”
Exactly. Although I think what hits hardest about this video is that there are very obvious and reasonable alternatives to each of the incidents of killing, but they’re ignored in favour of it being much easier just to kill the Iraqis, as if their lives have no value whatsoever. That’s what the rules say, so that’s what the soldiers do.
Of course, we could change those “rules” so they closer matched our rhetoric.
UPDATE #8: Having decided that the people killed were “terrorists” (evidence, please) and were “in the middle of a firefight” (which the video clearly contradicts), Andrew Bolt demands that Fairfax publish a correction. I expect they’ll wait for an occasion where they’re actually wrong.
I doubt very much we’ll see a correction from Bolt for his garbage misrepresentations of the incident.