It’s their own fault for being in Baghdad and not being Coalition soldiers

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.

(Via MGK).

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.

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40 responses to “It’s their own fault for being in Baghdad and not being Coalition soldiers

  1. This is a website set up specifically irt the massacre:

    http://www.collateralmurder.com/

    And just for some background, here is a Reuters article written a year after the event and the first attempt by Reuters to get FOI information about the deaths. Its interesting for the attitude of the US mil to non embeddd journos. (predicions that more will be killed, and this is 2 years before Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh were murdrered.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSL05399965

    And here’s a report from the NY Times about the incident that was made the day after they were killed.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/12/world/middleeast/12cnd-iraq.html?_r=1

    And a quote from the report:

    “Clashes in a southeastern neighborhood here between the American military and Shiite militias left at least 16 people dead on Thursday, including two Reuters journalists who had come to the area to cover the turbulence, according to an official at the Interior Ministry. ”

    – NYT

    It appears the only Shi’ite militia in the area were the reuters journos. Tho one of the other people did have something that could have been mistaken for an rpg or a rifle, or a shovel for that matter. (My first thought was whats he doing there with a shovel, but given the debris around I guess its not that unusual.)

  2. Weird. I’d’ve thought there’d have been more discussion about this.

  3. Perhaps most of us find it too appalling to discuss.

  4. I suppose… but given that the US military has done its damnedest to bury the thing, and given that the US media are busy doing everything they can to ignore it, and given that nothing will change without public outrage – it’s important to make noise about it.

  5. Wikileaks is on the website blacklist to be banned when the filter is implemented.

    …after all, we really need to be protected from this subversive content.

  6. theres nothing to discuss, its business as usual in the rape of babylon…

    the media ignores lots of things they can’t put spin..(active thermitic material in dust, anyone?)

  7. Pingback: The worst thing I’ve ever heard Jon Stewart say « An Onymous Lefty

  8. Aussie Unionist

    “Wikileaks is on the website blacklist to be banned when the filter is implemented.”

    That is truly frightening.

  9. Well, it did look like a few of them were armed to me, but I couldn’t tell for sure. The “RPG” aimed at the helicopter was pretty clearly a camera though.

  10. If they were armed what was their strategy?

    The “Hang out in the open in a small tight group to be shot at easily” strategy?

  11. The people that called that situation as armed men threatening their helicopter were either lying or not fit to be doing the job.

    I dunno what level of stress or fatigue the crew of US helicopters are under, but that’d contribute to their inability to correctly perceive what was in front of them.

    That’s being generous tho I reckon.

    Cos ever since the invasion of Afghanistan there have been case after case of brutality and stupidity. This shit didn’t happen in isolation, as a one off. The US army has killed more than those two journos in Iraq, countless civillians, dropped white phosphorus on Fallujia shot their allies, bombed civillians with robots etc etc etc

    Then there’s the looting of Baghdad, the increase in sex work especially among underage people as a result of the wars, the increase in heroin traffic, including the recent decision by NATO to reject Russia’a call to really crack down on opium production.

    blah blah blah.

    And wikileaks … they deserve some credit. They have been under a bit of duress over the last few months, probably in relation to this story. There have been claims of surveillance and harassment by some of their staff wrt an upcoming release of information about US killing of civilians. Unless they have more nastier stuff, thats probably this story.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/3/26/851032/-Wikileaks-Releases-Statement-After-U.S.-Intel-Detains-Editor

  12. Meanwhile, in the other theatre, similar incidents are painstakingly covered up.

  13. allmynamesaregone

    ***I am actually RobJ… ‘ onest:

    ““Wikileaks is on the website blacklist to be banned when the filter is implemented.””

    This is a worry, I can’t stand Rudd’s ALP, they’re a disgrace.

    “Weird. I’dve thought there’d have been more discussion about this.”

    I guess after nearly a decade of the WoT we’re a little desensitised, the killing of civilians and the resultant cover ups are to be expected, that the US have their own RoE’s because lot’s of what they do is against the Geneva Conventions comes as no surprise. Unfortunately the US can do what the fuck they like and our leaders will remain sycophants.

    Sad? Yep! I feel the same way when nobody seems interested in the Israel Palestine thing, only GavinM ever engages me (well Iain Hall does sometimes)

  14. At least 2 in the group appeared to me to be carrying AK47’s, but I guess in a place like Baghdad at the moment that wouldn’t be unusual, and doesn’t necessarily mean they were intending to use them against Americans — that’s the problem with fighting a civil insurgency, it’s often next to impossible to tell friend from foe.

    The other problem here is within the US forces themselves — many of the personnel are drawn from National Guard units, (including helicopter crews), they aren’t professional soldiers, they have only rudimentary training and of course they have no combat experience prior to deployment to Iraq.

    How are soldiers such as these expected to cope with the demands of urban warfare against an enemy that is not readily identifiable — it’s a recipe for disaster and we see the results in videos like the one above.

  15. I’ve seen unconfirmed reports that there were two with AK47s, who were guards for the journalists.

    In any case, I’m fairly sure merely carrying a gun is not a crime in Iraq.

    And as for the slaughtering of the rescuers…

    I only half blame the soldiers for the above. The dodgy rules of engagement and complete disregard for life by the higher-ups who set the scene for the disaster and then instructed them to proceed are the main problem: nonetheless, “just following orders” isn’t an excuse, either.

    These soldiers should be dishonourably discharged and sent home. Those who authorised the attack with no belief it was necessary for self-defence, should be punished. And the RoEs should be changed.

  16. allmynamesaregone

    “that’s the problem with fighting a civil insurgency”

    ….in an aggressive war of choice, ie we’re the invaders, we invaded on bogus evidence, it’s our job to fix Iraq. You know prior to the invasion it would have been the most secular, educated and least sexist of the nations in the region… What a clusterfuck.

    “The other problem here is within the US forces themselves — many of the personnel are drawn from National Guard units,”

    War of choice, our problem, even though it’s the Iraqi civilians that pay the price for our mistakes.

    “How are soldiers such as these expected to cope with the demands of urban warfare against an enemy that is not readily identifiable — it’s a recipe for disaster and we see the results in videos like the one above.”

    My main beef is with the cover up.

  17. Just checking that my screen name change worked.

  18. Rob

    I’m not sure what your point is in continually saying this is a “war of choice”, ultimately all wars are — seems an irrelevant statement to me.

    My point is that stuff-ups like this occur when you put insufficiently trained and experienced people into combat situations.

    I’m not sure what the RoE’s are in Iraq but it would seem that they are either too lax or perhaps were ignored in this case — either way this particular incident should be investigated and processes need to be put in place to minimise the chances of similar incidents happening again, (although it is a fantasy to believe that occurrences such as this can be entirely eliminated).

    Merely stating that the war was “our choice” and “our problem” certainly doesn’t add anything to the discussion.

    “You know prior to the invasion it would have been the most secular, educated and least sexist of the nations in the region”

    Yes, I’m sure that was a great comfort to the Kurds and marsh Arabs who were massacred in genocidal campaigns over a number of years and the many other people who were tortured and murdered under the Hussein regime.

  19. Seriously, if there were Apache helicopters flying overhead every day and one had slaughtered some of your family members, or a close friend… I suspect not all of the “insurgents” who’d want to point an RPG at one are motivated by psychotic religion.

  20. “Rob

    I’m not sure what your point is in continually saying this is a “war of choice”, ultimately all wars are — seems an irrelevant statement to me.”

    We were the aggressors, we invaded, by our own metric we are the baddies.

    [Merely stating that the war was “our choice” and “our problem” certainly doesn’t add anything to the discussion. ]

    It’s a fact, people like to forget, I like to remind them 🙂

    [Yes, I’m sure that was a great comfort to the Kurds and marsh Arabs who were massacred in genocidal campaigns over a number of years and the many other people who were tortured and murdered under the Hussein regime.]

    Gavin, you forgot to mention the Iranians who were gassed, you know the crimes he didn’t answer for in his trial, why? (because the US/UK etc would have been implicated).

    How come we didn’t give a fuck about the Marsh Arabs, Kurds or Iranians when he was our ally? Or for that matter why haven’t we invaded Turkey? They’ve killed more Kurds?

    We didn’t invade Iraq because of his murderous ways, we were fine with that, in fact we assisted him when he was committing war crimes against Iranians, why do you bring it up? These weren’t the stated reasons for the invasion, it was all about a mushroom cloud being a smoking gun.

  21. “Seriously, if there were Apache helicopters flying overhead every day and one had slaughtered some of your family members, or a close friend… I suspect not all of the “insurgents” who’d want to point an RPG at one are motivated by psychotic religion.”

    I would agree Jeremy, I don’t see anyone here saying otherwise.

  22. Sorry about the square brackets – hope it’s not too hard to read..

  23. Rob,

    “We were the aggressors, we invaded, by our own metric we are the baddies.”

    So you think every invading force are the bad guys ? Interesting perspective.

    I didn’t forget the Iranians nor the fact that we had armed him — I was talking about his crimes against his own people, in answer to your statement about how socially advanced Iraq was compared to other countries in the region — you’ll note I also didn’t mention Kuwait.

    All of which is irrelevant to the topic of this post.

  24. Almost missed this gem..

    “We didn’t invade Iraq because of his murderous ways, we were fine with that, in fact we assisted him when he was committing war crimes against Iranians, why do you bring it up?”

    I didn’t bring it up — what I did was illustrate that not everyone living there benefitted from this “most secular, educated and least sexist of the nations in the region”.

  25. “So you think every invading force are the bad guys ? Interesting perspective.”

    Damn right, considering the invasion of Iraq, the smashing of the physical and non-physical infrastructure was the wrong thing to do, the architects of this war (Woflfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney & Bremner) DID NOT have the interests of the Iraqi civilians in mind, if they did there would have been post invasion planning, there wasn’t, it was a total clusterfuck.

    “in answer to your statement about how socially advanced Iraq was compared”

    Fact remains that it is now a non-secular nation riddled with terrorists. That’s hardly a step forward.

    “All of which is irrelevant to the topic of this post.”

    It isn’t irrelevant, the problems in Iraq today are a direct consequence of our actions, this slaying of the journos and civilians and the resultant cover-up did not occur in a vacuum.

  26. “I didn’t bring it up — what I did was illustrate that not everyone living there benefitted from this “most secular, educated and least sexist of the nations in the region”.”
    I brought it up because Many many Iraqis are suffering as a direct consequence of our actions.

    Hundreds of thousands died, according to the Lancet it was something like 640 000 of course our govts and media (and wingnuts) reject this figure even though they don’t dispute the figures from the Balkans and Rwanda (which used the EXACT same methodology) yet they can’t provide a better figure?

  27. You didn’t answer the question Rob,

    I said — “So you think every invading force are the bad guys ?”

    Exactly whose metric is it that says every invading force is necessarily the “baddies” ?

  28. “I brought it up because Many many Iraqis are suffering as a direct consequence of our actions.”

    No-one here is disputing this — once again its irrelevant to this post, which is about the deliberate gunning down of a group of seemingly innocent civilians — unless you are suggesting that all 640000 Iraqis who have died were deliberately killed by coalition forces.

  29. Sorry Gavin, I misread, in this instance we invaded the nation on the basis of lies, smashed the fuck out of everything, killed hundreds of thousands, yep, I reckon we are the bad guys (in this war – what did Iraq do to us again?)

    We weren’t the bad guys when we invaded Europe in the forties, well we weren’t as bad as the Nazis we were chasing.

    “Exactly whose metric is it that says every invading force is necessarily the “baddies” ?”

    Like I say I misread, do you maintain that we’re the goodies in this one, does every conflict have the goodies versus the baddies? I don’t think so.

  30. Shamelessly lifted from another place:

    “The video really shows how ill-equipped our military is for the mission they were given. The Apache was originally designed to kill and suppress Soviet tank columns. Hence, the “lightest” weapon on-board of that craft was a 30mm auto-cannon firing explosive shell that has splash damage measured in meters. It is completely ill-suited for providing overwatch in urban area while maintaining minimal civilian casualty.”

  31. “once again its irrelevant to this post,”

    Errr so why do you keep responding? I say it is relevant. This whole mess is of our making.

  32. “Like I say I misread, do you maintain that we’re the goodies in this one, does every conflict have the goodies versus the baddies? I don’t think so.”

    I’ve never said we were the “goodies” in this, in fact I’ve often stated that we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq at that time or for the reasons given. (Having said that, you won’t find me crying over Hussein’s demise).

    I’ve also never said every (or for that matter any), conflict is a case of goodies v’s baddies — far too many shades of grey for that in war.

    And yes, that description of the equipment being used is telling — couple it with inexperienced and/or inadequately trained personnel and you know what will happen every time…

  33. “And yes, that description of the equipment being used is telling — couple it with inexperienced and/or inadequately trained personnel and you know what will happen every time…”

    Yeah, I think we’re mostly agreeing on this Gavin but….you know me 😀

  34. I think we are too Rob — always fun to have a discussiom 🙂

  35. Oops discussion* — would help if I could type and spell at the same time 😛

  36. Link in support of my earlier comment re wikileaks on the filter blacklist. Took me a while to recall where I’d seen it.

    http://www.theage.com.au/news/home/technology/banned-hyperlinks-could-cost-you-11000-a-day/2009/03/17/1237054787635.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1&page=-1/

  37. Pingback: Do soldiers need to laugh at killing? « An Onymous Lefty

  38. Slightly OT, but it’s worth noting that Wikileaks is likely to be blocked in the UK after the digital economy bill was pushed through parliament without scrutiny. By a staggering coincidence, it is also likely to be on Conroy’s (Fielding’s?) blacklist here. Obviously, this is the kind of unfiltered information we all need to be protected from…

  39. Pingback: “If we accidentally shot a civilian, we could just toss the weapon on the body, and make them look like an insurgent.” « An Onymous Lefty

  40. Pingback: Leakers protected by pirates | An Onymous Lefty

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