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Apr 6, 2010

US Army “video game” killings tape goes viral

Internet outrage is growing after website Wikileaks exposed a ‘decrypted’ video from a US Apache helicopter that appears to show US forces in Iraq killing at least 11 unarmed civilians in 2007, reports Harley Dennett.

Whistleblower website Wikileaks.org has released ‘decrypted’ video from a US Apache helicopter that appeared to show US forces in Iraq firing upon and killing at least 11 unarmed civilians who stopped to inspect an injured insurgent in 2007. Two children, not visible in the video, were also injured.

Now uploaded to YouTube, the video’s audio includes: “Is that an RPG [Rocket Propelled Grenade]?”; “All right, we got a guy with an RPG”; “I’m gonna fire”; “Let me know when you’ve got them all”.

Then later: “Roger, I’ve got uh 11 Iraqi KIAs [Killed In Action]. One small child wounded. Over”; “Roger. Ah damn. Oh well”’; “Roger, we need, we need a uh to evac [evacuate] this child. Ah, she’s got a uh, she’s got a wound to the belly”; “Well it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.”

The US has not changed its rules of engagement since the attack. No Australian troops were involved.

Two Reuters employees, 22-year-old photojournalist Namir Noor-Eldeen and 40-year-old driver Saeed Chmagh, were among those killed. The video appears to show individuals carrying a camera and tripod. The video shows one of the media men injured and attempting to crawl away when a voice says: “All you gotta do is pick up a weapon.”

The Pentagon at first denied US forces were responsible for the deaths of the two Reuters employees, and repeatedly denied the media agency’s requests for access to the video.

Now, it seems, it will take action. Brandon Friedman, Director of New Media with the US Department of Veterans Affairs, tweeted: “Just to be clear about the #wikileaks video: The guy who decided to fire on the van should be facing a court martial.”

Crikey attended a press conference in DC early this morning Australian time, where Wikileaks spokesman Julian Assange explained the video was leaked by an individual within the US Armed Services and corroborated by several others over a period of several months.

“The behavior of the pilots is like they’re playing a video game. It’s like they want to get high-scores in that computer game,” Assange said. But the leak of the video “sends a message within the US military that do not like what is going on”. “There are good people there.”

Wikileaks created a website at collateralmurder.com with additional information about the events, including Reuters’ failed Freedom of Information requests.

The release today was not unanticipated. Wikileaks announced last month via its Twitter account that it decrypted US military video of civilians and journalists being killed. It also claimed its employees have been subject to surveillance and intimidation by US and Icelandic officials for months, including an ambush by a “James Bond character in a Luxemburg car park”. The Icelandic government denied involvement, but the US has said nothing. A 32-page US counter-intelligence report from 2008 later appeared on Wikileaks describing risks the site poses to US security and describing ways to uncover its sources. Nonetheless, last week Wikileaks asked the CIA to stop spying on it.

In response to today’s Wikileaks press conference, the Pentagon released a statement that it was aware of the footage and that it appeared to relate to a previously investigated incident in 2007, but did not confirm its authenticity. Reuters appeared to need no further confirmation, releasing a statement in the name of editor-in-chief David Schlesinger:

“The deaths of Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh three years ago were tragic and emblematic of the extreme dangers that exist in covering war zones. We continue to work for journalist safety and call on all involved parties to recognise the important work that journalists do and the extreme danger that photographers and video journalists face in particular. The video released today via Wikileaks is graphic evidence of the dangers involved in war journalism and the tragedies that can result.”

The US media did not respond at all in the hours after the announcement this morning. More than a dozen journalists from US media outlets attended the press conference, but it was Al Jazeera who first aired the footage, followed by the Huffington Post, The Guardian and then the BBC.

High interest on social media websites, including Twitter and reddit.com, and it’s accessibility via embeddable YouTube meant the story continued to spread on new media even without involvement of mainstream US media. The main story of the day was live coverage of Tiger Woods’ press conference at Augusta.

Seven hours after the release, MSNBC was the first US network to air ‘breaking news’ of the footage, a segment that quickly returned to coverage of domestic political matters.

More than half of Americans still use television as their only source of news according to the Pew Research Center.

At time of writing, many US news websites have picked up wire accounts of the video, but no other news network has aired the footage or mentioned its existence on air.

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26 comments

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26 thoughts on “US Army “video game” killings tape goes viral

  1. Greg Angelo

    I have just spent 17 minutes watching this absolutely revolting demonstration of the misuse of military power by the United States. Normally my sympathy is with the US, but in this case there is no justification whatsoever for machine-gunning unarmed people including children trapped in the car whilst adults were trying to help a wounded man. This is the sort of disgusting behaviour that was attributed to the Nazis in World War II, and subsequently the communists in the Cold War.

    If this is an example of what we are fighting for Iraq and Afghanistan God help us. The dispassionate misuse of power by a trigger happy idiots, and the laughter when one of the tracked vehicles ran over the body of one of the victims makes me want to vomit!

    What is worse is the facile comments made by military commanders in relation to these gross misuse of power is reminiscent of the body count bullshit which we had to endure in the Vietnam were by definition if you were killed by American you are a Vietcong without any consideration of evidence. TheUgly American is truly alive and well!

    If I was an Iraqi, my inclination would be to take revenge on Americans for their racist and callous lack of consideration consideration for the lives of others. If there is any justice the troops concerned should appear before a war crimes tribunal. Based on what is self-evident in the video there is no and I repeat absolutely no justification for the brutality displayed. These trigger-happy idiots and the equally incompetent military controllers should face independent justice.

  2. Sancho

    I’m already arguing about this on Little Green Footballs, so if anyone would like to lob in and claim that it’s okay for the US to murder civilians because the Islamists do it so much worse, I’ve got a steaming tub of copypasta ready to go.

  3. Richard Wilson

    You need to know something about Wikileaks.
    In January 2007, John Young who runs http://www.cryptome.org, a site that publishes a wealth of sensitive and classified information, left Wikileaks, claiming the operation was a CIA front. Young also published some 150 email messages sent by Wikileaks activists on cryptome.

    There is quite a bit of “mail” coming out of Asia and Russia about Wikileaks as a CIA co-intel operation so perhaps be a little cautious about motives behind some of the stuff you are getting upset about. It may be true but you need to question the possible purpose for its “leaking”.

    Check it out for yourself and make your own decision…

    BTW Here is the full uncut version of the Collateral Damage Apache movie from cryptome.org – no tricked up commentary here – just the footage and voices.
    It’s about 39 minutes but you get the full story (requires sign-in):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is9sxRfU-ik&aia=true

  4. Marcus Giles

    The cavalier attitude and vocally expressed joy in the gunning down of the obviously relaxed targets was the most disturbing thing for me.

    These guys didn’t know what they were looking at and should not have opened fired or even requested it.

    I want to know why the ABC didn’t so much as mention this video on the radio this morning…? Too busy opening their canned news to look and see what going on in the real time world of news?

  5. juzzy

    It’s disturbing and it’s tragic, and it happens all the time.

    One thing I find particularly interesting is that (according to this article at least – I’m at work and don’t have time to peruse every news channel in the US) the MSM aren’t running it, merely referring to its existence.
    This is the Media that was happy to be “embedded”, and therefore censored, from the start of the Iraq invasion.
    Worth noting that the one US media outlet that sued for reporters in Iraq to be able to actually report, not just rehash the military’s press releases, was Larry Flynt’s Hustler. Just sayin.
    Makes me wonder how many journalists had seen it and elected not to report on it, and makes me glad of the existence of Wikileaks and the internets in general.

  6. johana

    Thankfully, we here in Australia will shortly be shielded from being exposed to such horrible footage from sites such as wikileaks, which will almost certainly make the government’s ISP filter list.
    Lucky us. /sarcasm

  7. Sancho

    You need to know something about Wikileaks.

    Why would a CIA front leak something that tarnishes the US military?

  8. Bob the builder

    Given the CIA has been trying to discredit wikileaks (largely unsuccessfully) it would make sense for them to spread rumours about wikileaks being run by them. If they really wanted to leak stuff, there’s many more avenues than wikileaks. I’m happy to have an open mind about this, but given the abundant evidence about the undue influence of vested interests on much of the media, I think I know where I’ll direct my energies.

  9. Elan

    Agreed BtB. When I read Richard Wilson’s post, the first thing that occurred to me, was that this was a perfect way to discredit Wikileaks.

    Intelligence services have repeatedly used this tactic, and will continue to do so. The CIA is notorious for disinformation.

    I have c/p’d my post from an unrelated thread. I had put this up there, as an example:

    ………………… and very graphic video of a slaughter of innocent Iraqi’s by a bloody US gunship,- the gunner being congratulated on his shooting-the pilot calling the slaughter ‘nice’. …and the horror of watching the gunship closing in on a journalist who was very badly wounded desperately crawling to try to save his life. There were two journalists. Both carrying camera equipment which were taken for: I quote the curséd pilot “AK 47’s”.

    The Pentagon justified this 2007 murder.

    Someone had a conscience. The footage IS from the gunship. We see what they see. We hear the aircrew talking.

    And we see people simply walking down the street. They do not run. They do not hide. They were innocent, and thus felt no threat or fear when they heard the gunship.

    WE could see this clearly. That aircrew saw it too, and yet…

    Their innocent victims were sitting ducks.
    __________________

    And of course, this is something that we have been made aware of. There is allegedly MUCH more of this type of behaviour.

    The chilling thing about such behaviour is that they saw this as sanctioned. They knew they could get away with it.

  10. Bob the builder

    Yes, clearly the people on the ground didn’t feel in danger or that they were doing anything that would make them a target of attack. In the longer, unedited version (http://www.youtube.com/user/sunshinepress#p/a/u/1/is9sxRfU-ik) you can see a later missile attack on a building and it goes ahead even though a civilian is casually walking past (and is presumably killed instantly).
    The utter bored, routine nature of the discussions and procedures would suggest that this sort of action is very much the norm. A quick laugh about running over one of the bodies in a tank and discussion moves on.
    Of course the odd western reporter like Robert Fisk has for years told us this, but for the most part the meedja is happy to keep to their script.
    Interesting point too about mainstream US news websites not picking up on this for ages; there’s also not a great deal of coverage on Australia media websites. And they wonder why they’re losing readers – it’s not because their primary platform is paper, it’s because their content is self-censored shit. People who care about news will pay for good news, people who don’t care about news won’t pay for shit news, they’ll either get it free or read something else.