As promised, WikiLeaks has released video footage today showing a group of Iraqis fired upon by a US Military Apache Helicopter. The Iraqis were suspected of being armed with AK-47’s and RPG’s, so the Apache was cleared to engage. Unfortunately, among the group were two Reuters journalists who were both killed. After the first wave of shootings, a van pulls up to try and help the wounded still in the street. The van is then engaged by the Apache and several more are killed. Two children who were riding in the van were injured. When US ground soldiers arrived, they immediately rushed the children to a hospital.
Here is the video, which has been authenticated and is extremely graphic:
The video is readily available all over the internet and is stirring up emotions everywhere. Every time innocents are killed or injured, I weep for their families. This situation was a devastating tragedy and a mistake made by our military. We can never make up for our mistakes like these, which is why our military goes to great lengths to prevent them. I want to extend my personal condolences to the families that lost loved ones in this tragedy, your losses have not gone unnoticed.
Every blog and news site tries to paint the soldiers in this video as bloodthirsty teens reveling in their killings. After viewing the video myself, all I can see is trained, mature soldiers carrying out orders and acting appropriately in the situation. They follow military protocols closely and did not engage until they were cleared to. I will not stomach an outlash against the US military over these actions.
After watching the cleverly edited video, which works to show the non-threatening nature of the Iraqis by highlighting relevant portions of the video, most commentators have concluded that the soldiers should have easily seen that some of the ‘weapons’ were actually cameras carried by the Reuters journalists and that the van was carrying children. However, I thought it was extremely difficult to make those observations in my civilian pass of the raw parts of the video. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to analyze the video in real-time and in an actual war-zone.
I knew that children were in the van before watching the video, but I still could not make them out until the edited part of the video specifically pointed them out. Rest assured, if the soldiers had known that children were riding in the van, they would not have fired. Our troops are not heartless murders, which is why they rushed the children to the hospital immediately upon finding them.
We have so detached ourselves as a society from the ground situations in both Iraq and Afganistan that we attack every mistake as ‘war crimes’ and ‘collateral murder’. What this video does not show is the surrounding situation and the actual mission of the Apache. We have no idea about the events leading up to this moment, or the ones following afterward. All we have is this small slice of reality that hides the deeper scope of the full situation. Before you cry out for vengeance on behalf of the innocents killed in this attack, realize that you do not have all the information required to make a fair, unbiased judgment.