Stark War Video Ignites Fierce Debate on Military's Integrity

Critics accuse military of cover-up while supporters claim video is taken out of context

By Tamer El-Ghobashy
|  Tuesday, Apr 6, 2010  |  Updated 3:17 PM PDT
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Stark War Video Ignites Fierce Debate on Military's Integrity

www.collateralmurder.com

This image taken from the video released Monday shows men trying to take cover on a Baghdad street on July 12, 2007, shortly after they were fired upon.

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Americans were shown some of the most jarring and stark images of the war in Iraq on Monday when a video was released showing an attack on a group of men in Baghdad from an Apache helicopter piloted by U.S. troops.

The attack, which took place on July 12, 2007, resulted in the deaths of Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, his driver Saeed Chmagh and several other men. Two children were also injured. Reuters' requests for the footage was ignored by the Pentagon.

The raw video was finally obtained and distributed under the title "Collateral Murder" by WikiLeaks, a non-profit whistle-blowing group that also accused the military of covering up the incident. The military confirmed the authenticity of the footage but had no comment on its release.

Other observers reacted strongly to the imagery and the language used by the gunship's personnel.

  • Salon's Glenn Greenwald called the footage "truly gruesome and difficult even for the most hardened person to watch, but it should be viewed by everyone with responsibility for what the U.S. has done in Iraq and Afghanistan (i.e., every American citizen)." He decried the violence and said "the videotape demonstrates that military officials made outright false statements about what happened here and were clearly engaged in a cover-up."
     
  • The Daily Kos' mcjoan agreed that the disparity between the Pentagon's version of events from 2007 and the video footage indicated a cover-up. "Winning hearts and minds in the rest of the world, but particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, is all but impossible when these atrocities -- and the subsequent cover up of them -- are inevitably revealed. Keeping the hearts and minds of Americans will prove to be just as difficult when these stories come to light."
     
  • Gawker's John Cook found the video "chilling, not least because the pilots' radio chatter is plainly bloodthirsty -- they are eager to fire, and delighted to kill." He described it as "evidence of cruelty and carelessness. But not murder." Cook concludes that "it speaks more to the inherent dangers of initiating wars, and covering them, than of the specific behavior of U.S. personnel on that particular day."
     
  • The Weekly Standard's Bill Roggio presented a six-point defense of the actions taken by the soldiers in the video and suggested that WikiLeaks was deliberately distorting the facts of the case. "Baghdad in July 2007 was a very violent place, and the neighborhoods of Sadr City and New Baghdad were breeding grounds for the Mahdi Army and associated Iranian-backed Shia terror groups. The city was a war zone. To describe the attack you see in the video as 'murder' is a sensationalist gimmick that succeeded in driving tons of media attention and traffic to their website," he wrote.


 

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