Wikileaks obtained and decrypted this previously unreleased video footage from a US Apache helicopter in 2007.
It shows Reuters journalist Namir Noor-Eldeen, driver Saeed Chmagh, and several others as the Apache shoots and kills them in a public square in Eastern Baghdad. They are apparently assumed to be insurgents. After the initial shooting, an unarmed group of adults and children in a minivan arrives on the scene and attempts to transport the wounded. They are fired upon as well. The official statement on this incident initially listed all adults as insurgents and claimed the US military did not know how the deaths ocurred.
Wikileaks released this video with transcripts and a package of supporting documents on April 5th 2010 on http://collateralmurder.com
Dear Family of Peace
This open letter from a soldier, Josh Steiber, is very, very important for the world.
It is also important to us, the Family of Peace.
Bless Josh in your mind or write a letter or comment below expressing your gratitude, and continue our daily visualilzation of World Peace.
Ask our friends to join us, too.
I love you! yoko
An Open Letter of Reconciliation and Responsibility to the Iraqi People
From Current and Former Members of the U.S. Military
By Josh Stieber
Iraq veteran Josh Stieber was deployed to Baghdad with Bravo Company 2-16.
This article was written with Ethan McCord, who pulled injured children from van in Wikileaks ‘Collateral Murder’ video.
Courtesy of MichaelMoore.com
Peace be with you.
To all of those who were injured or lost loved ones during the July 2007 Baghdad shootings depicted in the “Collateral Murder” Wikileaks video:
We write to you, your family, and your community with awareness that our words and actions can never restore your losses.
We are both soldiers who occupied your neighborhood for 14 months. Ethan McCord pulled your daughter and son from the van, and when doing so, saw the faces of his own children back home. Josh Stieber was in the same company but was not there that day, though he contributed to the your pain, and the pain of your community on many other occasions.
There is no bringing back all that was lost. What we seek is to learn from our mistakes and do everything we can to tell others of our experiences and how the people of the United States need to realize what have done and are doing to you and the people of your country. We humbly ask you what we can do to begin to repair the damage we caused.
We have been speaking to whoever will listen, telling them that what was shown in the Wikileaks video only begins to depict the suffering we have created. From our own experiences, and the experiences of other veterans we have talked to, we know that the acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war: this is the nature of how U.S.-led wars are carried out in this region.
We acknowledge our part in the deaths and injuries of your loved ones as we tell Americans what we were trained to do and carried out in the name of “god and country”. The soldier in video said that your husband shouldn’t have brought your children to battle, but we are acknowledging our responsibility for bringing the battle to your neighborhood, and to your family. We did unto you what we would not want done to us.
More and more Americans are taking responsibility for what was done in our name. Though we have acted with cold hearts far too many times, we have not forgotten our actions towards you. Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny.
Our government may ignore you, concerned more with its public image. It has also ignored many veterans who have returned physically injured or mentally troubled by what they saw and did in your country. But the time is long overdue that we say that the value of our nation’s leaders no longer represent us. Our secretary of defense may say the U.S. won’t lose its reputation over this, but we stand and say that our reputation’s importance pales in comparison to our common humanity.
With such pain, friendship might be too much to ask. Please accept our apology, our sorrow, our care, and our dedication to change from the inside out. We are doing what we can to speak out against the wars and military policies responsible for what happened to you and your loved ones. Our hearts are open to hearing how we can take any steps to support you through the pain that we have caused.
Solemnly and Sincerely,
Josh Stieber, former specialist, U.S. Army
Ethan McCord, former specialist, U.S. Army
Sign the petition here.
Of War and Videos
by John Cory, Reader Supported News
It’s all the talk, the WikiLeaks video. And every web site with a comment section has a long list of opinions and verdicts. Righteously judged by all. Simple.
But it’s not that simple.
I know it. And you know it. We all know it and that should scare the hell out of us.
The questions fly. Is it the video-game attitudes of our troops? Don’t we need to support the troops? If you were getting shot at every day wouldn’t you do the same thing? Where do these kinds of soldiers come from?
They come from us.
We are the generations of war. We are the children of WWII. We are Vietnam vets with children who fought in Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom and sometimes serve with our sons and daughters in National Guard and Reserve units deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We have been raised on war.
We grew up playing war, strapping on canvas leggings, USMC web belts and maybe a helmet liner to go dig holes in the vacant field down the block and pretend we were landing at Guadalcanal or Normandy as we tossed dirt-clod grenades at one another.
It was the television age and we rushed home to watch Combat or The Rat Patrol. We bought ten-cent comic books like Sgt. Rock and Captain America, or Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos.
Hell, we spent Saturday afternoons at the movies: The Longest Day, The Great Escape, Bridge Over the River Kwai and Pork Chop Hill not to mention the TV broadcasts of every John Wayne war movie ever. And that doesn’t even count the Cavalry and Indian movies.
Long before computers – war was great entertainment.
Then we went to war. Not a real war but one of those undeclared wars – police action war – counterinsurgency-kind of war. Not a war where you stormed the beaches or took the high ground. No, this was a war where you humped around in circles and couldn’t tell the bad guys from the innocent civilians.
We didn’t like the war when it showed up on television and in Life Magazine. It was blood-awful. It was not dirt-clod grenades and home for supper. It was foul and disease-ridden and murderous. It became the Phoenix Program and My Lai and other atrocities.
America was appalled. Shocked. Deeply disturbed to discover there was unbridled violence occurring in war. Innocent people were dying. Shocked, I tell you.
A few “bad apples” were publicly held accountable. Justice served. Done.
And then we realized something had to be done to fix this mess. My God, what would happen in the future if they gave a war and no one showed up?
First step was to discredit the protesters as unpatriotic and the cause of us losing the war. Sell it to the media and report every made-up story of hippies spitting on returning soldiers and sex-crazed long-hairs destroying real America. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, just print it in the NY Times and people will believe it.
The next step was to end the draft. You need all-volunteer professional soldiers, not draftees. I mean, what the hell kind of war could you have with every Tom, Dick and Harry having to serve? Of course you have to screw up the economy a little bit so the only way people can afford college or technical training or housing is to join the military.
Now this last step was the really cool part. Take the new all-volunteer Army to war. We lost the Nam because we drafted hippies and spoiled college kids. Now the Army has real Americans. 1983 we invade Granada and win! 1989 we invade Panama and win! America is back, baby! America wins wars just like we used to!
Then came 1991. The Big Show. The 100-Hour War.
Movie stars came out to support the troops. Lee Greenwood sang his song. We marketed this war like a world premier adventure at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
And what a war it was! Smart bombs down airshafts and scud missiles. No innocent people being killed. Laser technology guided our wrath right down the throats of those evil bastards who deserved to die for their sins.
The heroes came home. They had parades and media and everybody had to learn the new cleansing mantra: “Thank you for your service.” Say it loud and say it proud to any and all in uniform. The hippies were dead and gone. Patriotism was back! Real patriotism. Not that un-American civilian patriotism. Our freedom came from soldiers, not a Declaration on a piece of paper but from God and soldiers.
In the movie, A Few Good Men, Col. Jessup explains it clearly: “Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns… You have the luxury of not knowing what I know… I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way.”
We have made a fetish of the military, a fetish of war. We have taken war beyond entertainment and imbued it with the very sanctity and soul of our freedom. No soldiers – no freedom. So just shut up and God bless America.
We are the generations of war. We are a militarized society. We are Spotlight Rangers and Sunshine Patriots. We hire professionals to handle the dirty work while we cheer them on.
We unburdened ourselves of the responsibility of citizenship and handed it over to the professionals. We took on the job of supporting the troops and keeping quiet. We wrapped patriotism up in camouflage paper and colorful ribbon and gave it to the soldiers for safekeeping while we went back to making a living and going to see Saving Private Ryan at the movies and rushing home to see Jack Bauer in the latest episode of 24.
But war has a way of coming home to roost. It rubs our face in blood and death and we gasp in shock. This is not what we expected or wanted. We wanted the old wars in black and white with good guys and bad guys and everything turns out okay. Not this.
How could this happen? Is it the video games of war? Is it a crime or just a bad day at the office of war? Where do these kinds of soldiers come from?
They come from us.
It is titled Collateral Murder.
The shock value is obvious with a backstory full of intrigue and shadows and denial and attempted cover-up and veiled threats.
WikiLeaks packaged the release of this video and prepped the audience so that it would achieve the most impact. It worked. It’s a love-hate reaction.
I have read a lot of indignation about the aircrew chatter on the video. Maybe I’ve been around war and military ops for too long but I’m not offended as much as others seem to be – at least not in the same way. If you spend any time around EMT and First Responders you will hear some pretty crass and cruel terms for the sick and injured. It is a coping mechanism when trauma is your life.
Let me ask you a question:
When you watched the video, did you see the woman and her child scurry away along the sidewalk by the shot up bongo van?
I saw them and I wondered where the hell they had been during the shooting? Were they huddled against a wall in one of those buildings? Had they taken a shortcut through an alley and ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time?
Now think of the words from the aircrew: “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.”
For that Iraqi woman and child, the city is their home, their neighborhood, their street to go to market or run errands or visit friends and family.
For the aircrew and the ground units – the city, the neighborhoods and streets are a battleground filled with hidden and sometimes subtle dangers around every corner.
One man’s battleground is another man’s home.
Was the black bongo the same van the radio chatter talked about having been seen earlier dropping off men and weapons in the area? Or was it just some guy driving by who simply tried to help? I don’t know and I don’t think anyone knows for sure. There was a lot of car traffic a few streets over, people trying to live their lives in the middle of a war zone. Is that where the van driver came from?
Were the children being used as human shields or were they just out with their father doing family errands?
There are Rules of Engagement (ROE) that outline dealing with the use of force and the difference between use of force and use of lethal force and what conditions must be met. On a factual basis, the situation in the video never met the conditions for use of lethal force. At least nothing in the video frames. But that’s just my opinion.
Men had weapons, yes. A man in a striped shirt had a Kalashnikov or Bulgarian SLR type rifle and the young guy next to him had an RPG. And another man walks up to them and points at the circling Apache and you can see them discreetly hide their weapons. In the full version, this all happens at the 2:08 minute mark and lasts about four seconds. Four seconds. Life and death in four seconds.
In a country or city where a much of the local population carries weapons, where neighborhoods have their own militia as protectors against local criminals and corrupt police or tribal conflicts – how do you know who is the enemy?
We have been down this road before.
You wind people up for a war and you’re bound to end up with a violent bloody mess. We know that. We have the history. We also have the answer.
Stop the war.
If you don’t want people judging what our troops do – stop the war.
If you don’t want to put soldiers on trial for crimes – stop the war.
If you don’t want another Collateral Murder video – stop the war.
Here’s the thing – every new war drags a piece of an old war along with it. Better dead than Red. The only good Indian is a dead Indian. It’s just a Gook. They’re not real people. Light ’em up and grease that Johnny-Jihad. Bring it on. Dead or alive.
War is the only drug addiction that is socially acceptable.
Abstinence only should be our war policy.
We need to face this now. The real crime here is if we turn away. Avoidance is an infection that spreads rapidly and kills us with the germs of denial. It infects us with a fever that blinds our eyes and minds to the horror of our actions.
If we allow ourselves to rationalize these acts then it becomes easier to sweep them under the rug and avoid having to acknowledge the devastation. Time Magazine used the headline: “Collateral Damage or Civilian Massacre in Haditha.” On AC360, CNN ran a series about the canal killings with the headline: “Battlefield, justice or murder?” The headlines equivocate and suggest it might not be as horrible as it sounds because there may be extenuating circumstances.
Each time we fail to face the facts and choose to wave the flag of patriotism over truth, we wound the American essence at the center of our being. Each time we rationalize the deaths of human beings we die little by little within ourselves. Each time we say, ‘they probably deserved it anyway,’ we commit the small suicides of our own humanity. Each time we close our eyes to the sins of war we extend the darkness of violence.
It’s time to stop the war.
In the film Judgment at Nuremberg as Judge Haywood renders his verdict, he speaks to the politics of atrocity: “But this trial has shown that under the stress of a national crisis, men – even able and extraordinary men – can delude themselves into the commission of crimes and atrocities so vast and heinous as to stagger the imagination… How easily that can happen. There are those in our country today, too, who speak of the ‘protection’ of the country. Of ‘survival.’ The answer to that is: ‘survival as what?’ A country isn’t a rock. And it isn’t an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for, when standing for something is the most difficult. Before the people of the world – let it now be noted in our decision here that this is what ‘WE’ stand for: justice, truth… and the value of a single human being!”
We are all collateral damage and war is the collateral murder of our national soul.
A bullet did not kill America – it just broke its heart.