Update – 5:26 PM: The Jawa Report has the definitive takedown on the NYT’s/left’s desperate smear attempts against the US military. Make sure to read it and forward it on.
The anti-military NYT, of course, gleefully jumps on the news of the so-called “collateral muder” video, which Wikileaks posted yesterday:
WASHINGTON — The Web site WikiLeaks.org released a graphic video on Monday showing an American helicopter shooting and killing a Reuters photographer and driver in a July 2007 attack in Baghdad.
A senior American military official confirmed that the video was authentic.
Reuters had long pressed for the release of the video [warning: graphic. -ST], which consists of 38 minutes of black-and-white aerial video and conversations between pilots in two Apache helicopters as they open fire on people on a street in Baghdad. The attack killed 12, among them the Reuters photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and the driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40.
At a news conference at the National Press Club, WikiLeaks said it had acquired the video from whistle-blowers in the military and viewed it after breaking the encryption code. WikiLeaks edited the video to 17 minutes.
David Schlesinger, the editor in chief of Reuters news, said in a statement that the video was “graphic evidence of the dangers involved in war journalism and the tragedies that can result.”
On the day of the attack, United States military officials said that the helicopters had been called in to help American troops who had been exposed to small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades in a raid. “There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force,” Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a spokesman for the multinational forces in Baghdad, said then.
But the video does not show hostile action. Instead, it begins with a group of people milling around on a street, among them, according to WikiLeaks, Mr. Noor-Eldeen and Mr. Chmagh. The pilots believe them to be insurgents, and mistake Mr. Noor-Eldeen’s camera for a weapon. They aim and fire at the group, then revel in their kills.
“Look at those dead bastards,” one pilot says. “Nice,” the other responds.
A wounded man can be seen crawling and the pilots impatiently hope that he will try to fire at them so that under the rules of engagement they can shoot him again. “All you gotta do is pick up a weapon,” one pilot says.
Naturally, the Usual Suspects on the left are rushing to the front of the line to declare that the video is “proof” that the US military is full of evil b*stards who deliberately target innocents and MSM reporters for sport (MSDNC is already practically foaming at the mouth). Not so fast, says Ed Morrissey:
In the video, starting at the 3:50 mark, one member of this group starts preparing what clearly looks like an RPG launcher, as well as some individuals with AK-47s. The launcher then reappears at the 4:06 mark as the man wielding it sets up a shot for down the street. In 2007 Baghdad, this would be a clear threat to US and Iraqi Army ground forces; in fact, it’s difficult to imagine any other purpose for an RPG launcher at that time and place. That’s exactly the kind of threat that US airborne forces were tasked to detect and destroy, which is why the gunships targeted and shot all of the members of the group.
Another accusation is that US forces fired on and killed rescue workers attempting to carry one of the journalists out of the area. However, the video clearly shows that the vehicle in question bore no markings of a rescue vehicle at all, and the men who ran out of the van to grab the wounded man wore no uniforms identifying themselves as such. Under any rules of engagement, and especially in a terrorist hot zone like Baghdad in 2007, that vehicle would properly be seen as support for the terrorists that had just been engaged and a legitimate target for US forces. While they didn’t grab weapons before getting shot, the truth is that the gunships didn’t give them the chance to try, either — which is exactly what they’re trained to do. They don’t need to wait until someone gets hold of the RPG launcher and fires it at the gunship or at the reinforcements that had already begun to approach the scene. The gunships acted to protect the approaching patrol, which is again the very reason we had them in the air over Baghdad.
Two Reuters employees made the mistake of joining a ragtag group of Muqtada al Sadr’s Medhi Army militia, some of which were still clearly armed, with at least one folding stock AK-pattern assault rifle (3:41, top left) and an RPG-7 (3:44, second from top left) antitank rocket carried by men at the rear of the group (the Reuters employees were near the front) in the video that WikiLeaks chose to show us.
As for the father who made the tragic mistake of trying to intercede in a hot combat zone with dust still rising and blood flowing… I admire his courage, but question his intelligence. He put his children in harm’s way, and broke laws of war that civilians in their fifth year of war should have known by rote.
People die in war, and those who die aren’t always combatants. It sucks.
But it isn’t a crime.
Bill Roggio, who himself has been embedded with our troops a time or two (to say the least), goes into more detail here:
Second, note how empty the streets are in the video. The only people visible on the streets are the armed men and the accompanying Reuters cameramen. This is a very good indicator that there was a battle going on in the vicinity. Civilians smartly clear the streets during a gunfight.
Third, several of the men are clearly armed with assault rifles; one appears to have an RPG. Wikileaks purposely chooses not to identify them, but instead focuses on the Reuters cameraman. Why?
Fourth, there is no indication that the U.S. military weapons crew that fired on this group of armed men violated the military’s Rules of Engagement. Ironically, Wikileaks published the military’s Rules of Engagement from 2007, which you can read here. What you do see in the video is troops working to identify targets and confirm they were armed before engaging. Once the engagement began, the U.S. troops ruthlessly hunted their prey.
Fifth, critics will undoubtedly be up in arms over the attack on that black van you see that moves in to evacuate the wounded; but it is not a marked ambulance, nor is such a vehicle on the “Protected Collateral Objects” listed in the Rules of Engagement. The van, which was coming to the aid of the fighters, was fair game, even if the men who exited the van weren’t armed.
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 Wikileaks’ website.
And also succeeded in restarting the tired, bogus old “it’s American troops who are the bad guys” rallying cry the anti-war far left used during the Bush years like a battering ram against not only the brave men and women serving in our armed forces but the Commander in Chief himself. But no surprises there, eh? This is what they do. Watch the demands for an “investigation/inquiry” to increase rapidly.
Just waiting for Obama’s reaction to the video and reports. If he says anything remotely resembling his “they acted stupidly” remark, he can kiss what little respect he’s earned from actively engaged US military personnel who were naturally skeptical of him to start with goodbye. Will his reaction be measured and restrained, as it should be, or will he jump to conclusions like so many others on his side of the aisle have eagerly done over the last 9 years when it comes to military engagement and the rules of war? Stay tuned.