Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Death, Lies and Videotape

[Caution: graphic video not suitable for work or children. Full-length version here.]

By nonny mouse

On the fifth of April, WikiLeaks released a classified US military video from an Apache helicopter gunship as it killed over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad in 2007, including two Reuters new staff, as well as seriously wounding two young children. One of the journalists, gravely wounded in the attack, was then shot in a second barrage as he tried to crawl away, and his body run over by a Humvee. Since the attack, Reuters had been attempting to obtain this video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success. Now it is public for the first time.
Wikileak’s organisers were given the footage by an unnamed source, which they then decrypted and posted on-line. So far, the Pentagon has had no response. The high-quality video, according to BBC’s Adam Brookes in Washington, appears to be authentic, and includes the recording of the pilot’s radio transmission and troops on the ground. Wikileaks has also published a statement from Reuters news editor-in-chief David Schlessinger saying that the video was ‘graphic evidence of the dangers involved in war journalism and the tragedies that can result’.
Wikileaks has complained of surveillance and harassment by the US and other governments, primarily for their role in leaking documents on sensitive subjects, from the assassination of human rights lawyers in Nairobi, photos of murders committed in Tibet followed by a mass attack on Swedish servers by Chinese computers in retaliation, threats by the head of Germany’s BNP of prosecution over a report of CIA involvement in Kosovo,and more. This tiny blogsite, which won Amnesty International’s 2009 media award, is nearly broke and has depended on donations from human rights groups, journalists, technology experts and simply concerned individuals for survival, a ludicrous game of David and Goliath of the internet.
But it seems someone within the DoD or US Army Counterintelligence or CIA or somewhere still believes in the public’s right to know what our elected government is up to. According to documents leaked to Wikileaks, even our own government has conspired to shut down the organization, including exposing sources and identifying whistleblowers and retaliating by termination of employment, criminal prosecution, defamation of the organization to weaken its credibility. The lessons of Valerie Plame and the Freedom of Information Act be damned.
Be warned. This video is not for the faint-hearted. I watched the whole thing. It made me feel ill, but I watched it all. It's the least I could do for those people who lost their lives. At one point you can even see one of the men from the van trying to rescue the wounded journalist looking up at the helicopter, he knew it was there. He knew what he was risking, and tried to help anyway. The bravery of that man is astounding. And he died. If it were left up to our own government, he would have died without you or I or anyone else ever knowing, our ignorance the biggest weapon in any military arsenal. If this ungodly, horrible war is ever to end, it is not only the public’s right to know what we have done and are still doing in Iraq, and Afghanistan, it is our responsibility to demand to know.
What truly bothers me is the absolute callousness of the conversation going on in the Apache helicopter. Beyond the 'fucking prick' and the 'bastards' comments, it's the laughter, particularly during the shooting as if it's all just a video game, cheering each other on as the wounded journalist crawls on the ground, willing him to reach for a ‘weapon’ so they can shoot him again, laughing when his body is run over by a military truck. The comment when the crew realized children have been wounded was shocking: ‘Well, it’s their own fault for bringing their kids to a battle.'
Bringing their kids to a battle? Those children live there! This wasn't a 'battlefield' - it was just an ordinary neighbourhood that got pasted by an American helicopter, twice. We brought the war to them. Where the hell were the kids supposed to have been? Loma Linda? Ann Arbor? Tampa?
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