Monday, April 05, 2010

Death in Baghdad - The real story thanks to Wikileaks

Align Centre
Private Joker: How can you shoot women or children?
Door Gunner: Easy! Ya just don't lead 'em so much! Ain't war hell?

To someone like myself the madness of war is something that belongs just in movies, the product of a director's desire to shock and perhaps entertain. Somehow you don't imagine that the maniacs you see in war movies actually exist, at least not in the way they are depicted on film. So it comes are a greater shock when you see the kind of cold blooded insanity that views human life with such disdain.

Recently, Wikileaks released video footage of an attack by a US army Apache attack helicopter on a group of civilians in Baghdad in 2007. As a result of the engagement over a dozen people died, including two Reuters staff members. According to Reuters the army initially said that the incident had been a firefight with insurgents.

The video shows the attack from the viewpoint of the helicopter and shows what appears to be a group of men pointing out to the Reuter's photographer US units in the suburb of New Baghdad. The two-man crew apparently mistook photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen's camera for a rocket launcher and repeatedly opened fire on the group with 30mm calibre canon, a weapon capable of piercing armour and bunkers killing most of them. The chopper also fired upon a van which came to the aid of the survivors, resulting in the death of its occupants and causing serious injury to two children.

US Major Brent Cumming speaking to the Washington Post on July 13th 2007 was quoted as saying,

"The Apache crew fired because militants "were endangering the stability of Iraq" and because they had positive identification that the militants "had weapons and were using them against coalition and Iraqi security forces,"

The US Military investigation into the event also reportedthat the helicopter crew acted in accordance with the army's rules of engagement (which it has repeatedly refused to make public). However, while the scenes from the start of the video are open to interpretation as to whether the group was armed the following actions of the crew which launched an unprovoked attack on the van that drew up to help the wounded cast doubt on the military's version of the story which talked of an armed clash with armed iraqis insurgents.

Reuters had been trying unsuccessfully to get access to the video footage under the Freedom of Information Act since the deaths of Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh in 2007. Even as late as July 2008 US miltary officials stated that they were still processing the request for the onboard camera footage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

IIRC, the quotation from Full Metal Jacket that you open this post with was part of writer Michael Herr's contribution to Kubrick's script - an adaptation of an incident recorded in his collection of Vietnam war reportage, Dispatches.

In other words, a real event and real dialogue immortalised as fiction, yet prescient of real war even today.