On July 12th, 2007 US Army gunships murdered 2 Reuters employees, Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen. Several unknown individuals were also killed, and 2 children were badly wounded.
I use the loaded term “murdered” for reasons that will soon become apparent.
The US military claimed that the victims were killed by accident in a battle between coalition forces and insurgents.
“There is no question that coalition forces
were clearly engaged in combat operations
against a hostile force”
Lt Col Scott Bleichwehl
Reuters demanded an investigation into the deaths and the US military begrudgingly agreed rather than further alienate one of the premier news organisations on the planet.
After the “investigation” the US military concluded that the soldiers’ and pilots’ actions were in accordance with the Rules Of Engagement, and that they had therefore done nothing wrong.
Unsatisfied, Reuters made a freedom of information request to see the tape recording of the shooting. Their request was denied.
Thankfully, someone with a conscience leaked the video to Wikileaks and from there it spread all over the ‘Net.
The events on the tape are horrific, disturbing and have far-reaching consequences.
I urge you to watch the tape yourself. It can be found on Wikileaks or on bit torrent download. Just search for “Collateral Murder”. But in case you can’t get it yourself here is my description of the parts of the tape that I found important. Also note that there is a longer version of this video that is also available online, that I have not seen.
1. One helicopter pilot calls the other and tells him about a group of people on the ground. He does not say that they are hostile, just that there is a group.
The other pilot replies that he sees them.
The camera then zooms in on Namir who is walking with his camera bag and one of the pilots says that Namir is carrying a weapon. This isn’t true, in fact not even the US Army has said that either of the Reuter’s employees were armed, but it’s what the pilot says.
At the time you can clearly see several other people hanging around, or walking with the two Reuter’s employees. These other people are definitely not armed, because they aren’t carrying anything at all.
2. One of the pilots then says that they have several individuals who “have weapons”. Now at this point this would be a lie even if Namir had been armed, because he is the only person who they even think has a weapon.
A few seconds later they spot someone else carrying some sort of tube. They proudly exclaim that this person too has a weapon and send a message to other forces in the area saying that there are several people who have “AK-47s and RPGs”.
“Wtf?” I hear you say. “But Teddy, you haven’t mentioned at what point they decided what kind of weapons the people were carrying!”
Well friends that’s because that point doesn’t exist. One of the pilots says that Namir (who was only carrying a camera in a bag) is in a group of people and is armed. One of the pilots says that this means that the whole group of people is armed. A few seconds later they spot the guy carrying the tube and announce he too has a weapon. A few seconds after that they make the call that says that the group is packing AK-47s and RPGs.
At no point do the pilots discuss what kinds of weapons the people are carrying. They say ‘weapon’ and jump straight from that to saying that they have positively identified what weapons they are.
I’m not even sure about tube-guy. It could be an RPG, or a machine gun. But it could just as easily be a French loaf or a rolled up bath mat. It’s a tube. That’s all.
Now, one could of course say that I shouldn’t be making claims about what the tube is or isn’t, because I am not trained in the art of recognising weapons at distance. But that rebuttal falls flat because, apparently, neither are the two pilots! They’ve mistaken a camera bag for an AK-47 and later they mistake the camera for an RPG.
They clearly don’t know what the fuck they are doing.
3. One of the pilots sends another message saying that there are 5-6 individuals with AK-47s and he requests permission to ‘engage’ (i.e. slaughter them).
Once again this would be a lie even if Namir and tube-guy were armed, because if they were armed then they would still be the only people in the crowd who are armed. In addition to that little detail the fact is that no one in the crowd is doing anything violent, and none of them do anything violent at any point during the video.
The person on the other end of the line, a superior office I assume, says that they are cleared to engage, and frankly I don’t blame him! He’s just been told that the pilots have identified a large group of people armed with assault rifles and hand-held artillery! He’d be crazy not to tell them to engage.
At that point the people are behind some buildings so the pilots do not fire yet. It is at this point that one of the pilots decides that Namir is carrying an RPG.
He’s a moron.
Once again, I am not trained in this sort of thing, but I do know that the classic RPG has a cone-shaped nose to allow it to fly better. The thing Namir is holding bulges at the end like a camera, because it IS a camera.
As far as I can see the only way Namir’s object could be an RPG is if it either wasn’t loaded, or he was holding it back-to-front. In either case the pilot is a moron for thinking it was a threat. Especially since a few seconds later he claims that Namir is “about to shoot”.
Perhaps the pilot really did think Namir was holding it backwards. Maybe he thought Namir was going to blow himself up and thus deny the pilot the valuable experience point’s he needed to unlock his next achievement.
Or maybe the pilot is just a blood-thirsty bastard.
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