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Journal andphi's Journal: WikiLeaks and "Collateral Murder": When a Leak is a Lie

It seems that WikiLeaks has something to say. Their 'Collateral Murder' gun camera video was heavily edited and enhanced, as anyone who had the chance to watch the complete footage - originally posted here [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is9sxRfU-ik] and now blocked due to graphic content. In fairness to YouTube, the propaganda is also now age-blocked [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rXPrfnU3G0]. I have watched both and have come to the conclusion that the WikiLeaks folks have an agenda. This is not journalism. This is not shining the light of truth on dodgy governments. This is blatant agitprop - anti-military, pro-insurgent, and stupidly easy to refute. It's not even a good lie, for Pete's sake!

The military blogosphere has taken the edited footage apart in detail, but it doesn't take an expert, after watching both videos, to see what the Collateral Murder folks were so blithely glossing over and expunging.


In short, the group these journalists were with had at least one RPG and one AK47. Absent the uniform of a coalition nation, the act of carrying the RPG makes the group a valid military target, particularly in an area where there were coalition troops on the ground, some of whom had come under attack from insurgents carrying RPGs. In contrast, the edited footage claims that the man aiming the RPG was one of the slain journalists and his camera. He was ducking around a corner at the time and one end of something was sticking out from behind the building with him. Then he stands up and aims the device. The Apache was circling at the time, so the exact nature of what he was aiming is hidden by the wall of the building. By the time the helicopter came around, the something was not in evidence on camera. However, proves only that they were not holding the device at the time. The insurgents in Iraq are good at dropping their weapons once they realize that holding them might get them killed. Later, one of the soldiers found a live RPG round under one of the bodies.

Then, when the group of insurgents had been shot and the van arrived, it was not marked as an aid vehicle. It was just a vehicle evacuating the bodies and weapons of insurgents. The pilots received authorization to fire on the vehicle, just as they requested and received authorization to fire on the group of insurgents standing at the corner of the building. That needs to be repeated. This is not My Lai. Americans do not simply fire indiscriminately. They ask permission before they do it, if there is doubt or ambiguity. More Americans have been killed by overly restrictive ROE (restrictions on air-strikes, drone strikes, indirect fire support, etc) than is probably good for the morale or health of the troops on the ground.

When authorized, they fired. The altered footage later highlights the children in the front seat of the van, but it noticeably does not also highlight the grunts running with children in their arms, trying to get them to a Bradley for evacuation to Rustimayah. The footage also claims or implies, erroneously, that the children were not treated by Americans, but handed over immediately to the Iraqis. This is also not true. The children were in the care of American medical personnel for days before transfer to Iraqi facilities, as later documents have proven.

One thing I noticed was that I couldn't tell what was in the front seat of the van. In any case, bringing children into a firezone was just as stupid, reckless, and immoral as two journalists walking around with a group of armed insurgents. It was, in short, depraved indifference on the part of whoever was driving the van and whoever decided to embed journalists with terrorists. The children were regrettable collateral casualties, while the journalists, by embedding as they did, made themselves the enemy and therefore valid military targets.

The incident did not occur in some random street full of civilians, but in an area where there had been fighting between insurgents and coalition ground troops. The complete footage shows an area of town that was nearly devoid of non-combatants moving in the open. There were a few civilians (at one point, a figure in a burqa holding the hand of a small child crossed the camera's field of view, but the pilots did not fire on them or even consider it, given that they did not request permission to do so.) The WikiLeaks footage was 17 minutes long and included perhaps 15 minutes of actual camera footage. The uneditted footage is 38 minutes long. The Collateral Murder folks cut out all the context, including the woman and her son crossing the street.

In short, they presented half-truths as the complete truth and therefore perpetrated a complete lie.

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WikiLeaks and "Collateral Murder": When a Leak is a Lie

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