There are two versions, long at short, available at WikiLeaks' Twitter page, and there's a website as well, with links to "Collateral Murder." And Glenn Greenwald's orgasmic tweets are here, here, and here (for starters). Greenwald's been active in getting WikiLeaks public, for example, "The war on WikiLeaks and why it matters." MSNBC extremist-hack Dylan Ratigan also tweets, and the network has an item up already, "U.S. pilot seen firing on people in Iraq." And radical feminist Charli Carpenter has a post up entitled, "Precision Targeting at Work." (Via Memeorandum.) These folks, anti-Americans all, have long pushed a delegitimation campaign against the U.S. and American foreign policy.
The Guardian provides a synopsis of the news, and the short version is embedded:
The newly-released video of the Baghdad attacks was recorded on one of two Apache helicopters hunting for insurgents on 12 July 2007. Among the dead were a 22-year-old Reuters photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, and his driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40. The Pentagon blocked an attempt by Reuters to obtain the video through a freedom of information request. Wikileaks director Julian Assange said his organisation had to break through encryption by the military to view it.
In the recording, the helicopter crews can be heard discussing the scene on the street below. One American claims to have spotted six people with AK-47s and one with a rocket-propelled grenade. It is unclear if some of the men are armed but Noor-Eldeen can be seen with a camera. Chmagh is talking on his mobile phone ...
I'll first note that WikiLeaks online infrastructure is questionable. The Collateral Murder page barely loads, if at all, but WikiLeaks claims to be raising hundreds of thousands for the effort, so why not launch with enough servers to handle the load? Plus, Julian Assange, WikiLeaks' editor, is Australian, and a key activist in the global left's movement for international war-crimes trials against Bush administration civilian and military officials. In a piece at communist Alexander Cockburn's CounterPunch, "The Anti-Nuclear WANK Worm," Assange's bio reads:
Julian Assange is president of a NGO and Australia's most infamous former computer hacker. He was convicted of attacks on the US intelligence and publishing a magazine which inspired crimes against the Commonwealth.That's him at this Al Jazeera broadcast, "Video of US attack in Iraq 'genuine'":
I've watched the "Collateral Murder" clip above. Seeing the video and listening to the combat audio, the crew in the Apache are engaging an insurgent contingent, and at the distance the transmissions identify the fighters as clealy armed with AK-47s and RPGs. There is no mention as to an accompanying civilian or journalists' detachment. It appear as a routine search-and-destroy aerial operation. The crew commander repeatedly calls to hold fire until "we see weapons." This is not indiscriminate fire. When an unmarked van rolls up the street near the fallen bodies, the commander radios, "trying to get permission to engage." A lot is being made of the two small girls who were injured in the fight and rushed to a local hospital (not a military hospital, and which is alleged to mean they'd deliberately get inferior care). At the end of the clip, the caption denounces not just this episode -- which shows civilian casualties as incident to an ongoing active combat engagement -- as dedicated "to all the victims of war whose fates remain unknown."
As I'm writing, checking Memeorandum, there's an entry up at hard-left MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow's blog, "Wikileaks posts combat video from Iraq showing civilian casualties."
This is going to be the lead story before the night's out, especially with the dinnertime news hour coming up right now on the East Coast. The story's being engaged by conservatives as well. See Ed Morrissey, "Video: Collateral murder, or the risks of war zones?":
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.More at the link and Memeorandum.
I'll have more on this when I get some information from military personal, although we do have rigorous political science research that provides context. U.S. policy on the rules of engagement were more comprehensive and effective in Iraq than at any time in the history of American wars. See, Colin H. Kahl, "In the Crossfire or the Crosshairs? Norms, Civilian Casualties, and U.S. Conduct in Iraq." Here's the abstract:
The belief that U.S. forces regularly violate the norm of noncombatant immunity (i.e., the notion that civilians should not be targeted or disproportionately harmed during hostilities) has been widely held since the outset of the Iraq War. Yet the evidence suggests that the U.S. military has done a better job of respecting noncombatant immunity in Iraq than is commonly thought. It also suggests that compliance has improved over time as the military has adjusted its behavior in response to real and perceived violations of the norm. This behavior is best explained by the internalization of noncombatant immunity within the U.S. military’s organizational culture, especially since the Vietnam War. Contemporary U.S. military culture is characterized by an "annihilation-restraint paradox": a commitment to the use of overwhelming but lawful force. The restraint portion of this paradox explains relatively high levels of U.S. adherence with the norm of noncombatant immunity in Iraq, while the tension between annihilation and restraint helps to account for instances of noncompliance and for why Iraqi civilian casualties from U.S. operations, although low by historical standards, have still probably been higher than was militarily necessary or inevitable.And from the body of the article:
The number of documented fatalities attributable to U.S. forces or crossfire in Iraq is much lower than those for many other U.S. military campaigns of the last century where civilians were clearly targeted. During World War II, for example, U.S. and British forces engaged in strategic bombing against German and Japanese cities, killing more than 1 million noncombatants. In a single night of U.S. firebombing over Tokyo in 1945, at least 85,000 people, mostly civilians, were incinerated—nearly 21 times the total number of civilian deaths from U.S. air strikes in Iraq through the end of 2006 (according to IBC data), and 6–10 times the total number of Iraqi civilians killed by all U.S. ground and air forces or crossfire in the first three and one-half years of the war. Although some might argue that improvements in precision-guided munitions account for the majority of this historical difference, many of the noncombatant fatalities from bombing during World War II were the result of attacks aimed at destroying enemy morale, not incidental by-products of crude targeting and guidance technologies.These findings will be meaningless to the anti-Americans of the neo-communist left and their enablers in the Democratic-media-complex. But keep an eye on those now pushing the meme of a wartime cover-up (compared to the objective analysis of international security specialists). You can see that this is just one more instance in the global left's campaign to criminalize American foreign and military policy.
Perhaps the most telling comparisons, however, are to the U.S. wars in the Philippines and Vietnam, the two most significant foreign counterinsurgency campaigns in U.S. history. In the Philippines between 1899 and 1902, approximately 16,000 guerrillas were killed and at least 200,000 civilians perished (out of a total population of 7.4 million in 1900). U.S. forces engaged in the widespread destruction of crops, buildings, civilian property, and entire villages as forms of collective punishment against families and communities suspected of supporting insurgents. Hundreds of thousands of Filipino civilians were moved to concentration camps to separate them from guerrillas, and ablebodied men who dared to venture outside of these “protected zones” were assumed to be enemies and could be shot.
In Vietnam, the United States also fought in ways that put civilians directly in the crosshairs. Almost 750,000 North Vietnamese troops and Vietcong were killed during the war, and a conservative estimate of civilian deaths from violence in South Vietnam places the total at 522,000 (out of a total population of 16 million in 1966). U.S. troops fighting in Vietnam relied on massive firepower directed on occasion at targets in densely populated areas. U.S. forces established “free fire zones” in some areas, allowing anyone not wearing a South Vietnamese military uniform to be shot. The U.S. military used more than 29 times the tonnage of incendiary bombs in Vietnam as it did in World War II, and sprayed toxic defoliants on land in South Vietnam that was home to about 3 percent of the population. U.S. forces were also involved in many cases of outright murder and several incidents of mass killing. In the most notorious case, at My Lai on March 16, 1968, as many as 571 unarmed men, women, and children were massacred by a platoon of U.S. soldiers. Recently declassified records show abuses were documented in every U.S. Army division deployed to Vietnam.
The contrast between the current Iraq war and previous U.S. counterinsurgency campaigns is striking. Adjusted for population size and duration, civilian deaths in Iraq through the end of 2006 were 11–17 times lower than in the Philippines. Because available data for the Philippines do not separate casualties caused by U.S. forces, this estimate is based on all violent deaths in Iraq. This certainly underestimates the difference between the Philippines and Iraq because, in the former case, anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that U.S. troops were responsible for a much higher percentage of total deaths. In the case of Vietnam, extrapolations from available hospital records suggest that at least 177,480 South Vietnamese civilians were killed by U.S. bombing and shelling. Controlling for population and duration, Iraqi civilian fatalities ttributable to direct U.S. action and crossfire through the end of 2006 were 17–30 times lower than those from bombing and shelling alone in Vietnam. Without adjusting for population, the average monthly deaths are still 10–16 times lower than in Vietnam.
Outside the U.S. context, contemporary Russian counterinsurgency efforts in Chechnya offer an even starker contrast. In the two Chechen wars (1994–96 and 1999–present), the Russians used an extraordinary amount of indiscriminate firepower, including intensive artillery and aerial bombardment in dense urban settings. The lowest estimate of civilian deaths attributable to Russian actions through 2003 is 50,000 out of a total Chechen population of approximately 1 million (other estimates place the death toll for the two wars as high as 250,000). Even the most conservative estimate is 100–175 times the U.S.-caused toll in Iraq through 2006 (controlling for duration and population). Given the nature of the conflict, the number of civilians killed in Iraq, however awful, is not sufficient to suggest systematic U.S. noncompliance with the norm of noncombatant immunity. On the contrary, compared with conflicts where civilians were directly targeted, Iraqi casualty data provide some indirect evidence for U.S. adherence.