WikiLeaks Publishes Disturbing U.S. Military Apache Helicopter Footage

WikiLeaks has released a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people (July 12, 2007) in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad — including two Reuters news staff.

Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded.

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Near the beginning of the video they talk about “guys with AK-47s” and “RPGs”, when the men in question are clearly carrying professional cameras.

More information at the WikiLeaks site – Collateral Murder

35 COMMENTS - JUMP DOWN ↓ TO ADD YOUR OWN

Will W April 5, 2010 at 02:16 pm

I don’t mean to sound calloused or rude but this isn’t an “indiscriminate” slaying. What we are witnessing is the limitations of camera resolution in an Apache. At first glance I couldn’t tell if they were weapons or cameras. Add slings, a gathering of people and that guy crouching and peering around the corner and this just could have well been an insurgent group. Its a tragedy that’s for sure but we cant the vilify soldiers for making a call based on the technology and info they had.

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Karl Gustaf April 5, 2010 at 02:38 pm

I don’t know, watching that video I could easily see how some of those guys could look like they were carrying rifles and RPGs. And then the guy peeking out from the corner of the building?

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Fred April 5, 2010 at 02:58 pm

It isn’t the first time that camera equipment has been mistaken as weaponry, and I’m sure is far from the last. A similar event happened during the initial push into Baghdad, if you’ve read ‘Thunder Run’ you’ll know what I’m talking about.

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Ty April 5, 2010 at 03:03 pm

Having real experience dealing with Apache pilots I can tell you that they shoot at anything. They are trigger happy. And when you need real help from them, they can’t see anything. For whatever reason they have seemingly zero situational awareness.

Also, I’m sure that blowing up an Ambulance violates the Hague convention. That’s not legal in the laws of land warfare.

I was in OIF 05/06, South Baghdad.

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Will W April 5, 2010 at 03:23 pm

The only thing separating an ambulance from a van is some sort of identifying markings. (text, cross, +, etc.) That was a van.

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Lee April 5, 2010 at 03:27 pm

It’s funny. I watched the video, and I can understand why soldiers mistook the press for insurgents. It could have been more like a rifle… (see for camera rifle stock http://misostudios.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/TALCSBradBowen.jpg ).

If this was any other war, we wouldn’t have had the video to watch and then comment on their mistake. Conflicts are dangerous. Innocent people die. The press understands the danger of a warzone. Maybe they should start wearing jackets with big bold inferared P’s on them for press.

Their language is a bit much though.

The question is more why didn’t they follow the van to see where the bodies were going? I would have thought that would have been a better plan.

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Mark April 5, 2010 at 04:10 pm

Marking or not, firing up the van was a war crime. The pilots did not have the requisite PID on the men in the van (the presence of some kind of weapon would have constituted PID). They were all clearly unarmed and evacuating wounded. The initial shoot is questionable, but there do appear to have been RPG’s present (AK-47′s do not necessarily = enemy, but RPG’s raise at least a presumption that the person carrying it is a bad guy). Given the totality of the situation (which none of us are privy to), I would venture to say that the initial engagement was clean. Barring any other information, shooting the bongo-truck looks like a war crime. I also served in OIF (and not behind a desk).

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Josh April 5, 2010 at 05:27 pm

Before watching this, I wanted to give the pilots and gunners every benefit of the doubt, but that was painful to watch. From the video, I certainly didn’t think they clearly had weapons, as indicated by the aircrew. They were so definitive in their assessment that there were weapons on the ground. The cameras slung over their shoulders didn’t look to me like weapons, all you could make out was a bag or object being carried by a shoulder strap. It looked like one of the men had a tripod, which could be possibly be mistaken for an RPG launcher, but it was not being carried in a manner that made it seem like a weapon. The person sort of ducking around the corner of the building was slightly suspicious, although, it would seem that taking cover behind a building, even when you’ve done nothing wrong or aggressive, is a good idea when there are gunships in the air!

The uneasy feeling in my stomach while watching this was amplified greatly by the audible radio chatter between the pilots and crew. If this video had not had audio, it would have been much easier to watch. Their extreme eagerness to open fire on the group after improperly identifying weapons on the ground, and then open fire on the van, was difficult to listen to, but every snide comment in between made me exponentially more uncomfortable.

Though they are not to blame for the failures on the part of the aircrew, I can’t help but think that the photographers/news crew made their own mistake by walking about in an area apparently secured by U.S. forces, without escorts or notification and acknowledgment that they would be in the area. The van made its own mistake by driving into an area that had just been “attacked” by U.S. helicopters while the offending force was still in the air. If a group of innocent civilians had just been erroneously fired on, what reason would there be to think that the van wouldn’t be fired on as well?

Remember what I said the other day about having a willingness to go back overseas, this time to take pictures, if someone would pay me to? Well, maybe I didn’t think that one through well enough before I spoke.

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Edward April 5, 2010 at 07:52 pm

Admin (Mike): Read your post and it sounds like you agree with WikiLeaks’ distorted opinions and so do some of your readers. I’d bet that if you had seen this video (most likely in the comfort of your home and without the added and unimaginable stress one experiences when they believe someone is trying to kill them) without knowing any of the details you know now, you would have had the same opinions as the pilots.

Ty: The GENEVA CONVENTION specifically states that hospitals, ambulances, etc. “shall bear a red cross on a white ground” the Bongo did not. Also, when you said you had “real experience dealing with Apache pilots” I’ll clarify for the other reades that this translates to “turning bolts” on their birds, not combat experience.

Mark: You stated that “AK-47’s do not necessarily = enemy” you are wrong, my friend. ROE at the time of this combat action and even today did/do authorize the use of force, including deadly force to protect yourself, your unit, and friendly forces. If these pilots believed these me where carrying AK’s, RPG or another SLM then they should get the benefit of doubt.

Furthermore, any REMF who starts throwing around the “Monday morning” opinions needs to first spend some time in a Grunts boots with the badguys shooting at you, before you speak.

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Will W April 6, 2010 at 11:10 am

Hit the nail right on the head Edward.

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Clay April 5, 2010 at 09:14 pm

Reuter’s has a history of imbedding with insurgents. It’s hard to feel sorry anyone associating with AK carrying men in a war zone. Especially if those men are suspected insurgents. You can clearly see AKs in the video. With a patrol nearby, in 2007 when the war was really hot, the pilots did what they are trained to do and that is that. As for an alleged war crime, the van was not marked. End of discussion. Be careful the company you keep. If I were trying to get the insurgents story, I think I would know the possibility of being killed by U.S. forces is a very cold reality.

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Josh April 5, 2010 at 10:05 pm

I agree with you about the company you keep. However, you state that you can clearly see AK’s in the video. I could not clearly see any. I found another story about this that states a military investigation concluded that what they thought was a rifle was actually a camera, and what they said was an RPG was really a long-range camera lens. (http://www.newser.com/article/d9et8uh81/ap-source-confirms-video-on-internet-of-firefight-where-reuters-photographer-believed-killed.html)

If I were an insurgent with a weapon I wouldn’t continue casually strolling down the street while attack helicopters were overhead. Would you? There wasn’t any posturing by the people on the ground that would indicate that they were a threat. And facing down men on the street from overhead in a helicopter is, I think, not the same as soldiers who literally have “boots on the ground” facing down a car that blows through a checkpoint, or a man with a suspicious package who refuses to keep a distance.

As I alluded to a little in my earlier post, it’s probably very unfortunate that this video has audio with it. I think that’s the part that people will really have a problem with. You can hear in the radio conversation the eagerness on the part of the pilots/gunners to open fire initially, then again on the wounded man, and then on the van that was attempting to evacuate the man. The audio of the air crew, their enthusiasm in wanting to light up the “f**king prick” (carrying a camera), and encouraging the wounded man to pick up a weapon (although there weren’t any to begin with) is what really makes this bad situation much worse.

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Clay April 6, 2010 at 10:33 am

Yes, the language was tough to listen to. I think people who don’t understand war will find it callous and cruel, yet those with an understanding when soldier or pilot who believes he is protecting his fellow servicemen will tolerate it.

I stand by my opinion that AKs were visibly carried, just not by the cameramen. As shown by this video cut.

http://mypetjawa.mu.nu/archives/201889.php

And Rueter’s itself provided the most obvious quote at the end of the article you cited:

“The video is “graphic evidence of the dangers involved in war journalism and the tragedies that can result,” said David Schlesinger, editor-in-chief of Reuters news.”

War journalism is dangerous, and mixing with the enemy trying to show ‘their side’ of the story when they’re fighting against the most powerful military in the world invites disaster.

All this video really does is reinforce opinions on either side. I doubt this will convince anybody to change their opinions on the subject one way or another.

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Robert April 6, 2010 at 02:53 am

I am appalled with what I saw and heard, especially with the overwhelming disproportion of firepower and technology brought to bear repeatedly on people posing no identifiable threat.
If the camera wasn’t good enough according to some posters, then it should have been closer so there could be certainty about what is being shot – see the basic rules of guns.
To me the conversation suggested a casual regard for killing and the results speak for themselves.

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Will W April 6, 2010 at 11:23 am

That’s real easy for you to say get closer. But if you thought a bunch of insurgents had a rpg I HIGHLY doubt getting a closer look would high on your priority list in a chopper.

Just one rpg-7 rocket can do this to a $15 million dollar AH-64 Apache

http://dev-heaven.net/attachments/4685/AH-Hit2.jpg

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rusgunnut1 April 6, 2010 at 03:59 am

Didn’t watch all of it, but If I were gonna kill people, then I’d make sure they were endangering me, or someone else. They did not fire at the heli, so I think they blatantly broke rule #4 (Be f***ing well sure of your target before you f***ing well go anywhere near a trigger). Even a 13-year-old could tell you that. And here’s your proof.

RIP those guys. Those pilots need to face hell. Pity they won’t.

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Aleksandr Mravinsky April 7, 2010 at 02:52 am

Associating with armed individuals in the area around a recent firefight without telling the US Army that you’re there is never a good idea.

Also, if I read it right, you’re thirteen, correct? You have not been in the army and you were not in that heli when this happened.

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michael April 6, 2010 at 05:17 am

From the air it would be hard for pilots and crew to make out insurents from civilians. the way these people moved and the slinged camera, the bloke peeking around the corner they do look like insurgents.
Military personel are doing a tough job under hard conditions. I say they did a good job and thank god we have people wiling to go into harms way to defend our way of life.

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Zachg56 April 6, 2010 at 05:51 am

I’d have to say that this situation could have gone either way. I had a hard time determining whether or not some of the stuff they were carrying was actually camera gear or weapons, especially once that poor sap started to peak around the corner like that. Also, considering the fact that they were going with out any escorts or notification to local forces about them being in the area does make the situation a lot foggier than it should have been.

The van on the other hand should have never even attempted to go their in the first place.

I’d have to agree with Will W, Edward, and Clay on this one

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Jim April 6, 2010 at 06:12 am

Sorry Mike, I didn’t see an e-mail address or other contact for you… But would the correct spelling be sight? Site is usually a place, or area. A sight would be a device for assisting in aiming.

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Lee Tauntaun April 6, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Hanging out with combatants on any side of any conflict is dangerous. 139 journalists killed so far in Iraq according to the story. I should puts quotes around journalist. Just because you draw a check from a news outlet doesn’t mean you’re a good guy.

On a side note, when that one guy was leaning around the corner with his telephoto lens-equipped camera, my wife came up behind me and said, “Oh, that one has a bazooka thing.” My wife is something of a photographer and used to shoot weddings and other events. You see what you expect to see.

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Raph84 April 6, 2010 at 12:34 pm

@ Edward if they were a threat wanting to take them out would be fine. The first group didn’t do anything overtly threatening other than be “armed” they did not fire on them or even take up positions. The Apache wanted to kill some people and they radioed what they had to to get clearance to do so. That’s not to say that the initial engagement was a bad shoot like you say if it meets the rules of engagement you do what you do. If the fellas in the Apache were cooler headed maybe some innocent people would be alive, but that does not make it a war crime.

On the other hand I think the second shoot was absolutely a bad shoot. That van did not do anything other than attempt to aid the wounded markings or not there was no reason to engage it especially with a ground element so close. They could have kept eyes on it until they were overtaken by ground forces, but they wanted to kill some more people so they said what they had to in order to get clearance (“collecting bodies and weapons” when it was only 1 obviously wounded).

I support the troops and I support the war, but incidents like that, radio chatter like that, and cover ups like this turn decent Iraqis into insurgents. It’s just common sense that actions like the second shoot will create enemies; if someone flew over your back yard and murdered your kids (purposely or through lack of foresight) how would you react. I don’t know about you, but I would have an RPG in hand ASAP.

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Audacia77 April 6, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Fact of the matter is, none of use were there that day. We don’t know the situation on the ground and don’t know what the ROE was. But, try putting it into some context. Hearing the radio chatter, these guys were conducting overwatch for the ground elements to their west. A gaggle starts to form in their sector and they took up a more defensive posture. From the video, it would be easy to assume they were carrying weapons and it did look like the guy had an RPG. I would have made the same request to engage.

These are some of our finest men and women serving. They are professionals. As far as these “trigger happy” rotor heads go, they are true friends to have when you ass is in a bind. I’d be proud to have Crazyhorse as my overwatch anytime.

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Johanson April 8, 2010 at 09:37 pm

After watching the video I have concluded that Americans are pure animals. Their history is full of cold blooded murders, including WW2 bombs that were dropped on civilians.

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Raph84 April 9, 2010 at 08:57 am

We’re all animals. You go far enough back into anyone’s culture or history and it is plain to see that under the thin veneer of “civilization” we are all a bunch of screaming, violent, jealous, spoiled, hairless apes.

If you think you’re above it you’ve already lost (Humans have to fight every day to keep instincts in check with our higher brain…because the cave man brain is right under the surface waiting for an opportunity in the driver’s seat)

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mark April 13, 2010 at 09:53 am

Not going to get into a rant but

*During this time period in Iraq the security situation was bad for all (Iraqi Forces, US Forces, etc.) so nobody was playing around when they went out.

* Bad things happen when your in the wrong place at the wrong time without identifying yourself carrying anything that may be mistaken for a weapon around nefarious individuals.

* Its easy to place blame already knowing whats going on watching this at your desk

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mark April 13, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Interesting side note, they just covered this on the Colbert Report and had the guy from wiki-leaks. Seemed like your usual anti-American foreigner. He actually states 10% of people who have seen this footage have actually seen all there is to it. And also says its their policy to support those who provide the leaks to work in their clients favor.

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Admin (Mike) April 14, 2010 at 05:54 pm

Interesting, ill have to check that Colbert episode out.

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Marsh April 22, 2010 at 08:31 pm

Well, that’s it for me. No longer going to visit your blog. Way to fall for a piece of retarded leftist propaganda like a complete idiot.

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Admin (Mike) April 22, 2010 at 08:36 pm

huh? If you’ll notice I made no opinion on this video besides the fact I thought the cameras were visible.

Do what you need to do… but If you don’t want to read the blog any longer because of the fact I posted this video, you really need thicker skin.

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stefan September 3, 2011 at 04:09 pm

The guy who was peeking around the corner was a Phographer, you fucking retarded American ASSHEADS!

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Clay September 4, 2011 at 01:30 pm

Late to the discussion, Stefan? Hmmm?

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