With a bird’s eye view of the battle-ravaged streets of suburban Baghdad, two U.S. Apache helicopters unleashed a relentless barrage of 30 mm bullets on a group of people the Pentagon claimed were insurgents — injuring two children and killing Reuters photojournalist Namir Noor-Eldeen, camera assistant Saeed Chmagh, their driver, Saleh Matasher Tomal, and at least nine others on July 12, 2007 — the entire incident captured on appallingly stark video.
U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning leaked the abominable footage to Wikileaks, whose publication of this blatant and — judging from blithe cockpit narration among American troops carrying out the attack — zealous murder, gut-checked the entire planet for its glib casualness in meting death from above.
All of the victims seen slaughtered in the video Wikileaks titled Collateral Murder were innocent. Not one person has been held accountable for the slayings.
On the day of the attack exactly ten years ago, the U.S. affirmed the deaths of the two journalists along with the group of “insurgents,” describing the incident as a combat operation against a “hostile force” — and that, in the murkiness of battle, the Reuters reporters might even have been killed by Iraqi militants instead of the American military.
Multiple Freedom of Information Act requests by Reuters for further disclosure on the suspicious deaths of its employees and circumstances surrounding the killings were submitted — to no avail.
Further, the lack of details and information — as well as that the killings had occurred in one of the U.S. empire’s many theaters of war — effectively erased the deaths from the media’s spotlight. Truth that the incident had in actuality comprised an insufferable atrocity remained shielded from public purview.
An inquiry by the U.S. military — which incidentally did not address shooting the driver’s children — found the service members had acted justly, and cleared all of wrongdoing in the matter.
That was the end of it. Case closed. Nothing to see here — trust your government.
Or, it would have been — until the April 2010 publication by Wikileaks of Collateral Murder and an enormous cache of documents covertly leaked by Manning smashed through the closet door secreting one of the U.S.’ nastier skeletons.
Worse, Josh Stieber, a member of the U.S. military company responsible for the killings, claimed the incident didn’t depart from standard operating procedure, stating plainly,
“When I started to see the discussion flowing from [the video], I was surprised at how extreme it was made out to be. What was shown in the video was not out of the ordinary in Iraq. One policy we had that was even more extreme was if a roadside bomb went off, we were supposed to shoot anyone standing in that area. We were told that we needed to make the local population more afraid of us.”
Anyone watching this video, now, a decade removed, in time only, knows U.S. boots still echo all over Iraq and Middle East — and must also know, given the criminal lack of punishment for gross human rights transgressions, that inexcusable violations of human rights continue to be committed with normalized regularity.
Arrested and charged under the notoriously broad Espionage Act, Manning garnered a 35-year sentence in August 2013 for blowing the whistle. After three years in solitary confinement — rightly called torturous for the whistleblower by her supporters — Manning’s remaining sentence was commuted by President Obama and she was released in May.
Christian Christensen wrote for Common Dreams five years after Baghdad attack,
“In a statement by Manning made during her 2013 trial she outlined her motivations for the leak, stating (in relation to Collateral Murder) that one of the most disturbing aspects was the ‘bloodlust’ exhibited by the US military. At one point we can hear members of the aerial weapons team begging a wounded Iraqi to pick up a weapon so that they would have a reason open fire on him once again. This, as Manning put it, was ‘similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.’ The violence in the video is both dehumanizing and grotesque, and serves to remind viewers of the perversity of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, as well as the subsequent deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.”
Sadly, it seems pro-war propaganda, often subtle in delivery, has so fully inundated American popular culture as to make opposing or criticizing the military — and Washington’s bellicose foreign ‘policy’ — somewhat of a rebellious act. War, thus, continues unimpeded with nary a blip on the mainstream’s apathetic radar.
In fact, just this month the U.S. patted itself on the back for its coalition’s successful wrest of control of Mosul from the terrorist group it played a hand in creating: the Islamic State. Self-congratulatory rhetoric aside, however, human rights advocates paint a far less rosy portrait of the military actions undertaken to effect that victory — one hauntingly reminiscent of Collateral Murder’s chilling revelations.
Amnesty International asserts,
“The scale and gravity of the loss of civilian lives during the military operation to retake Mosul must be publicly acknowledged. The horrors people have witnessed and the disregard for human life by all parties to this conflict must not go unpunished. Entire families have been wiped out, many of whom are still buried under the rubble today. The people of Mosul deserve to know, from their government, that there will be justice and reparation so that the harrowing impact of this operation is duly addressed.”
But that isn’t likely to happen.
It has, after all, been ten years since journalists and innocents were mowed down in the street by the U.S. military, as if the gunmen played a video game; seven years since public release of the Collateral Murder video; and mere months since the person courageous enough to blow the whistle on this disgusting behavior — and more — walked relatively free.
And we are still at war.