Taking a Look at the Iraqi Rules of Engagement, Via Wikileaks


Wikileaks releases video of U.S. troops murdering some Reuters journalists, and a bunch of other people, in Iraq back in July 2007. Video embedded below, in the form of a mini-documentary that surrounds the footage with some explanations and annotation.

Reuters' report on the video and what it shows. Excerpt:

The group, WikiLeaks, told a news conference in Washington that it acquired encrypted video of the July 12, 2007, attack from military whistleblowers and had been able to view and investigate it after breaking the encryption code….

Major Shawn Turner, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said an investigation of the incident shortly after it occurred found that U.S. forces were not aware of the presence of the news staffers and thought they were engaging armed insurgents.

"We regret the loss of innocent life, but this incident was promptly investigated and there was never any attempt to cover up any aspect of this engagement," Turner said…..

David Schlesinger, Reuters' editor-in-chief, said the video released by WikiLeaks showed the deaths of Noor-Eldeen and Chmagh were "tragic and emblematic of the extreme dangers that exist in covering war zones."…

CNN's Wolf Blitzer shows care and concern for, of course, the victim's families by cutting off the video before all the shooting and killing happens.

Look for yourself and make your own judgement, of course, if you are concerned. (Which is more than CNN gave you the power to do.) While it does look like to me like a couple of the people walking down the streets of this very dangerous place have rifles on their arms, there is no sign of any of the people involved posing any threat to anyone or anything, and what the soldiers seem to think are RPGs seem more likely to be cameras (and again are not threatening anyone whatever they are). (If I were walking around in Iraq in 2007, I'd certainly want me or others in my party to be armed, for our own protection.) When a van shows up to pick up the bodies, they too are shot to hell. A couple of children were in the van and killed (actually only wounded).

Bits of dialogue to look out for: after the first round of unthreatening people were killed, the chopper boys are looking around–not for more threats per se–but for, in their language, "just trying to find targets again." And when they discover the van that came to help the shot bodies had kids in it, well, "It's their fault for bringing their children into a battle." It wasn't really a battle though; that involved people fighting each other. It was a slaughter.

The New York Times with U.S. Central Command's perspective:

Late Monday, the United States Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, released the redacted report on the case, which provided some more detail.

The report showed pictures of what it said were machine guns and grenades found near the bodies of those killed. It also stated that the Reuters employees "made no effort to visibly display their status as press or media representatives and their familiar behavior with, and close proximity to, the armed insurgents and their furtive attempts to photograph the coalition ground forces made them appear as hostile combatants to the Apaches that engaged them."

The U.S. admits to the video's authenticity and says it portrays rules of engagement that are perfectly proper. Luckily, thanks to Wikileaks, you can decide for yourself what you think of those rules with a bit more context than the U.S. military, or CNN, want to give you: