WikiLeaks Video: Collateral Murder, Baghdad July 12, 2007

Report from the W'ikiLeaks Press Conference

WASHINGTON, DC — Julian Assange and Wikileaks kept their promise of February 20 by releasing a video tape that shows civilians and reporter deaths from an attack by United States forces.  The tape was presented at a 9:00 am press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Before the conference began, Assange described this as a “very rich story.”  He opened with a brief statement and then showed the video tape. 

WikiLeaks received the tape through unspecified channels.  Assange did say that the leak to his organization “sends a message that there are some people in the US military who don’t like what’s going on.”

The video captures an incident on July 12, 2007 in a Baghdad suburb.  This event has been a matter of controversy since a Reuter’s photo journalist, Namir Noor-Eldeen, and his assistant, Saeed Chmagh, were both killed in the incident.

Reuters described the scene as follows:

Reuters has asked the US military to conduct a full and objective investigation into the deaths of two employees in Baghdad on 12 July. Photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and driver Saeed Chmagh, 40, a father of four, were killed while working in the eastern area of the Iraqi capital.

The cause of their deaths is unclear. The US military issued a statement describing the incident as a firefight with insurgents and said the killings were being investigated. Witnesses interviewed by Reuters said they saw no gunmen in the immediate area and that there had been a US helicopter attack, which police described as “random American bombardment”. Reuters reported it was doing everything it could to work with the authorities to find out how the men died, and was supporting the families.1

The Army never released the video tape from the two Apache helicopters responsible for the attack despite a freedom of information request and pressure by Reuters.

A “random American bombardment”

Today’s tape clarified the concerns about the killings and provided no evidence that this was an engagement with insurgents.  Adult men are seen gathering on a street in the suburb of Baghdad.  Assange pointed out that the two experienced Reuters journalists present seemed relaxed and casual despite the presence of the helicopters.  WikiLeaks’ analysis showed the possibility of an RPG and possibly an Uzi machine gun.  Uzi’s are legal weapons in Baghdad.  RPG’s are a common weapon in the civil strife in Baghdad. As the Apache helicopter circled overhead, communication between the pilots seems bland and matter of fact.  There’s the assumption that these are hostile forces but there is no indication of a “firefight.”

After the attack on the people gathered, the tape went on to show a van stopping to rescue Saeed Chmagh, the photojournalist assistant.  People are seen loading Chmagh into the van.  Recent investigation in Baghdad by WikiLeaks and their Icelandic media partners confirmed that the van was driven by the father of two taking his children to tutoring.  The children were in the front seat and seriously injured. US military personnel arrived in an armed carrier and sent the children to an Iraqi hospital.  Photojournalist Noor-Eldeen is seen run over by an armored personnel carrier.  He and Chmagh both died in the incident.

Assange showed additional footage from the attack after a 20 minute gap in the tape, present when WikiLeaks acquired the video.  In this instance, a building on a busy street is attacked by the same Apache helicopters.  The tape showed one man entering the building, while the US military reported more.  There was no reaction to the helicopters overhead by those seen on the street.  Shortly after the helicopters began circling, they attacked the building with their onboard cannon.

In the question and answer period after the well attended video presentation, Assange pointed out that this was not the video tape from Afghanistan referenced previously by General David Petraeus.  Wikileaks has the tape but is still analyzing it.  Assange was asked why the tape wasn’t released immediately.  He pointed out that analysis was a complex matter and WikiLeaks needed some on the ground investigation in Baghdad to make the tape as meaningful as possible.

He said that the tape was “conveyed” to WikiLeaks through the US military but would not say that the leak was provided by a member of the military.

The highly evocative tape will be seen around the nation and world today and, no doubt, form the basis for an ongoing investigation by Reuters which can now view what they requested nearly three years ago.

WikiLeaks has produced more scoops than the Washington Post has in the past thirty years according to a report by The Guardian. The web based service was “founded by Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and start-up company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa” according to their “About” page. WikiLeaks targets oppressive regimes throughout the world, as well as regimes seeking to repress information on illegal and unethical government actions and policies.

  1. Reuters, July 13, 2007. []

Michael Collins writes for Scoop Independent News and a variety of other web publications on election fraud and other corruptions of the new millennium. He is one of few to report on the ongoing struggles of Susan Lindauer, an activist accused of being a foreign agent, who was the subject of a government request for forced psychiatric medication. This article may be reproduced in whole or in part with attribution of authorship, a link to this article, and acknowledgment of images. Read other articles by Michael, or visit Michael's website.

14 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on April 6th, 2010 at 9:30am #

    While we, w.o. back up [cia-army-fbi echelons] may investigate bush, bho, clinton,et al, for ordering wars, the three branches of US governance with the back up of those echelons i just mentioned will investigate variety of [un]intentionally kiling civlians.

    And with nudge and grin offer one more apology. And one more after that and so on. Aren’t we all who are not with the uncle now animals? Am i exagerating? Let me know in 10 yrs and say to me: No, ur wrong. US had pulled out of iraq yrs ago!
    tnx

  2. mary said on April 6th, 2010 at 3:17pm #

    This is another video showing the beautiful widow and the two children who were injured.

    The Wikileaks video has been viewed over 2 million times. That’s twice the number of Iraqi deaths for the information of anyone in denial.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BflAj2txMVQ&feature=channel&rel=0

    Blair, Bush, Brown, Cheney, Hoon, Rumsfeld, Straw, Rove, Goldsmith, Becket, Rice, Reid, Powell and any those others I have missed out – May you burn in hell for what you have done to these innocent people and their country.

  3. Michael Collins said on April 6th, 2010 at 8:02pm #

    Mary, you are exactly on target imho. The list of characters above is the list of people responsible for the acts in this video and for all the deaths. They are the definition of first cause.

    Your comment on the two million viewers is exactly on target. Who will even talk about the deaths of one million Iraqi civilians due to civil strive, murdering each other, brought on by the collapse of Iraqi society? We do but none of the grandees of commentary world go near it, with a few exceptions.

  4. Stephanie said on April 6th, 2010 at 8:20pm #

    I watched this video first thing this morning …….. I was disgusted. It has been on my mind since…..how can we continue to do this? How can these men feel that it is right? While watching I had the feeling that to the men in the helicopter, it was just another game ……. War is NOT a game. But we all know this here – the people who come to this site.

    Are these men or the ones that “OK’d” the assault going to be held responsible? I have my doubts. And that is very very sad indeed.

  5. mary said on April 6th, 2010 at 11:05pm #

    Mr Collins Please stop twisting my words. One million Iraqi people have not killed each other.

    Millions have been killed, maimed, widowed, orphaned, made homeless and made refugees, by a cruel illegal war and Occupation in 2003 and by the sanctions before. Their land has been poisoned by toxic chemicals and by depleted uranium and their oil has been swiped away from them by the giant petroleum companies.

    Similarly an illegal war has been waged on the people of Afghanistan since 2001 and the same barbarity is happening there as we speak.

    Stephanie – did you know that the carnage on the video was being directed from Tampa, Florida? Just a video game to the participants. Now three years later they don’t even need pilots in their killing machines.

  6. Case Wagenvoord said on April 7th, 2010 at 6:48am #

    War corrupts its participants as was illustrated by the adolescent glee of the Apache crews as they blew away innocent civilians, including those who had come to assist the injured. State-sanctioned slaughter is an euphoric hight for the perpetraters, especially if they are hoovering in the air several hundred feet over people who really can’t fight back.

    And wasn’t it a gas when the Bradley Fighting Vehicle ran over a dead body. Chuckle! Chuckle!

  7. mary said on April 7th, 2010 at 9:57am #

    Mr Collins Excuse me for speaking so sharply to you yesterday. I found those videos particularly distressing and coupled with the emerging news of the birth defects, it was all just too much.

    We are at the beginning of a month long general election campaign here in the UK and the war in Afghanistan doesn’t get a mention from the party leaders. All three parties will continue in the steps of Blair and his successor Brown. It is a dreadful prospect and the general populace doesn’t appear to care either.

  8. rosemarie jackowski said on April 7th, 2010 at 12:44pm #

    Congratulations to WikiLeaks. But, everyone should remember that this was NOT an isolated incident. This is SOP. This is exactly what the rules of engagement allow. Way back a few years ago, the US sniper who shot an unarmed woman with her children said, “The chick was in the way”. Remember that one?

    Part of this WikiLeaks video have been on TV DN and also CNN. When CNN did their report they had a US military representative there to comment and ‘justify’ the slaughter.

    In the end, we can blame the government, or the military. But the bottom line is this – US voters and taxpayers have the ultimate responsibility. Everyone who pays taxes, participates in the economy, or votes for a dem/repub is complicit. That means that you and I are war criminals.

  9. Jonas Rand said on April 7th, 2010 at 2:11pm #

    I found the mainstream media’s analysis of this to be quite interesting, but also disturbing. On CNN Headline News, which is basically a glorified presentation of sensationalistic celebrity gossip mixed in with “news”, it was presented as a “case of mistaken identity”. This report directly stated that they had thought the journalists were carrying weapons, while the caption read “5 or 6 individuals carrying AK-47s”. Clearly seen in the video at that point were 6 people, about 4 of them obviously carrying nothing at all. What was completely omitted were the haunting scenes of brutality shown, the point where one person claimed to have placed rounds near the journalist who was trying to stand up after being wounded, and the time where the man says he hopes he has a weapon to provide an excuse for the killings. This particular did not show graphic violence, and it was somewhat grainy, so the MSM had no excuse for not showing it or quoting it. Then, the media people just moved on to some celebrity gossip, completely whitewashing the improper comportment of the military officers. In the strange, propagandized world of television, the heroes are the killers and mercenaries, and the military’s actions are all fine and good.

    The horrific actions in the video, while they shockingly atrocious, are only distinct because this time they were leaked. As Glenn Greenwald said on Democracy Now! yesterday, it is standard for something like this to happen. The reason they wanted it covered up was because they didn’t want people to know it was standard behavior. Elites and militarists want us to see the sanitized side of brutal, aggressive wars.

  10. mary said on April 7th, 2010 at 2:12pm #

    You are completely right Rosemarie.

    I have just re-listened to a piece on Radio 4 Today broadcast this morning when the release of this video was reluctantly reported. Phrases like ‘apparently leaked by someone in the US military’, ‘purporting to show the killing of 12 innocent Iraqis’ give the listener the impression that there is something untruthful about the video.

    Then followed an explanation from a reporter in Washington of who Wikileaks are – ‘based in Iceland’, ‘whistleblowers’ ie. a bunch of troublemakers.

    What is the reaction of the Pentagon? ‘The ‘incident’ was investigated at the time’. ‘Rules of engagement were followed’.

    What is the reaction of the White House? ‘ It happened under the previous administration’. ‘Casts an unfavourable light’. ‘Some of those killed were militants.’ ‘The tapes are lost’.

    You can get the drift. It was a matter of little importance which has been given publicity by troublemakers/America’s enemies. Typical dismissal by the BBC doing their masters’ bidding.

    The presenter was James Naughtie and the reporter in Washington was Steve Kingston.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/b006qj9z/console
    09mins 30secs in

  11. kalidas said on April 7th, 2010 at 6:22pm #

    Rosemarie, I am not a war criminal.
    I haven’t paid one red cent in tax since the absolutely criminal demonic aggression began. It took me a while in my life, but I finally reached a point where I resigned my job, divied out my assets and material possessions to a point where I am so far below the poverty/taxation level people actually feel sorry for me.

    Of course, I’m not God or Houdini, so I have to eat and though I buy X amount of essentials which are taxed, and use a friend’s computer whenever I like, even these are waning as I get “better” at being a “deadbeat.” These will hopefully continue until I’m finally reduced to food for the bears, coyotes, insects and on down the line.
    After all, hey, what are friends for?

    Not only do I not feel sorry for me, I have never felt better, physically, mentally and spiritually.

    I may be a little ragged and, at times, unsociable, but hey, the best things in life are free.
    Are they not?

  12. Michael Collins said on April 7th, 2010 at 8:38pm #

    Mary, no problem. My point was to stress the number of civilian deaths due to the invasion and assign responsibility to those who concocted the invasion and those who funded it over time. No intent other than that.

    Stephanie, that’s a very good point on holding those responsible to account. Since “the responsible” write the rules, the issue of technical compliance with whatever rules are in place is irrelevant. Those responsible should be blamed for what’s happened, i.e., those who hatched the plot to lie their way into war, those who knew better and went along, members of Congress, members of the media who supported the rationale with lies. But like the torture in Baghdad, only the entry level people are considered for charges. In this case, nothing will happen, I suspect.

    Rosmarie, you raise a challenging point or stateit clearly. This question troubles me and I’ve tried to think it through. I hold those closest to the top responsible. The responsibility diminishes the further we get form the White House and Congress. It’s a matter of information control. Before the WMD lies took hold, a clear majority across the board, opposed any invasion absent proof of WMD presence and intent (that’s a fact statement from the polls, not a statement of what I believe to be a rationale). You may well be right, however. I do hope that people will see this entire war for what it was and is – a flight from reality into horror initiated by people of limited capacity and maintained by those who knew better. What meaning is there to the nation as a whole if we don’t prosecute those closest to the crime?

    Jonas Rand, There have been many comments at the sites where the story is posted about how the incident appears to be like a video game. That perception is one of the central messages that will follow this tape for decades.

    The entire weight of death and suffering in Iraq began with a lie out of the Bush-Cheney White House. The National Intelligence Estimate prior to the invasion claimed incorrectly that there were WMD in Iraq even though there was ample public evidence pointing to that fallacy. The truly appalling adulteration of the report came when the key line was deleted. It said Iraq was an imminent threat to the United States only if attacked. The entire case for invasion was based on that threat being imminent. It was ignored. Ironically, the majority of Congress failed to even read the NEI, a terrible commentary on their level of responsibility. In my opinion, that is the beginning point for all that must follow in acknowledging what a horror this has been.

  13. Deadbeat said on April 7th, 2010 at 9:09pm #

    I agree with kalidas. Let the Zionists among the Left like Noam Chomsky and Phyllis Bennis take responsibility. They’ve spent the better part of the last three decades misinforming activists. If you want a better perspective read the James Petras posted here on DV

  14. mary said on April 7th, 2010 at 9:28pm #

    Cheers Michael.

    How the American media reacted to the video. Sounds very similar to the UK.

    Iraq Killings and Media Indifference
    Leaked video mostly ignored by corporate media

    4/7/10

    A leaked videotape of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed a dozen Iraqis was unveiled on April 5 by the website WikiLeaks. To much of the corporate media, though, it was either not worth reporting at all, or an unfortunate incident to be defended.

    http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=4057

    and Dahr Jamail gives a litany of more of the same –

    (www.truthout.org/iraq-war-vet-we-were-told-just-shoot-people-and-officers-would-take-care-us58378)