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05 April 2010 @ 11:40 am
For those of you who don't know WikiLeaks.org, they post stuff that's embarrassing to governments, corporations, and all sorts of folks. They intentionally run their servers tightly, in areas where certain laws are hard to enforce and with no revelation of anybody's identity. They're exactly the type of "whistleblowers, send your stuff here and we'll repost it!" service that Neal Stephenson figured would prosper on the web.

They've been harassed a lot, questionably legally, by the US lately over something they've been planning to release soon. Apparently it was footage from an Apache helicopter of our pilots in Iraq shooting a crowd of apparent civilians, including two photographers working for Reuters. With radio chatter from our folks in the helicopters and on the ground.

Had you ever seen what the footage looks like from an Apache? Me either.

A lot of this is in some sense excusable, for a variety of reasons. Them gunning down the wounded, unarmed guy and the people in the van that came to pick him up and carry him off? Probably not so much, legally speaking.

I think the most unquestionable thing you get from this video is that the U.S. military investigation was not just biased, but willing to lie pretty flagrantly. The pilots' behavior, while not great, was at least mitigated by a number of important factors. The military spokesman's behavior and that of the investigators was inexcusable.

Nothing new, in the grand scheme of things, including the fact that our intelligence services are willing to illegally lean hard on people who they think will embarrass us internationally. But in case you're wondering, "do we still do that? Does that still happen?", this is one more piece of evidence that the answer is a resounding yes.

If you'd like something uplifting with your awfulness, apparently WikiLeaks received this footage from multiple independent sources in the military. So while we're killing civilians and lying about it, apparently a fair number of individual people in our military realize how bad that is, and will blow the whistle if they won't be personally destroyed for doing so.

So thanks, guys. You're the only people in this whole fiasco who make me optimistic about things changing.
griffjongriffjon on April 5th, 2010 09:08 pm (UTC)
vito_excalibur on April 6th, 2010 02:10 am (UTC)
Iiiinteresting. Thanks for the link.
Anthonyterpsichoros on April 6th, 2010 06:03 am (UTC)
That's brilliant anti-American propaganda. Start with a bunch of special pleading for the poor, innocent journalists (who quite often are not at all innocent), then start the action after the initial firefights have ended, so it's not as obvious that the insurgents being attacked are armed and have been engaged in hostilities. They personalize it by pointing out the reporters over and over, while not drawing attention to the actual armed men that our soldiers were firing on. The replay with the children in the van is particularly specious, as there's no way to tell that the fuzzy blobs labelled "children" were children, except that the ground troops found them after the fact. (And even that identification isn't certain - the blobs may have been other people, and the kids ended up in the front after that bit of the video.) The quote from the AFP photographer at the end is another nice piece of propaganda - implying that we were just randomly shooting into crowds, with no acknowledgement that very recently before that moment, groups of armed men had been firing at our forces and Iraqi government forces.

Based on the observable facts in the video, I see nothing to be ashamed of n the conduct of the U.S. forces in that incident.
griffjongriffjon on April 6th, 2010 01:25 pm (UTC)
Well, here's some more for you:

Video interview of the mother of the two children: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BflAj2txMVQ

And confirmation from the military on the presence of the children: http://www2.centcom.mil/sites/foia/rr/CENTCOM%20Regulation%20CCR%2025210/Death%20of%20Reuters%20Journalists/6--2nd%20Brigade%20Combat%20Team%2015-6%20Investigation.pdf (4th page)

Noahangelbob on April 6th, 2010 04:05 pm (UTC)
The van had nobody armed. The wounded guy wasn't armed. No weapons were visible. If those had been (unarmed) adults in the front of that van, that would still have been illegal, against Geneva Convention, and against our own (US military) Rules of Engagement.

That would be the bit I consider unquestionably bad. I get that camera equipment can be hard to tell apart from weapons at a distance. You're right, the editorializing in the video is very biased. At least one of the guys milling around is armed, though that's pretty common in Iraq, period. So killing the group of people, even without warning, even including the reporters, isn't perfect but isn't worthy of shame.

Killing unarmed people in a van who come to cart away the wounded is, to quote a marine who commented on the video on Hacker News, a court-martial offense.
(Anonymous) on April 6th, 2010 11:18 pm (UTC)
The incident doesn't start where the video does - there has to have been a recently (minutes) previous engagement. So the helicopter sees a group of men, at least some of whom are armed, and has reports that the group was involved in a firefight with U.S. forces. There's pretty obviously at least one guy armed, and the chopper pilot thinks a(nother) guy has an RPG. After the initial burst of fire, they wait, watching the wounded guy to see if he's trying to reach cover, or trying to reach a weapon. Once they think he's going for a weapon, they shoot again. The chopper pilot may be mistaken that the guy is reaching for (or has) a weapon, but it's reasonable to shoot him if he does (or is going for one).

In the middle of an ongoing engagement, an enemy support vehicle pulls up. It's not an ambulance - it's not marked as such. The chopper pilot waits for the van crew to show that it's assisting the armed party before shooting - at that point, the van has shown that it is part of an armed group which has been engaging in hostilities, and is therefore a legitimate target. Any troop carrier is a legitimate target, even if you can't see the weapons the troops are carrying.
Anthonyterpsichoros on April 6th, 2010 11:19 pm (UTC)
Whoops. That was me. Work browser doesn't keep me logged in between sessions anymore, and I'm not yet used to that.
Noahangelbob on April 7th, 2010 01:16 am (UTC)
There has to have been a recent previous engagement somewhere, sure. It was 2007 in Iraq. But do you think there has to have been a previous engagement minutes before within short range of the group of (not headed for cover) guys milling around in the street? I'd think they'd be moving in some kind of more organized fashion if that were the case.
Krissyrightkindofme on April 6th, 2010 04:26 pm (UTC)
Wow. I'm tempted to go get YesDavid and ask him to respond to you. Because you haven't learned much over the years and he would be *delighted* to throw back in your face all of the bullshit you have bought over the years.