Graphic Evidence of the Dangers Involved in War Journalism

Wikileaks.org an organization that releases sensitive documents while preserving the sources anonymity just released a classified US military video showing a group of iraqi’s and two Reuters news staff being shot from an American helicopter (here).

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

I cannot imagine the extreme difficulty in trying to determine whether the people you are looking at are friendly or foe, especially in an urban environment. The chilling part of the video comes when the photographers are walking down the street with their cameras hanging from their shoulders and the gunner says “he’s got a weapon” before requesting permission to engage and then killing everyone.

Reuters said at the time that the two men had been working on a report about weightlifting when they heard about a military raid in the neighborhood, and decided to drive there to check it out.

The attack killed 12, among them the Reuters photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and the driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40.
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via, NYTimes

There Are 40 Comments On This Article.

  1. I can’t accord with your title: Graphic Evidence of the Dangers Involved in War Journalism. For me is an evidence of a crime, what risk or danger presents the people that tried to help the wounded? is an evidence of nazis in your forces.

  2. That is murder, as clear as night & day, the people picking up their wounded were unarmed, those in the helicopter should be out on trial, this isn’t warfare, it’s plain daylight murder!

  3. I was shocked to see the footage. It’s really sucks to see American troops acting this way. Paranoid and delusional. It’s one thing to fire on someone when they are pointing a weapon at you but to shoot at someone when they are not being hostile, is a crime. All they had to do was wait and observe. Another low blow from our military.

  4. You people amaze me! You take a video and believe it is the entire truth. Maybe it is or maybe not. Have you verified the video display is an actual HUD in an apache? Were you there to verify the camera bag was actually holding a camera? Did you verify the voices in the video were actually the pilots of the copter?

    Quit taking news at face value and research…….

  5. gordon erb

    @7. the NYT says that a senior military person has confirmed that the video is legit.

    as for background – from what I have read, the US forces involved were earlier fighting against hostile insurgents that day.

    I have no idea what they were dealing with immediately before this video was shot…but it seems to me that at the moment they were attacked, the behavior of the people seen in this video was not hostile.

    of course, I’m not an expert on what is considered hostile, or what the specific rules of engagement are for this sitatuation, or how easy it is to distinguish between an AK-47 and a Canon 70-200 2.8 from 500 feet away, looking through a scope.

    however, having spent time in countries where they are lots of guns around, it wasn’t clear to me that these guys were carrying weapons.

  6. John Powell

    At the 3:43 mark there are 2 individuals behind the journalists with what appear to be weapons. One is a long instrument which would appear to be an RPG. The other item appears to be a rifle held by one hand.

    The journalists have something hanging from their shoulders and given the company which they keep, it would be assumed they are weapons. We know after the fact, this is not the case, but nobody commenting here was there in the air, nor on the ground.

    So who are the armed, non-uniformed individuals and why are the journalists keeping company with them?

    Wikileaks is not journalism. Their ‘report’ does not address those who are clearly armed. Nor does the video address the situation on the ground prior to the engagement.

    I do not see a video clearly showing unprovoked slaying. I see a video which is interpreted by a website with emphasis given to alleged wrong doing by the U.S. Military.

    What I do see, if the alleged facts presented by Wikileaks are true, is the tragic deaths of 2 journalists and certainly Reuters deserves the truth about what happened.

    Those bearing weapons who were killed, I cannot comment on whether their deaths were wrong or not. If Wikileaks had been fair in reporting, we might have known more about the rest of the group.

    • @John Powell,

      Nice try. There are lots of back ground articles you could have read before posting that apologist rot.

    • @John Powell, …and the guys taking 2 children to class who stopped to help a wounded man? what was threatening there?
      of course it is an unprovoked slaying.. imagine a resistance fighter standing clearly in view of 2 combat helicopters, with weapons in hand, just milling about and talking.. looking at photos on a camera.. talking on a mobile phone.
      there is clearly no hostile behavior towards the helicopters, and if there had been hostile behavior towards the convoy some distance away down the road do you not think the fighters would have hidden or avoided the helicopters?
      i think it is a loosing battle to defend this action – or the cover-up which followed.

      most shocking of all – if it were not for the two journalists this event would have passed into obscurity, along with countless other atrocities in iraq and afghanistan, long ago.

      • John Powell

        @david,

        I have questions about the website’s coverage of the event which remained unanswered, especially the issue that there were non-uniformed armed men in the video.

        I would assume anyone not wearing uniforms and carrying an RPG to be a thug at best and a terrorist at worst.

        Does anyone have information regarding the armed men and why the journalists were in their company?

        • @John Powell, Wikileaks is not a jouranlistic website, it is a whistleblowing website: they share information that was anonymously sent to them.

          If you wish to find good reportage, the best is to do it yourself. Do not rely on the media with propaganda angles to do it for you, because they will give an opinion to you as opposed to the unbiased facts.

        • @John Powell,

          Ironically, we’ve sent many armed men to Iraq, and they have journalists in their company all the time. Sadly those journalists have been targeted by Iraqi resistance forces too.

          It’d be nice if we could agree that journalists put themselves into situations that the vast majority of us should hope to never find ourselves in, in order to inform us of what is going on in the world. I guess if you think that a journalist walking with a group of Iraqi insurgents is a mark for assassination we have a different idea about what journalism is.

          Honestly it’s kind of a revolting insinuation.

          • John Powell

            @Paul, I agree with your statement about journalists and I also accept that when they place themselves in harm’s way, they may not live.

            The death of the journalists was a horrible mistake. There was no celebration of the helicopter operators because they killed a journalist. They did not know they were shooting at journalists.

            You and I have the luxury of seeing the video magnified, played back repeatedly and scrutinized by everyone, qualified and unqualified. The soldiers, not so much.

            I never suggested the journalists were a mark for assassination but if you keep company with terrorists, you may get killed.

  7. “I confess, without shame, I am sick and tired of fighting—its glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentations of distant families, appealing to me for sons, husbands and fathers … tis only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated … that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation.”

    - General William Tecumseh Sherman
    From a personal letter, May 1865

  8. It is a shame that the reporters and other innocent people lost their lives. Part of what Gordon Erb stated is a truth, You do not know what took place prior to this event. It is apparent from the film that the reporters were not carrying weapons, but that is the gun camera viewpoint. But it is also unclear what they are carrying until later.

    The effects of battle are traumatic to say the least. It is never anything to be proud of to say that you killed so many enemy soldiers. It is something that we try to forget. It is what has cause the suicides of many that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    It was a horrific mistake made by those that were apparently fearful for their lives and erred. The issue that bothers me the most is that the two commanding flight crew members made decisions based on perception than fact. There was an individual with an AK-47 in the frame. No RPG’s seen from the gun camera vantage point.
    What was mistaken for a RPG was a camera with a large lens. It was a huge failure on the one crew to call to open fire at any point since a weapon was not pointed in their direction. The second time they open fire to me is a war crime. Their actions were arrogant.

    More than likely and hopefully the crews on both gunships had been relieved of their duties, been reassigned back in the states, and faced a Court Martial. It may not have been made public because of the embarressment it will have brought to the in command positions.

    The ones that pulled the trigger more than likely will commit suicide because they can’t deal with the guilt. Fortunately for me this doesn’t represent my brothers in arms who are still over there andwho suvived and those who have returned home under a flag.

    I watched a high school buddy die in front of my eyes when he was taking off from a base in South East Asia during peace time. A bird flew down the engine intake of the A7 just after he had broke ground. Needless to say the effect was catastrophic and brought his life to an end.

    Unfortunately, there are things that the two reporters could have done to not blend in with the locals and possibly prevent this from happening to them.

    As stated at the end the film needs to be a remembrance for those that have fallen when they shouldn’t have. We need to honor them for what they did, they followed the passion of their life otherwise they wouldn’t have been there and become a casualty of war.

    It’s not an easy thing to resolve in life.

  9. Want to comment on whether the people in the street seemed innocent because they were “talking on the cell phone” and standing out in the open with the helicopters around. I doubt those people knew the helicopter was around. I don’t think those helicopters were close at all. When the gunner opens up initially, it’s at least 3-4 seconds after you hear the sound of the gun firing to when the shells appears on screen. If the shells are moving at 1000meter/second that’s at least 3 KM away, so that explains the people in the street not hearing the helicopters.

    It looks like the journalists were walking with people who appear to be armed- other people in that group definitely had some equipment that was not camera gear. If the journalists were walking out in the open with armed individuals in an area where there had been an engagement with American forces, they were running a heck of a risk.

  10. le cinémasagiste

    It shows how true to form Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” was. This crap probably happened daily in Vietnam… It’s pretty F’d up for sure.

    Door Gunner: Git some! Git some! Git some, yeah, yeah, yeah! Anyone who runs, is a VC. Anyone who stands still, is a well-disciplined VC! …. I done got me 157 dead gooks killed. Plus 50 water buffalo, too! Them’s all confirmed!

    Private Joker: Any women or children?

    Door Gunner: Sometimes!

    Private Joker: How can you shoot women or children?

    Door Gunner: Easy! Ya just don’t lead ‘em so much! Ain’t war hell?

  11. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/04/07/military-raises-questions-credibility-leaked-iraq-shooting-video/

    WikiLeaks said on Monday the video taken from an Army helicopter shows the men were walking through a courtyard and did nothing to provoke the attack. Their representatives said when the military mistook cameras for weapons, U.S. personnel killed everyone in sight and have attempted to cover up the murders ever since.

    The problem, according to many who have viewed the video, is that WikiLeaks appears to have done selective editing that tells only half the story. For instance, the Web site takes special care to slow down the video and identify the two photographers and the cameras they are carrying.

    However, the Web site does not slow down the video to show that at least one man in that group was carrying a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, a clearly visible weapon that runs nearly two-thirds the length of his body.

    WikiLeaks also does not point out that at least one man was carrying an AK-47 assault rifle. He is seen swinging the weapon below his waist while standing next to the man holding the RPG.

    “It gives you a limited perspective,” said Capt. Jack Hanzlik, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command. “The video only tells you a portion of the activity that was happening that day. Just from watching that video, people cannot understand the complex battles that occurred. You are seeing only a very narrow picture of the events.”

    Hanzlik said images gathered during a military investigation of the incident show multiple weapons around the dead bodies in the courtyard, including at least three RPGs.

    • John Powell

      @Dan, Amen.

      I am not a fan of malicious murder but a fair investigation is what is required.

      I clearly see the RPG and assault weapon but that gets lost in the hype to discredit the United States.

    • @Dan,

      “Hanzlik called the death of the Reuters photographers “incredibly unfortunate.” That sad part is, he said, they weren’t wearing any markings or jerseys that would have signaled to U.S. forces they were members of the media.

      Another revolting thought. It’s the photographers fault. I wasn’t aware there was a specific outfit that journalists had to wear to prevent them being shot.

      • @Paul, you all just *think* John Powell is a vicious apologist. Allow me to demonstrate vicious apologism (at least by this odd definition.)

        Journalists who are injured or killed because they deliberately put themselves in harm’s way do not deserve any sympathy whatsoever. Jobs have risks. This is one of the risks of their job. If they don’t find the risk acceptable, they shouldn’t do the job.

        Furthermore, journalists who are injured or killed because they were associating with criminals, terrorists, or non-lawful combatants and got caught in combat, in my opinion, more or less had it coming. Al Queda, the Taliban, the various militias in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc, have their own PR systems. The public can easily learn whatever it is they want us to know about themselves. The only justification for journalists to give them an additional forum is self-aggrandizement and tawdry sensationalism.

        In this particular case, it very much was the photographers’ fault. They were interimingled into a group of non-lawful combatants in a combat zone. One of the primary reasons they are non-lawful combatants is that they don’t wear uniforms. If, hypothetically, the combatants *had* been wearing uniforms, and the journalists had not, they *might* have been distinguishable. They still might have been legitimate targets, but at least an argument could be made. As it was, it was a large group, clearly associating with each other, and some of them clearly armed. It was a legitimate target and without any way to distinguish the non-combatant journalists, they were legitimate targets. Lie down with dogs, wake up with incoming fire.

        M

  12. The topic is highly emotional, since I have had some time to sleep on it, several thoughts came up.

    One, Wiki indicated that they needed to decode the video, why, from my time in the military, we never had to decode gun camera film. In the old days before vhs styled cartridges it had to be deveoloped. the film now days is plug-n-play.

    Second the helecopters were at least half to three quarters of a mile a way.

    I brought this up, before, why as a journalist in a combat zone did they appear blend in with the locals. Doesn’t make sense, also no body armor?

    Lastly, to me there is still no reason for the second barrage of weapons fire. It makes no sense at all.

    • @scott Rex Ely,

      If it’s it’s on the Times, Al-Jazeera and the internets then it must be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

      Yeah, right.

      • @Dan,

        Really coming from the one who posted a Fox link? You do realize Koolaid is just water and sugar with artificial flavoring and that “Blastin’ Berry Cherry” doesn’t exist in the real world no matter how much people tell us it does.

  13. The press should have at the very least worn identifying clothes, period.

    There were multiple arms seen. The actions were furtive, and seen as with hostile intent.

    sadly they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  14. Lots of posts. I don’t know if the pilots were trying to anticipate an attack or firing to engage. Where was all the smoke produced by the weapons? Other guncam footage will show smoke and fire from their sensors. I’m only viewing this from a small internet file. The operators are looking on through their cockpit sensor … the best instruments money could produce. Unless, they’re using a 1k sensor … then my mistake.

    With all the high tech abilities of the weapons, ID systems, and sensors; it’s still down to the training and mental state of the operators. There is no such thing as smart weapons / bombs. Such as the problem with the corporation’s thinking, solve an organic problem with more technology. The manager’s and bosses don’t have to live with any consequences of their actions.

  15. The helicopter pilots looks like a bunch of kids playing a war video game. The second attack, to the van, was totally and completely unnecessary. There were kids at the window, and they were just trying to help the wounded. Watch the full version at http://www.collateralmurder.com, at minute 34 more or less they shoot a missile into a building and they don’t even wait a man walking by the street, totally unaware of what was happening. For them any Iraqi is a terrorist. Like the post above quoting Full Metal Jacket… “a well disciplined VC”.

    The US armed forces are the worst terrorists of all time, that’s a fact.

    And what happened to those coward pilots? They probably got a medal…

    alah ha akbar = in god we trust ?? shit…

    • @yoshi,
      The US military has been defending your right to bitch and moan for over two hundred years. If you haven’t applied for a U.S visa or don’t live here, I bet you have wanted to at some point.

      heh heh.

      • @Dan,

        Hi Dan I don’t live in the US. I don’t want to live in the US and I don’t want to apply for a visa to live there.

        But I do follow the fascistic logic of your argument and praise the Lord that the US is able to protect me from dangerous photojournalists via high calibre machine guns.

        heh heh.

        PS. the internet exists in places other than The United States of America.

      • @Dan, yes, please keep on defending me against dangerous photojournalists… those bastards!
        Clearly you don’t see the bigger picture.

        BTW, why did the US go into Iraq anyway? It’s their problem let them fight! Oh no, I forgot, it’s to free those poor people from terrible terrible Saddam Hussein, now you should complete the plan and trow some iPods for them.

        • @J, &
          @yoshi,

          I love being an American, I support the troops and I give them the benefit of the doubt.

          : )

    • @yoshi, the US Armed Forces are the worst terrorists of all time?

      If by “worst” you mean “least terroristic,” then you at least have an arguable point, although my vote would probably go to the Weathermen or somebody like that whose self-inflicted damage was higher than their actual terrorist damage.

      I suspect, though, that that’s not what you mean. If that is the case, you need to learn the difference between “hyperbole” and “idiocy.” This is right up there with the old unreconstructed hippie who told me, not long after the Tiannamen Square massacre, that there was nothing that China could do to Hong Kong that was worse than what the British had already done to it.

  16. scott Rex Ely

    This is as much about the life of a social media vehicle, as it about the life of people in an occupied war zone.

  17. So much conjecture based on a site that purports to have coups in delivering classified materials to the public. The intent is to defame the U.S. and our military. We are illegally in the country according to our Constitution, the oath I took to protect and defend this nation does not include illegal invasion of other countries. I served as a military photographer, and have relatives who work in those countries now, militarily. So my perspective is two fold. I have been in and served as a photographer so I see the point of view of those who died with only cameras on their sides. I also see the military point of view that you are in a war zone with unknowns walking with you. I see the political view of those exposing the video and they certainly have a bias in what they are trying to do. No objective reporting from that site at all.

    Military doctrine is a moving target. We are fighting people from the 8th Century with 21st Century weapons, yet at the same time all involved are human and must make decisions and judgements based on information on hand at the time. We who have viewed the video are unaware of the situation in the whole, we have only an edited slice of video from a much larger engagement. It is truly sad that anyone in Iraq has to die. If the U.S. wants to invade another nation, we should have chosen Saudi Arabia as the target, since their worldview opposes ours to this day, and they supplied the majority of the hijackers on 9/11.

  18. @John Powell,

    Nice try. There are lots of back ground articles you could have read before posting that apologist rot.