U.S. Army's Videotaped Killing Of Journalists

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In 2008, Senator Barack Obama said "I want to end the mindset that got us into war." President Obama must be reminded, by us, of those lofty words. The military industrial complex—that President Eisenhower warned of—wields massive power in Washington.

[Speaking Truth To Power]

This week’s leak of video footage showing the 2007 killing of two Reuters’ newsmen—along with several Iraqis—in Baghdad renews troubling questions regarding the so-called "Rules of Engagement" and the "collateral" deaths of innocent civilians in warfare.

The footage released by Wikileaks.org shows a July 12, 2007 attack where approximately a dozen people were killed among them Reuters’ photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40, a father of four.

Wikileaks.org was provided with the footage from unknown military whistleblowers. The video showed several men, including Saeed and Noor-Eldeen, with his camera, walking along a Baghdad street. The men were profiled as potential insurgents by American fighter-pilots, and indiscriminately fired upon from an Apache helicopter. Most were killed instantly. Noor-Eldeen was shot dead, trying to run away after the initial gunfire. His corpse was run over by an Army vehicle.

The killings were justified by reports insurgents had attacked, in the vicinity, earlier that day. Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl said "There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force."

In August 2007, Reuters attempted to use the Freedom of Information Act, to obtain a copy of the tape but were unsuccessful. In 2008, Reuters noted "There had been reports of clashes between U.S. forces and insurgents in the area but there was no fighting on the streets in which Namir was moving about with a group of men."

The video also showed a subsequent strike where several men were killed—and two children injured—while the men attempted to load dead and wounded bodies into a van. A pilot is heard saying: "Well it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle." Major Brent Cummings stated, "No innocent civilians were killed deliberately. We took great pains to prevent that. I know that two children were hurt, and we did everything we could to help them. I don’t know how the children were hurt."

Bibi van Ginkel, an international lawyer, said "My first guess would be that a war crime was committed. Very simply speaking, if people are helping the wounded, they are non-combatants. If force is used against them then that is a war crime."

This story illustrates the dangers of war for civilians, including journalists. Unfortunately, for Noor-Eldeen and Chmagh, they weren’t "embedded" journalists. So, instead of facing death by the hands of "enemy combatants" they lost their lives by the hands of American soldiers.

In war, the life of journalists is always at risk. According to The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), from March 2003 to October 2009, around 140 journalists were killed in Iraq. 103 were killed by the hands of insurgents, including 89 who were murdered. The U.S. Army killed 16, although, the CPJ found no evidence the killings were deliberate. In Afghanistan since November, 2001 approximately18 journalists have been killed.

This ambush on the leaked videotape is disturbing for several reasons. First, the victims were shot down although they weren’t engaged in any fighting. Noor-Eldeen’s camera was referred to as a weapon. Where’ve we heard that rationale before? Even more disconcerting is the callous disregard, for human life, shown by these soldiers. The killings, apparently, excited them. They laughed at their "kills."

Unfortunately, the ultimate catastrophe of this conduct creates what the U.S. says its fighting against: murderers and terrorists. Civilian killings will be America’s undoing in this so-called "War on Terror." Is the mayhem and murder of the American military more noble than Al-Qaeda or Taliban atrocities? These killings have sparked some news coverage for obvious reasons. But what about the other incidents of civilian killings that our media has failed to report or in instances where video evidence aren't available? Question: why hasn’t our media done any real reporting about the Iraqi casualties of this misguided war? According to Opinion Research Business, a highly respected independent English polling agency, as of January 2008 approximately 1,033,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the war. Are we to believe all, or, most of these were "enemy combatants?"

This videotaped incident is reminiscent of the November 19, 2005 Haditha Massacre, when 24 Iraqi men, women and children were killed by Marines. Haditha is a city in the western Iraq province of Al Anbar. Most of those, if not all, killed are now known to have been "non-combatants." The justification for those murders was: retribution for an earlier attack where an Improvised Explosive Device was used to kill a Marine.

How many innocent people have to die before America stops these wars? In 2008, Senator Barack Obama said "I want to end the mindset that got us into war." President Obama must be reminded, by us, of those lofty words. The military industrial complex—that President Eisenhower warned of—wields massive power in Washington. War is profitable for the few, at the expense of the many. Ultimately, only the people can stop the American war machine.

Please post your comments directly or submit them to milton@blackstarnews.com

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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