Wikileaks: 2007 Iraq Shooting (evidence, analysis)

“We’ve shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force.”, said Gen. Stanley McChrystal on the subject of escalation of force, in little-noticed comments made this week in his regular virtual town hall from Afghanistan.

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I just came across the Wikileaks video about the shooting in Iraq. It happened a few years ago, but only now was leaked. Apparently, the military originally lied about the incident (SURPRISE! SURPRISE!).  

This first video directly below is supposedly the entire unedited version. The video is graphic.  

In all my years on earth, I’ve seen plenty of actual footage of war and of killings in general. But, dear Lord!, this video impacted me like no other. It’s impossible for me to describe how disgusted and horrified this video makes me feel. Our society has a deep, deep soul sickness. Yes, war is violence, but this incident goes beyond the everyday violence of war.   

The soldiers were in a chopper far away looking through scopes (utterly detached from the reality of these human beings as if it all were just a video game). The soldiers were looking for an excuse to shoot and the whole process was so calculated. The soldiers weren’t being attacked, weren’t in danger, weren’t simply reacting. They were just looking for an excuse. Any object those people were carrying, it didn’t matter what it actually was, might as well be guns to these soldiers. The people killed were standing around a residential area minding their own business.  

Let me add some info for context. Even if one of these guys was holding a gun, it’s legal in Iraq to own and carry a gun. As I understand it, nearly every home has a gun. Iraq is a dangerous place and so people living there often carry guns. The people shot weren’t acting suspicious. They were just people standing outside some homes. The reason they were gathered together was because a Reuters journalist was also there (one of the assumed guns apparently was just the journalist’s camera).  

Democracy Now!

“RICK ROWLEY: But yeah. I mean, the thing that was most chilling to me about this, as an independent journalist who works unembedded often, is that when the reports came out—the military investigations came out a few days later, you can read them all on the internet now—and they basically—I mean, essentially they blamed the reporters for causing this. They say they did three things wrong . First, they failed to identify themselves to a helicopter gunship flying, I don’t know, hundreds of feet above their heads. Second, their proximity to armed insurgents was reason for them to be killed . And third, their furtive attempt to take a photograph of American troops .

I mean, so, first of all, there is no reason at all to believe or to conclude that any of the people in that picture are armed insurgents. I mean, you can see two men with Kalashnikovs, but this is 2007 in Baghdad. This is the height of the civil war , when dozens of bodies a day were being picked up from the street, when sectarian militias filled the Iraqi security forces, the police and the army. Every neighborhood in Baghdad organized its own protection force. And it was legal at the time for every household to own a Kalashnikov in Iraq, and every household I ever went to did. So the presence of two men, dangling at their sides Kalashnikovs, in a crowd of civilians who have no weapons at all, I mean, is absolutely no—I mean, it’s—the whole thing is ridiculous. ”

There are other things to keep in mind.   

First, incidents like this happen all the time. As with this video, the military tries to suppress the incident and will make statements that are blatant lies. Most of the time, the military is successful in their propaganda to the American public. So, while watching this video, realize this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the horrors of war.  

GRITtv: WikiLeaks Video: Exception or Example?  

What should be shocking and disturbing about this footage is not that these soldiers are breaking the rules. It’s that they are following the rules, that they are executing calmly and coldly the rules of engagement. And that this is the reality of the wars and occupation in Iraq and Afghansistan. If you support the war, then you support this kind of killing of civilians. They go hand in hand.  

 

At Democracy Now!, Glenn Greenwald (of Salon.com) said in an interview: 

Namir_Noor-Eldeen
Namir N00r-Eldeen, Reuters photojournalist killed in the 2007 Iraq incident. Reuters.

“My concern with the discussions that have been triggered, though, is that there seems to be the suggestion, in many circles—not, of course, by Julian—that this is some sort of extreme event, or this is some sort of aberration, and that’s the reason why we’re all talking about it and are horrified about it. In fact, it’s anything but rare. The only thing that’s rare about this is that we happen to know about it and are seeing it take place on video. This is something that takes place on a virtually daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places where we invade and bomb and occupy. …And you see that this is standard operating procedure. The military was not at all concerned about what took place. They didn’t even think there were remedial steps needed to prevent a future reoccurrence. They concluded definitively that the members of the military involved did exactly the right thing. 

This is what war is. This is what the United States does in these countries. And that, I think, is the crucial point to note, along with the fact that the military fought tooth and nail to prevent this video from surfacing, precisely because they knew that it would shed light on what their actual behavior is during war, and instead of the propaganda to which we’re typically subjected.”

Most important of all, this was an illegal and immoral war right from the beginning. All the hundreds of thousands of deaths of US soldiers and innocents were entirely unnecessary. These soldiers were just young kids who made bad decisions with the lives of others. Whether or not they should face trial is another issue (the military, of course, states it doesn’t plan on investigating or punishing these soldiers). More importantly, George W. Bush is a war criminal which is further proven by other recent evidence (see my previous post: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & Gitmo Innocents). 

Here is a nice summary of info about this incident:  

Essential links on WikiLeaks video of Iraq shooting
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
  

Whistleblower site WikiLeaks has released a leaked video taken from a US military helicopter in July 2007, showing US forces indiscriminately firing on Iraqi civilians, killing 12 people and wounding two children. The dead included two employees of the Reuters news agency. There are several edited versions of the video, which can be found in its entirety here. Cryptome offers a series of selected stills from the leaked WikiLeaks video, with some visual analysis of the footage. It is worth keeping in mind that the leaked video is of substantially lower quality than what the US helicopter pilots saw, because it was converted through several stages before it was released by WikiLeaks. The website’s co-founder, Julian Assange, and Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald speak extensively on Democracy Now! about the leaked video, as well as about allegations that US government officials spied on Assange and other WikiLeaks workers and volunteers in Iceland and Norway. Greenwald is one of a handful of journalists taking  a serious interest in the WikiLeaksThe Guardian’s Joseph Huff-Hannon. Meanwhile the US Pentagon says it can revelation, as is not make a complete verification of the incident “until the original tapes have been located”.  

The first few videos below offer useful analysis. The last video is Fox News, of course, trying to rationalize it all away.  




  

Last year, I wrote about the wars Bush started. I think it’s even more relevant now than when I wrote it. So, I’ve re-posted it in its entirety below. But first let me emphasize one specific comment that is a bit prophetic:

Despite the majority being critical of the war, it often seems like there is very little outrage (or very little heard in the media) about the tragic results.  It’s largely because the government has been very controlling of the information it releases and very controlling of the media.  The media has allowed itself to be controlled (such as embedded journalists), has allowed itself to be used for purposes of propaganda (partly by self-censoring).  We don’t see the visceral images of death and destruction which were seen during the Vietnam war and which changed public opinion at that time.  Without pictures, it doesn’t entirely feel real.  Abstract data doesn’t incite the moral indignation of the public.

The Iraq War is officially no longer an abstraction. American public, welcome to the reality that your taxes paid for.

Iraq War: righteous cause?

I was thinking about righteousness as it relates to righteous causes.  Righteousness often plays out in politics in terms of patriotrism, and patriotistm often plays out in terms of war. As an example, the peace protests that were against the invasion of Iraq were the largest and fastest growing of any anti-war movement in American history, and the most widespread and most well organized in world history.  It had become well organized before the war even started which is very unusual.  It took years for the Vietnam war protests to even begin to gather popular support. 

The anti-war movement gained much support even internationally.  Many political and religious leaders (including heads of states and even the Vatican) around the world have officially opposed the war and occupation of Iraq.  Around 90% of non-Americans in the world are against unilateral action by the US without UN sanction.  Around 3 million people were caculated to be in Rome protesting the war which Guinness Book of Records claims is the largest ever anti-war rally.  In a 3 month period in 2003, it was calculated that 36 million people worldwide participated in 3,000 protests.

In America, since 2005, opponents of the war have outnumbered supporters.  But even before the war started the vast majority (around 70%) of Americans opposed going to war without allowing the UN inspections to finish.  Also, at least 64 US city councils have passed anti-war resolutions (which includes major cities of middle America such as Chicago and Detroit) and some major US religious organizations have passed anti-war resolutions (such as the National Council of Churches and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops).

What did the government do in response?  Initially, the government’s righteous rhetoric just became more loud.  The Bush administration ignored the opposition and went to war anyways.  Bush saw that his base supported it, and ignored the fact that for instance most blacks and hispanics didn’t.  Bush also ignored the UN and ignored popular opinion in the world at large.  Bush hoped the dissent would disappear if he just ignored it long enough, but it only kept growing.  And the Democrats in Washington were afraid to represent many of of those in their own base who were in opposition to Bush’s patriotic call to arms.  So, no one in power supported this large and ever growing larger anti-war movement.  Furthermore, many US news sources (Fox News in particular) tried their best to ignore and downplay the anti-war protests (even though they’ve given plenty of attention to much smaller protest movements that support the Republican party).

The Iraq war was justified for two reasons (a claim of connections to 9/11 terrorists and a claim of weapons of mass destruction) both of which turned out to be either lies or unforgivable ignorance.  We’ve torn a country a part out of a sense of vengeance at having a couple of buildings knocked down.  Millions of innocent Iraqi civilians have been killed, injured, and orphaned so as to free them from Saddam who was supposed to be somehow connected the 9/11 attacks that killed less than 3,000.  But it doesn’t matter because Iraqis are elsewhere.  Iraqis hold no great power in the world, and if it weren’t for oil no one would care about them.

Anyways, it was the American government who in the first place helped Saddam and Bin Laden gain power.  Where is America’s righteousness when morality only applies when the situation is convenient?  It’s not just Iraqis who have suffered because of the US invasion and occupation.  From this site, here are the recent statistcs for deaths in Iraq:

Iraqi troops killed [13] 30,000 Iraqi troops seriously injured [14] 90,000 Iraqi civilians killed [15] 697,523 Iraqi civilians seriously injured [16] 1,255,541 U.S. troops killed [17] 4,343 U.S. troops seriously injured [18] 31,156 Other coalition troops killed [19] 318 Other coalition troops seriously injured [20] 10,821 Contractors killed [21] 933 Contractors seriously injured [22] 10,569 Journalists killed [23] 163 Journalists seriously injured [24] unknown Total killed in Iraq: 733,280 Total injured in Iraq: 1,398,087

Although, a Reuters article argues that the contractor deaths are being undercounted and that this is important as the military is increasingly relying on contractors.

In a Wahington Post article, it was pointed out that certain improvements in the military have had unforeseen consequences.  Better armor and better medical care have saved many lives, but this means that there has been a massive increase of soldiers surviving horrific injuries.  This has led to many more veterans coming home with severe physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  A related issue is that 52% of injured soldiers have traumatic brain injuries (TBI).  Beyond the more publicized injuries, there is an even greater subtle menace.  The US troops have used massive amounts of depleted uranium in the Iraq war.  This depleted uranium is in many populated areas which leads to deaths and birth defects for Iraqis, but it also means many US veterans will end up dying from cancer later on.

Furthermore, there are some more results that I find even more depressing.  There are extremely high numbers of soldiers and veterans committing suicide, and many veterans end up unemployed or even homeless.  Among the homeless, one out of every 3 is a veteran even though veterans are only around 10% of the US population.  Most of these veterans are from Vietnam, but homeless younger veterans are increasing in numbers and no one knows how many there are.  All of this relates to high rates of crime (with the highest rates being violence and sexual assault), alcoholism, and drug addiction.  Interestingly, I was reading about how the military has made a practice of giving prescription drugs to soldiers in the field to help them deal with the stress and trauma.  Vietnam veterans used to self-medicate, but now the military keeps our soldiers drugged up so that they’ll be more properly (or at least temporarily) numbed to the horrors of war.

The Iraq war has been a very damaging war.  Despite the majority being critical of the war, it often seems like there is very little outrage (or very little heard in the media) about the tragic results.  It’s largely because the government has been very controlling of the information it releases and very controlling of the media.  The media has allowed itself to be controlled (such as embedded journalists), has allowed itself to be used for purposes of propaganda (partly by self-censoring).  We don’t see the visceral images of death and destruction which were seen during the Vietnam war and which changed public opinion at that time.  Without pictures, it doesn’t entirely feel real.  Abstract data doesn’t incite the moral indignation of the public.

The War on Terror continues, the anti-war movement has lost its momentum, and the American public have become resigned.  The Iraq War is just about to overtake the American Revolutionary War as the third longest war and the War in Afghanistan is getting closer to being the longest war in US history.  Right now Obama is trying to decide what to do next with a war he inherited, a war that is impossible to win.

So, this is where political faux righteousness leads.  My point for bringing all of that up is to show how the anti-war movement is an example of how a genuinely righteous populist movement can be suppressed.  And it’s just one of endless examples.

The Curious Incident of the NASA Moon Footage

Here is the type of news that just sounds off.

NASA lost moon footage, but Hollywood restores it by Seth Borenstein (AP)

There are two possibilities for what happened to this NASA footage. 

The first one the media latches onto is probably the least likely.  This unlikely scenario suggests that it was just an accidental loss.  NASA has some of the highest security in the world.  Nothing happens at NASA without approval.  These tapes would’ve been some of the most important information that NASA has ever had and would’ve been under lock and key.  If NASA accidentally lost or destroyed these tapes, then it demonstrates an extreme level of incompetence that is beyond imagination.  There should be a major investigation and those responsible should be punished to the furthest extent of the law.

The second is what no respectable media person would say out loudly because it’s such an obvious possibility.  For whatever reason, someone quite likely destroyed the footage on purpose.  Obviously, someone had to approve of their destruction and a number of people would’ve been involved in the actual process of destruction.  The media seems to portray it as if NASA doesn’t even know what happened.  NASA may be choosing not to tell the media what it knows, but NASA (or rather specific people of authority within NASA presently or in the past) certainly know more than what they’re telling.  Assuming it wasn’t motivated by malign intentions, there would be a paper trail of authorization.  If there is no paper trail, then that increases to a great degree the possibility of malign intentions.  As such, it becomes explicitly improbable that it was an accident.

This also points to another strange factor.  Back in 1969, the world only saw the footage that was grainy by its passing through several relay stations.  However, NASA had the original perfectly clear footage.  NASA claims it not only chose not to show the original footage, but chose not to transfer it into a normal format so that it could be released to the public and chose not to make backup copies.  Furthermore, the NASA officials and scientists of the time supposedly had no interest in inspecting the footage and simply dumped it all into storage.  That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.  Are we really to believe that one of the largest and most expensive programs in all of US history was run this incompetently?  Are we to believe that one of the most historically important moments in history was treated so carelessly?

The ironic part is that Hollywood supposedly restores the footage which as I understand it isn’t entirely true.  They only restored the small percentage of the footage that was originally played by NASA and some other footage that survived by other means.  This only feeds the conspiracy theorists and who is to blame them.  Some conspiracy theorists believe it was all fake in the first place which isn’t anything that I personally give much credence to.  I’m more attracted to the idea that the footage was real and there was something on it that NASA didn’t want the public to know about.

From the Borenstein article:

“It’s surprising to me that NASA didn’t have the common sense to save perhaps the most important historical footage of the 20th century,” said Rice University historian and author Douglas Brinkley. He noted that NASA saved all sorts of data and artifacts from Apollo 11, and it is “mind-boggling that the tapes just disappeared.”

To say it’s “mind-boggling” is a good way of putting it.  One could even say it’s so mind-boggling as to be beyond belief.

Smithsonian Institution space curator Roger Launius, a former NASA chief historian, said the loss of the original video “doesn’t surprise me that much.”

“It was a mistake, no doubt about that,” Launius said. “This is a problem inside the entire federal government. … They don’t think that preservation is all that important.”

If that is true, then that is one of the saddest statements I’ve ever heard.  Maybe the government isn’t all that interested in preservation as it doesn’t serve their purposes.  The only time someone in the government gets in trouble is when the wrong information gets preserved.  I’m sure Nixon regretted preserving certain tapes.

For further thoughts on the conspiracy angle, check out these next two analyses of the situation.

NASA Apollo Moon Footage Conspiracy Continues (blog post) by ahrcanmum

If you read through the now declassified and very abbreviated transcription of the Apollo conversations which can be found at http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/history/mission_trans/AS11_CM.PDF one of the first conversations is over the cameras.

[ . . . ]

NASA knew damned well the importance of documenting the Apollo missions, but the the conversations between the astronauts sounds more like the three stooges trying to figure out light readings, how to turn things on and which camera to use.  They had color and black and white film to preserve what they saw including what was noted on Page 72, day 4, when they get a good look at the moon’s surface  “03 04 06 44 CMP Yes, that’s what I was talking about just a minute ago. It’s kind of hard to believe that that’s volcanic and formed by some faulting, isn’t it? I don’t believe that – but it’s such a perfect straight line.”

[ . . . ]

It is all recorded on film and NASA tapes over it? Perhaps the real reason the tapes went missing was not to allow anyone to ever see what is described here, “ 

05 05 31 03 CDR Yes.05 05 31 08 LMP … structure somehow  05 05 31 31 LMP 3.5, Nell.

05 05 32 44 LMP Woo-woos is on VHF B –

05 05 32 48 CDR … B?

05 05 32 50 IMP Not on A.

05 05 32 58 CDR (Laughter) That’s your story, huh?

 05 ll 45 56 LMP Well, I hope – I hope they have the data that shows Just what we did have at contact when they can get photographs … all the film we got….

Interestingly, ahrcanmum mentions that NASA managed to save the footage of the food the astronauts ate.  He also put up a YouTube video bout the UFO sited by the astronauts.  It includes some original audio and it has a nice interview with Buzz Aldrin describing the UFO (which he would later deny as having been a UFO).  Another person on the video explains how UFOs were seen on other missions as well and there is video of one of these from a later mission.

NASA Moon Landing Videos: The Mystery Deepens by Fred Burks (examiner.com)

What’s going on here? NASA loses the tapes of one of the most important landmark events in human history. Then they find them, but parts have been erased to save money. And now Hollywood is being paid to restore the videos. How could anyone allow these historic tapes to be erased to save money? How could they even have been lost in the first place? I don’t doubt that the Apollo missions went to the moon, but there does appear to be some kind of cover-up and manipulation going on here.
 
Hundreds of military and government witnesses have gone on record claiming a major cover-up around UFOs. Among them are a former chief of the CIA, the former chiefs of defense of the UK and Canada, and two NASA astronauts, including Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to walk on the moon. Could the moon landing video tapes have contained some images with UFOs or other images that they didn’t want the public to see?
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Additional note (11/18/09): I thought of another possibilities.  Of course, some people know what happened to the lost film, but maybe no one who is presently working for NASA knows.  It could’ve been stolen which would’ve probably be an inside job, but the people who were responsible might be long gone (either dead or living elsewhere in the world).  Those presently heading NASA may know it’s been stolen or maybe simply know it disappeared and probably was stolen.  Either way, they probably would rather not admit to a major security leak.  For some reason, they were forced to give a public accounting for the missing video footage.  Claiming it was destroyed was simply the closest they could come to a plausible answer.  As history shows, the media and the public at the time rarely questions to any great extent government statements even when they later turn out to have been lies.  A lie doesn’t have to be plausible to be convincing.  It just can’t be obviously implausible to the casual observer.