OnPoint by Keith Ng


Iraq, from the air

Wikileaks has released footage from the video gunsight of a US Apache attack helicopter that fired upon and killed a group of people in 2007, including two Reuters journalists. One was wounded in the first round of attacks, and when a vehicle arrived to rescue him, that vehicle was fired upon.

You can see the full video here.

It's 20 minutes long, it explains collateral damage better than anything that uses the words "collateral damage".

Please, go watch it.

It's raw, and extremely intense. But it's also much more complex than any of the 10 sec cuts you see on TV, and I implore you to be measured in your judgement.

Yes, I think that the crew and their commanders failed catastrophically, and it lead to the death of innocent people.

They failed to follow their own rules of engagement for assessing threats and risk to civilians.

They fired upon a vehicle that was evacuating the wounded, and was clearly not a military target - which was inexcusable even before considering the children onboard.

And the military lied about it.


Perhaps the crew really did think that there were guys with AKs and RPGs down there. If those people actually *were* a group of insurgents with weapons on their way to an ambush, would it look different? Is it possible for this to be a genuine, reasonable, yet catastrophic mistake?

Clearly, the crew and their commanders made the wrong calls, and other people paid for it with their lives. But there is a difference between a mistake, incompetence, and murderous intent; and there's a difference in applying this to a crew behind a guy and applying this to the entire army.

Things like Wikileaks connects us directly with primary material. It has the raw power that comes from unadulterated reality. But it puts the responsibility of interpretation onto us. I hope we take that responsibility seriously.

The rules of engagement - previously classified documents also provided by Wikileaks - are available here.

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