WikiLeaks has released today a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad — including two Reuters news staff. I can’t begin to describe how I felt watching that video, listening to the nonchalant exchange between US soldiers over the radio while they indiscriminately mowed down over a dozen Iraqis; more than half of them were unarmed. Some were shot attempting to aid the wounded. Two of them were children sitting in a van. You can, and you should, watch as much as you possibly can of the video (disturbing content) before going on to read the rest of this post. You can also find the overview page of the Collateral Murder video here.
The American military said in a statement late Thursday that 11 people had been killed: nine insurgents and two civilians. According to the statement, American troops were conducting a raid when they were hit by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. The American troops called in reinforcements and attack helicopters. In the ensuing fight, the statement said, the two Reuters employees and nine insurgents were killed.
“There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force,” said Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a spokesman for the multinational forces in Baghdad.
Nice cover up, No? Weddady explains on twitter how this could happen: “NYT is only as good as their sources when reporting on unseen events. US military sources –> US military official line.” I wouldn’t expect the army to behave any differently; Armies protect their own no matter what. Disgusting, but not uncommon. Defendants of the soldier’s actions are saying that the Iraqis had guns and what appears to be RPGs. Jacob Appelbaum clears things out a bit saying “When I was on northern Iraq in 2005: I had a camera over my shoulder, and a guard with an AK-47. This is very common in Iraq.” I also have to add that RPGs used by the insurgents are anti-tank weapons and not a ground-to-air weapon. Trying to hit an Apache with these is similar to trying to kill a flying wasp with a slingshot. Suspecting the journalist’s camera to be an RPG which is quite an outrageous mistake to make and still does not hold as an excuse for the trigger-happy soldier operating that 30mm machine gun. Read more about how they’re actually used in Iraq here.
I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by the brilliant Palestinian journalist and photographer Mohammed Omer which was properly named Welcome to Hell. He demonstrated the the situation in Gaza, the Israeli war crimes, and his experience as a journalist working under the Israeli occupation in Gaza and the abuses and assault he was subjected to by Israeli soldiers.
Omer shocked an awed the audience with striking photos and videos almost never seen by a “western citizen” and he recounted tales of horror of families killed; homes demolished over the heads of its residents; children risking their lives to go to a bombed house looking for a bicycle, or to see whether their favorite school bag survived; and elderly women cooking grass to survive. Needless to say that’s all a result of the Israeli siege on Gaza that has been going on for years now while the international community stands silently on the sidelines.
What really amazed me was his talk about the fluffy names of Israeli operations in Gaza: Rainbow; Summer Rain; and, if I remember correctly, Plucking Flowers where Israeli soldiers would walk around randomly shooting civilians (children included) point-blank.
Looking at Omer’s Wikipedia page you’ll find out that “in 2008, Omer was awarded the 2007 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. In the award citation, Omer was honored as ‘the voice of the voiceless’ and his reports were described as a ‘humane record of the injustice imposed on a community forgotten by much of the world.'”
On his return to Gaza after winning the award, he was assaulted by Israeli Soldier’s at Allenby Bridge and received severe bodily injuries including broken ribs and spine damage. He is still receiving treatment for these injuries till this day. But that’s not the worst of his problems: in 2003 his 17 year-old brother was killed by sniper bullets as he was going to school. Three years later his mother sustained severe injuries as she jumped out of a house window to escape with her life as an Israeli Army bulldozer was tearing down their 2-story house with no prior warning. Almost all of his younger siblings were injured by the Israeli army at one time or another.
After all he went through, he stood at Harvard advocating a nonviolent approach to end the suffering in Gaza. He asked the people to spread the message and pressure their congressmen to cease blind preferential treatment for Israel. He pointed out a small yet significant progress: The Congress condemned the Goldstone report as biased with a vote of 344 to 36. While the aggression were taking place the Congress overwhelmingly voted against condemning Israeli actions with only 2 in opposition. This counted as a success to a slowly, yet steadily, growing BDS Movement (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) against Israeli occupation.
Mohammed Omer will go on with his tour before going to the Netherlands to resume medical treatment for the aforementioned injuries. His work is available on his website: http://www.rafahtoday.org .