The folks at Wikileaks unleashed the following video of American AH-64 Apache chopper gunners opening fire on what they believed to be armed insurgents in Iraq, but which turned out to be a couple of Associated Press journalists and (likely) a bunch of civilians. Later in the video when a van pulls up to try and help one of the wounded journalists the chopper again opens fire killing all the adults and wounding two children in the van. Fair warning: Once seen it cannot be unseen so think about it before deciding to view it:
The Pentagon has been repeatedly hit with Freedom of Information Act requests to release this video over the years and has refused to do so for various bullshit reasons. The real reason they didn’t want to release it is because it’s a monumental fuck up that is embarrassing and which would be used by their critics to denounce the war effort.
I’ve never been in the military so I don’t know a lot about how things are done in a combat zone, but from what I see in this video the soldiers involved acted appropriately – if somewhat callously – based on the information they had on hand; and I can’t really get all that upset about the callousness given the situation they are in. It’s a terrible mistake on their part, but I can’t say they did anything wrong.
The real problem with this video is, as ***Dave points out in his own (much better written) entry on this topic, the fact that the Pentagon tried to hide it:
What I find unconscionable is that, once the evidence was together, the government (or, at least the military) decided to lie. To not only hide the truth from the world and the nation, but de facto indict the soldiers involved by making what they did effectively too terrible to admit.
If you are honest, and in the right, and fighting on principle, then you admit your mistakes, show you’re trying to learn by them, and move on. You hold people appropriately accountable. You take responsibility for your actions. You “man up.”
Instead, now we have this.
The video becomes the very thing you were trying to prevent it from becoming by hiding it. This is why transparency is so important. This is why the government needs to be in the hands of responsible adults who aren’t afraid of accountability. So that later when you have another fuck up where the soldiers do try to cover it up – such as the botched nighttime raid in Afghanistan that’s been in the news – your commitment to accountability isn’t questioned.