Noel King here — following up on a story I produced yesterday about a classified video that was released by the non-profit group Wikileaks showing footage of a 2007 incident in Iraq, in which Americans in an Apache helicopter fired on several Iraqis. Two unarmed employees of the Reuters news agency — as well as ten other men — were killed in that incident.
This morning, we spoke to Josh Ray Person, who served with the Marines from 1999 — 2003 and the BBC’s Baghdad Correspondent Jim Muir, who was gathering Iraqi reaction to the video.
A listener from Miami wrote in to say that we failed to mention a redacted report released by the Pentagon late Monday, which said some of the Iraqis — though not the two Reuters employees — were carrying weapons.
Yesterday on NPR this same topic was discussed and the guest agreed that the journalists were there and that they were considered armed because of the straps on their shoulders, but it was also said that at least one RPG was found on one of the casualties and it is shown (but not highlighted) in the video that another of the victims did have an AK-47. Watchdogs are necessary, but they must also be impartial, this video is showing this situation from a very biased viewpoint, all of the editing and the intro are geared towards showing all involved as innocent victims, which is not the complete truth and we have to be fair if we are going to critique.
We wanted to follow up on that redacted report, because a lot of the coverage around the question of weapons was vague — saying the men “appeared” to be armed or were “apparently” armed. So I called the Pentagon to find out.
A Central Command press spokesman told me that while CentCom officials did not themselves conduct the investigation following the 2007 incident, two concurrent investigations by the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team in Iraq took photographs of the scene in which “you can see very clearly an AK 47 or what remains of it,” as well as “at least one RPG and a number of rifles.”
Asked about which of the photos showed weapons, the spokesman pointed to a photo from Page 38, Exhibit O of the report, shown here:
(From here: http://bit.ly/c74Ykz)
The spokesman said additional weapons could be seen in unredacted photos.
Asked to comment on why the Pentagon chose not to release the unredacted photos showing more weaponry, the spokesman said, “We have chosen not to release them in unredacted form simply because of the gruesome nature.”
This illustrates the difficulty of pursuing a story where some of the principle source materials are a grainy video and partially redacted photos.
Our guest Josh Ray Person pointed out the dangers of jumping to conclusions based on a short piece of video.
"You’re trying to judge somebody based on ten minutes, when the reality is that they've been there for months or years and have multiple circumstances that lead to the situation that happened. Although it was a tragedy, that's what war is. War is tragedy."
Thanks, as always, to our listeners for writing and calling in.
Additional photos and the redacted reports are available here: http://bit.ly/a8kahq.