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Tuesday, 06 April 2010


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murdered? I doubt it. Edited material is not evidence - it's arranged and directed to a desired interpetation. I am shocked that you are going down this road.

A conservative, religious friend of mine (now a former friend) commented on this story by saying that he didn't care because the dead were not Americans. He went on to say that fewer Americans would have died in Iraq if we had just indiscriminately killed all Iraqis. With such attitudes being unchallenged in our society and endorsed by some popular broadcasters, it is no wonder that incidents like these murders happen.
The video makes me sick. I constantly hear that the military is defending our freedom in Iraq. I would rather they defended our humanity by preserving life whenever possible.

Not everyone agrees with WikiLeaks interpretation:


"...the "targets" wandering casually on the ground, not engaged in fighting, while the gunners impatiently seek any plausible excuse to open fire."

Not engaged in the fighting, yet. At least some of the group appears to be armed. The helicopter crews job is to eliminate possible threats, preferably before those threats get a chance to act. They had been called in to suppress small arms and RPG fire. So, especially in an environment where one side's combatants aren't in uniform, "not engaged in fighting" doesn't really mean anything. They could have been shooting 5 seconds ago. They could be on their way to shooting at someone. You identify a threat, within the rules of engagement, you act on it. To call it 'senseless murder' seems a bit melodramatic.

Mistakes happen on battlefields. The loss of life is tragic, but no more so that the countless "friendly fire" incidents (there was a similiar tape from the first Gulf War with Apache pilots acting in essentially the same manner until it became clear that they had just shot up an American convoy). And sorry, but if I choose to wander on to a battlefield, and mingle with combatants, I'm assuming a certain amount of risk. I don't seem to recall the same anguish over Phillip Coburn, Dmitry Chebotayev or Doug Vogt.

Casual murder on the part of individual soldiers is bad enough. But a 3-year Pentagon campaign of lies and deceit against the (dead) victims? That simply defies description.

I was wondering if anyone would run this in the photo community, and I'm so glad you did. Thank you.

I don't get into my moral and philosophical opposition to war (although I have those as well).

My reaction is always strictly visceral, a gut reaction of loss. What have we, all of us, lost when we lose a mother or a daughter; an honoured grandparent with so many stories to tell.

How about a child? What have we deprived ourselves of when a child is killed? What experiences might that child have had.

Imagine any photograph you have ever taken of people on the street. I always wonder what a person might tell me if I spoke to them.

There is so much of value in each and every person. I think no person who looks around them and sees, not an abstract, but a person with stories to make and stories to tell, could ever say war is justified.

What amazing photographs are we never going to see from the camera of Namir Noor-Eldeen?

Wow. Why, Mike, do you insist on aggravating half your audience with such a one-sided account of things. Not engaged in fighting but carrying weapons? What do you think they were going to be doing later in the day?

It's a shame but the reporter's knew the risks and took their chances. They are not the heroes here.

There was a cameraman for our national television killed in the same way during the war here. They supposedly thought he had an RPG.

I wonder whether it was edited out or the soldiers didn't even think about it - no zooms prior to shooting. By the general atmosphere in the video, they probably didn't even think. Trigger happy cretins.

This is such a tragically sad, and outrageously ugly story of slaughter. It becomes even more mind boggling when you consider the overall numbers of civilians killed in Iraq since 2003 -- right now estimated at between 95,786 and 104,492 (see http://www.iraqbodycount.org/).

This video should be required viewing for anyone who supported the war on Iraq.

If more of these videos were exposed I think we would see a lot more pressure to end these wars. The public has not been exposed to the horror of these wars like they have been during the Viet Nam war. The media is being sanitized through the embedding process.
I would recommend Unembedded 2005 by Gaith Abdul-Ahad, Kael Alford, Thorne Anderson, and Rita Leistner, independent photojournalists.

Reprehensible behavior and conversation on the part of our "Nation's Finest", which leaves littlel doubt about why we're not "welcome" in the Middle East. on the other hand, it only goes to show how right Kubrick got it in his movie, Full Metal Jacket -

Door Gunner: I done got me 157 dead gooks killed. Plus 50 water buffalo, too! Them's all confirmed!
Private Joker: Any women or children?
Door Gunner: Sometimes!
Private Joker: How can you shoot women or children?
Door Gunner: Easy! Ya just don't lead 'em so much! Ain't war hell?

Such a shame and also a loss of brave men. May their friends and families rest in peace while remembering them.

Looking at the video, it's pretty clear that the helicopter pilots saw a camera strap and assumed, without further evidence, that it was an AK-47. They made the same ill-fated assumption with the telephoto lens mistaken as a rocket launcher. Truly a sad and entirely preventable event.

But, we invaded a country and entered into a war in which tens of thousands have died using bad intelligence and faulty assumptions. Why should we expect any more from our troops?

Apparently, his long camera lens was mistaken for an RPG, one can even "forgive" that in the heat of war- one soldier made it pretty clear that in the time it takes to report one, it can well be whizzing towards your head.

The thing that is totally unforgivable is that we shouldn't have gone there in the first place- a totally unnecessary war created on willfully trumped up "evidence." This example is anything but an aberration- unfortunately, all the public would usually get to see are the "hero" soldiers getting the children out of harms way.

At least in Nam we got to see the results of the everyday brutality (and on a daily basis), and therefore came away with a more informed overview. Right now, another previously covered up report is coming out of a US special forces debacle in which two pregnant Afghan women were shot and killed, and then the bullets dug out of their bodies in an attempted cover up. The civilian casualties on both fronts are absolutely horrendous (and have been from the start), clearly outweigh the amounts of real enemy killed, and only serve to create yet more insurgents...

That footage is f*cking unbearable. Watching it left an extremely bad taste in my mind.

The good die young -- it makes one weep. C'est la guerre.

Thanks for spreading the word! It's important such things get noticed by the public. I wouldn't have known, had it not been for your post.

Everyone can have their own interpretation of events, however it relates to the evidence at hand. I'm sure readers even here run the gamut from reflexive pacifists who assume the military is wrong in everything, to reflexive hawks whose viewpoint is essentially that anything an American soldier does is necessarily right because an American soldier did it (call that the Cheney rule, for Dick Cheney's argument that he couldn't reveal classified information because the act of him revealing it automatically declassified it).

One thing to remember, though: helicopters aren't invisible. Quite the opposite, in fact. All those people on the ground knew the helicopters were above them. Would they have been walking casually around in the open if they had considered the helicopters a threat to them? Enemy combatants who had just been involved in a firefight, or were just about to be, would take cover from American helicopter gunships. It seems to me that the behavior and attitude of the people on the ground is de facto proof that they were not involved in hostile action before the video began, and were not immediately planning any such action.

In any event, the pertinent fact here is that a promising young photographer lost his life doing his work. I hope we can all agree that a friendly fire incident which kills two Reuters employees is a MISTAKE, whether it is a justifiable mistake or an unjustifiable one.


I wonder how many Americans realize what a monster they have created with their military. What would they think if that happened at a corner in their home town? What else can you expect when you take poorly educated young men, dehumanize them with training, and then give them the deadliest weaponry available. If anyone thinks that this is an aberration, I suggest they read A War Against Truth.

Wake up!

Yeah. Brave Americans, huh? You gotta wonder who the bad guys really are! And then these guys in the gunships come home...

ruthless. i feel disgusted.

I'm not defending it, I am a pacifist, but you can't tell a 1dMk2 with a 70-200 vs a RPG with a B&W camera at certain ranges. I can tell you this, I might have killed them too, given what I saw. Some of the men were armed and it is a war, those seem to be the facts, regardless of what your thoughts are of the rules of engagement. I did see someone pointing something at the Apache, I don't want to get into specifics, as I feel that is irrelevant.

In wars, bad things happen.

This doesn't even register on my war crimes chart. In my eyes those Apache pilots are just doing their job, and if you think you can do better, you probably wouldn't live too long in Iraq or Afghanistan.

As for the snide remarks from the gunner, the laughs, the mocking, sure, it looks bad, but you know what, his job is to kill people... if you don't like it, outlaw cracking jokes in the workplace before you get on your high horse. The things asked of a typical Apache pilot in these unlawful wars would make a billy goat puke, let alone an average human. I beg you not to judge them so harshly.

Also, this is nothing compared to what the Blackwater guys did day in and day out for years. The only reason this is news is because the guy was a good reporter.

I watched the full video (technology that didn't exist widely when I was of "war" age), listened to the engagement chatter. But honestly, I just don't feel I'm in a sufficiently knowledgeable position to take a stand on this episode. I don't know what I saw those men carrying, but it didn't seem like camera gear to my untrained eyes.

This is a very different "war" and I just don't know what these soldiers knew, or thought they knew. The video game-type banter is just part of their generation. It seemed to me that there were actually far more engagement safeguards in-place than, say, for an old Huey chopper gun crew in 1971 over some village in Vietnam.

So my bias is not to judge these soldiers/marines by watching 39 minutes of video.

Collateral casualties are just a fact of military conflict. While the death of a p.j. is tragic it's not nearly as tragic to me as the death of completely innocent civilians just trying to stay alive. The p.j. willingly placed himself in a hazardous position.

I prefer to turn my frustrations toward these "wars" in general. I have a hard time believing that they're accomplishing anything other than providing employment to a lot of young people and contractors.

Couldn't watch all of that. Seems likely that the cameras were mistaken for weapons. Not sure the soldiers can be blamed given the situation but very sad and a good reminder of why war is never a good idea. Early release of the video and a bit of mea culpa would have done the authorities a bit more proud instead of the usual bone-headed denials. Forcing people to leak stuff and trying to control all the news, all the time isn't a great idea as it simply makes one sceptical about any footage the military choose to allow.

Sad. A tragedy indeed.
Let only he who hath killed in battle judge.

I can't believe the apologists.

Just one point: if there are gun toting Iraqis, why didn't they return fire between the first and second attack?

Innocent people are killed and there is no excuse or justification for it.

thank you for your courage in posting this

What horrifies me most is the utter disregard for the lives of others. The gunners sounded like kids playing a computer game, chuckling and joking. A very distasteful and shameful abuse of some kids of the most powerful army in the world. It reminds me the song "The bravery of being out of range" of Roger Waters.

Thank you for running this story, Mike.

I have just deleted a lot of what I had written. But let me thank you again on behalf of Namir Noor-Eldeen. He sought to bring the reality of war to the non-combatants; I think he would appreciate your willingness to continue that effort.

Another reason to use Micro Four Thirds. Those long white Can#n lenses can easily be mistaken for a RPG!

As for those defending this - have you watched the whole video? Did you see any of the "insurgents" firing back? Nope, me neither.

Another clue, if you are an "insurgent", won't you be running for cover if you saw an Apache gunship flying overhead? These people were casually walking out in the open.

Bottom line is, these people were not armed, nor did they even act as if they were armed. Another My Lai incident.

I was sick and disgusted from watching this.

The New York Times is reporting that "A senior American military official confirmed that the video was authentic"--


One would think that in our professionalized military, the professionals firing the weapons would be able to distinguish among AK-47s, RPGs, and any of the many other things that might be carried from a black strap, like a camera, a briefcase, a pool cue, a bag, a saxophone, etc. One would think that they would want to be really sure and might take the time to get a closer look, since they weren't being fired upon, and the men with cameras weren't assuming hostile or threatening postures. One would think there would be restrictions about firing on unarmed persons assisting the wounded. One would think that it would be considered unbecoming to gloat as if one were playing a video game even when killing hostile forces, and that perhaps it was inappropriate to laugh when accidentally running over a body. One would think that upon realizing that children were among the wounded, the professionals on our side would show some regret, and rather than assuming that the parents of the children were "bringing their kids into battle," that maybe they didn't realize that they were in a battle when people carrying cameras were just milling around in the street. One would think.

In 50 years the communists couldn't shut up (or down) even the "official" state press when it came to serious matters.
And what does the so-called *free* press in a supposedly democratic country? Easy: sings as the power dictates. State and corporate power, of course. No real investigations, and happily accepting censorship in the name of "national security". And even when an independent source tries to show what others try to cover up...
Sure, when the elephant in the room finally farts, everybody races for audience; but even then, some try to gain popularity by denying that you saw what you saw.
I live in Europe, and the neighbouring (former) Yugoslavia went thru the same ordeal. But because there wasn't any significant petrol there, the "free" corporatist press wasn't interested to show what the purely invading US troops.

Remember what the kiddie pilot said: "Come on, f...er, just pick up a weapon". And later: "Picking up the wounded? Come on, let us shoot!". Murder by definition. Or, if you wanna play the big state that makes order in the world, you'd name it war crime; sounds less personal.

The initial engagement was a mistake definitely but could be understandable in the heat of war. Shooting on the unarmed vehicle trying to help an unarmed man? I can't see anyone justifying this and if the 'rules of engagement' allow this then they should be reconsidered.

Despite the fact that no guns or weapons of any type were found on the insurgents, even if they had an RPG, they have a max range of about 500 meters, the furthest ever hit being 1km. They are essentially spinning bottle rockets. This helicopter is a million dollar floating death platform over 2km away using the latest technology that billions can buy at the cost of no healthcare for it´s home country´s population. Despite the fact that helicopters aren´t for use of forward engagement like this, despite the fact the video and chatter makes it clear the pilots were full of bloodlust and just waiting for an excuse to kill, even if these had been 15 gun toting terrorists with an RPG apiece, they posed zero threat to this helicopter, and especially not once they were keeled over holding their guts inside and crawling away, the pilots begging that he reach for his camera/gun again so they could finish the job.

And long after any imaginary RPGs were useless to their corpses, the Humvee running over what probably used to be a Reuters employee, and definitely a human being, is disgusting on a monstrous level.

Everyone apologizing for their actions makes me remember just how the events of WW2 were made possible, nationalism and othering taken to an extreme.

So remind me, what exactly was the reason why these American soldiers were in Iraq, thousands of miles away from their home country?

How does one put a wail of anguish onto print?
Does that suffice?
How does one place tear drops onto a computer monitor?

Silence, how can that be heard? A heart not beating.

Gene Forsyth, Yunfat, Ken T., good comments.

As to the commentary from the crews on the gunships; one way of dealing with the "horror". Sick jocularity.
My old man and favorite uncle "self-medicated" themselves into early graves over their combat experiences. Maybe the joking can be a release.

As to fault, why not blame the the small testicled "leaders" behind a desk, rather than the poor "schmoos" who have to execute the grand plan?

One incident: one of my mothers cousins was shot out of the air, almost at the English coast, by a fellow B-17, emptying it's ammo, as they were going to need to do an "emergency" landing. How do you explain something like that?

Morality against self-survival in a combat zone? PFUI!

Thanks for posting this, Mike.

What happened was not unusual - only that we got to see it.

And it goes on, as evinced by this report from Afghanistan recently:

“We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat,” said Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who became the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan last year. His comments came during a recent videoconference to answer questions from troops in the field about civilian casualties...

Mike, in my opinion, this was not murder. The object of any war is to kill the enemy - that's what our soldiers, sailors, and airmen are trained to do.

The blame lies with the Bush administration for putting our troops into an impossible situation. Sure, kill the enemy - but just who is the enemy?

There were some horrendous friendly-fire incidents in World War II - "the good war" - and these, too, were covered up by the military.

I support our military, but I believe it was dead wrong to unleash their power in Iraq.

C'est la guerre, indeed.

America continues to do immeasurable good in the world, guiding and influencing the culture and standards of the whole planet in profound ways that won't be fully appreciated for decades or centuries.

That makes the contents of the clip and the defence of the soldiers' actions—these particular actions, of these particular soldiers—all the more inappropriate.

My great respect for the American people got a bit dented after reading some of these comments. What have these Iraqis done to you ?

Thanks Mike !

I have a lot of respect for soldiers and the situations they find themselves in. The fact is that they were put there by people sitting behind desks, screens and microphones from half a world away and asked to make these decisions. The fact that they were asked to conduct a war in the middle of a city of SEVEN MILLION PEOPLE guarantees that these incidents happen all the time. Insurgents wear no uniform, the occupying soldiers do. The frustration of being shot at and being on edge all the time must be immense. Yes, the crew in the helicopter are removed from the battle, but they must also share the need to strike back and at other times don't have minutes to confirm or reflect upon deciding when to kill or not. These men are trained to be hard to the enemy, so it is no surprise that they make jokes about it. This is why it takes such a long time to train people to be soldiers ideally, because the separation between our comfortable modern selves and what it must have been for most men in earlier, brutal times is more than most of us can imagine.

That is why it is so terrible that we put them there with so little thought. In future wars we will become even more removed -- already we have remote pilots, 'flying' combat missions with drone aircraft, who don't even share the same climate as their targets -- which I think is even more terrible because the consequences will seem even less.

One point about why the men on the ground may not be running for cover when there are copters in the air. At the time the air cover may already been so ominipresent that there may not have been any time when there weren't Apaches flying around. With the range of a stabilized cannon that Apache may have been quite small in the sky for them to even realize they were subject of an attack until the shells hit.

I've seen other comments questioning why the driver of the van took his children into a battle zone. At the time, ALL of Baghdad was a battle zone. Where do seven million people go to get away from that? Again, another instance of comfortable people in the west not quite understanding the circumstance of others.

Couple of things to keep in mind:

The helicopters were around 4km away, just look at the delay from the guy pulling the trigger and the bullets hitting, it comes out to more than 3kms (roughly).

Secondly: Yes, this was / is a war zone and as such there are dangers involved. Still, there were no friendly troops in the area at the time of the attack, the helicopters themselves were far enough away to not being in immediate danger and a there would have been more than enough time to observe the group further before engaging.

The problem with this is though that the gunners in all likelyhood suffered from confirmation bias. They saw a group of men who seemed to be armed (which seems to be nothing really unusual in Iraq) meeting in an area where friendly troops were operating (albeit not in the direct vicinity). So the conclusion for the gunner was that those were hostiles.

The thing though is: If you follow the chatter it is clear that they know they aren't able to engage yet as there is no direct threat, the whole thing unloads the moment one of the choppers says that they were being shot at, only then were they given weapons free.

Now, was this an outright lie, miscommunication or an error in judgement? Who knows, the video does not make it clear.

As for the van: Yes, the rules of engagement make it clear that the van was fair game, it was not marked with a red cross or crescent and as such not a medical vehicle. However: It is very questionable on why they were given weapons free on this one, the men coming out of the vehicle were not armed, the injured was not close to any gun and did not pose any danger.

The helicopter coming in closer would have been able to prevent the van from leaving until ground forces would have been in place.

So what's left? At best a failure in the rules of engagement and a chain of command that trusted that the soldiers in the field correctly relayed information ("We are under Fire").

At worst a group of soldiers who is so high on adrenaline and trigger happy that they bend their perception to fit the rules of engagement with little regard that they may kill or injure civilians.

On a side note: Of all of the Jounralists killed in Iraq since 2003 only one apparently was not shot and killed by "Friendly Fire".

I wonder how many Americans realize what a monster they have created with their military. What would they think if that happened at a corner in their home town?

It does happen. Google Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, or Peyton Strickland. Read the writer Radley Balko. People are shot by the authories in the US fairly frequently with a lot less provocation before and handwringing after, than this. We accept that a probable consequence of incarceration in the US is rape, we even make jokes and TV commercials about it, and no one calls it torture either.

The only reason why Namir's death is such a huge issue (versus any other journalist killed in a war zone) is because the situation is useful for confirmation bias.

Eeew, for sanity's sake why in the name of homo sapiens we all should be able to agree it was a mistake?

Ahh... because some politicians said Iraq have weapons of mass destuction and this is war against terrorism?

Or wait... I got it. Heroes don't shoot civilians coming to rescue a man who was shot from helicopter. Heroes don't do that, and america's army consists of heroes, besides, the government and other represantives of america never lies and they said a long time ago how it was: "There is no question that Coalition Forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force," said Lt. Col Scott Bleichwehl, spokesperson and public affairs officer for MND-B."

We all just should close our eyes, shut our own brains and approve what "the troops" do since we are in no position to judge them, right? Wrong, since if we don't care, who does? If we stop caring we lose the rights for freedom. If we don't care, there is nothing we need freedom for.

So come on give me a break! In a free society we are supposed to care because we *can*. Don't give up your freedom! That of course is idealistical, but also logical.

I have posted my thoughts on my blog:

I don't know what we can "do," except to spread the words out and let people make their own decisions.

This is probably just one example of many tragic mistakes. It probably came to light only because the mistake involved a journalist, and that journalist's peers rattled the cages until they got the truth.

What about the 10s of thousands of faceless victims? Where are their stories? If only the US military would release all video they record -- perhaps they should be compelled to release all video whenever a civilian is killed.

May ALLAH bless him...

The most disturbing part comes after the main incident when they seek to kill civilians picking up the wounded/dead. That is like firing on an ambulance. The most obscene of all is the excuse they come up with upon learning they shot children: "Iraqis fault for bringing them onto the battle field".
These soldiers are behaving like ruthless killers. I wouldn't trust these people to walk my dog. And I do not have one.

One day these people will kill again and this time might be right here on our streets. Once one tastes the blood of the innocent...


The sad thing about this mess in Iraq and Afghanistan is that it is going to play out for centuries. The politicians who dreamt up this useless war had no idea that in the Middle East and Central Asia events that happened 600 + years ago are considered recent history. Listen to rhetoric of Islamic militants and they are still citing the Crusades of the Middle Ages as an excuse for their actions. Ideas of honour and revenge are key part of the psyche. Consequently in 10 generations time the actions of this ill fated war will be that innocent people will be murdered.

It's time to pull the troops out, and admit that the whole thing has been a fiasco. I hope that the US government has the guts to make reparations to these 2 men's families.

This is really messy.
Where are the B-52's?
They'll get rid of all those pesky people rescuing their wounded and carrying a camera and engaging children to help. No pesky gun site videos to contend with.
As I said before, war is about killing, period. Remember it cuts two ways.


With all due respect, referring to this as a murder is quite inflammatory. PJs dying in wars is nothing new. War zones are dangerous and PJs are there to get the glory shot. I don't ever recall Robert Capa's wartime death being described as a murder. Certainly senseless. And who knows, maybe the soldier that planted the mine that killed Capa was joking when he planted it. Does it really make a difference? Also, neither Capa nor the soldier who killed him was, wait for it, American.

Perhaps you all can explain the rpg this guy is carrying in the video.

Innocent? I don't think so.

What makes us better than the Soviets in Afghanistan? Don't be angry with the soldiers - get angry with Bush and Cheney who unleashed this carnage.

The most disturbing thing I have seen in a long time, but thank you for publishing.

On the topic of war/press photography, "being close enough" or engaging with "the enemy" for PJ purposes:

" […] the Reuters employees “made no effort to visibly display their status as press or media representatives and their familiar behavior with, and close proximity to, the armed insurgents and their furtive attempts to photograph the coalition ground forces made them appear as hostile combatants to the Apaches that engaged them.”


The helicopter must have been kilometers away. Modern warfare at a distance surely protects the troops, but look at the cost.

The deaths of the journalists is a sad thing. But, the journalists are not heroes or innocent victims here. They chose to go into a war zone. It would be sad if a journalist set up shop behind the targets on a firing range to get a good picture he could sell and got shot. But that journalist would also not be a hero or innocent victim. These guys know they are going into a dangerous place.

The soldiers are not evil monsters here. If I were there with only the information they had I would have done the same thing. A group of men not engaged in any obvious activity, carrying things with straps and moving towards where my buddies are engaged in fire fights with the enemy? The fact is that journalists who are not imbedded with units sneak up on the battle. (And don't tell me they were looking to take pictures where there is nothing happening.) It just so happens that the enemy does the same thing. Act like an enemy and you might get treated like an enemy.

The only bad guys here are the editors that send journalists to wander around battlefields so they can sell advertising.

"Thats what they get for bringing their kids to a battle"
as the gunner rationalized.

Would that make the same true for the parents of killed and wounded Americans?

Mike, I think you're a little quick on the trigger here (pun intended).

I watched the video before your post, and while I was uncomfortable with the entire event, I also realized that this is what war IS. The two journalists undoubtedly WERE with armed Iraqis, one of whom had an RPG launcher, several others with AKs. This in an area of Baghdad that was very violent at the time, and at the moment in time where armed Iraqis had just engaged with US troops. Further, the armed Iraqis were certainly hiding out, peering behind corners, etc., and in short acting as if they were indeed insurgents who had just engaged their enemy and were looking either to sneak away or attack again. Their behavior certainly was suspicious, and in a war zone it's not a good idea to behave suspiciously. What we don't know from the tape is how the Apache pilots and gunners identified this particular group of people... but I'd bet that the tape we haven't seen shows a direct connection between the earlier engagement and some of the people who were around the two photojournalists.

In short, this looks like misadventure, i.e., the fortunes of war. Photojournalists who accompany combatants are subject to the hazards of war. The two photojournalists were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it is unreasonable to expect the US military to refrain from attacking insurgents just because there is a civilian or two with a camera among them. After all, the insurgents were noted for recording their attacks and posting them on Islamist websites. The photojournalists were reckless, or stupid, and unfortunately for them stupidity and recklessness in a warzone has a very high cost. But they were not deliberately targeted as journalists or as Iraqis, unlike Daniel Pearl who was deceived and betrayed by his murderers.

I really feel for the two young children who were injured during the strike on the van, much more so than for the photojournalists. They suffered because of their parents' recklessness or stupidity. But, I agree with the helicopter pilots when they remarked on the stupidity or evilness of insurgent supporters who would drive into a situation where the US military had just engaged with gunships even though their children were in the vehicle. I can tell you that if my son were in my car, and I saw a wounded man crawling after an air strike, I wouldn't risk my son's life. That's just common sense, even if I strongly agreed with the people on the ground fighting the people in the air. I have to wonder if the people in the van were insurgent supporters and had the children in the vehicle thinking it would dissuade any attacks against them. Cynical, yes, but I'm not inclined to give folks who trick mentally handicapped people into becoming suicide bombers, or who use their children as human shields or 'smart' bombs the benefit of the doubt.

All in all, a tragedy for everyone... the insurgents who were killed because they were stupid, the photojournalists who were killed because THEY were stupid, and the US troops who engaged and now have to live with the knowledge they injured children because of more insurgent stupidity. Maybe recognizing their stupidity for persisting in a futile effort is why the insurgents finally put down their guns, at least against the US.


When I read this post, my first reaction was to construct a typically flippant comment on the righteousness of any Anglo-Saxon military operation (yes, including we Brits, too) and impossibility that 'our boys' have anything other than chisel-jawed, noble motives. But I see that several posters have done that already, albeit entirely seriously. My second reaction was to wince and think of cans, and worms. A brave decision, Mike, in our hysterically patriotic times. Well done.

Your tax dollars at work.

With all due respect, referring to this as a murder is quite inflammatory.

How so? To give you an example, in Germany back in the late '80s people started using the "Soldiers are Murderers" as a slogan in the peace movement. The German military did not like this one bit and went all the way to the Supreme Court claiming diffamation. the Supreme Court in the end ruled that the statement is correct, that a soldiers job IS to kill (and murder) other people. As long as they did not directly imply that a specific person was a murderer (without proof) the statement stood. And that in a country that is quite a bit harsher when it comes to free speech than the US is.

The reality was and always will be this: A soldiers job is to kill. Nothing more, nothing less. Killing is the end to a means and in this context the question has to be asked what the goal was.

PJs dying in wars is nothing new. War zones are dangerous and PJs are there to get the glory shot. I don't ever recall Robert Capa's wartime death being described as a murder. Certainly senseless. And who knows, maybe the soldier that planted the mine that killed Capa was joking when he planted it. Does it really make a difference? Also, neither Capa nor the soldier who killed him was, wait for it, American

Someone planting a mine does not have the guy / girl / kid they are going to kill directly in the crosshairs, they plant the mine and it may or may not go off. This is not the same as being in a chopper 4k away, using a large lens and a gun that specifically can pick out targets.

If they would have driven down the road over a mine and be killed it would have been a different story. Anybody who directly targets journalists is doing something wrong, regardless if it is in a warzone or not.

In 1977, journalists were re-classified as civilians. As a result, reporters who wear civilian clothing and otherwise differentiate themselves from members of the armed forces are entitled to the broader protections offered to civilians. (Protocol I, Art. 79)


'Cynical, yes, but I'm not inclined to give folks who trick mentally handicapped people into becoming suicide bombers, or who use their children as human shields or 'smart' bombs the benefit of the doubt.' (Obijohn)

I know that this thread could go on and on, but the above is a classic mental association trick that is used increasingly in the modern age to justify ICD (Intentional Collateral Damage - yes, I just made it up). Because someone, somewhere in Iraq, has used mentally handicapped children as delivery systems, all Iraqis are therefore guilty, or potentially guilty. Therefore, any measures taken by the occupying forces are not only justifiable but morally correct. On precisely the same logic, of course, partisans operating against German forces in occupied France were morally responsible for the subsequent reprisals against civilians (Oradour-sur-Marne, etc).

If we go down that route, we lose our souls.

What happened before the event? How far away was the helicopter? 200m, 2km, more than 4 km?

A lot of interpretation - as mentionned in many of the comments.

A lose-lose situation? Certainly in this single event - hopefully not in the whole war.

During the Vietnam war Lt.Col. John Paul Vann said that the most effective way to fight an insurgency was with a knife... When you fight insurgents with big weapons systems collateral damage is unavoidable. During the Vietnam war the army used a.o. long-range artillery, pesticides and B52 bombers against insurgents and a lot of innocent bystanders were displaced, wounded and killed. In Iraq the weapons systems are more precise and the bombs are smarter but how precise can you be when you open fire from 1, 2, 3, or 4 km distance? And in terms of the rules of engagement of the army how imprecise are you allowed to be?

My thoughts go out to the families of the many photojournalist killed doing their job. Through their tireless work of recording what would not normally be seen, we are able to better understand the true impact of war, especially on innocent civilians who far and away suffer the most in wars and conflicts around the world.
Its time to leave Iraq so it can rebuild and finally grieve for the loss of the many innocent people who have perished since this invasion started.

There's war, and there's the political viewpoints of war. Clearly the edited video was filtered through the prism of the left, but it's "just" war no matter what anyone says about it.

The main point, surely, is that if there were no armed forces, US or otherwise, in Iraq then this would never have happened. So you have to ask yourself, was the removal of Saddam Hussein worth it, and if so who benefited?

Shorter hysterical patriot: videogaming is hell.

I've seen this on wikileaks and it disturb me ever since. It confirmed my greatest fear about that this occupation will not ended soon and people of Iraq will continue to suffer the consequence.

How can you expect to win "heart & mind" while you still not understand how these people live their lives. Of course, the men around the photojournalist have AK-47s, such weapon is a common-everyman insurance in the state of chaos they live in. Of course, they shouldn't bring children in a war zone but where did you expect they should run to, where the whole country is at war and there isn't a day gone by without someone being hit by IED or getting shot at.

These soldiers were sent to fight the war that they did not understand, how can you expect them to win?


Thank you for posting this. It made me ill, but thank you. We all need a visual reminder of what war actually is.

These incidents happen in every war, this one is no different. The simple fact is journalists are used by BOTH sides of every conflict (read the stories of any first generation MAGNUM war photographers, they were certainly used well enough to get killed too). Any war photographer, and especially any war photographer in the Middle East, knows when you travel with either side in a conflict you are a target for 50% of the people you meet. Middle East wars have no uniforms, no identifying marks that can't be copied by the other side, no REAL WAY to identify a photographer as anything other than the enemy, and the photographer knows this! That photographer also knows that his equipment does indeed look like a weapon even at close distances and especially to long distance gunners. This photographer had been wounded before, so he probably was not very suprised when the bullets flew as there were weapons in the group he WAS TRAVELING WITH! While this is certainly a tragedy, anyone who is surprised by this is very naive.
A few comments to Reuters: if you have lost six journalists and you claim they were killed by Americans, then there is a good chance they were with "enemy" forces to the U.S. If so then were targets and they knew it. Rueters, if you now claim 6 of your journlists killed in this war, how many more are you going to allow?

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