Video released by WikiLeaks Happy Memorial day

By Christopher Rice
The helicopter pilots spot a crowd gathering who are described as "possible AIF" (anti-Iraqi forces). The second helicopter, Crazyhorse 21, "conducts final gun run" to strafe unnamed targets that the intelligence report does not specify. By now two F-16 fighter-bombers are on station along with an unnamed drone that is filming the scene. Four Bradley armored vehicles full of US ground troops are at the ready nearby.

But there is no more firing from the Iraqis and the drone's video footage, which is being monitored by US controllers, shows people coming out of the mosque and dispersing. "No weapons were seen." US troops remain on the scene for another 50 minutes before returning to base.

It is not their practice to remove or identify bodies. If done at all it is usually left to Iraqis. In this case the war log on the incident ends with what are described as unconfirmed reports of casualties. An Iraqi colonel says 12 AIF are dead. A named Iraqi informer on the ground rings the Parachute Infantry Regiment's interpreter and tells him 14 civilians are dead.

It is not clear whether both men are referring to one group of dead with differing estimates of whether they were insurgents or civilians, or whether there were separate groups totaling 26.

The terseness of the war log, which was compiled some time after the event, conveys little drama – which is why the cockpit video released by WikiLeaks in April is so important. It shows the true face of war as pilots treat a small densely populated corner of a foreign city as a battle space in which any adult male they spot is suspected of being a gunman.

Even so they are not supposed to kill unless they or any ground troops they are assisting have come under fire, or they are sure a person seen to be carrying a gun is about to fire at US troops.

If rules of engagement are broken the war logs usually conceal it. This appears to have happened with the killings illustrated in the leaked cockpit video. The Guardian has examined the secret intelligence reports for 12 July 2007 and compared them with the recorded words of the pilots and ground commanders. Parts of the video recording already showed the helicopter pilot and gunner giving false information to their commanders in order to get permission to fire. The logs show clear evidence of a cover-up after the event.

Take the second round of shooting in the 38-minute sequence. It revolves around a dark-colored minivan that approaches a wounded man lying by the pavement and trying to drag himself to his feet. Two men jump out and go to his aid. Neither is carrying a weapon. They pay no attention to the bodies lying several yards away. Yet the cockpit recording has their commander saying "they have individuals going to the scene, looks like possibly uh picking up bodies and weapons". The helicopters get permission to blast the van regardless, even though firing on people who are aiding casualties violates US rules of engagement and international law.

The intelligence report of the incident says Crazyhorse "engaged AIF". In fact there is nothing seen by the helicopter pilots to show the men are insurgents. Indeed, when US ground troops reach the shot-up van a few minutes later they discover its passengers include two small girls who have been wounded, suggesting it was an innocent civilian vehicle that had rushed to help the wounded victim because it was the nearest transport available.

The third bout of gunfire from the helicopters comes when they destroy a large building on a street corner with three Hellfire missiles. Before firing the first one the pilot says: "There are at least six individuals in that building with weapons."
The cockpit video has shown only one man going into the building, carrying something that might be a weapon. Two clearly unarmed men then go in and another unarmed man walks past the entrance seconds before the gunner launches his missile. Over the next few minutes the helicopters fire two more missiles in order to destroy the building completely.

As untrue as the helicopter pilots' live reporting was, the intelligence summary they filed later compounds the lies. Now the alleged gunmen are said to have been running into the building – clearly more suspicious behavior than walking.
In the report's own laconic language: "1125: Crazyhorse engaged with 3xMissle 6XAIF with weapons that ran into a building at Grid MB 5514 8626. Building destroyed 6x AIF KIA".

Related article: 6 Brave Govt. Whistleblowers Charged Under the Espionage Act by Obama’s Administration

In 2010, while on leave, Manning first tried to leak materials to The Washington Post, but felt the reporter he spoke with was not interested. He then left a message with the ombudsman’s office at The New York Times which was not returned. So he uploaded the files to WikiLeaks. He  was arrested on May 29, 2010; a military judge sentenced Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison.

Manning said during his February confession that he thought carefully about the information he was releasing, and felt nothing he leaked could be used to harm the U.S.

“When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system,” said Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it’s also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate.”

Manning added that if his request for a presidential pardon is denied, he will serve his time “knowing sometimes you pay a heavy price to live in a free country.”

Michael Ratner the U.S. attorney for Assange and WikiLeaks and president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights said “It may well embolden the government in its efforts to indict journalists such as Julian Assange. The length of the sentence demonstrates what Assange and Edward Snowden face if they are ever taken into custody by the U.S.

"Leaking information to the press is tantamount to aiding the enemy. We avoided a conviction on the aiding the enemy charge, but the fact that they pursued it, let it go forward, should send alarms to all journalists,” he added.

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