I’m in Washington DC right now where I just assisted WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange put on a press conference. Before today I was in Iceland for almost two weeks, yet again without properly seeing it. Apart from that one day at the volcano I haven’t gotten out much. That is to say: I have literally spent all the other days in “the bunker”, locked away behind closed curtains in rented apartments in Reykjavik, working to get things ready for today. At least I can now tell you all what I have been helping WikiLeaks with.
Wikileaks has obtained and decrypted previously unreleased video footage from the onboard camera of a US Apache helicopter over Baghdad in 2007. The audio has the radio communication going on at the time. We released that video today. In it we see Reuters journalists Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh and others getting shot by the Apache on a square in Eastern Baghdad after they are apparently assumed to be insurgents. After this, an unarmed group of adults and children in a minivan arrives on the scene and attempts to transport the wounded journalists. They are then fired upon also. Just the visuals are pretty gruesome stuff.
Meanwhile the voices on the radio are hoping they get to fire their 30mm cannon some more at a wounded journalist who tries to crawl while he is dying on the sidewalk. (“Come on buddy, all you gotta do is pick up a weapon”) They laugh about an armored vehicle running over the corpse of the other journalist and they appear both routined and content (“Nice!”) when they see a street full of dead people. The official statement on this incident initially listed all the adults as AIF KIA (“Anti Iraqi Forces” “Killed In Action”) and claimed the US military “did not know how the deaths ocurred”.
In researching this, Wikileaks has partnered with RUV, the Icelandic state television. Two of their reporters were supposed to leave for Baghdad, couldn’t get visas and then got some kind of last-minute emergency visas after all. So while we were scrambling to deal with yet another changed plan, the first pictures and emotional back-stories started emerging in bits and pieces from Baghdad. (Kristinn, Ingi, you guys rock!) More of that will appear over the next few days as the material is readied. Suffice it to say we all cried from time to time.
The very courageous anonymous source (yay!), the regular Wikileaks staffers, journalists in warzones, they all deserve much more praise than I do. Still, I’m hell of proud to have been part of the extraordinary team that helped get this video out. The supporting documents as well as various other bits of the story are on www.collateralmurder.com. Please check them out.
Here’s to hoping that these images of death by modern urban counter-insurgency warfare will enter the gallery of iconic frozen moments needed to break people’s apathy about the harsh realities of a particular war. We need to permanently rewire what happens in people’s brains when some robot in a clean uniform tell us of “hearts and minds”, “minor collateral damage” or “killed insurgents” from the safety of a briefing room half a world away from a dirty war.
It’s been a highly emotional and very intense couple of weeks. I’ve met some amazing new people that I now feel I’ve known for quite a while. But right now I’m looking forward to holding Carla, Milo and Floris, eating something other than crisps, pretzels and pizza, sleeping in my own bed and getting a full night’s sleep.
OK, so this was my part. If you feel this deserves a fair bit of attention, it’s your turn to help now. It’s hard to say how the corporate media, esp. in the US, will pick up this story. So act quickly. Help trend this topic. E-mail this. If you can, describe to your friends in your own words why this needs to be spread even further. Ignore the fact that you normally write about other things. We are not powerless and it is still legal to get emotional and angry every once in a while. Blog, update your Facebook status, embed, comment and give lots of stars on Youtube, tweet, digg, retweet, reddit and retweet some more. I mean, hell, I was so angry I even made a few phone calls. Spead the word. Far and wide…
And before I forget: if you have any leftover money, skills or a stack of secrets that really shouldn’t be secret, contact WikiLeaks.