‘Well it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle,’ one of the Apache soldiers is heard saying. ‘That’s right,’ another agrees.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, an Icelandic investigative journalist who worked with WikiLeaks to investigate the ‘Collateral Murder’ video described what he saw as ‘a testimony of evil.’ Hrafnsson was sitting in a Reykjavik cafe with WikiLeaks Editor Julian Assange in 2010 when he first watched the footage. ‘I instantly saw that this would probably be the biggest news story I had worked on,’ Hrafnsson recalled.
The July 12, 2007, Baghdad airstrikes were a series of air-to-ground attacks conducted by a team of two U.S.AH-64 Apache helicopters in Al-Amin al-Thaniyah, New Baghdad during the Iraqi insurgency which followed the Iraq War.
On April 5, 2010, the attacks received worldwide coverage and controversy following the release of 39 minutes of gunsight footage by the Internet whistleblower website WikiLeaks. The footage was portrayed as classified, but its confessed leaker, U.S. Army soldier Chelsea Manning, testified in 2013 that the video was not classified.
The video, which WikiLeaks titled Collateral Murder, showed that the crew encountered a firefight and laughed at some of the casualties, some of whom were civilians and reporters. An anonymous U.S. military official confirmed the authenticity of the footage, which provoked global discussion on the legality and morality of the attacks.
In the first strike, the crews of two Apaches directed fire at a group of ten Iraqi men, including some armed men, standing where insurgents earlier that day had shot at an American Humvee with small arms fire. Among the group were two Iraqi war correspondents working for Reuters, Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen. Seven men were killed during this first strike; Saeed Chmagh, who was injured, later died in a hospital.
The second strike was directed at a van whose driver, Saleh Matasher Tomal, appeared to happen to drive by and who proceeded to help the wounded Chmagh. Two men assisting in the rescue effort were from a group of five standing at an intersection reported to Apaches as being a second position combatants were using to attack the Humvee.
Both of these men, Chmagh and Tomal, were killed in the second strike, and two of Tomal’s children were badly wounded. Ethan McCord, the soldier seen in the video carrying the injured boy, recalled in an interview:
The first thing I did was run up to the van.
After attending the girl’s wounds and handing her to a medic, McCord was ordered to take position on the roof but he returned to the van to find the boy moving his hand.
I grabbed him and ran to the Bradley myself. The first thing I thought of … was my children at home.
On May 2010, a 22-year-old American Army intelligence analyst, Chelsea Manning was arrested after telling hacker Adrian Lamo she had leaked the airstrike video, along with a video of another airstrike and around 260,000 diplomatic cables, to WikiLeaks.
On February 28, 2013, Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of 22 specified charges. On August 21, 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years’ imprisonment, reduction in rank from private first class to private, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and a dishonorable discharge.
I absolutely believe if it had not been for her courageous acts in 2010 we would not have seen Edward Snowden step forward, we could not have seen other important leaks like the Panama Papers.