WikiLeaks has declared that American forces engaged with armed elements of the Mahdi Army during the 2007 surge are guilty of “collateral murder.”
Part of that claim is based upon the fact that two Reuters employees, embedded with a band of armed militants, were destroyed by 30mm cannon fire from Apache helicopters. The Apaches were providing support for ground forces that had been under sporadic rifle and RPG fire throughout the morning. Wikileaks would have us hold the pilots responsible for not discerning the armed militiamen from the identically dressed Reuters employees that so comfortably moved with them.
WikiLeaks would also have us believe that the presence of camera equipment should have stayed the guns of the American aircraft. Dishonestly, WikiLeaks does not mention the well-known fact that cameras are an integral part of the war for both sides, and that video and still cameras are commonly carried by militants. A few seconds of searching on the Internet would reveal militants filming attacks, from IED strikes to the alleged sniping of American and Iraqi soldiers and police.
We aren’t attempting to establish that these Reuters employees were terrorists — despite their “relaxed” behavior with the armed militants, which even WikiLeaks is forced to recognize. It is enough to note that even if the presence of cameras had been detected earlier, it in no way suggested that the armed men were anything other than terrorists.
After the initial bursts of cannon fire, Crazy Horse 18 and 19 continue to circle the scene, where we now know Reuters cameraman Namir Noor-Eldeen and his driver Saeed Chamagh lie among the dead and wounded terrorists with whom they traveled.
Moments later, as the pilots continue to circle, a black van and two men on foot emerge to evacuate the wounded survivor of the attack. Curiously, the van that arrives in the short version of the video to move the wounded man appears as if it could be the same van spotted at the 41-second mark of the long version — sighted pulling up to a mosque. Vehicles such as these were commonly used to ferry militants and munitions, and the van shown in the longer video was captured pulling up to the front of a mosque — a favored location to hide weapons and militants because of policies that forbid U.S. troops from raiding them except under extraordinary circumstances.
The pilots make a logical assumption when the van and the extra men (who are curiously never mentioned by the WikiLeakers) pull up and infer that anyone pulling into a hot combat zone with the dust of explosions still hanging in the air may have nefarious purposes … such as helping wounded terrorists avoid capture, and recovering weapons before American ground forces can arrive. After requesting permission to fire — which is granted after a still of the gun camera footage is instantly transmitted to superiors — the van and the men around it are engaged and cut down.
The helicopters continue to circle, talking to ground forces closing in on the scene to keep abreast of their exact position to avoid fratricide. Tho bodies scattered over the length of a city block do not move. The twisted receiver of a shattered AK-47 stands out as the Apaches circle, a mute indictment of the intentions of the dead.
Only after American ground units roll up on the scene and approach the van do they learn two children are among the wounded.
Here in the video, WikiLeaks does something bizarre and contemptuous. They call attention to radio chatter where soldiers request to transfer the children to an American base for treatment — but a decision is made to instead hand the children over to Iraqi police so that the children can be brought to a nearby Iraqi hospital. WikiLeaks opines: “This could mean poorer standards of medical treatment and additional delay.”
The unambiguous statements of the U.S. reports on the incident confirm that the children were indeed carried to an American base for treatment after the incident. The boy and girl were evacuated to Forward Operating Base Loyalty, and then to the 28th Combat Hospital for treatment. They were only transferred to an Iraqi hospital after being treated by the same American medical teams that work to save the lives of our forces.