Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Video of U.S. Attack That Killed Journalists Demands Inquiry

Video of U.S. Attack That Killed Journalists Demands Inquiry

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The video is clear, and devastating.

It shows a U.S. military helicopter targeting, shooting and killing a Reuters photographer and driver in a July 2007 attack in Baghdad.

The U.S. pilots are heard reveling in their "kills."

"Look at those dead bastards," says one.

"Nice!" replies the other pilot.

The killing of the Reuters photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and the driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40,has long been a subject of controversy.

The news agency raised immediate concerns.

But U.S. military officials denied that anything untoward had occurred.

"There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force," declared Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a spokesman for the multinational forces in Baghdad.

But that is not what the graphic video, which was leaked by whistle-blowers within the military to the Web site WikiLeaks.org, showed.

Rather, the 17 minutes of black-and-white aerial video and conversations between pilots in two Apache helicopters portrays the Americans opening fire on the photographers and others and then joking about the incident.

Later, after they open fire on a vehicle carrying children, the pilots are heard mocking the harm done to the youths.

Americans can view the video here.

There is no question of its legitimacy.

Nor is there any question that, as the Committee to Protect Journalists says: "The video raises questions about the actions of U.S. military forces and the thoroughness and transparency of the investigation that followed."

The only question that remains is whether there will be any form of official accountability -- not so much for the pilots but for the military commanders and civilian higher ups who lied about the incident.

Were there intentional cover-ups?

After employees of an international news service were killed, and with those killings inspiring widespread calls for an inquiry, was anyone in the Bush-Cheney White House brought into the discussion? What did they know? When?

The Congress of the United States is supposed to provide oversight for the military. The House and Senate armed services committees have the authority to hold hearings regarding these incidents.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has offered a proper point of beginning for a congressional inquiry. As the CPJ notes: "In all, at least 16 journalists were killed by U.S. forces' fire in Iraq, CPJ research shows. While CPJ has not found evidence to conclude that U.S. troops targeted journalists in these cases, its research shows that most of the cases were either not fully investigated or the military failed to publicly disclose its findings."

Shouldn't congressional committees with clear oversight authority and responsibility be moving, now, to assure that all of these incidents are fully investigated, that the findings are publicly disclosed and, above all, that anyone involved in deliberate deceit or cover-ups is held to account?

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