by Dan Froomkin
[…]The helicopter crew, which was patrolling an area that had been the scene of fierce fighting that morning, said they spotted weapons on members of the first group — although the video shows one gun, at most. The crew also mistook a telephoto lens for a rocket-propelled grenade.
The shooting, which killed Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and driver Saeed Chmagh, 40, took place on July 12, 2007, in a southeastern neighborhood of Baghdad.
The next day, the New York Times reported the military’s official cover story:
The American military said in a statement late Thursday that 11 people had been killed: nine insurgents and two civilians. According to the statement, American troops were conducting a raid when they were hit by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. The American troops called in reinforcements and attack helicopters. In the ensuing fight, the statement said, the two Reuters employees and nine insurgents were killed.
“There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force,” said Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a spokesman for the multinational forces in Baghdad.
The video shows otherwise.
Washington Post reporter David Finkel described the incident — and the video — in great detail in his September 2009 book, “The Good Soldiers”. A summary can be found here.
Finkel also described a review session after Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, commander of the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment and his soldiers returned to base, which “concluded that everyone had acted appropriately.” (Kauzlarich was also involved in the Army’s Pat Tillman cover-up, and later told ESPN that the reluctance of Tillman’s parents to accept the military’s story that he was killed by enemy action, rather than friendly fire, was the unfortunate result of their lack of Christian faith.)
[…] WikiLeaks, a small, independent Web site that invites people to post information and documents that powerful interests would prefer to keep secret, says it received the video and supporting documents from military whistleblowers.
Julian Assange, the editor of the site, said the killings either violated the the army’s rules of engagement, or those rules of engagement “are very, deeply wrong.”