Wikileaks Video Revisited: What Needs To Happen Now

Dan Froomkin

April 22, 2010

Earlier this month, the whistleblower website WikiLeaks released a deeply disturbing video
of a U.S. Army Apache helicopter in Baghdad in 2007 repeatedly
machine-gunning a group of men that included a Reuters photographer and
his driver — and then opening fire on a van that stopped to rescue one
of the wounded men. (Here’s my article about it.)

The two Reuters employees were killed. But Reuters, which had been asking to see the video for two and a half years, didn’t have much to say right away.

Today, Reuters editor-in-chief David Schlesinger is out with an opinion column entitled "What I want from the Pentagon".
His central point: "What I want from the Pentagon — and from all
militaries — is simple: Acknowledgment, transparency, accountability."
Here he is on the accountability part:

Let’s dig behind the
video. Let’s fully understand the rules the military were operating
under. Let’s have a complete picture of what was going through the
fliers’ minds. Let’s hear the Pentagon explain its interpretation of
the rules of engagement and the Geneva Convention and how the actions
either did or did not accord with them in its view. And importantly,
let’s keep in mind that while we focus on this particular tragedy, it
is the rare circumstance that when a journalist is injured or killed in
a conflict area, there is a video of the death, and even more rare as
this case demonstrates, for the public to see such a video.

I totally agree. I want what he wants. And here’s something else I want.

I want someone on Capitol Hill to give a shit.

So far (and I’ve done a bit of
calling around) I haven’t heard any member of Congress express any
intention of holding an oversight hearing into the matter — or even
asking any questions at all.

They seem utterly uncurious
about how exactly it was OK for a bloodthirsty-sounding helicopter
crewman to open fire on a group of (apparently) armed men when all they
were doing was milling around on a street corner — not to mention how
it was OK to target the Good Samaritan van driver who pulled over to
help one of the injured men. (He was killed; his two small children
were wounded.)

Even more than that, to be perfectly honest, I want someone on Capitol Hill to give a shit about the gruesome cover-up by U.S. forces in Afghanistan after they massacred five innocent civilians, including three women, two of whom were pregnant — just this past February. Just not on video (as far as we know).

In case you missed it, the very same morning the WikiLeaks video was released, the New York Times confirmed reports by heroic Times of London correspondent Jerome Starkey
that American Special Operations soldiers actually dug their bullets
out of the bodies of the women as part of a cover-up. NATO
headquarters, led by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then backed them up and
repeatedly tried to discredit Starkey and his story.

Is that standard operating procedure? Again, I haven’t heard a peep of interest from the Hill — despite the fact that Starkey himself has argued that it was not an isolated incident, and that U.S. and NATO forces are rarely held to account for the atrocities they commit.

Where’s the outrage? Where’s the
responsibility? Where’s the oversight? Hell, where’s the basic
curiosity? Has anyone on the Hill even asked any questions of the
Pentagon or the White House? Hey, President Obama, are you OK with this?

Does your member of Congress give a shit?

Call them and let me know what you find out.

WATCH the WikiLeaks video:


Dan Froomkin is senior Washington correspondent for the Huffington Post. You can send him an e-mail, bookmark his page; subscribe to RSS feed, follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook, and/or become a fan and get e-mail alerts when he writes.

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