I was going to write about a video published by WikiLeaks recently – supposedly showing American soldiers killing, among others, two Iraqi journalists – when I read this post by my good friend Michael Merrit about it. He and I agree completely on this one, so instead of writing a long post defending these soldiers, I’ll just quote him and add some thoughts of my own:
The video shows soldiers killing several Iraqis who were determined to be carrying RPGs and AK-47s. WikiLeaks says that they were Reuters journalists (two of them, at least) who were only carrying cameras.
Regardless of the truth of the matter, the fact remains that they were in a warzone (apparently just outside the location of an earlier ground battle), determined to be a threat, and that threat was eliminated. That is what soldiers in a war zone do, they eliminate the enemy. Hindsight is, as they say, 20/20. What the soldiers might know now is not the information they had while in Iraq. They acted on what seemed to be an accurate analysis of the situation, and through (from my armchair reading safe in the States) the proper Rules of Engagement. That the journalists appeared to be traveling with armed people, possibly insurgents, only make the decision easier, and based on the information at the time, the right one.
I watched the most important part of the video and agree completely. These soldiers were fighting a war. They had learned that being too careful was dangerous to them and their colleagues. They saw a group of armed insurgents gather on the streets of Baghdad and acted. That’s not only defensible but completely logical. WikiLeaks’ attempt to present this as a war crime is despicable and sickening. As Michael puts it:
That this incident is being treated by WikiLeaks and the anti-war crowd as murder is beyond disgusting. There was no murder here, nor malicious intent of any kind. The soldiers were doing their job. And if that job caused innocents to be killed, that is regrettable, but an unfortunate fact of war. Was a mistake made? It is possible, and the facts of the situation still appear to be murky, despite what WikiLeaks wants us to believe. Even so, I still support the decision made by the soldiers.
Bill Roggio adds at The Weekly Standard:
Baghdad in July 2007 was a very violent place, and the neighborhoods of Sadr City and New Baghdad were breeding grounds for the Mahdi Army and associated Iranian-backed Shia terror groups. The city was a war zone. To describe the attack you see in the video as “murder” is a sensationalist gimmick that succeeded in driving tons of media attention and traffic to Wikileaks’ website.
As for the two journalists who were killed: as the Confederate Yankee points out, these Reuters employees “made the mistake of joining a ragtag group of Muqtada al Sadr’s Medhi Army militia, some of which were still clearly armed, with at least one folding stock AK-pattern assault rifle and an RPG-7 antitank rocket in the video that WikiLeaks chose to show us.”
Nice try by WikiLeaks to create outrage aimed at the U.S. military, but I’m afraid most of us won’t fall for it. It’s perfectly clear that the soldiers in this video acted in good faith and in obedience to the rules of engagement. If two innocent journalists died that’s sad, but it’s also part of war.