In 2007, a US Apache helicopter, tasked with protecting army soldiers in active battle nearby, "engaged" with what they thought were armed Iraqis in a suburb of Bagdhad. A video record of the event, from the perspective of the helicopter, was recently leaked to, decrypted, and made available by the whistleblower organization Wikileaks, (both the abbreviated and so-called full-length version).
Initially eight people were killed, including Namir, an up-and-coming photographer on assignment for Reuters; a van soon arrived to help the wounded but still alive Saeed, also a REuters employee. Both Saeed and the van and any people inside were the subject or derisive and insensitive remarks (to put it lightly) as soldiers onboard the Apache impatiently requested for permission to target them as well. Four more Iraqis were soon dead. There were two children in the van.
"That's what they get for bringing their kids to a battle" "That's right".
Ethan McCord, fresh from the nearby battle, was soon on the scene. He was the first to approach the van, having heard a child's cries; a soldier, not far behind, vomited and abandoned him when he saw what was inside.
The events of that day changed Ethan (see interview) - he asked for, but was not granted, counseling because of their impact on his psyche. The changes ultimately resulted in his leaving the service.
Ethan did not know about the leaked video until it was made public on April 5th, and, though his reaction was one of anger at first, it soon changed into a desire to do something to ameliorate the consequences of events for which he was at least partially responsible.
Soldiers' Letter (please sign!)
Together with the equally brave Josh Steiber who, though not involved in this specific incident, was a soldier in the same company and very well could have been, Ethan authored the moving "Open Letter Of Reconciliation & Responsibility To The Iraqi People."
From the Soldiers'
"Open Letter of Reconciliation"
The letter, which they hope to get to the family who lost their father and whose children were injured in the attack, states that they "are acknowledging our responsibility for bringing the battle to your neighborhood, and to your family. We did unto you what we would not want done to us."
Ethan running with wounded girl
Ethan at first assesed the little girl to be the only survivor, and dressed her wounds and requested that she to be rushed to a nearby hospital; one can hear the disappointment in his voice when the request was granted but the hospital was changed for one that was commonly thought less capable of providing quality care5. He returned only to find that the little boy who was also in the van was in fact still alive. From statements made to Lateline, it seems Ethan thought (possibly only until very recently) that the boy died in his arms shortly thereafter; as I understand it, however, this was not the case. A young boy and girl showed their scars a few days ago to Alice Fordham, a reporter in Baghdad. In the following repost, she interviews their mother, who was made a widow on that day in 2007.
Response of Iraqi Widow, Mother of Children in Video, To The Soldiers' Letter of Apology
Humbly reposted in full from
an article by Alice Fordham, in Baghdad for The Times Online - 4-26-2010
Wikileaks Video & Soldier's Letter: UPDATE (Iraqis Respond!)
Blessings and peace to you both, Josh and Ethan, and all who lend you aid.
Be seeing you.