Wikileaks Video & Soldier's Letter: UPDATE (Iraqis Respond!)

2007 Baghdad Shooting Incident:

Short Synopsis and Update:

by Johanna Faust

(see note at end)

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).

"Good shootin'" "Thank you."

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"

Official Statement:

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

The widow of an Iraqi killed in a notorious US helicopter attack yesterday accepted an apology from two of the soldiers involved. The two wrote an open letter after footage of the 2007 incident was leaked on the internet.

Ahlam Abdelhussein Tuman, 33, told The Times that she forgave Ethan McCord and Josh Stieber, who wrote “we acknowledge our part in the deaths and injuries of your loved ones”, because Mr McCord had also rescued her children: Duaa, 7, and Sajad, 13.

In her home yesterday, the two children lifted up their shirts to show bellies cross-hatched with scars sustained in the airstrike that killed their father, along with 11 other Iraqis including two employees of the Reuters news agency.

It was an attack that has now been viewed by millions after confidential military footage of the incident was released by the Wikileaks website. After the attack, Mr McCord can be seen carrying the injured children to safety.

“I can accept their apology,” Mrs Tuman said, “because they saved my children and if it were not for them, maybe my two little children would be dead.”

The letter explained that “Ethan McCord pulled your daughter and son from the van, and when doing so, saw the faces of his children back home.”

Saleh Mutashar Tuman had brought his minivan to try and help those wounded in the initial strike. The crew of the US gunship then chose to attack him and his van as he tried to ferry the wounded away.

The two soldiers said of their letter: “We are doing what we can to speak out against the wars and military policies responsible for what happened to you and your loved ones.”

“What the [two] soldiers are doing,” said Mrs Tuman, “is very good work, and we hope they continue their good work because I would like the American people and the whole world to understand what happened here in Iraq. We lost our country and our lives were destroyed.”

The two men, who have now left the military, released the letter through the Civilian-Soldier Alliance, an American anti-war organisation working with to end conflict. Mr McCord claims to have been so traumatised by the incident shown in the video that he asked for counselling, which he was denied by a commanding officer.

The two men asked in the letter what the could do to “begin to repair the damage we caused”.

Mrs Tuman asked for financial help: “I ask them if they have anything in their hand to help us.”

Her brother-in-law added that the Mr Tuman’s minivan, destroyed in the shooting on June 12, 2007, had cost $15,000, and that the children’s ongoing medical costs had run into thousands of dollars. The family could no longer pay rent on their former home and had moved to live with him, he said.

The families of Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen, the two Reuters’ employees killed in the same airstrike, expressed their anger that the soldiers had not come forward earlier, and called on them to testify to an international court.

“We wish the two soldiers had spoken before this day, and we wish they had exposed the truth before this group released this film,” said Nabil Noor-Eldeen, Namir’s father.

“We could forgive them,” he continued, “but they stayed silent until the truth appeared and after that they felt guilty.”

If the two wished for forgiveness, he said, “they should expose the rest of the crimes that have happened against the Iraqis, and not wait for another film to ask for apology and forgiveness”.

Mr Chmagh’s brother Safaa accepted the apology offered. “I thank them for their good feelings,” he said, calling for the two men to testify to “the injustice that happened in front of them” in international courts. Reuters has refused to comment on whether it is taking legal action against the American military, saying only: “Reuters is focusing on engaging in a . . . dialogue with the US military at a senior level.”

Blessings and peace to you both, Josh and Ethan, and all who lend you aid.

Be seeing you.

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note: (a) i am new at this web authorship journalism thing and welcome pointers. (b) ·°Á&(%^*%blogger for changing my page layout every %}•§“∞*^ edit so that i have to re-format umpteen times!! My wrist hurts!! why why why why is it that font sizes must randomly change? why why why must borders shift seemingly at impish will???!!!?? AAARG!! *ahem* in any event, Gentle Reader, this original post (yay) was originally side by side with the repost below. everything was all nice. can't wait till i migrate - hope wordpress is better.