WikiLeaks Iraqi Murders Video and the Spin Doctors

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(Warning: This Video contains graphic footage)

Since the WikLleaks people made the video of Iraqi murders, including the murders two Reuters reporters, available in the public domain, the departmental spin doctors have been offering interesting spin stories, all aimed at exonerating the gunship pilots, their actions, and their racist language.

I recently read one such interesting piece last week in the New York Times, and found some of the explanations quite laughable. I will just briefly touch upon some of my observations of the apologistic explanation of these murders.

The New York Times Columnist (“Psychologists Explain Iraq War Video” By Benedict Carey, Published April 7, 2010) provides a two-pronged apology for these murders: he interviews some psychologists to argue that the language used by the pilots is symptomatic of a a sort of philosophical detachment that the soldiers must develop to, somehow, cope with the stress of their jobs, which in this case happens to be murdering of civilians. In other words, the soldiers must dehumanize their targets in order to kill them in a mechanical fashion, and that is why the language employed by the pilots comes across as so crude and racist. Brilliant!!

The reporter also interviews some military experts whose job it is to substantiate that the pilots, in their gunships, were, so to speak, in the heat of the battle and in real danger. The video, of course, belies any such claims but we are encouraged to see beyond the frame a danger that makes the pilot’s location in the area so perilous that they must kill these civilians to protect themselves.

One expert suggests that the pilots had identified a man carrying and RPG-7, which, according to this expert “take them down in a second.” Thus, the presence of the rocket launcher, tactically, makes it imperative on the pilots to take out all these people.

Our brilliant New York Times reporter does not deem it necessary to conduct any research about this claim. First of all, it would be a good call to research as to how many helicopters have been lost to RPG rockets in the Iraq war. A simpler approach would have been to inquire about the weapon itself: Is the weapon actually capable of posing a threat to a helicopter flying about a thousand feet above the target area? there are many reasons for which the RPG could not have been a threat to the choppers:

  • An RPG has an effective range of 300 Meters (900 feet).
  • The rocket is unguided and is not very accurate.
  • The rocket self destroys at 700 meters.
  • An RPG is a recoilless weapon: Which means it has a backblast, which makes it a line-of -sight weapon. This means that if a person was to engage a helicopter from the ground, the firer himself will be caught in the backblast. That is why the Afghan Mujahideen used to hide on a hill to wait for the MI24 to rise up to their line-of-sight.
  • Since the argument in favor of pilots is that they could not tell the difference between a camera (carried by the reporter) and a weapon, one can safely asume that the choppers were out of range of the RPG and other small arms.

These are some of my observations about these murders. The reporters should do a better job and  call a murder a murder. That will be a good start. All life is sacred, and no military, no matter what their mission or level of stress, is above board. And murder is murder and we should call this one that.

Masood Raja

Originally from Pakistan, Dr. Masood Ashraf Raja is an Associate Professor of Postcolonial Literature and Theory at the University of North Texas and the author of "The Religious Right and the Talibanization of America" (Palgrave, 2016). 


  1 comment for “WikiLeaks Iraqi Murders Video and the Spin Doctors

    April 11, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    there have been much much brutal acts in the past by the same americans, only this time around it has been caught on tape.The question still remains about the timing. why it took so long the truth to come out?
    We are living in a different world now, we should stop asking/giving explanations of our act, as its only the POWERFUL who would have his point of view justified . the rest of the discussion is waste of time.

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