Warning: The material you are about to witness is graphic – because it is war. If you’re still under the impression that the U.S. Federal Government’s wars in the Middle East are “protecting our freedoms,” then I hope this makes you think again.

To introduce the video, Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing has written: “No single piece of video has made me more ashamed to be supporting this stupid, morally bankrupt, endless war with my tax dollars. No wonder my government (and others) wants Wikileaks shut down.” Words cannot describe what I felt watching this video for the first time, so brace yourself.

Video: Collateral Murder (YouTube/sunshinepress). Also available as a torrent: (short) (full)

Admittedly, there is ambiguity at first regarding the weapons these people were carrying, but there is no question whatsoever about what happened after that. Without provocation, these soldiers fired upon and killed civilians twice in under fifteen minutes. In the end, there are no excuses for this.

What makes this incident so horrible?

  • So these men had weapons – so what? They made no aggressive moves, there were no indications they were preparing to do anything, and for supposed insurgents walking openly down a street they were rather relaxed. That’s some strange behavior for people supposedly about to attack you with small arms.
  • There was no firefight before the soldiers opened fire, contra the dialogue. But when you’re flying a helicopter touting 30mm guns, everything looks like a threat I guess? You just want to go out and shoot something…
  • And that’s exactly what is really sick next. They are just itching to open fire again on the crawling, wounded man (who is the Reuters driver by the way), just waiting for him to pick up a weapon to justify going off on him again. As if a man bleeding to death on the ground with a pistol poses any threat to a chopper.
  • What really, really made my jaw drop was what happened next, though. After first part of the battle, a van comes to assist the wounded. The van was unarmed. The people were unarmed. Oh, and there are two children in the van as well. Yet, more indiscriminate carnage is dealt to these innocents by these soldiers, devastating the van with the children inside and killing ever more precious human lives. Thank God that at least the children lived.
  • They laugh at the dead. Like it’s a blinking video game or something. Are they dead inside? Or just animals?
  • They justify their shooting of children by saying, “it’s their fault they brought them to the firing line.” Really? REALLY???
  • The children were initially taken to the military hospital for treatment, but were promptly sent to the other local, not nearly as good Iraqi care center – despite having been just shot up by 30mm rounds. How very kind of them.
  • But it gets worse, because after all this the government suppressed the entire thing. They covered it up and suppressed the data. Really, if their cause was so just, what did they have to hide? The efforts undertaken to push this under the rug should be a clear indictment of wrongdoing.

Brian Martinez at the Libertarian Standard wrote:

Perhaps someone can explain how we’re any more free now, because I’m having difficulty seeing it.  In fact there’s no rational explanation for how these wars, or any wars, have ever helped us maintain our freedoms.  We seem to be less free now than at any point in the past 200 years, and it’s not because radical Muslims hate our wealth and decadent culture.  It’s because our rulers must continually find “enemies” to threaten us, from within and without, to maintain their authority.

This video is the tip of the iceberg. WikiLeaks and Reuters worked for years to get it into the open, can you imagine what else is out there waiting to be discovered? The only reason this video has been revealed is that certain people were important to Reuters. How many people have died and their stories been suppressed – people who have no advocates? Think about that for a minute.

War is hell, and brings out the worst in everyone. There is no honor in killing. Stop supporting mass murder.

More coverage:

BoingBoing: Part 1 and Part 2
The Libertarian Standard
Collateral Murder

Dr. Norman Horn

Norman founded LibertarianChristians.com and the Libertarian Christian Institute, and currently serves as its President and Editor-in-Chief. He holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from the Austin Graduate School of Theology. He currently is a Postdoctoral researcher in Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Rob

    People walking the streets of a war zones with weapons, relaxed or not, is a threat. Did you not see the guy pointing an RPG at them? Apply that same logic to Nazi germany. Should we not have fired upon German troops in war zones unless they were shooting at us first?

    You do not know what happened before this video footage. Perhaps someone fired upon them? Perhaps this group of individuals was chased into this neighborhood by persuing troops following a firefight?

    You can’t allow your view of the conflict as a whole cloud your perception of this one small slice of video.

  • Rob

    I’m not saying the actions as a whole were good, don’t get me wrong. I’m just saying that we don’t know what provoked the firefight and can’t simply assume that the initial burst of fire was brought about by itchy trigger fingers.

  • Rob

    For that matter, could you tell there were children in that van from the POV cam? No? Neither could the soldiers. Blaming them for that is sheer liberal idiocy, no matter what ideology you claim to subscribe to.

  • Patrick McLaughlin

    I disagree with the commentary’s take that the soldiers committed murder, so the video is titled. This is what a military does: it kills. It kills what looks like the enemy. In this case, a gathering with several men apparently bearing arms looked like the enemy. If you don’t like it, then DON’T SLANDER THE SOLDIERS, put the blame where it lies: at the politicians who sent in the military, and at the citizens who supported said decision.

  • Patrick McLaughlin

    The military is not a police force. It’s a killing machine. It’s use is for killing an enemy that is invading your country. How it’s being used now: as some type of discriminating admissions officer, who separates the definitely-enemy from the only apparently-enemy that both walk the streets… is just asking for trouble. I’d like to see the self-righteous men who condemn our soldiers try on their shoes. No? They’d either be dead for naiveté, or, at best, doing the exact same thing. If they don’t want to fill that role, the least they can do is keep their sharp tongues, like the barrel of a gun, pointed at the right target: those who send in a killing machine to occupy a country.

  • There’s is ambiguity about the RPG, but even the official “report” says they were not fired upon by these people.

  • Rob

    So they should have waited until they *were* fired upon?

  • Quote “For that matter, could you tell there were children in that van from the POV cam? No? Neither could the soldiers. Blaming them for that is sheer liberal idiocy, no matter what ideology you claim to subscribe to.”

    Surely you cannot be serious! I fear, however, that you are.

    Imagine the cards turned. Your country is invaded, and helicopter gunships fire upon people, they are laying bleeding in the street. Your (neighbor, friend, son, lover …) goes in a van to pick them up, in order to get them to medical care, and they are gunned down as well. How can this not be murder? What is “liberal” about this?

    “If you don’t like it, then DON’T SLANDER THE SOLDIERS, put the blame where it lies: at the politicians who sent in the military, and at the citizens who supported said decision.”

    Definition of Slander – “words falsely spoken that damage the reputation of another.” I fail to see how that word fits.

    The guys in Washington are to blame for sending them over there. “We” are to blame for paying for it. The soldiers are to blame for following evil orders, including killing.

  • Patrick McLaughlin

    I say slander, because they video calls the soldiers murderers, when in fact, they are killers. You said killing is an evil order. Well, I suppose you should disband the military, because if you have been around military formations much, you will certainly hear chants about killing the enemy.

  • rob

    “Surely you cannot be serious! I fear, however, that you are.”

    Yes, I am. How can one blame soldiers for shooting at children, when they didn’t even know the children were in the van? For all they know, the van could have been filled with explosives.

    “Imagine the cards turned. Your country is invaded, and helicopter gunships fire upon people, they are laying bleeding in the street. Your (neighbor, friend, son, lover …) goes in a van to pick them up, in order to get them to medical care, and they are gunned down as well. How can this not be murder? What is “liberal” about this?”

    If there was a helicopter circling my neighborhood shooting at people, I’d not be poking my head out. I’d expect to be shot at if I were. Suppose your friends got carjacked in East L.A. The car was surrounded by gang members wielding firearms. Would you run into the midst of them to save your friend? Probably not! If you did, would you be surprised if you got shot?

  • Then Rob, you don’t even agree with the traditional “rules of war”, especially the traditionally Christian JUST WAR THEORY, where non-combatants are not to be targeted. Forget the fact that there were kids in the car (and the fact that they weren’t sorry for what they did in the least), you don’t do this. Period.

  • Ryan McM

    Who would Jesus mow down with a machine gun? Clearly, he would shoot up people tending to the dead like the people in the van. He owuld also shoot people in the back who are fleeing machine gun fire and who are obviously weaponless. He’d also have a good laugh over the carnage like this soldiers did.

    The behavior by the soldiers here doesn’t remotely comply with the Geneva conventions let alone what might be considered moral Christian behavior. It’s ridiculous that people are so in love with their government that they condone this kind of behavior. And for what? To occupy a foreign dirt-poor backwater country that was never any threat to the United States?

    Every single tenet of Just War theory has been violated by the US’s war in Iraq.A disgusting war fought by disgusting amoral robots who’ll do whatever they’re told regardless of how barbaric the orders might be.

  • Oz82

    Rob, do you really think our soldiers are only expected to meet standards befitting street gangs?

    Murray Rothbard would agree, but would not share your sense of pride in the “criminal gang writ large”.

  • Patrick McLaughlin

    Thank you, Ryan McM, for your insight. Maybe we can get together sometime? How about heading down to the airport to spit at some of the “disgusting amoral robots” returning from Iraq and Afghanistan? That’s a nice feel-good activity, right?

    It seems to me that most of you are attributing rather malicious intent to the soldiers. To me, that says you are ignorant of what it is to be a soldier. Not theoretically, but practically. Your objections about how they should have known this was a group of civilians, not enemy combatants, are frankly laughable. Now, for those who are wise, not the fools, I suggest you have some conversations with soldiers who have had to kill face-to-face, and the ones who have to press buttons to take out the enemy. See what it does to them. Do they seem a little paranoid about that people-group? Whether it’s Arabs or Japanese. When they lose one buddy, and then another, you think they might start fearing for their lives, and start stereotyping who the enemy is?

    In these soldiers’ eyes, there was a gathering of enemy combatants, with RPG and firearms, prepared to shoot down aircraft, and who are probably killing their brothers-in-arms by direct fire or IEDs on a regular basis. Taking this group, of gathering combatants, out was not only within the rules of engagement, but morally right thing to: otherwise these killers would have gone on to destroy the country and certainly kill Americans.

    Obviously the soldiers were mistaken. But, I swear. It’s nice to rant about mistakes people make: the waiter, the postman, the surgeon. And would you be a good waiter? Postman? Could you perform surgery on someone? Go into combat, and then let’s hear you talk about the finer details of what you should or should not do. I’m not talking to everyone who commenting, because some of you are obviously too foolish to your words any thought.

  • Graeme Brooks

    As Patrick points out, there are incredible stresses put on soldiers in warzones. When placed in that life and death situation, it is common for otherwise upright men to do things that are at best questionable, at worst horrific. But as the saying goes: there, but for the Grace of God, go I.

    Whether or not this video shows one such example is largely irrelevant. Soldiers of all nations do unspeakable things to their fellow men, no matter their nation, creed or political feelings. Video or not, that’s a fact, and most go unseen. Maybe in this case they were malicious, maybe they were just average men given a hard decision to make. Either way, it is just the most recent and visible example of a daily occurrence.

    I would probably defend these men on those grounds, but ultimately if it’s not acceptable in Heaven, it’s not acceptable here. Based on that, yes, these men did something wrong. I don’t argue that, but you can see why they did it. You can see why they may even think they did right. You should be able to sympathise, even empathise with these people. They’re victims of a world so screwed up that they are told they are fighting and killing in the name of peace.

    “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
    Luke 23:34, NIV

    Moral outrage at this and other acts of war is appropriate, but so too is empathy and forgiveness for the sinner. So show a little more love to each other, guys, this argument is going sour real fast.

  • You can see it either way, Graeme, this much is true. God is forgiving, but that doesn’t mean we stop opposing evil and showing people it’s results. I hope that knowing what evils that wars propagate motivates Christians to stop condoning and participating in them. War is hell, and why would a Christian want to participate in bringing a special delivery of hell to other people? In the days of Rome, soldiers who converted to “The Way” of Christ invariably laid down their arms and flat out stopped being soldiers. They believed that Rome’s actions were contrary to following Jesus…

  • Graeme Brooks

    Agreed. Like I said, moral outrage IS appropriate. The issue, if there is one, is that the other posters seem to interpret this outrage as an attack on the soldiers. It’s tempting to think it’s obvious or assumed, but the world needs us to say what is to us plainly true: we hate the sin, but love the sinner.

  • Patrick McLaughlin

    Well said Graeme.

    Interesting point about early Christians leaving the Roman army. I was not aware of that. I think looking at the earliest Church is definitely profitable.

    When the soldiers asked Yeshua, “What about us? What must we do?” He said to them, “Extort from no one by violence, neither accuse anyone wrongfully. Be content with your wages.” (Luke 3:14) But he didn’t say, “Lay down your arms.” Inherently, being a Roman soldier was no sin, as I understand Yeshua’s instruction. We seem to disagree as to whether soldiers are allowed to kill apparent enemies, though they have not yet attacked, in war. Or maybe we are disagreeing on whether soldiers are allowed to mistake who the enemy is. Christians–even libertarian ones ;)–needn’t agree on everything. And no, I’m not changing my profession.

  • Oz82

    There’s two incidents here that the helicopter and crew are involved in and must answer for. The first incident is the initial attack. In other reports, it has been made clear that they were searching for combatants who had been firing on their allies on the ground. When that one silhouette appeared to be a man aiming an RPG around the corner, it can be understood why the decision to fire on the group was made. If it had ended there, the only criticism that could be made is the manifest insensitivity to the results of their task, which is common in soldiers in battle.

    However, the line was crossed when they intentionally fired on people who were attempting to help a severely wounded man, had no weapons and made no attempt to gather any from the downed men, and were unquestioningly NOT combatants.

    There is a reason that the military resisted the release of this footage. The act was not a firing mistake. It was not carried out without approval. It was not an act that anyone, Christian or not, Just War theory or not, can excuse. There will be more to come of this.

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