"They Killed the Wounded and Drove Over Their Bodies": Iraqis Speak About WikiLeaks Video, But Who Is Listening?
By now we've heard plenty of people's opinions on the now famous WikiLeaks video showing the U.S. military killing 12 Iraqi civilians -- from Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Stephen Colbert to Josh Stieber, a former soldier turned conscientious objector who would have been on the mission over Baghdad that day. But missing from the discussion have been the voices of Iraqis themselves, those who witnessed the slaughter, and especially those whose loved ones were killed.
Fortunately, this week and last, Democracy Now! broadcast some of these voices loudly and clearly, providing a much needed dose of reality amid so much talk of "rules of engagement" or WikiLeaks's political "bias." On Monday, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez played clips from an interview with Ahlam Abdelhussain, whose husband, Saleh Mutashar, died trying to rescue one of the two Reuters newsman hit by the blasts while his two children were injured. "My husband did nothing wrong," she says, now a widow.
"How do I feel? What can I say? Why was he shot with his children in the car? They did nothing wrong. He was helping a journalist. What was his crime? What was the crime of our children who are left with no father and no support."
Saleh's nephew, Anwar, said:
- He was carrying wounded people during the American attacks. He was trying to help. They believe that someone who was carrying a gun will take his children along with him? Unbelievable. What can we do? God take revenge from the Americans. They destroyed us and destroyed our nations. What is the future of those children? They are orphans.
"We used to live in a rented house," says Ahlam Abdelhussain. Her husband "worked as a construction worker."
We didn’t have any other income. After his death, I was left with nothing. My children were wounded. We were devastated. My father-in-law took us to live with him. Life became very difficult. My children are still suffering from their wounds. My daughter still suffers from pain in her head and her stomach. My son is still in pain after his surgery. We don’t have a pension or any other income to rely on, so my father-in-law took us to live with him.
And if it's more "context" you need, consider this report by independent journalists Rick Rowley and David Enders, who were on the scene the day after the massacre:
RICK ROWLEY: We came to the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad one day after a U.S. attack helicopter strike that killed twelve Iraqis, including a journalist and a driver working with Reuters. The U.S. military claimed that they were under attack from rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire and that all of the dead, except for the two Reuters employees, were insurgents. But local residents showed us the remains of a burnt-out van spattered with blood and told us a different story.
WITNESS 1: [translated] The helicopter came yesterday from there and hovered around. Then it came right here where a group of people were standing. They didn't have any weapons or arms of any sort. This area doesn't have armed insurgents. They destroyed the place and shot at people, and they didn't let anyone help the wounded.
WITNESS 2: [translated] I swear to God it was helicopters that attacked us. These people are all witnesses. They attacked us twice, not once.
RICK ROWLEY: Another resident went on to describe what happened to the man who tried to help the wounded.
WITNESS 3: [translated] The driver went to carry the injured, who had been shot in front of his eyes. While he was going to pick them up, the pilot of the helicopter kept flying above, watching the scene. They started firing at the wounded and the dead. The driver and the two children were also there. The helicopter continued shooting until none of the bodies were moving.
RICK ROWLEY: We asked the crowd of people what might have prompted the attack, and they said that when the journalist arrived, residents quickly gathered around him.
WITNESS 2: [translated] The group of civilians had gathered here because people need cooking oil and gas. They wanted to demonstrate in front of the media and show that they need things like oil, gas, water and electricity. The situation here is dramatically deteriorating. The journalists were walking around, and then the Americans started shooting. They started shooting randomly and targeted peaceful civilians from the neighborhood.
WITNESS 3: [translated] There were children in the car. Were they carrying weapons? There were two children.
WITNESS 2: [translated] Do we help the wounded or kill them? They killed all the wounded and drove over their bodies. Everyone witnessed it. And the journalist was among those who was injured, and the armored vehicle drove over his body.
WITNESS 3: [translated] The U.S. forces, who call themselves "friendly" forces, were telling us on speakers that they were here to protect and help us. We heard those words very clearly. But what we saw was the opposite of that. We demand the American Congress and President Bush supervise their soldiers' actions in Iraq.
Secretary Gates -- and anyone else who defends the videotaped aerial murder of Iraqi civilians as somehow justified -- should listen to these voices before they open their mouths again.