A reader, ‘Chris’, from California has written a comment asking how do I know what happened before the attack, that it was not provoked by something the crowd had done and that the helicopter strike was justified? Well, I don’t know, but I don’t think so. I think that would have been reflected in the interaction between the pilot and his controller. But anyhow, that’s not the point. There is a thing called the rule of law. It says that you cannot be punished unless you have been found guilty by some legally and socially acceptable process. That didn’t happen. And even if the crowd had done something, how does the pilot and his controller know that everyone in the crowd was involved, that innocent bystanders or spectators wouldn’t die alongside the guilty? It is precisely this type of indiscriminate violence by the US in the region that has spawned vengeful groups like ISIS. The attack might have been justified if the crowd was about to take life. But there is no sign in the video of that happening. The video is, sadly, consistent with many of the horror stories we have read and seen about attacks like this. Here is a BBC report on the First Battle of Fallujah which may have been the occasion for this sequence.
A few years ago, I indirectly acquired this 53 second video from someone who had served in Iraq in the opening years of the American invasion and occupation of that unfortunate country. At least that is what I assumed.
My impression was that it was one of many videos sent back to the States by serving soldiers and then widely circulated via the internet to show the folks back home how Ali and Mohammed were getting their rear ends kicked.
It shows the control panel and overhead view from inside the cockpit of a US military helicopter hovering over Fallujah, circa 2004, observing a crowd of perhaps 30-40 people apparently marching towards an unknown objective.
The chopper is so high up it is impossible to see whether the crowd is carrying any weapons and I cannot see how the people on the ground could be judged a threat by a helicopter pilot and his command post so distant from the target.
The events on the ground look like an impromptu protest march of the sort I was very familiar with covering the Troubles in Ireland, when outraged locals would storm off to the local barracks to remonstrate over some piece of military or police excess.
The pilot radios his command post with a question: “I’ve got numerous individuals on the road. Do you want me to take those out?” he asks. “Take them out”, comes the reply. Notice there is no reference to an armed threat. Nor any question from his control about the potential threat posed by the crowd. None of the back and forth suggests that the crowd has been involved in violence. Just a crowd of Arabs marching towards somewhere – in their case towards instant death.
“Oh Dude!” he exclaims when his missile explodes, enveloping goodness knows how many people in dark clouds, red hot splinters of metal and death.
On the face of it, it is hard to describe this event as being anything other than an unprovoked mass murder.
I know from my own experience that police and military violence, and the hunger for revenge it breeds, were the IRA’s most diligent and effective recruiters during the Troubles – and I suspect that it has been the same in Iraq and elsewhere in that region since 2003, except, given the level of US violence, you could multiply the effect several fold.
Nor is there much doubt in my mind that if you wonder where ISIS and its awful, vengeful violence comes from, you need only watch videos like the one below: