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Ray McGovern introduces a short documentary deconstructing events revealed by Wikileaks

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. In July 2007, American soldiers flying in a helicopter over a neighborhood of Baghdad shot at a group of men below in the street. One of those men was a Reuters cameraman, his camera strung over his shoulder, and it looked like, to those soldiers, he was carrying a machine gun. They called for permission to fire, and they did. How do we know all of this? Because another soldier, named Bradley Manning, thought this needed to be known by the world, and he released this video as part of documents that were released to WikiLeaks. Now Bradley Manning is in jail and the people that fired those shots are not. Now joining us to talk about this and a documentary that was made about this by a German television show, Panorama, which we will show you in a few minutes, is Ray McGovern. Ray is a former CIA analyst and worked with President Bush senior and Reagan and was in the CIA for about 20 years, and he’s been a big advocate of people knowing more about what the intelligence agencies and the military does. Thanks for joining us, Ray.

RAY MCGOVERN, CIA ANALYST (RET’D): Most welcome, Paul.

JAY: So just a quick introduction from you about what we’re about to see in this Panorama show. It was released a few months ago, but it certainly is relevant as ever, because Bradley Manning continues to sit in solitary confinement. So just set up what we’re about to see.

MCGOVERN: Oh, Bradley Manning is about to be tried, or at least the pretrial proceedings are beginning on 16 December. What he released, or at least the thing that got most of the attention right off the bat, was this video footage of a really horrible incident in Baghdad in July 2007–during the surge, mind you–where Apache helicopter gunners and so forth did in a group of Iraqi civilians, two of them Reuters reporters. And the dialog which you hear and the video that you see from the gun barrel photography is really, really just appalling. It shows not only how we have brutalized folks in Baghdad, but how our own sons, our soldiers have been brutalized by this war.

JAY: Well, Ray, just before we show it, just a final word from you. Seeing this, what did that do to you when you saw this piece from Panorama?

MCGOVERN: Well, I watched the earlier footage. What the Panorama thing does in German is to set the context here. And it was because we asked, we pleaded with Panorama to redub it, to undub it, or whatever you say to make the German back into English, that they accommodated us. And now we end up with 12 minutes of really good footage and good interpretation. There were journalists with this unit. One was from The Washington Post. He knew all about this. Instead of reporting it, he wrote a book saying what valiant soldiers he was with. So the other–the back story here is how our own media not only downplayed this thing but missed an opportunity to point out how how hard this war is. Thankfully, the Germans sprung to, not only did a wonderful program in German, but at our request translated it back into English, and you can see it.

JAY: Okay. Well, we’re–now we’ll show this to you. And as you watch it, keep in mind: where is the crime? Bradley Manning, who released this video? Or the soldiers and those who gave the soldiers their orders and those who started this war? So here you are: Panorama‘s piece about Bradley Manning and the shooting in Baghdad.


VOICEOVER: A neighborhood in Baghdad, July 2007. Shots are fired from the air, fired from an American Apache helicopter. Minutes later, US infantry soldier Ethan McCord arrives at the scene.

ETHAN MCCORD, U.S. SOLDIER: When I came up onto the scene, I remember thinking, you know, oh, well, this guy with the RPG or this guy with the AK-47 obviously did this to the van. There’s no way in hell that we would do this.

VOICEOVER: This military video shocked the world when WikiLeaks released it almost a year ago. And this man is being blamed for illegally downloading it from a secured Army network, 23-year-old Bradley Manning, who has been held in solitary confinement for seven months. A small group of supporters is demanding his release, but their voices are drowned out by media that has largely presumed his guilt.

UNIDENTIFIED: I’m sorry. That’s treason. There is no grey about it. And that is a capital offense. You can’t have privates in the Army [incompr.]

MSNBC HOST: So you would–. Capital offense. So you’re saying execution. You’re saying execution.

UNIDENTIFIED: If he is convicted of treason, I absolutely would support a capital punishment.

UNIDENTIFIED: Oh, shut down WikiLeaks. Get a presidential order to shut that down. This guy should be–Manning should be tried for treason. Execute him if he’s found guilty.

UNIDENTIFIED: Whoever in our government leaked that information is guilty of treason, and I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty.

UNIDENTIFIED: The onboard camera of this attack helicopter is targeting a group of people in a neighborhood in Baghdad. Among them are two journalists from a news agency, Reuters. The photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, and his assistant, Saeed Chmagh. The man can neither see nor hear the helicopter that is stalking them–it’s too far away. The pilots mistake Noor-Eldeen’s camera for a weapon–

Hotel Two-Six, this is Crazyhorse One-Eight. I have individuals with weapons.

VOICEOVER: –and attack them.

Let me know when you’ve gathered them.

Let’s shoot.

Light ’em all up.

Come on. Fire.

Keep shooting. Keep shooting.

VOICEOVER: Scenes that resemble a video game, but what you see here is real–real people. The pilots are laughing, making macabre jokes.

Got damage, Kyle.

Sorry. I hit my head.

VOICEOVER: The Apache gunner is still targeting the heavily wounded Reuters employee Saeed Chmagh. He will not survive.

Yeah, I got him. I put two rounds near him, and you guys were shooting over there too, so we’ll see.

VOICEOVER: Later, the Pentagon investigates the incident and concludes the chopper pilots had done nothing wrong. The attack was part of a combat operation. It was justified because, earlier, American soldiers had come under fire by insurgents. The Pentagon has denied our request for an interview. However, one individual has been punished, Bradley Manning, in jail, accused of leaking the video. The charges? Downloading and disseminating classified information. His roots lie in Europe. As a teenager, he moved to Great Britain, to the small town Haverfordwest. His mother is British, his father American. Here he attended school for four years and graduated with Tom Dyer. He was one of Manning’s closest friends. To Dyer it is no surprise that Manning might have released a video. He remembers his friend as a great idealist, even when he was still a teenager.

TOM DYER, FRIEND OF BRADLEY MANNING: He had a great moral compass. He knew in himself what was wrong and what was right, and he didn’t like the thought of people abusing their status and making other people feel small and doing things that were wrong.

VOICEOVER: It was precisely for this reason that Manning joined the Army. He said he wanted to fight for the good. But during the Iraq War, he apparently started to have doubts. As an intelligence analyst, he had access to secret military files, including the video with the disturbing scenes. The video shows how Reuters employee Saeed Chmagh is struggling for his life. He survived the first shots fired from the attack helicopter. The pilots are still keeping track of him. Meanwhile, Saleh Mutashar Tuman and his two small children, /saj{d/ and /waha/, are on their way to school. From his van he sees the wounded Reuters employee lying on the curb. Tuman stops the car, gets out to help him. His two little children remain in the front of the van. The pilots request permission to shoot again and again.

Can I shoot?

Roger. Break. Crazyhorse One, I request permission to engage.

If you’ll pick up the wounded.

Yeah, we’re trying to get permission to engage.

Come on. Let us shoot.

VOICEOVER: The father’s unaware of all of this. He does not even notice the helicopter above him. Tuman wants to rush the wounded Reuters employee to a hospital. His compassion will seal his fate.

This is Bushmaster Seven. Go ahead.

One-eight, engage.


Come on.

Clear. Clear.

We’re [incompr.]

VOICEOVER: Even when the soldiers realize that they have shot children, they only hesitate for a moment, then make cynical remarks from the air.

Oh, it’s their fault for bringing their kids to a battle.

That’s right.

VOICEOVER: Since that day, U.S. Army soldier Ethan McCord has been heavily traumatized. He still cannot get the images out of his head. As an Army infantryman, he was one of the first soldiers on the scene. When he arrives at the van, he hear’s a five-year-old girl scream.

MCCORD: So I grabbed the girl and I took her into the house behind the van with a medic, and we were cleaning her up. And what I did is I took my gloves off and was pulling glass out of her eyes so that she can blink without cutting her eyes.

VOICEOVER: Then McCord runs back to the van to check on the boy. The child is still alive, but badly injured. He carries the boy back to the medics as well. As his superiors observe this, they vehemently order him to stop saving the children. Instead, he should do his job and and secure the area, they command.

MCCORD: Another thing that bothered me was the fact that I was the only one to care enough, it seemed, for the children to try to ensure that they get medical attention.

VOICEOVER: Former Army officer Ray McGovern is shocked by the actions of the pilots. He had been a CIA analyst for 27 years and an advisor to seven presidents, including George Bush senior.

MCGOVERN: How could anyone justify shooting up that man, shooting up that person who was crawling onto the curb? These are war crimes, pure and simple. When I learned to be a soldier, an officer in the U.S. Army, I learned that you don’t shoot at civilians. You certainly don’t shoot at people trying to rescue the wounded. And you don’t blow up vans with a couple of children in them.

VOICEOVER: In the Pentagon investigation report, there’s no mention of war crimes. The pilots had reacted adequately.

MCCORD: Here’s the government saying that we did no wrong, but yet they lied, they covered up the story, they covered up everything. And then all of a sudden being like, okay, well, Bradley Manning, who released this video, he’s the wrongdoer in this whole situation. It’s kind of like, well, we have to have a guinea pig, a fall guy.

VOICEOVER: Meanwhile, Bradley Manning is isolated. His friend, David House, is one of the few supporting him, and besides his lawyer the only person currently visiting Manning in prison.

DAVID HOUSE, FRIEND OF BRADLEY MANNING: He is held for 23 hours a day in solitary confinement in his cell. His cell has no windows, and he’s not allowed to go outside or see the outdoors. He’s not allowed to exercise. The one hour a day he is allowed out of his cell, he’s allowed to walk in chains in an empty room for an hour. And that was what the military calls “exercise” in this case.

VOICEOVER: Conditions that resembled torture. For seven months, Bradley Manning has been kept in the maximum-security ward of the military prison in Quantico, still without trial. The Pentagon regards the prison conditions as perfectly fine, and conservative military experts also think they are appropriate.

LT. COL. JAMES CARAFANO: Well, first of all, you have to define solitary confinement, which is a very broad and open-ended term as to what that means. Does it mean sensory deprivation, which some people consider torture? I don’t think he’s suffering sensory deprivation. So, as long as somebody’s allowed to have four hours of continuous sleep, a body can function just fine.

VOICEOVER: The United Nations, however, has a different view. The UN has picked up the case and is examining the accusations of torture.

JUAN MENDEZ: –because solitary confinement has been shown to produce the kind of severe mental and psychological harm that is associated with the definition of torture, or if less severe, still associated with cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment.

CARAFANO: That doesn’t mean that your personal comfort and interests come ahead of the U.S. government. Somebody’s been accused of a crime, and they’re being detained under the conditions which were appropriate for them. That’s the way every legal judicial system in the entire Western world works.

VOICEOVER: Prison without trial for Bradley Manning, freedom for the Apache pilots. Former U.S. soldier Ethan McCord finds this incomprehensible. He’s pleased the video has been leaked so that the public can form its own opinion.

MCCORD: I think that Bradley Manning’s a hero. I believe that this is a human being who is compassionate, who saw illegal activities taking place on a video. Granted, it was a couple of years later, but he still wanted the world to see that these actions are intolerable. And, you know, yeah, he’s a hero for showing it, he’s a hero for releasing it, if he released it.

MCGOVERN: My view on Bradley Manning is that he’s a very courageous young man who with 22 years did what I didn’t have the guts to do during the Vietnam War.

VOICEOVER: For seven years, Ethan McCord had fought proudly for his country. Today he feels ashamed.

MCCORD: I didn’t pull the triggers that day. I didn’t shoot people. I didn’t shoot those people on the ground. But it’s me being a part of the system that is doing that to the people of Iraq is disgusting and it hurts. And I was–after that day, it is really hard for me to justify being in Iraq and being a soldier. And I would never be a soldier again for the American government. It’s too dirty.

End of Transcript

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