JULIAN ASSANGE: Right now I am inside the embassy, as I have been for 11 months. Before that, I was under house arrest for approximately 590 days, and before that, I was in solitary confinement for 10 days. The image that you see behind you is a frame from “Collateral Murder,” a famous release by WikiLeaks, which displays the murder of two Reuters staff and a number of others in Baghdad in 2007, which was then subsequently covered up by the U.S. military. Bradley Manning has been charged with supplying that video to us and has himself said that he did so. You will see a cannon shell through the front of the van and some dead bodies lying around. One of them is Namir Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh, the two Reuters staff. This video we had as a background frame for a talk that I did at Oxford, similar to the way I’m conducting this one now, beaming into the Oxford Union. And the Oxford Union redacted the whole background by hand. Even the little monitors that were in the audience, that the audience could see, footage of those monitors they redacted by hand and put that out on the Internet. You can google for “Assange censored Oxford.” So, partly to pay tribute to the people who died in this incident, but also to Bradley Manning, and to take a stand against the censorship of Oxford, we have presented this background. (My bold.)
Clearly the content of the Collateral Murder video is so important that it must be hidden in order to keep the focus on personalities instead of on the revelations of war crimes. TomThumb will transcribe 4 paintings to recapitulate major points about the violations of Humanitarian Law in the video here:
On April 6th 2010 Wikileaks published a video of a massacre of civilians which occurred in New Baghdad, Iraq, on July 12th, 2007. Two Reuters photographers were killed and the incident was investigated at the request of Reuters and the military dismissed any irregularities, declaring the killing to have been lawful.
As a painter of images of war, four screenshots stood out for me. The first two involve the civilians walking along innocuously unsuspecting while they are seen in the crosshairs of the helicopter gunner video. Contrary to the Army report, these civilians were not shooting at anyone and they were aware of the helicopter’s presence. The dialogue of the pilots is revealing: they suspected these men of being enemies because they were military aged males.
In the second screenshot, the civilians are simply gunned down in a haze of dust and 30MM helicopter bullets. There was so much violence that even the gunner’s video could not display the true violence of their murders:
The numbers on the screen, the white crosshairs and the telemetry box at the bottom of each frame are depersonalizing. The pilots’ comments are sadistically charged as if the human beings they had just killed were beneath contempt. As a Vietnam era person, I can recall how civilians were mowwed down by helicopters in free fire zone mentality to increase ‘daily body counts’ of supposed enemies. But mostly, as I painted I thought how the American empire is the most bloodthirsty enterprise on the planet and how violence is as American as ‘Apple Pie”.
A black van stops and a Good Samaritan gets out to help a wounded man: The Apache helicopter asks for permission to shoot the van saying that they have come to retrieve the wounded and weapons. “Come on! Let us shoot!” whines the gunner.
There are two children in the van who are wounded when the soldiers shoot everyone down from the helicopter. International Humanitarian Law states that when an enemy is incapacitated, soldiers are not allowed to kill them and are not allowed to kill Good Samaritans who come to assist the wounded.
…The world does not stop turning because of Americans’ willful ignorance about the wars. The world does not look away from the murderous violence America inflicts upon weaker countries it attacks. These murders of innocents all ‘count’ and they ‘add up’ and they are permanent holds and liens against any American claims to moral adequacy.
In terms of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention rulings, there were at least three violations of law in this incident. It is the opinion of Marjorie Cohn, an expert on International Law, that the attack on civilians was the first violation of International law. The second was to kill the wounded and the Good Samaritan, and the third was the desecration of a dead body by running over it with a tank. For more specific information regarding Cohn’s legal opinion, please read her work here: http://www.marjoriecohn.com/2010/09/bradley-manning-american-hero.html
This work was originally posted in its complete form as “The Collateral Murder video (from Wikileaks) and free-fire zones“