Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bradley Manning: WikiLeaker, Part 2

The Aftermath of 'Collateral Murder'


Nearly three years after the event occurred, "Collateral Murder" appeared on WikiLeaks and quickly spread like wildfire throughout the Internet. Two versions of the video were released: an 18-minute version that came with subtitles and was highly editorialized for maximum impact; and another, uncut 34-minute version.

But it was the "director's cut" that made the most impact. The footage was primarily of an airstrike in Baghdad in July 2007; it depicted a group of men walking down the street, including two Reuters reporters, were identified as enemy combatants, in part because a camera was misidentified as a weapon, and because some of the men were openly armed, and were fired upon by an Apache helicopter crew.

Stills from 'Collateral Murder' video
Stills from 'Collateral Murder' video

Perhaps it was the audio that most struck viewers: The soldiers were crass in their language, congratulating each other as if they were playing a video game, and not firing on real, live human beings, saying things like, "Good shooting."

As bad as their actions may have seemed, it is questionable if they were not within the Army's Rules of Engagement. If anything, the video served as a way for the public and the military to engage in a debate about what war really is about, and what is allowed. For the non-military public, the answers could be shocking.

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