A senior military official confirmed to the AP Monday that the video that appears to show the killing of two Reuters employees in Iraq released by WikiLeaks is authentic. As HuffPost's Dan Froomkin reported yesterday, the video shows "a U.S. Army Apache helicopter in Baghdad in 2007 repeatedly opening fire on a group of men that included a Reuters photographer and his driver -- and then on a van that stopped to rescue one of the wounded men."
However the military's official response Monday was that it "working to verify the source of the video, its veracity, and when or where it was recorded." There was no update to this statement Tuesday. The AP's military source was unable to confirm the identity of the Reuters employees allegedly killed in the video.
Julian Assange, one of WikiLeaks founders, explained the group's decision to release the video, and affirmed his belief in its authenticity, during an interview on Al Jazeera Monday.
On Tuesday, the Iraqi Journalists' Union called on their country's government to investigate the killings in light of the video's release.
"I call upon the government to take a firm stance against the criminals who killed the journalists," the head of the union said.
Around the web, there was no shortage of reaction to the release of the video.
The Atlantic's James Fallows suggested that if the video is taken at face value it may be the "most damaging documentation of abuse since the Abu Ghraib prison-torture photo."
One prevailing question was whether the US soldiers involved violated the Rules of Engagement. The New Yorker's Raffi Khatchadourian lays out the various issues at play.
On several occasions, the Apache gunner appears to fire rounds into people after there is evidence that they are have either died or are suffering from debilitating wounds. The Rules of Engagement and the Law of Armed Combat do not permit combatants to shoot at people who are surrendering or who no longer pose a threat because of their injuries. What about the people in the van who had come to assist the struggling man on the ground? The Geneva Conventions state that protections must be afforded to people who "collect and care for the wounded, whether friend or foe."
Juan Cole of Informed Comment suggests that the firing on the van could even have been a "war crime."
For more details on what happened during the 2007 incident, The Washington Post published an excerpt of David Finkel's 2007 book "The Good Soldiers," which contains an account of the attack by the author.
As for the men who had tried to help [Reuters employee] Chmagh, were they insurgents or just people trying to help a wounded man?
They would probably never know.
What they did know: the good soldiers were still the good soldiers, and the time had come for dinner.
Finally, the Economist's Democracy in America blog points out what may be one of the most disturbing truths underlying the release of the video: "We have this video because two of the people who were killed were Reuters employees. How many other civilians were killed in similar circumstances whose names we will never know, because they had no powerful Western employers to publicise their deaths and file FOIA requests?"
The WikiLeaks video: