“Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards,” and “ha, ha, I hit them” say the pilots of a US Apache helicopter in jubilant conversation as they machine-gun Iraqi civilians on the ground in Baghdad on 12 July 2007.
A wounded man, believed to be the Reuters photographer, 22-year-old Namir Noor-Eldeen, crawls towards a van. “Come on buddy, all you have to do is pick up a weapon,” says one of the helicopter crew, eager to resume the attack. A hellfire missile is fired and a pilot says: “Look at that bitch go!” The photographer and his driver are killed.
Later the helicopter crew are told over the radio that they have killed 11 Iraqis and a small child has been injured. “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into battle,” comments somebody about the carnage below.
Except there was no “battle” and all those who died were civilians, though the Pentagon claimed they were gunmen. The trigger-happy pilots had apparently mistaken a camera for a rocket propelled grenade launcher. Journalists in Baghdad, including myself, were from the start sceptical about the official US story because insurgents with weapons in their hands were unlikely to be standing chatting to each other in the street with an American helicopter overhead. As on many similar occasions in Iraq, our doubts were strong but we could not prove that the civilians had not been carrying weapons in the face of categorical denials from the US Department of…