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Video of our colleagues’ death in Iraq

April 6, 2010

The following is the text of an email from Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger:

The video of our colleagues, Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh, being killed in Iraq in 2007 was difficult and disturbing to watch but also important to watch.

If somehow you’ve missed it, our story is here and the video is here.

There is no better evidence of the dangers each and every journalist in a war zone faces at any time.  We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the men and women of Reuters news who put themselves on the front line to tell the story; we mourn and remember each of our colleagues who has died – our books of remembrance that we keep in our main offices are grim reminders of the sacrifices too many have made over the many decades and many conflicts.

It is impossible to watch and listen to the video dispassionately. I struggle with my emotions the way I’m sure many of you struggle as well.

I believe that we as an organization and I as an individual must fight for journalists’ safety. I will continue to campaign for better training for the military  – to help as much as possible to teach the difference in form between a camera and an rpg or between a tripod and a weapon. I will continue to press for thorough and objective investigations. I will continue to insist that governments the world over recognize the rights of journalists to do their jobs. I will continue to ensure that our rules and operating procedures are the safest in the industry.

In this particular case, Tom Glocer and I want to meet with the Pentagon to press the need to learn lessons from this tragedy.

These stories are not easy for us to report or to be involved in. They test our commitment to viewing events and actions objectively.

What matters in the end is not how we as colleagues and friends feel; what matters is the wider public debate that our stories and this video provoke.

Comments

Dear Mr. Schlessinger,

My condolences go out to you, your reporters, their families, and the families of everyone who was touched by this event. That includes all Americans who have suffered as a result of concerted efforts to conceal the truth about our involvement in these conflicts Iraq and Afghanistan. This includes the people and families of the innocent citizens of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan who have died as a result of aggression from all sides. The most important condolences, however, go out to the soldiers and families of soldiers who have suffered and died, and for what?

This debate is not about the intentions of our soldiers, who are the most highly trained, effective, and yet, fallible soldiers in the world. It is not even about the mid-level commanders who are executing orders in a system that they have not designed. It is not about the foot soldiers in the war to publicize these, and other events, which can help all of us to understand what we’ve gotten ourselves into.

This debate is about the concerted efforts of Governments, authorities, and even the media leaders who have obviously failed to tell us, the American People, the whole story about what, and especially WHY we’ve gotten ourselves in such a mess. Let’s just be honest.

Please use this terrible story as a means to publicize the realities of WHY we’re in these conflicts, and who benefits. Please balance the allegiances you and your editorial staff might feel toward government agencies which would conceal the facts with the lives, hearts and minds of the American People, to whom you owe a duty as the defender of our freedom as the guardians of the Fourth Estate.

Please honor your reporters, our honorable Veterans who have lost so much, their families, and all the families of those foreigners whos lives have been devastated in these wars. Please honor them by recognizing that the best way we can support our troops is to bring them home from a conflict where we don’t belong.

If we do belong in these conflicts, tell us the truth – WHY?

Mark Holmes
Baton Rouge, LA

Posted by mholmes | Report as abusive
 

I feel the press needs to learn the lessons, not the Pentagon. The job of the Pentagon is to win wars.

the press should be using little orange safety flags on their bikes or something.

Posted by whatwouldRickdo | Report as abusive
 

Sorry, David. But educating the pentagon about the difference between a rocket launcher and a camera is not what’s needed. Ask yourself the important questions. Would those two journalists have died the way they did if they were American? How about everyone else that died in that instance? Was the following investigation honest and scientific?

I understand that Reuters is a news agency and dissociation from an event is important for objective reporting. But you are speaking as the head of a human organization now. it is your duty to do everything possible to bring the people who did this to justice.

Posted by daveying99 | Report as abusive
 

The only thing standing between the “truth” coming from government, and the real truth, is our media and the incredibly brave souls who seek it out wherever they can. God bless the memories of these two men, innocently walking the quiet streets,laughing and enjoying their friends on a sunny day, “knowing” they are protected by the friendly helicopter flying overhead. What happened next does not look like “engagement” – it looks more like cold-blooded murder by an east L.A. gang.

David – Reuters has EVERY right to demand an impartial investigation and meet with the Pentagon. Reuters has every right to even petition the President. Reuters should also support http://www.wikileaks.org as an official sponsor (as do other media outlets) so that their exceptional work in the face of censorship, coercion and intimidation can continue. God bless the memory of these two brave men, and god-speed David in your journey to uncover the truth.

Posted by JJWest | Report as abusive
 

So what was Reuters doing since 2007? Why were you not able to unearth this murder earlier? It took courage and tenacity from wikileak to finally reveal the truth.

This is murder. There will be ramifications from it. If Reuters cannot protect the dignity and honor of the people who serve it, then shame on your existence.

Posted by mab05 | Report as abusive
 

Sounds like some higher-ups in the military really didn’t want to lose their jobs.

Posted by Nerdrage87 | Report as abusive
 

I feel your pain and in no way want to diminish the work you are trying to do I have listened and watched the tape. This is a war zone where little kids walk up to you with bombs strapped to their bodies, people who kill their own in the name of religious retaliation. When you stand behind that gun you are scared. Your knees are weak and your stomach in a knot. You do the best you can with the equipment and the orders you are given. It is a soul renching fealing when you have become a part of friendly fire. I prey for the fallen but also the burdened and hope your fight leads to a much safer place.

Kenneth Close

Posted by casey1946 | Report as abusive
 

My sympathies to the slain Journalists and their families.

I believe these Journalists are a symbol of all non-combatants injured or killed in war.
Their deaths were the result of simply being in a conflict zone.
However, the world is only hearing about these journalists because Reuters was able to publish their “stories”.

The work of War Correspondents is very important. Their reporting gives a voice to others, counters propaganda and is an objective witness to war.
Sadly, these Journalists are now part of the story they were covering.

After reading their story it is clear that war is not a clash of ideologies, or even a clash of armies. War is only random acts of violence on an industrial scale.

Mercifully, Journalists also write a lot better than I do.

Posted by paid_hack | Report as abusive
 

I am sorry about the loss of your colleagues. This was painful and disgusting to watch. However, I would like to remind you, the editor-in-chief, that the wikileaks staff put their necks out, and put themselves in danger to release this video. You owe them a link to their donation page, which is here http://wikileaks.org/#Change_you_can_bel ieve_in . Preferably on the main page, but anything less than the related article is ungrateful.

Posted by Anth741 | Report as abusive
 

The video clearly shows armed men in the company of the Reuters reporters.
The real tragedy here is the two kids in the minivan, they are now wounded orphans, whose parent tried to help the injured reporter.
The Reuter’s staff knew the men were armed when they stood with them on the street, the kids in the minivan did not knowingly take that same risk and the driver of the van did not deserve the same fate as the men killed in the initial attack.
This excerpt from the gun camera video clearly shows the weapon, an RPG.
http://mypetjawa.mu.nu/
The details of the incident rely on the premise of the US ground patrol being fired on, and the Apache responding to that attack. To substantiate your premise that the reporters were killed without provocation, you must provide evidence to support the conclusion that there was no hostile intent or action against the US patrol.
Please correct me if I am wrong about any of this.
Sincerely,
Mitchell McAleer

Posted by mmcaleer | Report as abusive
 

So you make the case for journalists safety.
Any luck on the safety of children yet?

Posted by nonhocapito | Report as abusive
 

Shame on you, if you dind’t learn more from this video.

Posted by powertiger | Report as abusive
 

As disturbing as this video is, I am still glad I watched it. I’m glad that it has been brought to the attention of the world. It is time that the world demands of the US to end this conflict now before any more viscious murders are committed by dimented US Soldiers. It is very difficult to feel any patriotism for the US or any feeling of support for the troops involved in this war in Iraq as a result of this video. I feel the soldiers involved in this mass murder MUST be brought to justice and face the consequences of their evil actions. This, especially for the tank commander who laughed about driving over and crushing one of their murder victims. He deserves the death penalty! This says it all about US soldiers in Iraq. If the US military or the US Government condones this behavior it is a huge embarassment for the United States of America and does nothing more than to draw increasing hatred toward the United States. These soldiers MUST be brought to trial for war crimes and punished to the fullest extent of the war. Shame on the US and shame on these evil soldiers. To kill and laugh about it is repulsive! I demand Justice!

Posted by argeebee | Report as abusive
 

Watching the WikiLeaks video is difficult; I had to pause several times. However, I did watch it twice, before and after posting the link on Twitter.

I realize that we don’t know everything that the troops encounter but listening to the audio which sounds like kids playing a video game – this is definitely wrong.

U.S. troops shooting down civilians, civilians who turn out to be unarmed journalists _and_ enjoying every minute of it. It’s really hard to believe that it happened until you watch it yourself.

Posted by indiacarless | Report as abusive
 

Truly an ugly tragedy. And with current conflicts consisting of irregulars with no national uniform, we will expect more of this. In fact, the enemy in these conflicts fully expects and then capitalizes on these tragedies. Its pure evil we oppose.

Posted by sanbornl | Report as abusive
 

Abolish any war, abolish any arm production, every nation
must remember its frontiers.
Pacifism is not a suitable idea just for dirty and greedy militarists!Put them in international court!

Posted by Madam | Report as abusive
 

What a dispassionate and unbelievably lame comment for a journalist to make after watching this horrific video. A former journalist myself, I would never want to work for Reuters! This David Schlesinger guy ought to be calling this incident what it really was: A case of reckless homicide by the military. And he ought to be calling for a criminal prosecution as well. The only “lesson we learn from this tragedy,” Dave, is that governments can kill with impunity, and will blithely continue to do so until they are forced by the public to stop. Gutless statements like yours will only encourage incompetent and/or homicidal troops to keep killing whenever they want, knowing they will never be punished.

Posted by Johnny99 | Report as abusive
 

I disagree completely with your statement that “What matters in the end is not how we as colleagues and friends feel; what matters is the wider public debate that our stories and this video provoke”.

The public will debate whatever facets of this story that may be debatable and that debate will continue ad nauseum. It is far past time that we all, including journalists, realize what neuroscientists have been saying for some years now, that each and every decision any of us make has an emotional component. There is an unmistakable and very large emotional content in the voices and the desicions of the helicopter crew, and those feelings influenced their every thought and action at the time and led inexorably to a clearly horrendous misjudgment.

Wars are not fought in an objective, logical context because that context is, given the neurology of the human brain, an impossibility.

What can we do? Strongly demand a full and complete investigation into the emotional perspectives of the soldiers involved in this incident in particular and in the armed forces generally. Were they really prepared to challenge an inhumane decision by fellow soldiers? Had they ever seen the carnage of war other than from a mile away? Were they killing humans or were they already predisposed to see something that was not there because they had already de-humanized their targets?

This was no combat situation. For me, that is abundantly clear from the video. Some may excuse this tragedy under the slogans of “War is Hell” and the “Fog of War”, but those are generalizations not applicable here and more to the point, it is we humans who create and are responsible for those conditions.

I don’t have the answers to rid the world of cruelty and indifference, but a clear beginning would be to recognize and be honest with others about our own feelings and the affect those feelins will inevitable have on ou actions. And that includes, particularly, soldiers who control extremely lethal weapons being used at such a distance that the resulting bloodshed seems more like a video game than human suffering and death.

Posted by ftwom | Report as abusive
 

If you have ever been on the front line in a war, these are the people that you have the most problem with. You are continually trying to make sure that they do not get in the line of fire and they continually are impeding our progress. The lesson for this tragedy, is do not put news people on the front line. When a soldiers make mistakes, it is splashed all over the news. The military makes mistakes. War is dirty and cruel. The soldiers know that but the news media is oblivious to how they complicate fighting the enemy. It is difficult enough, as it is, without somebody waiting for you to make a mistake and them reporting it. Many times, it gives aid and comfort to the enemy. We owe reporters a debt of gratitude? Not hardly ! they are a wart on the arse of progress for the military. The news media is aware of the danger. They should not complain when things go wrong. Most media types are simply Hanoi Jane’s in disguise ! Why am I so angry? Because I have seen soldiers die protecting the media !

Posted by Xiaoyun | Report as abusive
 

Thanks Reuters for being transparent and posting user comments.

Posted by daveying99 | Report as abusive
 

RIP

Posted by jimigenius | Report as abusive
 

No, what matters is that the killers are brought to justice. Otherwise, what’s the point of their death, or of journalism or of Reuters? If this is the height of your outrage, I’m glad I don’ work for you. Your bland statements may be good for your bottom line, but I’m sure every journalist with integrity is wishing they had a boss who backs them up. Just a thought.

Posted by Ourmani | Report as abusive
 

I didn’t see any signs of aggression from the people on the ground. If the helicopter could only see what we saw from the video footage I wouldn’t call that proof of a need for engagement. Where was the call for the men to disarm and surrender until ground forces arrived. I think the helicopters role here should have been to provide observation and support. When was it a capital crime to remove wounded from the battle field. The worst crime here was opening fire on the van. How about a warning, “desist your actions at once, support will arrive shortly. Do not continue or we will open fire.” Why shoot first and ask questions later in a situation where there is no imminent threat.
I would like to know what ground forces found in the aftermath. Were the reporters indeed traveling with combatants armed with AK-47′s and RPG’s in a combat zone? If they were they have my deepest sympathies, but they were in the wrong, but the if situation had been handled “properly” it could have been avoided.
My deepest sympathies go to the valient people in the van who stopped to help “strangers”. When did we start indiscriminantly firing on aid vehicles removing wounded from the “battlefield” hostile or not? Again a warning would have stopped any apparent evacuation of hostiles and allowed the subjects to remain giving what aid they could.

Posted by udeman165 | Report as abusive
 

Sadly, the troops that murdered the reporters have probably gone un-punished. If this is not an indication of the severe lack of concern, and desensitization of our many of our troops, I don’t know what is.

Posted by amnesty10 | Report as abusive
 

The US Military sadly has the power to deem anything they do wrong, as an act that was in the “best interest of the American people.” Give me a break.

Posted by amnesty10 | Report as abusive
 

Reuters should be pressing for the perpetrators of this crime to be brought to justice! Not sitting back and ‘hoping’ for a better future! The Pentagon is at war with anyone and everyone – they only want their own embedded media to “report” from a conflict – are Reuters worried they won’t be allowed in next time if they complain or seek justice?

The evidence is clear – this is murder and should be punished. It was an incredibly cowardly attack and is not alone in the catalogue of American brutality when they invade a smaller weaker nation!

Posted by Joski | Report as abusive
 

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