Sunday 17 February 2019

Slaughter from the skies

THE deaths of a Reuters news agency photographer and his driver were not slaughter on the scale of the My Lai Massacre but may yet have a similarly profound effect upon the conduct of an unpopular war.

The mass murder by a unit of the US Army of hundreds of unarmed civilians in the South Vietnam village four decades ago -- and the graphic images that were published all over the world -- prompted widespread outrage and increased domestic opposition to US war policy.

The gruesome video footage from Iraq of a helicopter gunship attack on a group of men ambling along with what might have been weapons slung casually over their shoulders, but which were in fact cameras and other reporting equipment, has had an effect perhaps disproportionate to the number of people killed in the three-year-old incident.

Yesterday alone, co-ordinated bombings killed 35 people in Baghdad, bringing the number of dead in just five days to more than 100.

Moreover, deaths of journalists are not rare in Iraq. The US Committee to Protect Journalists says that at least 16 journalists have been killed by US forces since the invasion in 2003. The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders says that 221 journalists and media assistants have been killed.

Nevertheless, the 38-minute leaked video, which is now being viewed around the world, is so chilling -- and the clearly audible comments of the participants so shocking -- that the US military will have difficulty explaining why it previously pronounced the ferocious attack "appropriate".

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