Irak — Gates Calls Air Strike Video ‘Painful to Watch’

WASHINGTON, April 12, 2010 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said recent­ly pub­lished footage of a U.S. Apache heli­copter killing 12 peo­ple in Iraq, includ­ing two Reuters news agency per­son­nel, was “painful to watch,” and that the attack has been thor­ough­ly inves­ti­gat­ed.
The 17-minute video from a July 12, 2007, air strike shows U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel gun­ning down a group per­ceived to be armed mil­i­tants and open­ing fire on a sub­se­quent res­cue attempt. The footage was made avail­able last week by Wik­iLeaks, a whis­tle-blow­ing Web site that pub­lish­es anony­mous sub­mis­sions and leaked doc­u­ments.

“We’ve inves­ti­gat­ed it very thor­ough­ly. And it’s unfor­tu­nate — it’s clear­ly not help­ful,” Gates said yes­ter­day on ABC News’ “This Week.” “But by the same token, I think it should not have any last­ing con­se­quences.”

Asked if the release of the video would dam­age the image of the Unit­ed States in the world, Gates said he did­n’t think so.

“They’re in a com­bat sit­u­a­tion. The video does­n’t show the broad­er pic­ture of the fir­ing that was going on at Amer­i­can troops,” he said. “It’s obvi­ous­ly a hard thing to see. It’s painful to see, espe­cial­ly when you learn, after the fact, what was going on.”

A defense offi­cial inter­viewed for the sto­ry said “a per­fect storm” of cir­cum­stances con­tributed to the mis­steps. The offi­cial said a longer ver­sion of the video, also avail­able online, shows the fuller con­text of the air strike, includ­ing evi­dence of near­by gun­fire.

“You talked about the fog of war — these peo­ple were oper­at­ing in split-sec­ond sit­u­a­tions,” Gates said.

The find­ings of the U.S. mil­i­tary inves­ti­ga­tion are avail­able on the U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand Web site in the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act Read­ing Room sec­tion.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)