Almost two years ago, in early April 2010, WikiLeaks surged to worldwide fame with the release of the “Collateral Murder” video, which Julian Assange said revealed a US “war crime” in Iraq. Three other sensational and significant WikiLeaks releases followed that year: the Iraq and Afghanistan “war logs,” and “Cablegate.’
A US Army private named Bradley Manning would be charged with being the man behind all of these leaks, and now faces life in prison, possibly even death, for “aiding the enemy.”
Now I’ve written, with Kevin Gosztola, the first book that traces the Manning case from his life in the Army right up to last week. Gosztola, who as a Nation intern assisted me with two other books on this subject and helped me write about WikiLeaks daily here, was one of the few journalists to attend Manning’s key pre-trial hearings last December and then in mid-March. The book is titled Truth and Consequences: The US vs. Bradley Manning (Sinclair Books) and is available now as an e-book and in print in a week or so.
Here is an excerpt from the Appendix, first published here last summer.
For months we have followed the story of Ethan McCord, a former US Army specialist who took heroic actions to help save the two children in the van badly injured in the incident captured in the “Collateral Murder” video released by WikILeaks in April 2010. He has since spoken out against the Iraq war and is featured in a new documentary, Incident in New Baghdad, that won a top prize at the recent Tribeca Film Festival in New York.
Now he has responded to the lengthy profile of Bradley Manning published in last week’s New York magazine. On its site the magazine has printed brief excerpts, but we have obtained the full letter and here it is (below).
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by Ethan McCord
Serving with my unit 2nd battalion 16th infantry in New Baghdad Iraq, I vividly remember the moment in 2007, when our Battalion Commander walked into the room and announced our new rules of engagement:
“Listen up, new battalion SOP (standing operating procedure) from now on: Anytime your convoy gets hit by an IED, I want 360 degree rotational fire. You kill every [expletive] in the street!”
We weren’t trained extensively to recognize an unlawful order, or how to report one. But many of us could not believe what we had just been told to do. Those of us who knew it was morally wrong struggled to figure out a way to avoid shooting innocent civilians, while also dodging repercussions from the non-commissioned officers who enforced the policy. In such situations, we determined to fire our weapons, but into rooftops or abandoned vehicles, giving the impression that we were following procedure.