I first mentioned this story here.
Bob Owens has added to it and nailed what's really taking place:
Is it the WikiLeakers' position that only tense, spasmodic Mahdi Army militiamen should be fired upon? That the Iranian-sponsored terrorist organization's stated desire to kill American soldiers -- and for that matter, fellow Iraqis, as long as they are Sunnis -- should be subservient to the primacy of body language? It's a bizarre position that only those well-insulated from reality can afford to share.
After 2 minutes and 47 seconds of more of the same, the WikiLeakers finally run the footage shot by the helicopters. There are two versions of the film: the 17:47 short version noted above, and the 39:14 long version. Watch whichever you prefer, but by all means, please watch one of them. As you do so, focus on what the scenes actually depict rather than what WikiLeaks claims to be the case -- perhaps you'll find your view of the WikiLeaks' story evolving, from one of disgust with a callous military towards revulsion and sadness regarding the sometimes tragic consequences of war.
You may even feel anger towards WikiLeaks' self-proclaimed truth-tellers.
After nearly three minutes of telling viewers how to perceive the footage, the grainy black-and-white gun camera footage from a flight of AH-64 Apaches finally comes into view. The helicopters -- call-signs Crazy Horse 18 (lead aircraft) and Crazy Horse 19 (wingman) -- assume a protective overwatch position, providing aerial support and reconnaissance for elements of the U.S. Second Brigade Combat Team (2nd BCT) on the ground. These ground troops are conducting a sweep through a Shiite slum during the height of the "Surge," and are attempting to locate and destroy weapons caches belonging to the Mahdi Army. The Mahdi Army is a Shiite paramilitary organization that operates like an organized crime family, and is infamous for both kidnapping fellow Iraqis for ransom and for brutal acts of sectarian violence -- including beheadings and assassinations of Iraqi civilians and police.
As the 2nd BCT conducts their search operations, they encounter small arms fire and the deadly missiles known as rocket-propelled grenades, or RPGs. Similar attacks had been going on all morning, and the streets were eerily absent of civilians -- a telling sign in these neighborhoods, where children play soccer in the streets when they know it is safe.
Soldiers on the ground had just reported contact with the enemy, when the two Apaches located a sizable group of military-aged men sauntering through a nearby neighborhood. The pilots and gunners of the helicopters circle the group from 800 meters away, well within the range of their weapons, but outside the range where the group might easily notice them.
The pilot in the trailing Apache notices a group of men, and the camera focuses on them just before a pair of Mahdi Army scouts slip away on a moped. The crews call out their confirmation of visible weapons in the group, and the camera clearly captures at least one man carrying an AK-pattern assault rifle, and another beside him carrying a RPG launcher with a live rocket locked in place. A third man cradles another rocket under his arm.
You'll want to read Part I in its entirety. And know that it's the first of a promised two parter.
Crossposted at Brutally Honest.
UPDATE: Greyhawk, himself an Iraq War veteran, weighs in with a cogent and most detailed and substantive post. Go, read, digest, pass on.
UPDATE II: Rusty is reporting that the WikiLeaks video has a 20 minute gap and he's playing a part of the video that clearly shows men with weapons.