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Fmr. Apache Cmdr attacks WikiLeaks & Defends Military Actions in 'Collateral Murder'
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darkhorse Offline

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Fmr. Apache Cmdr attacks WikiLeaks & Defends Military Actions in 'Collateral Murder'
Apache Commander, Former Lieutenant Colonel Walach, attacks WikiLeaks & Defends the Actions of the Military as Depicted in the 'Collateral Murder' video

By Annie Darkhorse, Administrator, 19 October, 2013.

On 18 October, 2013, 'Army Times' released the following article, written by 'Michelle Tan, Staff writer'.

"Commander defends Apache pilots in WikiLeaks video before 'The Fifth Estate' movie release"

The 17.47 minute version of the Wikileaks/Manning leaked 'Collateral Murder' video depicting the slaughter of civilians in East Baghdad

Below is a copy of that 'Army Times' article with my comments in bold. My critique is of Former Lieutenant Colonel Walach's statements, not the manner of presentation of them by 'Army Times'.

More than three years after the WikiLeaks video went viral, the commander of the Apache pilots who fired on a group of men in Baghdad, killing two Reuters employees, is speaking out.

Retired Lt. Col. Chris Walach commanded 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment for three years, leading them in combat in Iraq for a 15-month deployment during the height of the troop surge.

Walach, now an independent management consultant based in Nevada, contacted and spoke to Army Times a week before the Oct. 18 release of the movie “The Fifth Estate,” which chronicles WikiLeaks’ rise to notoriety.

Walach said it was time for him to set the record straight and “stand up for what is right.”

The timing of Walach’s statement is interesting. One wonders whether he has been called upon to assist in driving a nail into WikiLeaks while the subject is being talked of more actively due to the release of the movie.

Another reason why Walach might have been called out, by his friends in the military, may have been to assist with damage control and alleviate the effects of the numerous new viewers who would be exposed to the ‘Collateral Murder Video’ or who did not realise its import when it was initially released.

“This is the first time I’ve spoken of this fire-fight, and I did not speak out in the past three years because ... I believed at the time that the WikiLeaks narrative would fade away, but instead it grew into an evil and haunting presence,” he said.

It could be conversely suggested that Walach failed to speak up for three years because the members of the military, involved in the massacre, have been effectively in hiding since the incident was revealed to the public by Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks.

Also, now Walach is safely in retirement and is working in private enterprise as an ‘Independent Management Consultant’, he could be called to speak publically without legal risk to the military.

One wonders whether legal representatives of the U.S. Military, knowing that the ‘Collateral Murder’ video was getting another public airing in ‘The Fifth Estate’, organised his interview as a legal strategy to circumvent any possible new problems as a result as well as to attempt to redeem their public image.

Note: There appears to have been a redaction from Walach's above statement, in relation to his reasons for delay in speaking out. One can surmise that he may have mentioned being directed to do so by the military. This is likely to have occurred to assist in minimising damage or in relation to the Manning prosecution.

Walach continues:

“Now, with the making of the movie ‘The Fifth Estate,’ [WikiLeaks founder] Julian Assange and WikiLeaks’ actions are once again glorified.

Walach need not have worried about this. No-one who has seen ‘The Fifth Estate’ or read the script and knows anything of the actual events the film pretends to depict, would suggest WikiLeaks or Julian Assange was ‘glorified’. Most of the facts have been misrepresented and Assange is depicted as some kind of twitching, self-obsessed, hair-dying megalomaniac who is cavalier about risk.

Here some of his friends, including Jen Robinson, comment after seeing the film:

This story is about defending the honor and integrity of my people and my unit that served in war together.”

Walach’s above description of the mele as a ‘firefight’ is highly erroneous. While it is likely that he has used this term because it is a generic descriptor for situations where lethal force is used, it is completely misleading as it suggests that those on the ground fired back. We know that this is not the case. The use of the term is intended to blame the victims, in some way, for their own deaths. The more appropriate word ‘massacre’ is not quite so honourable.

The WikiLeaks video, which has more than 14 million views, was posted in April 2010. Titled “Collateral Murder,” it shows a July 12, 2007, firefight involving soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment and pilots from Walach’s battalion responding with close-air support.

The footage, taken from the AH-64 Apache helicopters, shows the pilots engaging a group of men. The scenes are graphic; the soldiers use crude language, and the mood is tense.

After getting permission, the Apache crew fired its 30mm chain gun.

Among those believed to have been killed were Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his driver Saeed Chmagh, 40. Two children were wounded.

A military review concluded the aircrew mistook a photographer’s camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and that the journalists “made no effort to visibly display their status as press” while accompanying armed insurgents. None of the pilots were disciplined because the review found they followed the rules of engagement and law of land warfare, Walach said.

The leaked video painted an unflattering portrait of the war and raised questions about the military’s rules of engagement.

It also led to the arrest of Chelsea Manning (then Pvt. Bradley Manning) for leaking reams of classified information to WikiLeaks. Manning, who now wants to be called Chelsea Manning and to live as a woman, is serving a 35-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticized the unauthorized leak of the video.

“You’re looking at a situation through a soda straw, and you have no context or perspective,” he said at the time.

Walach, who retired in 2008, said WikiLeaks used the “Collateral Murder” video to become famous.

“I will let the war historians be the judge of my battalion’s war record,” he said. “At over 5,200 missions we conducted, our war record speaks for itself, from the opinions of senior officers to the individual squad leaders we supported on the ground.”

Walach is incredibly naive and deluded if he thinks any aspect of the Iraq War, let alone this War Crime, will be written up positively, by any historian. Even pro-Iraq War commentators have declined to support this particularly military action for fear of appearing disregarding of civilian deaths.

The soldiers of 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, deployed to Iraq in November 2006. The 500 soldiers and their 26 Apache helicopters operated in Baghdad and served a 15-month tour.

The battalion, which returned to Fort Hood, Texas, in January 2008, had two aviators killed in action and several others wounded during its deployment.

'Chaos every day'

His soldiers served during a time of chaos, Walach said.

“We were dealing with chaos every day,” he said. “The pilots, in order to deal with combat and when you’re being shot at every day, there’s a mental process you have to go through in order to effectively operate. When people see something like that, it may seem shocking, but we weren’t operating in a normal environment.”

One has to agree that Walach’s estimations of the chaos of war is accurate but exactly how many civilian deaths will it take to modify army activities in countries the U.S. chooses to invade – remembering that they were supposedly there to free Iraq from an alleged ‘brutal Dictator’.

Of the 5,200 missions conducted by his battalion, 314 were direct fire engagements, Walach said.

“The average person isn’t going to understand what it’s like to see people blown to bits in front of you,” he said. “Nobody is really going to know that environment unless they were standing right there.”

One wonders exactly what Walach is suggesting here? Is he claiming that the massacre occurred as a result of an over-reaction due to the soldiers having witnessed previous deaths? Is he excusing their actions as being the result of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Is he attempting to throw a blanket over all civilian deaths as being merely collateral damage, regardless of the circumstances, using a 'war is hell' defence?

His pilots executed their duties that July day the same way he would have, Walach said, adding that he and his chain of command reviewed every engagement. This particular engagement was reviewed by officials at the 1st Cavalry Division and Central Command levels as well, Walach said.

Walach’s loyal remarks here no doubt pleased his own superiors and are viewed as an admirable support of the troops as well as the military in general.

It’s not surprising that Walach, with his ‘chain-of-command’ mentality, would think that the rubber-stamping by senior personnel, of the actions taken that day, is an end to the story and an end to the participant’s legal responsibility. Clearly he ascribes to the view that concepts like ‘murder’ do not apply to the military and that keeping matters ‘in-house’ is the priority.

Walach does not indicate when this review, by senior personnel, occurred. It is safe to assume that no review occurred until the video had been leaked by WikiLeaks and was the subject of public scrutiny.

Walach declined to name the aviators who performed that mission.
“When WikiLeaks posted an edited version of our combat video on YouTube, blog sites across the globe included death threats against [the crews] that participated in this mission,” he said. “This is why I won’t release their names. They have families, and they are still on active duty.”

In the above statements, Walach is clearly stating here that he is a material witness in relation to a civilian massacre. Under the laws of most countries he is, effectively, part of the on-going cover-up. By taking part in the cover-up, Walach, along with many others, could be seen as acting as an accomplice in the massacre of these civilians, in the on-going capacity of 'Accessory after the Fact' in relation to the murders.

Walach helpfully informs us of what we knew all along, that the involved personnel were excused, protected from censure and continue to be placed in positions where they can kill more civilians. They are indeed fortunate that the military’s need to protect its image has protected their careers.

His crews were “solid,” Walach said.

“None of them were brand new,” he said. “All of them had extensive training at Fort Hood, ... and we all had been fighting in Iraq since November of 2006. In the worst of the worst situations, I would trust my life in their hands. The culture I fostered within my battalion was that if soldiers on the ground called on us, we always had their backs, no matter what.”

Walach clearly wants us to believe that the massacre was an act of team-work, completely backed by authority. In this, he inadvertently confirms that the problems displayed are endemic and part of a perverse process.

This photo, from the U.S. Army official website, appears to depict Walach. It carries the following caption:
“Photo Credit: Sgt. Nathan J. J. Hoskins, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs
Las Vegas native Lt. Col. Christopher Walach (right), commander of the 1st "Attack" Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, presents Capt. Nathan Schmidt (left), commander of Company C, 1-227th, with an Air Medal with "V" device for Valor during an awards ceremony March 18 at Fort Hood, Texas”.

Walach also blasted reports, because of the language used by the air crews in the video, that his soldiers were trigger-happy.

“These are extremely surreal conditions we put our men and women in,” he said. “In Iraq, you can’t put pink gloves on Apache helicopter pilots and send them into the Ultimate Fighting ring and ask them to take a knee. These are attack pilots wearing gloves of steel, and they go into the ring throwing powerful punches of explosive steel. They are there to win, and they will win.”

The transparently farcical warrior-rhetoric used here, to beguile and impress us, fails to deflect our attention from the deaths depicted in the 'Collateral Murder' Video. Perhaps Walach was chosen, to issue this media release, for his innate ability to serve up stirring propaganda on command. His comment about the "Ultimate Fighting ring" is straight out of a T.V. wrestling fantasy.

He follows the reinforcing statement about 'men and women' with a misogynist comment about 'pink gloves' as opposed to 'gloves of steel' apparently betraying his real attitude to gays and women in the military. Despite his inordinate interest in hand-fashions, all-around, Walach is standard fare.

The ratio of missions performed and direct fire engagements shows his air crews pulled the trigger just 5 percent of the time, Walach said.
“The notion that my pilots were trigger-happy is just plain absurd,” he said.

It is unclear how an assertion that his air crews don’t often pull ‘the trigger’ excuses their actions on this occasion. Clearly they were “trigger-happy” on this day. Their actions on other occasions don’t negate this, particularly for the families of the victims. Clearly the inference is that because they usually perform acceptably, they are to be given a 'get-out-of-gaol-free' card.

On July 12, 2007, his pilots took what information was available and made the best decision possible under the circumstances, he said.
Clearly the decision to fire and keep firing, on this day, was the wrong one and nothing has been done about it.

“There are many opinions as to what happened [that day],” Walach said. “Ultimately, my combat pilots at the scene did the best they could under extreme and surreal conditions.”

Here Walach dutifully declines to address any of the issues raised in these ‘opinions’, presumably because he knows there are problems. Clearly his intention is not to tell the truth about the massacre but to ‘support the troops’ and the reputation of the military. Perhaps he also seeks to shield himself legally as well. A balanced examination of the facts does not, of course, show any military personnel in a good light and must be avoided.

As the ‘Collateral Murder’ video indicates, the conditions on this day were caused by the personnel involved. This was not a situation where decisions were made in the heat of a pre-existing battle, as this statement would imply. The military personnel involved commenced this action, based on their own misreading of the situation on the ground, along with desensitisation to civilian deaths and a drive to take lives due to misplaced ideas of honour and duty such as those expressed and encouraged by Retired Colonel Walach.

These murders, in East Baghdad, were also caused by a general, self-important lack of interest in the lives and situation of anyone outside of the United States. Sadly ‘Collateral Murder’ is a mere snap-shot of this situation and Former Lieutenant Colonel Walach, for all his protestations of honour and duty and his rhetoric of power, is a mere tool.

Walach comments about protecting the army personnel involved from assassination. Certainly such comments would have been rare in comparison with the murderous onslaught faced by Julian Assange as a result of WikiLeaks leaking of the video, not to mention the on-going campaign against him.

No one wants to initiate a lynch-mob against these soldiers. Many of them are, of course, victims themselves. This is demonstrated in the following video, of an interview with Ethan Mccord, a soldier who was on the ground immediately after the attack and who struggles daily with PTSD:

[Video care of RT]

Despite the importance of supporting military personnel, it is also important that this matter be dealt with truthfully and transparently. The image of the U.S. Military would surely be improved as a result. The time for covering dirty secrets, including the failures in leadership, which led to this event, is over.

We know that Iraq was invaded due to Donald Rumsfeld’s obsession, economic ambition and Bush’s lack of an intelligent, appropriate, alternate response to 9/11. We know that they used false intelligence re: WMD’s to get there. We know that the U.S. shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Walach’s clearly not up to dealing with that knowledge and is another sad ‘puppet’ wearing his military blinkers to the detriment of man-kind.

Excluding effects, such as the horrendous rate of birth deformities caused by U.S. munitions, current estimates are that 500,000 innocent civilians have died as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an invasion that, it is universally acknowledged, should never have taken place.

Link to 'Army Times' Article
10-19-2013 02:25 PM
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