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Monday, April 7, 2014

A 'Hero' of 'Collateral Murder'

This week marks the fourth anniversary of the day we first saw, if from a distance, a soldier named Ethan McCord.   Julian Assange that day released the video he had titled “Collateral Murder.” It showed a 2007 incident in Baghdad when a US Apache copter crew gunned down more than a dozen Iraqis, most likely civilians, on the streets below, including two Reuters staffers.

After a flurry of publicity, the episode soon faded from the media, although three major WikiLeaks releases followed last year, all allegedly coming via Private Bradley Manning.

Ethan McCord first spoke out in an interview published by Wired online on April 20, 2010, after the release of the video to testify that he was on the scene that day and helped rescue two badly injured children (who were riding in a van driven by their father who had tried to helped the wounded only to be killed himself) and carry them to a vehicle that took them to a hospital.  He has since continued to protest what happened that day -- and the war in Iraq.

Most notably, he would be featured in a film that would earn an Oscar nomination.  Here is a link to the film's site.  UPDATE: See comment by McCord in my Comments section below.

Below is an excerpt from my The Age of WikiLeaks  book—recounting the surprising  interview McCord gave shortly after the release of "Collateral Murder."  See my post earlier today about the reaction, three years ago, to the video.

* * *
One of the most remarkable interviews relating to this whole episode came to light on April 20, 2010, when Kim Zetter at Wired revealed that she had located and interviewed one of the soldiers in the video.

He was Ethan McCord, 33, the father of three who had left the Army after seven years and was now living in Kansas. In the video, McCord was seen carrying the 10-year-old boy, Sajad, from the van to seek medical care. He had recently posted a letter online—with fellow soldier Josh Steiber—asking Sajad’s family’s forgiveness and backing the WikiLeaks release of the video.

McCord described his shock at seeing people “destroyed” on the ground and finding the badly injured children in the van, helping a medic take the girl to a nearby building, and then coming back for the boy. After carrying Sajad to a Bradley, “I got yelled at by my platoon leader that I needed to stop trying to save these mf ’n kids and go pull security….

“After the incident, we went back to the FOB [forward operating base] and that’s when I was in my room. I had blood all down the front of me from the children. I was trying to wash it off in my room. I was pretty distraught over the whole situation with the children. So I went to a sergeant and asked to see [the mental health person], because I was having a hard time dealing with it. I was called a pussy and that I needed to suck it up and a lot of other horrible things. I was also told that there would be repercussions if I was to go to mental health.

“I’ve lived with seeing the children that way since the incident happened. I’ve had nightmares. I was diagnosed with chronic, severe PTSD. [But] I was actually starting to get kind of better.… I wasn’t thinking about it as much. [Then I] took my children to school one day and I came home and sat down on the couch and turned on the TV with my coffee, and on the news I’m running across the screen with a child. The flood of emotions came back. I know the scene by heart; it’s burned into my head. I know the van, I know the faces of everybody that was there that day.

“I did see a video on YouTube after the WikiLeaks [video] came out, of the children being interviewed.… When I saw their faces, I was relieved, but I was just heartbroken. I have a huge place in my heart for children, having some of my own. Knowing that I was part of the system that took their father away from them and made them lose their house…it’s heartbreaking. And that in turn is what helped me and Josh write the letter, hoping that it would find its way to them to let them know that we’re sorry. We’re sorry for the system that we were involved in that took their father’s life and injured them. If there’s anything I can to do help, I would be more than happy to.

“Personally, I believe the first attack on the group standing by the wall was appropriate, was warranted by the rules of engagement. They did have weapons there. However, I don’t feel that the attack on the van was necessary…. And where the soldier said [in the video], ‘Well, you shouldn’t take your kids to battle.’ Well, in all actuality, we brought the battle to your kids.

“I think that the bigger picture is what are we doing there? We’ve been there for so long now and it seems like nothing is being accomplished whatsoever, except for we’re making more people hate us.

“I don’t say that Wikileaks did a bad thing, because they didn’t…. I think it is good that they’re putting this stuff out there. I don’t think that people really want to see this, though, because this is war.… It’s very disturbing.”

Greg Mitchell is author of more than a dozen books, including his latest on Bradley Manning and "The Age of WikiLeaks." His new book on Iraq and the media is "So Wrong for So Long." 


Unknown said...

I believe Ethan Mccord is an American Hero just as Bradley Manning is.I believe it takes alot of courage to stand up for what is right these days and I for one pray that his message continues to spread.

Ethan McCord said...

Thank you for your constant support over the last 3 years. Its nice to read these articles in a sea of posts labeling me a traitor.
Ethan McCord

John Randolph Hardison Cain said...

Thank you, Ethan McCord. Thank you Wikileaks. Thank you Greg Mitchell. People of conscience will NEVER give up the struggle for truth and justice.

Connie Guevara said...

Every since i came across one of the Youtube videos , i've been wanting to read more and more about you Ethan McCord. Also, because there's someone that i've been emailing back and forth with , that is i think claiming to be you , but with a few tweaks to the identity. He uses a few pics of you as his . Anyway, keep up the good work Ethan ! God Bless

Anonymous said...

Your not a true traitor McCord your just a coward and a subpar soldier. You don't even pay child support for your own children. Why don't you tell everyone the real reason you grab that child? So you could find an excuse off the battlefield and hide in a Bradley. The men of Bravo company know what you are. -Enrique De La Mora