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WikiLeaks Soldiers Write Open Letter to Victims’ Families

Two former soldiers who were in the Army unit shown in the now infamous WikiLeaks “Collateral Murder” video have written an open-letter to the families of those hurt and killed in the 2007 incident. The letter, which they say is one of “Reconciliation and Responsibility,” not only apologizes for the events in the video but also claims that there were many more like them in Iraq. It is important to note that neither soldier was in the Apache helicopter shown in the video although one, they claim, can be seen taking an injured child out of the van that was shot. The full letter is below.

“AN OPEN LETTER OF RECONCILIATION & RESPONSIBILITY TO THE IRAQI PEOPLE
From Current and Former Members of the U.S. Military

Peace be with you.

To all of those who were injured or lost loved ones during the July 2007 Baghdad shootings depicted in the “Collateral Murder” Wikileaks video:

We write to you, your family, and your community with awareness that our words and actions can never restore your losses.

We are both soldiers who occupied your neighborhood for 14 months. Ethan McCord pulled your daughter and son from the van, and when doing so, saw the faces of his own children back home. Josh Stieber was in the same company but was not there that day, though he contributed to the your pain, and the pain of your community on many other occasions.

There is no bringing back all that was lost. What we seek is to learn from our mistakes and do everything we can to tell others of our experiences and how the people of the United States need to realize what have done and are doing to you and the people of your country. We humbly ask you what we can do to begin to repair the damage we caused.

We have been speaking to whoever will listen, telling them that what was shown in the Wikileaks video only begins to depict the suffering we have created. From our own experiences, and the experiences of other veterans we have talked to, we know that the acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war: this is the nature of how U.S.-led wars are carried out in this region.

We acknowledge our part in the deaths and injuries of your loved ones as we tell Americans what we were trained to do and carried out in the name of “god and country”. The soldier in video said that your husband shouldn’t have brought your children to battle, but we are acknowledging our responsibility for bringing the battle to your neighborhood, and to your family. We did unto you what we would not want done to us.

More and more Americans are taking responsibility for what was done in our name. Though we have acted with cold hearts far too many times, we have not forgotten our actions towards you. Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny.

Our government may ignore you, concerned more with its public image. It has also ignored many veterans who have returned physically injured or mentally troubled by what they saw and did in your country. But the time is long overdue that we say that the value of our nation’s leaders no longer represent us. Our secretary of defense may say the U.S. won’t lose its reputation over this, but we stand and say that our reputation’s importance pales in comparison to our common humanity.

With such pain, friendship might be too much to ask. Please accept our apology, our sorrow, our care, and our dedication to change from the inside out. We are doing what we can to speak out against the wars and military policies responsible for what happened to you and your loved ones. Our hearts are open to hearing how we can take any steps to support you through the pain that we have caused.

Solemnly and Sincerely,
Josh Stieber, former specialist, U.S. Army
Ethan McCord, former specialist, U.S. Army”

At a time when the American people were more interested in the problems on the home front, the WikiLeaks video brought attention screaming back to the ongoing military conflict in Iraq. The reactions were heavily polarized, with many condemning the Army as having committed a war crime in both the initial incident and a possible cover up, while many others claimed the event was just an example of the terrible accidents that are unavoidable in war. Others still (including people as diverse as our own Colby Hall and Stephen Colbert) acknowledged the atrocities while criticizing the perceived manipulation on the part of WikiLeaks in their presentation of the video. This letter will assuredly prove equally divisive. On one hand, it is an account from someone who was actually there who puts blame on themselves as well as the Army and US government. On the other hand, cynics will be quick to question the motivations of the two authors (a press release accompanying the letter makes a point of mentioning the two soldiers are “available for interviews”).

It is clear that the events of 2007 will not be vanishing from the public’s consciousness any time soon.

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