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Press review: Outrage at US military after leaked Iraq video

A video posted on the online site WikiLeaks that shows American soldiers killing civilians in Iraq in 2007 has been met with outrage by the media in Europe. The Pentagon has confirmed the footage is authentic.

German newspapers and magazines

Most European papers have condemned the attack

In the latest high-profile leak of sensitive material onto the Internet, the Web site WikiLeaks has published a video showing an attack on civilians by US soldiers in Baghdad three years ago that killed a dozen people. It has been authenticated by a senior US military official.

The video was recorded by cameras in US Apache helicopters and records a deadly attack on a group of civilians from the air. It was later discovered that the group included two employees of the Reuters news agency.

The whistleblower Web site WikiLeaks.org, which says its goal is to promote freedom of information, posts leaked documents online. The video in question was posted anonymously on the site Monday.

Still footage from WikiLeak video

The footage was taken from cameras in the helicopters

The Berliner Zeitung says it is hard to support the US military view that the 2007 attack was a fight between insurgents and soldiers. "The leaked WikiLeaks material shows bloodthirsty soldiers coldly pursuing their business." The paper also said this video was a victory for free speech and showed the value of the WikiLeaks site. "It demonstrates the power of a new medium that is beyond the reach of the state. Over and over WikiLeaks fights for its existence and requests donations. We now have a clear demonstration of its impressive merit."

"There is only one word to describe what happened that day: murder," writes the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The newspaper criticized the soldiers "casual" use of "excessive force". "Nothing in the images suggests the victims were terrorists or insurgents," it writes. "The pilots were not fired on, there were no comrades on the ground, it was broad daylight and visibility was good -- all the usual excuses which the military usually uses for civilian deaths. Instead, it shows trigger-happy American soldiers, talking into the camera, calmly killing a dozen people."

The Polish daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita says the video undoes some of the good work that American troops are doing abroad. "So you win a war. Build hospitals in Iraq, roads in Afghanistan, train the local police and organize free elections. But all of America's good intentions are overshadowed with one compromising video recording," it writes.

Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen

Photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen was killed in the attack

Writing on the Guardian's "comment is free" site, Douglas Haddow highlights the similarity between reality and warfare computer games. "It demonstrates how similar the logic of the Apache pilots is to that of the average gamer," Haddow writes. He adds that the video forces the viewer "to simultaneously confront both the deplorable unreality of American aggression and the grim fate of those caught within its scope."

Haddow does concede that being able to play and rewind the WikiLeaks video gives the viewer a level of hindsight which the pilots did not have. He argues it is not a case of individual culpability, but a failure of "US engagement protocol as a whole."

The video shows the "omnipotent war machine" according to German daily newspaper Der Tagespiegel. It writes that watching the video is like being involved in a vile and cynical reality television show. The newspaper also suggests that the video is not that clear cut: "In war, there is more involved than just the images produced."

cb/dpa/AP/Reuters/AFP

Editor: Kyle James

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