An Analysis of Collateral Murder

The term Collateral Murder refers to a classified US military video released by WikiLeaks in 2010, depicting the killing of over a dozen people in Baghdad, including two Reuters news staff. The footage raised questions about military ethics, transparency, and the impact of war on civilians.


In July 2007, a US Apache helicopter opened fire on a group of men in Baghdad, leading to the deaths of multiple individuals, including Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and journalist Saeed Chmagh. The video, classified as “Secret,” was leaked to WikiLeaks and released on April 5, 2010. This footage, titled Collateral Murder, shocked the world and sparked intense debate about the conduct of US military forces in Iraq.

Key Events in the Collateral Murder Video

  • Initial Engagement: The video starts with the Apache crew identifying a group of men on a street corner. The crew mistakes camera equipment for weapons and receives permission to engage, leading to the first round of gunfire.
  • Second Engagement: As a wounded Saeed Chmagh crawls away, a van arrives to assist him. The helicopter opens fire again, killing more individuals, including the driver of the van.
  • Aftermath: US ground troops arrive at the scene, discovering children in the van. Despite their injuries, the children are transported to a nearby hospital.

Check out our article for a detailed timeline of events leading up to and following the Collateral Murder incident.

Ethical and Legal Implications

Rules of Engagement

The US military operates under strict rules of engagement, designed to minimize civilian casualties and ensure lawful conduct during combat. However, the Collateral Murder video raised questions about the application and adherence to these rules. Critics argue that the Apache crew’s actions violated both international humanitarian law and the US military’s own regulations.

Transparency and Accountability

The release of the Collateral Murder video highlighted the lack of transparency in military operations. It took nearly three years for the footage to surface, raising concerns about the US government’s commitment to accountability. The video also demonstrated the challenges of obtaining justice for victims of war crimes.

Impact on Journalism

The deaths of Noor-Eldeen and Chmagh underscored the dangers faced by journalists in conflict zones. Their deaths prompted calls for better protection measures for media personnel and increased scrutiny of military operations involving journalists.

Public Reaction and Media Coverage

Immediate Response

The Collateral Murder video generated significant media attention and public outrage. News outlets around the world covered the story, and human rights organizations condemned the actions depicted in the footage.

Long-Term Impact

Over a decade later, the Collateral Murder video continues to influence public discourse on military ethics and transparency. It remains a critical reference point in discussions about the conduct of war and the treatment of civilians and journalists in conflict zones.

Military and Governmental Response

Official Statements

The US military initially defended the actions of the Apache crew, stating that they acted in accordance with the rules of engagement. However, subsequent investigations revealed discrepancies in the official account, leading to increased scrutiny and criticism.

Policy Changes

In response to the fallout from the Collateral Murder video, the US military implemented policy changes aimed at improving transparency and accountability. These included stricter reporting requirements and enhanced training for soldiers on the rules of engagement and the protection of civilians.

The Role of WikiLeaks and Whistleblowers

WikiLeaks’ Mission

WikiLeaks, founded by Julian Assange, aims to publish classified and sensitive information to promote transparency and accountability. The release of the Collateral Murder video was one of the organization’s most significant actions, bringing global attention to the realities of modern warfare.


Chelsea Manning, a former US Army intelligence analyst, was responsible for leaking the Collateral Murder video, along with other classified documents. Manning’s actions sparked a broader conversation about the role of whistleblowers in exposing government wrongdoing and the ethical implications of leaking classified information.

The Impact on US-Iraq Relations

Diplomatic Fallout

The release of the Collateral Murder video strained US-Iraq relations, highlighting the broader issues of civilian casualties and military conduct during the Iraq War. It prompted Iraqi officials to call for greater accountability and transparency from the US military.

Long-Term Consequences

The video continues to shape perceptions of the US military’s role in Iraq, influencing both domestic and international views on the war. It also serves as a reminder of the ongoing challenges in achieving justice and accountability for wartime actions.


The Collateral Murder video remains a powerful testament to the complexities and ethical dilemmas of modern warfare. It underscores the importance of transparency, accountability, and the protection of civilians and journalists in conflict zones. As the world continues to grapple with the implications of this footage, it serves as a reminder of the need for vigilance and oversight in military operations.

This entry was posted in Collateral Murder Incident. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *